Keyboard Builders' Digest
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Issue 41 / Week 34 / 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 41

Developments, Reddit cake day inventory, Issue 40 follow-up, to-do list, etc

I was quite busy this week and I spent most of my free time researching that intriguing chair by Luigi Colani and preparing the cake day photo (above).


  • Date of publication at the bottom of articles.
  • Twitter integration on Issue pages. Last Monday I realized only before posting that the nice Twitter "cards" work only on my article pages. Now I've done it for the archive issue pages too.

Issue 40 follow-up

Despite 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 5400+ characters long and you can read it at:


Black Ice ortho

Custom designed angled ortho by ashinything with 3D printed hot swap sockets.

This nice handwired project features a Teensy 2.0++ and makes use of stingray127's 3D printed hotswap sockets that don't require any soldering to connect all the switches.

It made for a really aesthetically pleasing finish. Although the switch connections are sometimes troublesome to set up – ashinything.

The files are now on Thingiverse.

The keyboard is printed in two halves which are symmetrical so you can mirror the included .STL in your slicer to print the other side.

There are two 3 mm holes on the sides, you'll need something (like a nail or 3D printed part) to create a friction fit between the two halves to stop them rotating.

The base will solidify the two halves together, I used acrylic which I cut to size with a hack saw and drilled some holes which line up with the eight holes of the keyboard. The acrylic is secured to the two 3D printed parts using some heat set inserts and M3 screws. I designed the holes so you could screw straight into the 3D part but I'd strongly recommend getting inserts because taking the base on and off repeatedly will eventually destroy the threads of the 3D printed part. If you insist on not using heat set inserts at least start with shorter length screws and work your way up to longer ones as the thread weakens.

To add some tilt you can put a couple nuts on the rear screws. The author had to add some small washers to the front left and right screws to stop it wobbling.

Chordie chording keyboard

The Chordie is an open-source hand-wired chording keyboard by kbjunky with optional trackball support.

Git repo, build guide here.

Ever since I laid my hands on Ginny keyboard I felt like there was some room for improvements. This is my attempt at making it a bit better – kbjunky.

The main difference is that the Chordie supports a trackball. There are 3 mouse buttons on the left side and the trackball is wired through SPI interface. The mouse buttons can also be used as part of the chords or for switching layers which opens a wide spectrum of possibilities like scrolling with the ball etc.

The trackball part is optional though, the keyboard setup performs well with touchpads like Apple Magic Trackpad or can supplement any commercial trackball.

To ensure an easy building process all parts just clip in and only 2 screws are needed to secure the trackball sensor.

The Cordie is using the ASETNIOP chording system plus layers for all the other keys that are not included in it.

Typing demo:

3D-printed macropad

A Pico-based 3D-printed macropad by dr2mod with case STLs.

My goal was to build a solid 4x3 macropad with as little off-the-shelf components as possible to reduce the final cost and necessity to browse the internet to find an elusive out-of-stock part – dr2mod.

Tutorial and code on GitHub.

Case STLs on Thingiverse.

Among the things there's also a relatively low profile keycap to go with the pad, with a spherical uniform profile resembling DSA.

Architeuthis dux with case

I like tapioki's designs as much as I hate his naming conventions – Dux with a case by Jonathan Dart.

Dux repo:

Parametric case:


Jazzkeys - free typing

Jazzkeys is a nice app playing piano sounds while you are typing – created by the Stockholm-based studio Plan8.

With its minimalist interface Jazzkeys is less than a distraction-free text editor but much more than a humble textarea.

Published in 2020, this is a project by Plan8, a Stockholm based studio founded in 2008, working for companies like Google or Mailchimp.

You can type what you want and according to the settings your keypresses produce nice jazzy piano sounds in different moods.

Try it for yourself and replay or share your message:

Jazzkeys home: [

Plan8 homepage:

IBM keyboard part number finder

Need help finding an IBM keyboard part number? Look no further! This tool by SharktasticA takes care of that.

Try it here:

The new keyboard database finder is an upcoming alternative method for searching the keyboard part number database. This long-awaited replacement for the original form-based keyboard database finder takes the form of an interactive quiz that should enable you to 'hone' in on a keyboard and its part number based on your visual and feature preferences or known facts of a keyboard you're trying to reverse search.

As this is a preview, operational bugs are to be expected. If you encounter an issue, please report it.

So, what can you do with this? Basically, you take a five-question quiz and the database will try to find IBM (and Lexmark, Unicomp, etc.) keyboard part numbers based on your answers. This is could be used for:

  • Finding out if a particular style and function of IBM keyboard you want exists
  • Reverse-searching a keyboard you know exists but don't know any part numbers for

Tips & Tricks

Adjustable tenting stand for Iris

An open source parametric tenting stand by NazFab/AlSpheric.

This is a parametric model for a keyboard stand for the Iris keyboard with adjustable tenting.

I believe it could be adapted for most split keyboards with similar construction (i.e. top/bottom plates with screws and stand-offs) – AlSpheric.


The stand features four threaded feet. One can thread the bolts into and then tighten the jam nuts against to keep the bolts in place.

Print all models as is, don't mirror left to produce the right or the threads will be incorrect.

This was generated by a program (parametric model):

The modelling starts with a list of coordinates for the screws holding the keyboard plates together as well as coordinates for the feet.

The program uses this 3D modelling library:

Soldering tips

What was the one thing you learned that would change the way you solder forever more?

@hackaday asked for life-changing tips and experiences – and they got some interesting ones.

Besides the usual tips on proper soldering (using a fume extractor, flux, tinning the iron tip, more flux, etc.) there were some funny and/or interesting entries:

  • Always wear trousers.
  • When it smells like chicken, you are holding it wrong (pic).
  • Never try to catch a falling soldering iron.
  • Using Blu Tack to hold components in place.
  • On fumes
  • Solder wire wrapped onto your finger.

The number of likes on this last one indicates this little trick was new for many people:

Solder wrapped onto a fingertip means the rest of the hand is available to hold things in place. Means I don't need clips to hold the board, usually --@regularfry.

And a related observation by Alan Yates:

You can hold components a lot longer than you might at 1st imagine without getting burnt.

And finally a nice vintage third hand: :)

Pimoroni trackball top shell

Khord designed and shared an open-source top shell for Pimoroni trackballs.

Designed this top shell to replace the shroud that comes attached over the pimoroni trackball. The stock trackball shell is removed by gently squeezing the retention clips together underneath the PCB – Khord.

The additional purposes of the shell are to shroud the breakout solder pins as well as provide a level housing extending the original top face of the stock shell to be flush with M2 hex socket head cap mounting screws.

The file is really only designed for MJF, SLA, SLS printing or similar. The thin roof of the trackball cavity and its hole edge radiusing do not play well with FDM, making it not sit flush against the trackball housing and PCB.

Thingiverse, Github.

You can order MJF prints from Shapeways.

Keyboard Spotting

The Luigi Colani office chair, 1970

The retrofuturistic Luigi Colani office chair features a built-in split Selectric-style typewriter.

Luigi Colani (1928-2019), originally an aircraft designer, was a German industrial designer creating various stuff from actual aircraft to toothbrushes.

The curvy, rounded, organic, "biodynamic" forms are his hallmark.

Careful observation teaches me that with the exception of crystals nothing in nature admits of a straight line. The universe itself is made up of curves and I can only obey the laws of nature – Luigi Colani in OMNI Magazine, 1980/1.

The futuristic "home office" of the 1970s depicted above includes a built-in typewriter with a monoblock split layout and palm/wrist rests.

On the highest res version of this photo I could find you can clearly see that the typewriter has a Selectric-style typing element.

There is at least one different prototype with a more classic, non-split, non-angled keyboard (the white one on the picture below).

This is a page from his book titled "YLEM" showing both versions:

I like the B&W version better but here are some more color photos of the yellow one:

According to the tweet, this prototype is exhibited at Haworth Center, Holland, MI. Somebody could shot a close-up of the layout.

Btw, along with his profile, there is an excellent Q&A on revealing Colani's views from working with pencil and clay to sustainability, from prostitution of designers to overconsumption.

Finally, a very sympathetic philosophy from the master:

I believe that all good design is naturally erotic – Luigi Colani.

(For another great example of a retrofuturistic workplace design check this "Futurist Desk".)

And on more contemporary trends: ChairsFX published a comprehensive article – Office Chair Industry Report 2022: Market Leaders & Trends.


ProgressivePear found a Viewdata terminal at work.

The keyboard features Alps SKCC (or GI SKCC?) switches.

According to Luc:

You'd connect it to the phone line and to a TV, dial up a server and use a videotex service.

Videotex by the way was one of the earliest implementations of an end-user information system. From the late 1970s to early 2010s, it was used to deliver information (usually pages of text) to a user in computer-like format, typically to be displayed on a television or a dumb terminal.

More pictures:

Desthority follow-up:

IBM Model M5-2

An IBM Model M5-2 with a cute little trackball. Posted by opalinemoth.

Using Shark's fool-proof IBM part number finder even I could figure out what model this might be:

Search results.

According to the database, all models with these part numbers were manufactured by Lexmark, starting in 1993/1995.

That was Issue #41. 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, u/motfalcon & Micho

Your support is crucial to help this project to survive.

Discussion over at r/mk!