Keyboard Builders' Digest
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Issue 39 / Week 32 / 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 39

Lots of changes and developments, Issue 38 follow-up, most popular posts, to-do and priority list.


Lots of small tweaks and trouble-shooting to make future maintenance quicker and easier, thus, leaving more time to create new content – or sniff for it.

Reddit post to database importer. I made this months ago but there was still some room for improvement.

With previously featured projects evolving, I put some additional…


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 6200+ characters long and you can read it at:


Dactyl flex

Dactyl flex by remus49 with open frame design supporting adjustable tenting and pivoting thumb keys.

This is my remix of dactyl manuform after trying whole bunch of different thumb clusters. the thumb keys are closer to home row so it’s less stressful for my thumb. And it’s easier to reach top row too – remus49.

The open frame design eliminates tight corners in the case that are hard to get to when assembling. Separating the finger plate and the thumb plate also allows easier experimentation on the thumb cluster.

The rack combines the two plates together, at the same time supporting adjustable tenting and pivoting thumb keys.

Github repo:

My clojure is horrible. Would have made it in Python if I knew about the porting project.

7c8 Framework with acrylic cover

Through-hole intensifies: open-source 7c8 Framework by stevennguyen/u/7c8.

The Framework, an open-source through-hole 5x12 ortholinear keyboard, was already featured in KBD #10, but recently, 7c8 posted one with an acrylic cover.

I added an acrylic component cover because everyone peer-pressured me – 7c8.

Even though the Atmega328 makes programming this build more cumbersome, the Framework's nice Git repo covers the topic of flashing the bootloader with USBaspLoader:


Foam and plate files for Foostan's unibody Cornelius released.

uberslowsloth's post made me aware of Foostan's Cornelius project.

While members of the Corne family are open-source, this one was a group buy earlier this year.

It will not be released as open source. I will release the plate data, and may release the PCB as well – Foostan.

According to the IC last November, this is a gasket mounted monoblock ergo with 10° slant angle (20° between the halves) put in a nice aluminum case.

It seems the author put some of the files up to Github recently, so you can cut your own plate and foam now:

There's also a detailed build guide with lots of useful stuff to learn (not just for those who participated in the GB). I've always thought build guides are one of the most useful aids when it comes to learning about keyboard design:

The rISOtho

The rISOtho is an ortholinear-ISO mashup by _eLRIC.

As I did not found some ortho layouts that suited me, I decided to design my own. Thus, the rISOtho was born [..] – _eLRIC

The author wanted to stay close to the standard ISO layout, but minimize the number of rows and columns which led to no dedicated F-keys (only through layers).

Currently, the keyboard runs KMK on a Pico.

Git repo with Gerbers:

Tips & Tricks

Leaf spring mount

Variable force leaf spring mount by _dvsn_.

CNC cut carbon fiber leaf springs in various sizes.

No SVG/DXF (yet), but it seems easy to draw and reproduce.

I would like more flex and want to try a different thickness of the springs, and possibly from other materials – _dvsn_.

More pics:

Resin keycap casting

Make your own set of keycaps with silicone molds and UV-curable resin.

A video tutorial by Adafruit:

And the article with details:

Keyseebee with fat plate

The Keyseebee by TeXitoi has a new fat switch plate, sitting on the PCB.

The KeySeeBee is a very sympathetic little split keyboard without all the bells and whistles.

It's only a keyboard, no LED, no display, nothing more than keys and USB.

Now, the project includes an open-source 3D-printed switch plate which, unlike most plates, sits on the PCB.

Git repo:

Plate STL:

Baji: An edge clamp Minidox case

Baji is a 3D printable Minidox Case by Metafalls_.

This clever modular system comprises the two-part top case (left and right) which slide to the side of the PCB and are anchored in place by the bottom case.

Currently, there are two bottom cases: a flat one and another with 15° tenting – with the angle printed into the tenting base.

No external parts (bolts, nuts, glues, etc.) needed for assembly:

The pegs are made tight fit, so it is stuck there firm. This one is printed on 0.2mm layer height and I haven't tested it with coarser and/or smoother resolution – Metafalls_.

STLs on Thingiverse:

More pics:

nice!nano holder

A 3D printable nice!nano holder by Nathanielks for Fmcraft's TBK Mini.

Nathanielks modified Fmcraft's TBK Mini to allow room for a modified version of the loligagger holder for the Dactyl Manuform.

I wanted to be able to use this with nice!nano's, so I modeled a new holder to allow me to use a reset switch and a power switch for the battery – Nathanielks.

More pics of the printed thing.

Git repo:

End QWERTY hegemony

A one-handed writer’s search for the perfect mechanical keyboard.

Britt H. Young wrote a review of Wirecutter's mechanical keyboards based on her specific needs as a one-handed writer.

The write-up is mostly on prebuilts, but its unique perspective makes this an interesting read:

Keyboard Spotting

Hughes printing telegraph, 1860

The Hughes printing telegraph, the second "keyboard", was a huge improvement compared to its predecessor. Spotted by TheSemiHistorian.

TheSemiHistorian posted this photo without any context so I had to look this up:

The model on the picture wasn't the first such printing telegraph, it was the House Printing Telegraph invented by Royal E. House in 1846.

However, the House Printing Telegraph was quite complex and difficult to manufacture and operate.

It ran off pneumatic power supplied by turning a crank on the machine. This required a second person (called the "Grinder") to turn the crank while the actual operator ran the telegraph –

Despite its difficult maintenance, by 1852, the House Printing Telegraph was being used on 4 of the main telegraph lines in the U.S.

In 1855, David Edward Hughes, a music teacher living in Kentucky, invented his own version of the printing telegraph (pictured above).

Both telegraphs used a keyboard to enter the letters and numbers directly, without the need to learn any codes, e.g. Morse. Letters typed at the transmitting end would be printed on paper tape at the receiving end.

Unlike the pneumatic House instrument, the Hughes Printing Telegraph was powered by a large weight on a rope so there was no need for a second person to turn a crank.

The Hughes Printing Telegraph was used for a short time in the U.S. by the American Telegraph Company but it was used extensively in Europe, well into the 20th Century.

Many pictures exist showing rooms with Hughes Printing Telegraph sets in training schools in Eastern Europe; yet strangely, very few Hughes Telegraph sets exist today.

u/TheSemiHistorian spotted one in the Science Museum in London. The plaque notes that:

“The Hughes telegraph was the first to combine an alphabetical keyboard for sending with a printer for receiving messages in plain text. These features later became standard on teleprinters and personal computers. It was developed by David Hughes during the 1850s and was so successful it made him a great deal of money.”

Donated by: HM Postmaster-General, Object No 1888-396


IBM System 32 5320

Wow! This beast is built into a desk and its "display" is a tractor feed printer. Shared by neetoday.

This is the IBM System 32, a midrange computer introduced in the mid 1970s recently featured by @TubeTimeUS.

Other than the nice vintage built-in keyboard, this system has a 8" floppy drive, a cute little CRT display with only 20 lines, and a 3/4 horsepower motor to spin the platters of the huge hard drive.

Well, "huge" here refers to the physical dimensions, the storage capacity is only 13.4 megabytes. ;)

Chyron Duet

This Chyron battleship with Cherry Clears was saved by virulentvalor from being tossed out.

Work was about to toss out this thick boy with Cherry Clears! – virulentvalor.

I have to agree with one of the commenters that this is an "utterly impractical but glorious" board. But practicality isn't what we love vintage keyboards for…

By the way, this was used to control a scoreboard at a baseball stadium.

Glad we upgraded for the scoreboards sake (and so I can keep this gem)

The photo shot by the original poster does not show this beast in all its beauty. Let me include another picture (from Deskthority) highlighting the wave profile:

Chyron Duet (source: Deskthority)
Chyron Duet (source: Deskthority)


Key-Flex keyboards

Key-Flex is a family of keyboards with a unique structure and sensor mechanism.

Seth Garlock, inventor and architect by training, has launched this kickstarter project with a few models like a split and a classic monoblock version, as well as a numpad.

This project is my attempt to fundamentally change computer interfaces, using unique devices with flexible keys and embedded sensors – Seth Garlock.

To be honest, the inner working mechanism is not yet clear to me, however, the author refers to the original Mouse and Keyset as inspiration, designed by Douglas Engelbart with others, for use with computer systems in the 1960s.

Douglas Engelbart introducing his setup with a similar chording keyboard in the Mother of All Demos (1968):

That was Issue #39. Thanks for stopping by.

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

Your support is crucial to help this project to survive.

Discussion over at r/mk!