Keyboard Builders' Digest
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Issue 38 / Week 31 / 2021

This is a hand-picked selection of last week's content from a keyboard builder'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 of Issue 38

Back from holiday, Issue 37 follow-up, most popular posts, developments, to-do and priority list.

From this issue

Projects: Barobord PCB, Peregrine ZH and Grabbity Gloves. Moyai parametric keyswitch stem printing environment. A 3D-printed Iris case and the Keyboard Core controller. Harimau tactile switch review. Spottings: the crazy SafeType, a huge IBM ortholinear, a Siemens keyboard with two physical keys, etc.

Issue 37 follow-up

The new front page with the…


This is exclusive or early-access content for my supporters on BMC.

If you can't afford supporting this project, don't worry, I might publish parts of these write-ups later.

Btw, the full story is 3200+ characters long and you can read it at:


Peregrine ZH

Modular low profile ergo keyboard by SouthPawEngineer with built-in USB hub.

This particular keyboard is a derivative of the Peregrine keyboard (although that keyboard is wireless and this one, the Peregrine ZH, is not).

The keyboard itself features a set of 5-way switches that are directly accessible for use by the thumb. There is also a rocker switch and two encoders that can be used for navigation or media functions.

The other unique thing about this keyboard is that it uses magnets to hold the center add-on board in place.

There are a few extra MCU pins broken out (I2C and analog pins) so that you can use things like an OLED display. However, the real neat part here is that one of the on-board USB hub's ports is connected to one of the modular connector ports. This means that the add-on module can be an entirely separate USB device that is capable of being individually programmed. This makes it easier to keep the keymaps that you like, while making it easier and faster to integrate new add-on module functionality.

It also means that a single keyboard could be running some combination of ZMK, QMK, CircuitPython, Arduino, or whatever your favourite way to code and interact with electronics is - all concurrently, all at the same time – SouthPawEngineer.

Barobord PCB

The barobord repo keeps growing: PCB for MX and Choc switches, cases, etc. - by sadekbaroudi.

The barobord by sadekbaroudi is a split monoblock keyboard with 40 keys, a 25% typing angle, and other goodies.

The handwired version was featured in KBD #35 but now it comes with PCBs for MX and Choc switches and a 8% negatively sloped case.

My father in law worked as an ergonomics guy for 10+ years, and he was telling me that the positive slope is actually bad, given it forces your wrists to angle upwards. He said flat or negative are better, so I decided to design a case that's negative to give it a try. I'm quite pleased with it! – sadekbaroudi.

Github repo:


Harimau switch review

ThereminGoat brings us a review of the brand new Harimau switches from Rebult Keyboards.

Announced by ‘Rebult Keyboards’ based in Malaysia, the Harimau switches were first posted on Geekhack on May 4th of 2021.

Coming from the Malay words for “tiger” the Harimau switches were said to be a “tribute to Malaysian wildlife inspired by frankenswitches”.

Coming with long stem poles made of POM, and seated in a combination of nylon top housings and “mystery blend” bottom housings, these switches were to be made unlubed at Durock/JWK.

The Harimaus were to be 67g, high tactile switches initially inspired by Zykos switches, a rather famous frankenswitch that has been the inspiration for a few other tactile switches as of late, such as the Neapolitan Ice Cream switches – ThereminGoat.

Read the full article here:

Tips & Tricks

Keyboard Core controller

A new controller board by JimHeaney optimized for custom keyboards.

[…] I decided to start work on my first fully custom mechanical keyboard. Most people use an Arduino Pro Micro for this, but the Pro Micro has a lot of limitations and design choices that don't make it ideal for keyboards. So, I made my own; The Keyboard Core! – JimHeaney.

The Keyboard Core is still built around the AtMega32u4but, and it has some added benefits, especially for less custom keyboards, more on the classic physical layout side:

  • USB-C port instead of MicroUSB, which is also angled off one side of the board, making for more compact mounting above the function keys.
  • All pins are broken out to one side for easier routing of the main keyboard PCB, with some more pins than the Pro Micro, such as the GPIO usually used for the RX and TX LEDs.
  • Self-healing polyfuse protects against short-circuits and overcurrent damage to the USB power rail.
  • Removal of components unneeded for keyboards, such as the voltage regulator circuitry.
  • All components except the MCU and USB-C are 0805 or larger, allowing for easy repair and modification in the future.

The Keyboard Core also keeps a lot of the good features of the Pro Micro, such as the small footprint and no parts on the bottom of the board, allowing for flush mounting.

Git repo (in progress):

The concept is similar to LifeIsOnTheWire's Postage-Board.

Moyai V3_R49 stems

Moyai is a parametric playground by paul_gamedev for making MX-style keystems in Fusion360.

Moyai V3_R49 is the new release of paul_gamedev's project: Moyai switch stems!

Moyai is a parametric playground for making MX-style keystems in Fusion360. FDM printable stems are available in the legacy branch, with the main branch now containing the SLA version of Moyai, V3.

At the beginning of the year, I started to play around with printing MX-style stems on my Prusa MK3S, with some success, but sadly without any consistency in prints. This was achieved with the Kailh Pro Toolkit I made - now known as Moyai V1.

Moyai V3 is now published at the Moyai-KB repo on GitHub under the Creative Commons A-NC-SA.

I decided to post my project to Reddit just now, as I feel like it's finally polished enough for people to start experimenting with my design. I'd love to see people create variations of Moyai V3!

3D printed Iris case

A 3D printed Iris case by DCharlo with STL files.

STL files:

I already had my Iris soldered into the FR4 plate, and there did not seem to be any cases around that integrated this plate. The case only has the border and the top, so… naturally I made a base for it with a 7 degree incline, and some palm rests. I also designed it to fit all the stock hardware to make it as accessible as possible – DCharlo.

Keyboard Spotting

Tandy Color Computer 3

A Tandy Color Computer 3 spotted by TTVmetalbassist1.

Tandy Corporation announced the original TRS-80 Color Computer in July 1980 to compete with the inexpensive and popular Commodore VIC-20.

By 1985, Color Computer users worried that the company would abandon their computer in favor of the Tandy 1000. Tandy executive Ed Juge stated that year that "No home computer on the market today has the potential horsepower of the Color Computer … we believe [it] also has a good future".

On July 30, 1986, Tandy announced the Color Computer 3 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. It came with 128 KB of RAM, which could be upgraded to 512 KB. The panel behind the keyboard and cartridge door plastic were changed from black to grey. The keyboard layout was revised, putting the arrow keys in a diamond configuration and adding CTRL, ALT, F1 and F2 keys. It sold in Radio Shack stores and Tandy Computer Centers for $219.95 (199 CAD in Canada later that year).


TeleVideo terminal keyboard

FoxGaming spotted this vintage TeleVideo terminal keyboard with NMB Yellow Space Invader switches.

Siemens linear accelerator keyboard

Do you need two keys to start your keyboard? K1LLAmanJARO spotted one.

It's for controlling a linear accelerator used for radiation therapy, so it damned well better have hardware key interlocks to put it in maintenance mode and enable radiation – mikelieman.

IBM 4683 POS matrix keyboard

The IBM 4683 POS matrix keyboard is an ortho from IBM - acquired by SharktasticA.

This is an IBM 4683 matrix keyboard. It's from '80s, the internal assembly is made by Key Tronic for IBM. It also included a template kit and ‘windows’ for use with making labels for the keycaps.

[It] uses Key Tronic’s Foam & Foil capacitive switches – supposed to be the tactile variant but it actually feels like very stiff linears – SharktasticA

The IBM 4683 is noteworthy for being the first PC/'x86'-based point of sale retail system from the company and for being a large vintage ortholinear keyboard/macropad, although even earlier ortho keyboards from IBM are known, such as the 254-key IBM Multi-Shift Kanji Keyboards of the '70s.

(This was succeeded by the IBM Model M11 Modifiable Layout Keyboard in 1993, which was a dome with slider keyboard with an integrated magnetic stripe reader.)

More pics: A comprehensive teardown:

SafeType V801

A nice review of the emblematic SafeType by cornbreadninja.A nice review of the one and only SafeType – tested by cornbreadninja.

You can call this keyboard an affront to humanity, an evolutionary dead end, but the SafeType is undoubtedly one of a kind and has crazy features like vertical halves, mirrors, mirrored legends on the F-row and numeric keys, unique homing "topography", extra large arrow keys, etc.

Kristina Panos aka cornbreadninja walks you trough these crazy things in her review:

read it here.


Grabbity Gloves

Introducing the Grabbity Gloves by loopsbellart.

Fellow builder loopsbellart wanted to do something different for his first build. The result turned out to continue in the footsteps of the DataHand, Lalboard (featured in KBD #21) or the Azeron gamepad.

The inspiration came from looking at different keyboard layouts. One of the most important metric when analyzing a layout is finger travel, so there comes the obligate question: what would happen if we moved the keys to our fingers instead of moving your fingers to the keys. Then every key could be on the "home row".

The resulting device is the Grabbity Gloves, which gets its name from the gravity gloves from Half Life Alyx. All the keys are already touching (or nearly touching) your fingers, and are actuated by moving your finger in a certain direction.

A short video of the Grabbity Gloves in action:

The keyboard is fully wireless and is running the BlueMicro firmware. The 65g springs were replaced with 35g ones as they were too fatiguing to press in the forward direction.

The layout is a slightly modified QWERTY: the diagonal keys (TYBN) moved to where the punctuation would be (semicolon, dot, comma, slash). This gives some room for future improvements with real custom logical layouts.

I'm glad I see a built-in trackball on the right side so you don't have to move your hand to the mouse and back. Repositioning your right hand with this kind of keyboards every time after using a mouse would ruin the whole typing experience.

Overall I'm very satisfied with the placement of everything; it fits my hands very well. I'm coming from a standard keyboard with a PB typing speed of 141 WPM. After using this for about 30 minutes the best I've gotten is 38 WPM, but I hope to improve that over time – loopsbellart.

That was Issue #38. Thanks for stopping by.

This issue was made possible by the donations of:, Jeremy Kitchen, AikenJG, @kaleid1990, u/chad3814, Eugenie, sebastian siggerud, ajoflo, siriximi, cdc, cornbreadninja

Your support is crucial to help this project to survive.

Discussion over at r/mk!