A Collection of Thoughts on Custom Fabrication

Every design and walkthrough teaches something new.

The following are some of them that were the most helpful to me.

Whole Build

Planck (or Planck like)

3D Printed

  • Metal top plate, 3d printed plastic body (Reddit, Imgur)
    • Via discussion
    • Via build
      • etch/prime, and paint the top plate matte black
        • Had used
        • Next time would powder coat it
      • print the milled bottom case
        • might have to break it up into pieces small enough for the printer to print
        • acetone “welds” the separate pieces together
      • visible/mentioned tools: needle-nose pliers, pliers, x-acto, solder wick, solder sucker, SIP sockets so don’t have to solder LEDs
  • 100% plastic printed!
    • Novel

Carbon Fiber

  • Entire body is carbon, (Reddit, Imgur)
    • Via discussion
      • Next time would wire cleaner with better cable management
      • Going DSA
      • Fabbers are quoting $40USD/set(top and bottom plate)
      • Column wires are color coded
      • Not stiff as metal; some flex
    • Via build
      • Used the serviceable switch pattern

          I used 1N4148 diodes and bent all them together and put them like this to
          solder them. The last row was a bit more difficult. Don't heat the diodes too
          long and of course always check the orientation before soldering.
  • A conversation about the previous post before it was finished
    • Via discussion
      • Super glue the carbon fiber edges because they will cut you and stay in you forever
      • Breathing carbon fiber dust will kill you
    • Via build
      • What specs are the spacers?
      • Nice insulated, color-coded wiring for columns
        • Ran out of colors
      • Rows are wired by diodes
      • Sandwich case, hot glued, electrical tape on bottom
      • Accessible reset button


  • Used Bamboo (Reddit, Imgur)
    • Via discussion
      • Likes hand-wiring
      • Based on Planck, heavy layer use
      • Touch-typer uses it for trips
    • Via build
      • Seems to have used the sandwich generator
      • Gorrilla-glued the layers together
      • Clamped the glued layers one layer at a time
      • Think bamboo plate prevented switches from staying in place so hot-glued them
      • Don’t see any wiring at all


Preonic Mathias

  • First handwire (Imgur)
    • Via discussion
      • Acrylic 3mm top and bottom to save money
      • Row to column diode direction for firmware
      • Know correct direction

        I'm hand wiring a planck soon so could you explain the technique to make it work with easyAVR?
        permalinkembedsavegive gold
        [–]pokkuhlag[S] 1 point 7 months ago
        The most important is the diode direction. This is from row to column. Most build you see here is the opposite direction. For example matt3o brownfox example is diode direction from column to row. This will not work with the current version of easy avr handwire config. The second thing is when you use a default led port. you need to define the led port to an unused port. Me and fauxsoul had the issue when you do not define it correctly, it will active a row on the wrong port. See this link for problem and solved
    • Via build
      • 3mm acrylic looks fine
        • Transparent is nice
      • He glued them in?

Metal and Acrylic

  • First 70% (Reddit, Imgur)
    • Via discussion
    • Via build
      • Nice wiring pics
        • Columns are color-coded
      • Caulk around inner edge to ensure no shorts?


  • Sweet Phantom build (GeekHack, Flickr)
    • Good for ideas
    • USB port is attached to case and has an extension to connect that port to the port on the microcontroller
      • Keeps strain off microcontroller
      • Lets you put microcontroller anywhere

ANSI 104 (or ANSI like)

  • His end game, 104 key squashed (Reddit, Imgur)
    • Via discussion
      • Love it
      • Would like another row on the bottom
      • ZZ96 case
      • RS96 pcb with RGB underlighting
      • Took 2 years to collect caps, ouch
      • “It’s the same width as a tkl”
        • Wow, TKL is already high on my list
    • Via build
      • Love it
      • Would add another row for emacs keys
  • Mateo’s build of Brown Fox (Blog)
    • Makes more sense after studying other builds
    • Use acrylic layer on top of steel to avoid shorts instead of using electrical tape
    • top and bottom plates are 1.5mm, seems to be the standard
  • Nice wiring Imgur
    • Used a ribbon pulled apart?
    • Controller “hanging out”
    • Weaved cable
  • 65% build DeskThority
    • Wnats better cable sleeve and screws
    • Sandwich 4 layers
      • Metal skinny
      • Acrylic thick
      • Acrylic thick
      • Metal skinny
    • Started 100% stainless steel; super strong and good
      • Wouldn’t do it again, because it is too firm because he types too hard and didn’t want to change style
    • Use aluminum or acrylic instead
    • Had shorting problems
  • Minimal Animal 65% board (Reddit, Imgur, Deskthority)
    • Via reddit discussion
      • You can’t do a non-layered build with less than 6 rows
      • Shocked to see arrows keys chorded, ouch
      • Sex bolts links one and two
      • KarmChief
        • Liked the mix of transparent and black acrylic
          • Maybe black and yellow
        • Loved teensy placement
      • You can contact SignaturePlastics for a quote on your layout
    • Via build
      • A grid which some 1.25x and 2x thrown in arbitrarily, aka true custom
      • Never use epoxy anywhere
    • Via deskthority
  • 75% Layout via DeskThority
    • Clean and nice
    • TKL much smaller than a TKL
    • This might be perfect, too

Notes on the Notes

  • Referenced guides
  • Custom build
    • Yes because I can’t find any programmable grids that are available or have Cherry MX switches
    • Builds like the Keyboardio and ErgoDox are great and cost less than anything you can do on your own
    • Make it easy
      • Lots of space
      • Easily accessible
    • Hot-rod it
      • Show off wires
      • Show off microcontroller
  • Sandwich case
    • Electrical tape on bottom prevents shorts
    • Between layers
      • Hot glue
    • Layers
      • Wood
  • Switches
    • Might as well make the switch cutout serviceable
    • Speaker wire mentioned, has insulation everywhere, melt off on solder, looks nice
  • Caps
    • Doubleshot DSA PBT, do they exist?
    • Make accessible; don’t layer/blank standard stuff
  • LED
    • Can’t see them with DSA PBT
  • Plate
    • Powder coated might wear and feel better
    • Sandwich cases can use sex bolts
    • Modeling it myself might be simpler
  • Wiring
    • Diodes can serve as insulated wire for a row
    • Determine by firmware choice
  • USB Cable
    • Get a weaved one

To Do

  • Can you block-out pins that you shouldn’t use so you won’t accidentally use them?
  • Is there an insulator that you can apply after say to diodes?
  • Can you wire an entire board without soldering?
    • Just curious; soldering stuff is fine
  • Can you use LED’s or a LCD to display the current layer?

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