Keyboard Builders' Digest
Beautiful accessories at Kinetic Labs!

Issue 140 / Week 42 / 2023

This is a hand-picked selection of last week's content from a keyboard enthusiast's perspective. Posts that may teach you something, make you think and contribute to the common knowledge of the DIY builder community.

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Behind the scenes #140

Quick news, new donation options, in the mailbox, meetups, updates.

Hey everyone,

What about some music while you're reading? This week I bing-listened to this track: Elephants Never Forget by Haken:

Welcome back for another weekly recap and behind-the-scenes write-up.

If you're joining us for the first time, you can read how this started out and what this is all about nowadays. If you like what you see, subscribe to the newsletter (free) and donate some bucks to keep this otherwise free and ad-free project alive.

PSA: New donation options

Thanks to all who reached out with tips and opinions about donations and the "business model" of I listened to your voice and made a bunch of new donation options available, even if it will be a nightmare to keep track of all the platforms and compile the list of donors from now on. 😅

Reading for the weekend

Pic: Videoton VT-340

Videoton VT-340

  • I put a lot of effort into the 1976 Videoton VT-340 display terminal post, learned about obscure things like cable lacing, and "discovered" an undocumented keyswitch variant? Will see. Check out this picture-heavy disassembly post full of surprises.
  • Sebastian Stumpf shared the files of his Abomination, a classy split keyboard with trackpad and some splay.

Pic: Abomination


  • PrimeNumber shared the files of the handwired Lattice60, an ortholinear keyboard with standard keycaps and low-poly case.
  • Ming-Gih Lam is back with a new project: MidEvil is an orthoish/Alice monoblock split keyboard with a numpad in the middle.

Pic: Midevil


  • MickiusMousius shared the updated Rolio 0.9, a premium split keyboard in a nice aluminum chassis.
  • Giraffasax updated the SpUnly58. Iteration V1.2 of this monoblock split comes with adjusted spacing, splay, and stagger.
  • BeeKeeb's Leo introduced the open-source Corne GLP, a variant specifically designed for Gateron low-profile hotswap sockets.
  • Felix Kuehling released the updated keycaps for his Mantis keyboard.

Pic: Mantis caps

Mantis caps

  • This sphere keyboard and wireless air mouse is the creation of Pavlo Khmel – with STLs.
  • Inspiration: ArcPedals – QMK-powered pedals for your feet.

Pic: minipeg48 & kowgary16

minipeg48 & kowgary16

  • After Sporewoh's bancouver40, Chosfox has two other compact Choc-spaced orthos on offer (pre-sale!): minipeg48 & kowgary16. (I owe you a Bancouver-review, hopefully next week.)
  • Tool: After his Dactyl generator, Ryan announced Cosmos, another online tool to generate ergo splits. The beta version is available, you may have seen and used it last week, but it's not in the announcement so I shouldn't include it here I guess.


  • WIP: Seismos by Danny Vo is a framework and physical layout testing environment, similar to the Zebra. The PCBs haven't been tested yet.
  • Closed-source for now but it has a blog entry with some photos and details: Shoveler by jawick.


  • Cheapwire – a handwired split by coccolizo945. Single controller on the right, DB25 serial connectors.

In the mailbox

Haha, 8BitDo's Retro mechanical keyboard has arrived. What a fun gadget! Thanks! (This was a free sample, well, as far as there are free things in the EU customs regime.) This was a last-minute delivery so I had barely time to take some quick photos. I got the Nintendo themed version. It looks very cool and comes with the "dual super buttons" – clicky and thocky at the same time. Review later.




  • The first donor in the new system is Ryan. Thanks but I can't even find the notification about your donation now. 😅 I'm already lost in the jungle of all the different platforms. Will update the donor list later.
  • And as always, many thanks to everyone who helped this project thus far, especially to regular donors. Without you, this project wouldn't turn 3 in a few weeks.

About the new donation options

I get it. Some of you would like to support my work but hate PayPal and think it's a big barrier. I hear you.

That's why I've added new options so you can use Stripe, PayPal, Ko-fi, Buy Me a Coffee and Patreon now. You find all the links on the donation page.

Choose what you prefer. If you don't have a preference, the order of list items on that page reflects my preference, which means roughly the cost of each service.

Donation history

So yep, I started with Patreon about 2.5 years ago, then migrated to Buymeacoffee, but both services were.. hm.. quite far from perfect. At least for my use case and in those times. And I moved on last December when I started to experience various issues with BMC too, the most serious being automatically cancelling all the subscriptions, asking all my "members" to resubscribe due to – surprise! – their debate with PayPal. ;)

In fact, in those days both Patreon and BMC served as a mere gateway to paypal, sending the donations to PP after deducting their own fees (about 5-8%). The extra feature was the possibility of subscription and recurring donations.

So when PP introduced recurring donations, bypassing BMC seemed to be a good idea. But now PP is starting to cause me some headache too… Donations of recurring donors, successfully paying for months, start to get canceled. Donations from hitherto supported countries start to get refused? I really don't know because there are no meaningful error messages. Readers mostly from Asia have been reporting that they were unable to donate ("country not supported") from Japan, Hong-Kong, etc., this was a known issue. But lately donations from New-Zealand, France and also from the US have been refused.

So I tried to explore alternatives like Stripe, and revisited Patreon and BMC, plus signed up for Ko-Fi.

Yes, there's a 5-8% fee, but if you think about it, PP may have a 50% fee for small donations ($1) because of the fix flat part of the fee on top of a percentage.

Bottom line: feel free to use whatever platform you prefer.

Meetup database

New additions:


As always, this meetup database is both a calendar and an archive so feel free to send me upcoming events or even ones from the recent past to make this collection as comprehensive as possible.


  • New donation options
  • I signed up for the map service to check out how that works, I have two weeks to try it for free. What I can see is that the usage will far exceed the limits of their free plan so I have two weeks to find something else.


Still with me?

I had a date last night. It was perfect. Tomorrow, I’ll try a grape.


That's all for today. Thanks for checking by. As always: Keep learning and building!

Until next time,



Sebastian Stumpf shared the files of his Abomination, a classy split keyboard with trackpad and some splay.

After teasing it a few days ago, Sebastian Stumpf (aka ADreamOfStorms) published the design files of his Abomination, a split keyboard with a Cirque trackpad, encoder, some tactile buttons and splay.

When I came up with the idea of this I thought it would be really hideous because of the lack of symmetry and so I dubbed the project "abomination", but now I'm actually really happy with how this turned out – Sebastian.


  • 36 keys (3x5+3 layout with heavy stagger and some mild splay)
  • MX, hotswap
  • Cirque 40mm trackpad
  • Four 6mm tactile buttons and ec12 encoder on the left
  • Powered by two 0xCB Helios controllers (Elite-C compatible)
  • Fully 3d printed case
  • Nylon and resin printed DES keycaps (on light bobagums)

Pic: Abomination by ADreamOfStorms

Abomination by ADreamOfStorms

The trackpad relies on keyboard magpie's adapter.

There are two plate versions for the case. A thin and wobbly default version and also a 'thick' variant that sits on the PCB rock solid and the switches pop in with ease. The author recommends the thick version, although it will consume about 4 times the material compared to the thin one.

If you like this project, check out Sebastian's previous keyboards as well: Narfpad, Narfkb, Uninarf, Narfkb2.



PrimeNumber shared the files of the handwired Lattice60, an ortholinear keyboard with standard keycaps and low-poly case.

The Lattice60 is a 60%-ish handwired keyboard in a 3D-printed low-polygon case, designed by PrimeNumber aka NumLocksmith with standard keysets in mind.

Low-poly design is a style which can be applied to three-dimensional models. It intentionally reduces the number of polygons, which make up the mesh of the model. Because that obfuscates some details, it is kind of a minimalistic style -– and I love it. So I wanted to apply it to my keyboard case – PrimeNumber.

In addition to the case files, the author also has a tutorial on low-poly case design in Fusion 360.


Lattice60 allows you to reuse many parts from your existing keyboards. The custom plate and case are designed to accommodate off-the-shelf keycaps with various profiles, as opposed to most ortholinear keyboards which require 1u-only keysets with a uniform (row-independent) profile.



Ming-Gih Lam is back with a new project: MidEvil is an orthoish/Alice monoblock split keyboard with a numpad in the middle.

The MidEvil is an orthoish/Alice monoblock split with the numpad put in the middle, plus a huge display on the left to balance out the design. Shared by Ming_Gih Lam aka dcpedit/dj_edit, designer of boards like the Red Herring and its solenoid edition, TeeShirt, Dissatisfaction30, µ10, etc.

In the custom mechanical keyboard world, it's extremely hard to find a keyboard with a number pad, because apparently, numpads are evil. OK, I may have made that last bit up, but if it were actually true, then this keyboard places that evilness smack dab in the middle – dcpedit.

While the author personally prefers ortholinear splits, as a big fan of NoPunIn10Did's "base-kit-friendly" Jabberwocky he created this new spin-off: MidEvil.

There is a shortage of keyboards with numpad in the MK scene because they force the mouse to be too far from the keyboard. You can move those number keys to the left or, even better, why not put it in the middle? Still not perfect, but for ergo users this places your hands further apart, slightly alleviating ulnar deviation.


What about the big display on the left? Ming wanted the numpad to be truly in the center, so he needed something on the left side to balance out the board. And he also wanted to tinker with QMK's Quantum Painter, so this was the perfect opportunity to do so.


Rolio 0.9

MickiusMousius shared the updated Rolio 0.9, a premium split keyboard in a nice aluminum chassis.

After the first teaser (Rolio 0.1), MickiusMousius published the files of Rolio 0.9 – the same split with nice!view display and roller encoder, but with some tweaks.

I've recently uploaded the 0.9 design files of the Rolio keyboard, so far I'm pretty happy with it. There are just a few small improvements to get to a 1.0 release! – MickiusMousius.

Inspiration for this project came from the Corne and Sofle keyboards. The author has attempted to combine what he believes are the best aspects of both of these keyboards into a single project.



  • Low profile, Choc-spaced form factor (similar to Corne)
  • Fully wireless (Nice!Nano controllers and ZMK firmware)
  • Excellent battery life (2+ weeks before it gets to 60%)
  • Horizontal roller encoders on both halves
  • Backlight, efficient enough to be used on battery
  • Up to five memorized bluetooth profiles and a USB mode
  • A robust chassis "so that it can be treated like a normal keyboard"
  • An FDM version for at home low cost production
  • A CNC option for a slick look and premium feel
  • A travel case that can easily be made using any FDM printer


The keycaps in the photos are fully customized and match the ZMK keymap thanks to FKCaps.


SpUnLy58 1.2

Giraffasax updated the SpUnly58. Iteration V1.2 of this monoblock split comes with adjusted spacing, splay, and stagger.

Compared to the original SpUnLy58, Giraffasax made several changes to the layout and PCB of this wireless split.

The creatively named SpUnLy58 (Splayed Unibody LiLy58) has been slightly refined to fix previous oversights and improve my personal comfort – Giraffasax.

In the original post on reddit you can find some cost breakdown and review of the service of PCBWay, sponsor of this project. (Let me know if the KBDNEWS coupon code still works.)



  • 58 keys (6x4+4)
  • Choc V1 support (hotswap and soldered)
  • wireless (Nice!Nano v2)
  • Nice!View Support
  • JST Battery Connector

Updates (v1.1 and v1.2)

  • Reduced vertical spacing from 18mm -> 17mm
  • Increased battery cutout from 36x52mm -> 37x57mm
  • Fixed incorrect JST connector footprint
  • Removed inner and outer column splay
  • Increased pinky stagger
  • Reduced thumb key spacing and increased fan angle
  • Added Ground fill

FK custom keycaps again? The third post with these custom MBK caps in a row.


Corne GLP

BeeKeeb's Leo introduced the open-source Corne GLP, a variant specifically designed for Gateron low-profile hotswap sockets.

The Corne GLP (Gateron Low Profile) is a variant of the Corne keyboard, originally created by foostan. It supports Gateron low-profile key switches (KS-27 and KS-33). The original Corne firmware can be used with this keyboard.

As the name implies, this variant is specifically designed for Gateron low profile hotswap sockets and is compatible with Gateron low profile key switches – Leo.


  • 42 keys
  • Per-key RGB LEDs (North-facing)
  • Underglow RGB LEDs
  • crkbd firmware (QMK/VIA)
  • Compatible with Corne v3 keyboard cases



ArcBoard & ArcPedals

Chris Trotter added some pedals to his setup: ArcPad & ArcPedals – QMK-powered feet spaceships!

The ArcBoard is a futuristic split keyboard with keywell and various integrated gadgets. Designer Chris Trotter aka crazymittens-r published a pedal extension: the mighty ArcPedals.

As promised, mk2 of the pedals, for your entertainment – crazymittens.


Keyboard specs

  • Split, 4x6 keywells with 5-key thumb clusters; 6x6 effective key matrix to program
  • Dual 34mm thumb trackballs
  • Dual 5-way dpads
  • Quad encoders w. LED backlighting
  • Connectivity via TRRS
  • Diffused LED indicator panel
  • TFT screens on both halves for doing fun things with quantum painter
  • Dovetail-attached large sloped palm rests
  • Modular design with M3 hot-melt inserts and M3x8 countersunk machine screws


Pedal specs

  • four actually-usable buttons per foot
  • trackball layer switcher
  • rgb rgb rgb

This trackball-like thing with the big led ring around it changes foot pedal layers: Swipe left/right/up/down to select 1 of 4 layers.



Tips & Tricks

Mantis keycaps

Felix Kuehling released the updated keycaps for his Mantis keyboard.

If you remember the Mantis and Mantis v0.2 by Felix Kuehling aka luckybipedal/fxkuehl, they are monoblock split keyboards built around the HEX keycaps designed by s-ol and manufactured by FKcaps. Felix now came up with a new profile for this hex spacing.

I updated the 3D-printed keycaps for my Mantis v0.3 keyboard to create more sculpted keywells that require less finger movement for typing – luckybipedal.

Thanks to the rotation of the switches on the PCB, this needs only two different keycap profiles, a flat one with 15° tilt of the dish and a tall one with 28° tilt.


The flat keys are used on the home row, the outer pinky key and most thumb keys. The tall ones are used on the remaining keys.


As kick-ass as these caps look, Felix is not happy with the rotation of the inner index finger keys with the taller key profile. Fixing that will require a revision of the PCB, at least if he wants to keep the number of distinct key profiles to just two.


The author was able to print these keys very cost-effectively at JLCPCB, by joining 10 keys in a single 3D object. For the flat keys it brings the cost down to 30 cents per key. This leads to more imperfections than printing individual keys, but they are mostly cosmetic and don’t affect the usability.


All in all, the savings are worth it for Felix to make several prototype keyboards cost effectively. If you see potential in this solution, check out this connected parts printing guide from JLCPCB.


The updated 3D models, including 10-key versions are on GitHub:


1976 Videoton VT-340 keyboard

This beefy keyboard was part of the Videoton VT-340 display terminal, manufactured from 1972. Check out this picture-heavy disassembly post full of surprises.

I was fairly sure that this beast will have some surprises in store for me but I wasn't expecting a considerable amount of yarn, nor sewing, stitching and book binding techniques applied to the PCB beneath the hood. :D And it seems I "discovered" a yet undocumented switch variant.

But let's get a few weeks back when I came across this dirty Videoton in a classified ad, instantly falling in love with the industrial look without knowing anything about this particular model.


As already teased in issue #137, the case of this hefty bad boy is made of 5 mm thick metal, too heavy for the small laboratory scales I had laying around my office (3.86 kg). And it's ridiculously high, about 11 cm.

In this photo you can see it next to a compact low-pro Bancouver40 (just for fun) and the Intergraph, featured recently, which is more in the same league.

Pic: Intergraph vs Bancouver40 vs Videoton

Intergraph vs Bancouver40 vs Videoton

This was one of those fortunate situations when I could source a rare artifact which not many of you will have the opportunity to grab, especially on the other side of the pond, given it was manufactured in the socialist Hungary in relatively low number.

However, it was referenced in a lot of NASA documents so maybe it's not impossible to find one in the US.

Listed as "could make use of some cleaning" – meaning get your hazmat suit or run for your life –, I didn't even want to put this filthy thing on my desk. That's why some of the early photos (only for tough-nerved readers) were shot on the floor.

Honestly, I've seen some dirty keyboards during my collector "career", but pieces of plaster were falling out of this one… I've stumbled upon another specimen listed with a thick splash of plaster hardened on the housing which may originate from the same lot, probably sourced from an abandoned factory or other industrial building.

Data sheet

  • Model: Videoton EC-7168 (VT-430)
  • Manufacturer: Videoton / TKI
  • Items manufactured: 10-15K (90K?!)
  • Manufacturing period: 1972-1984
  • Layout: 73 keys
  • Switches: RAFI early RC 72 Hall effect?
  • Keycaps: RAFI doubleshot, uniform spherical
  • Weight: 3.86 kg
  • Height: 10.5 cm

Most sources indicate there were 10-15,000 items manufactured of the VT-340, and one single source mentions 90K terminals, which is probably incorrect. Based on the sticker (below), the factory's output was about 60 devices per month in the fifth year of production (-> 720/year), which is about 10K projected for the whole manufacturing period of 1972-1984.

Labels & Age

Originally, all I supposed based on the layout was that I'm dealing with a pre-standard, pre-'84 keyboard, probably terminal. I'd never thought this would be almost 50 years old, manufactured in 1976. Only ofter the purchase looked I up what the listing stated was a Videoton Computer EC-7168 (VT-430) (sic!) keyboard.

Pic: Videoton VT 340 (not 430…) (photo:

Videoton VT 340 (not 430…) (photo:

PCB and plate frame: 1976 JAN 27 (stamped) 54 (scratched). PCB: VD-43:


TKI Tip: T5112. No: 0057/76 (sticker):


Case: Videoton Computer Typ: 48000 No: 601/09


The only photos I could find about the whole terminal (I have only the keyboard) where this and this:


Then I realized there was a typo in the listing and it's not VT-430 but 340. This opened up a whole new world, and most of the photos here come from a great site called – which is an abbreviation for Hungarian Old Computers. Site runner and renowned local collector Zsolt Vidvenyecz gave permission to use his photos of the whole display terminal:

Pic: Videoton VT 340 (photo:

Videoton VT 340 (photo:

…and also of his photo archive with some VT-340s in action:

Pic: Videoton VT 340 (source:

Videoton VT 340 (source:


Pic: In the back

In the back

…and being built:



Videoton VT 340

Famous for its radios and TVs, Videoton was a big name in the 1980s in Hungary but also well-known in most countries of the Eastern Block. Display terminals being almost CRT TVs in those days, it was probably a natural move for the company to dip their toes into computing. The Videoton VT 340 display terminal, one of their earliest models manufactured from 1972, was compatible with the DEC VT-52 and other typewriters and interfaces of the 1960-70s.



One of the impressive parts about this keyboard is the thick and very high cast(?) aluminum case with about 5 mm wall thickness and almost 11 cm in height.



Here it is again with a bancouver40 for scale: :D


To assemble such a high keyboard you need some long screws:



Nice doubleshot keycaps in two colors. The profile is high, uniform, spheical, like an all-R3 SA. As you'll see later, these were part of RAFI's keyboard framework:


Some legends are crisp, some others not so nice with considerable bleeding.


By the way, you can easily remove the keycaps, they come off without any resistance, in contrast to many similar vintage caps/switches with these square stems. E.g. seen on the Orion and also my Datacoops from a good decade later.


I'm always cautious when removing spacebars of old keyboards. You never know what to expect and the last thing I want to do is to break something. But after taking a quick look at this one I realized there's no stabilizer or any similar mechanism. Instead, two dummy switches on the flanks.


And a pencil mark indicating the year? 75 or 76, or 75 corrected to 76. (The PCB was made in 1975 December, the whole keyboard was assembled in 1976 January.)



RAFI switches, probably Hall effect. Again? Linears for sure, but some older variant, not listed on Deskthority. Huge bulky housing, four long pins in a row on the PCB side. Despite no visible branding this time, they are RAFIs for sure.


Unfortunately, I can't desolder or further disassemble this thing until I make some special tools to remove the strange screws holding the frame together.

Anyway, RAFI is a German switch manufacturer, starting development of keyswitches in 1968 and launching the firts RAFI keyboard in 1970 – so we are in the right period. These are probably some early RAFIs, but not the contactless magnetoresistive switches, like e.g. in this patent.

According to this source, these switches had 3 or 5 pins and were only current for around three years, before RAFI introduced RC 72 Hall effect switches.

Pic: Four pins

Four pins

My switches are probably between the two models or some very early RC 72s, without branding on the top. The same source also states that RAFI switches were favoured by TKI (Távközlési Kutatóintézet which roughly means Telecommucation Research Institute in Hungarian), and that's exactly what's indicated on one of the stickers. (And seeing referenced on that site is just surreal. :D)

That said, I will desolder one switch for the sake of science and keyboard archeology, but it will require some special tools to disassemble the RAFI frame, holding together the whole contraption.


A RAFI advertisement describes this modular system:

The contactless keyboards are built according to a modular system. They comprise rails and end-pieces, which are preassembled as a frame, as well as contactless switches, signal lamps and snap-in covers for empty positions. Frames can be manufactured with up to 30 units in each vertical or horizontal row (1 unit = 19.05 x 19.05 mm). The position of the contactless switches and signal lamps can be offset by a quarter unit (4.76 mm) or multiples thereof.


This is the crazy part with threads, sewing, and the two PCBs stitched together like you do book binding.


As fanf pointed out, this technique is called cable lacing, and it was (is?) a cable management method taught to generations of lineworkers, used in telecommunication, naval and aerospace applications.

Cable lacing uses a thin cord to bind together a group of cables using a series of running lockstitches. As outdated as this technique may seem, it also used on Mars rovers.

There are two PCBs which you can open up like a book:


Thanks to this connection strenghtened by threads:


The result:


In fact, the PCB is even older, I guess this is "1975 DEC 03":



First it looks each key has its own wire (not true):


I counted 24 wires that make it into the cable and right to the giant connector. Again, faf came up with a possible solutions: this may be a Centronics parallel port, some kind of micro ribbon, maybe this IEEE 1284 (TypeB?).


The connector has room for 36 so that should be about right.


If you dared to check out the original photos, the cleaned version may come as a relief:






Sphere keyboard and air mouse

This sphere keyboard and wireless air mouse is the creation of Pavlo Khmel – with STLs.

Hey, do you like 60% keyboads? In fact, Pavlo Khmel's (also pavlokhmel) space mouse has 60 keys but still couldn't be any more different than a standard 60%.

Are you ready for the future? Start training now with a 9999-year keyboard mouse – Pavlo.

The sphere conceals an ESP-32 controller for Bluetooth connectivity, and an accelerometer/gyroscope sensor is in charge of supporting mouse functions.


Keyboard specs

  • 60 keys, MX, hotswap (sort of…)
  • Optionally split?! 2x30
  • ESP-32 controller
  • accelerometer/gyroscope

Video demo:


  • STLs on printables

That was Issue #140. Thanks for stopping by.

This issue was made possible by the donations of:, MoErgo Glove80, u/chad3814, Aiksplace, @keebio, Upgrade Keyboards, Cyboard, Sean Grady, @kaleid1990, Jacob Mikesell, Jason Hazel, KEEBD, kiyejoco, littlemer-the-second,, u/motfalcon, Christian Lo, Bob Cotton, FFKeebs, @therick0996, Joel Simpson, Lev Popov, Christian Mladenov, Daniel Nikolov, u/eighty58five, Schnoor Typography, Caleb Rand, Skyler Thuss, Spencer Blackwood, Yuan Liu, Mats Faugli, TurtleKeebs, Benjamin Bell, James McCleese, Matthias Goffette, Ben M, zzeneg, Davidjohn Gerena, Hating TheFruit, Anatolii Smolianinov, Spencer Dabell, Penk Chen, Clacky

Your support is crucial to help this project to survive.