One man’s adventures in custom keyboard development

BlueCube-flat

As a software developer, [suka] spends a lot of time every day in front of a keyboard. He had been trying out different keyboard layouts far less common than even the moderetly obscure Dvorak layout, and after some time decided a custom ergonomic keyboard was what he wanted. His progress of designing his own custom ergonomic keyboard is a fascinating read, made even cooler by the fact these are real, professional-quality keyboards with mechanical switches and custom enclosures.

After starting off with a few USB numpads, [suka] dove in to the world of Cherry switches by crafting his own wing-style keyboard. [suka] works for one of the larger manufacturers of laser-sintering machines, so he was able to create the enclosures for his keybaord – as well as the key caps – fairly easily. The technology behind laser sintering allowed [suka] to create some strange bowl and trough-shaped keyboards before settling on his daily driver, seen above.

The Blue Cube, as [suka] calls it, includes an integrated stand, an integrated IBM trackpoint mouse, and is powered by a Teensy microcontroller. [suka]’s keyboards might not be heafty enough for melee combat like the venerable IBM Model M, but it’s exactly what [suka] wants, and that’s just fine by us.

27 thoughts on “One man’s adventures in custom keyboard development

  1. i like the idea, but i cant see how it works… do the letters on the keys have any relevance to anything.

    kinda looks like a nostromo n52… which is awesome!

    1. The article says the letters have no meaning, keycaps were selected only according to shape.

      And I here was ready to suggest the upside down J be given a place on the home row, being such a commonly used symbol.

        1. Actually, you don’t need to look any farther than Lenovo’s Thinkpad line. And even without the nub, Thinkpads are the best.

  2. Given that it looks like he’s printing these cases he could probably make a buckling spring version. Possibly out of 304 stainless and have a battle-ready custom keyboard that will manage as long as a model M.

    1. At the other hand, seeing his design I am a bit surprised I have not seen more printed keyboards for Cherry switches.

  3. I’ll have you know that since switching to the Dvorak keyboard layout years ago, my speed has increasopopp–blip*gork^zzz…

    1. My speed doubled, though it was pretty painful being crippled at typing during the switch over period. Especially typing passwords, and double especially on things like bank passwords where it locks you out if you get it wrong too many times..

      1. Saying your typing speed doubled without stating what it started at isn’t of much use. Are you now typing 110wpm or an obscene 220?

        1. Ah, sorry, I went from around 60wpm to around 120wpm comfortably. I’ve considered doing another iteration into programmers dvorak or something because of the position of ()[]{}, but to be honest relearning how to keyboard once was more than enough for me…

          What’s quite funny is that I’m now pretty terrible when it comes to typing normally on qwerty keyboards, but I can touch-type qwerty easily and quickly with my thumbs on mobile devices.

          1. That’s more likely a result of you consciously re-learning typing than the switch to dvorak in itself. There’s lot of hype about dvorak v.s. qwerty but most is just hype without substance.

          2. @Megol – I only actively re-learned using exercises etc while I was getting my speed up to a usable level, maybe 30-40wpm or so, the rest is all from natural usage. I was happy enough at this point, and then about a year later I tried out some tests again for curiosity and was kind of blown away. Also, I have completed qwerty typing classes in the past.

            I would attribute the speed boost to pretty much not needing to move my hands much at all while typing, it makes it much easier to sort of “flex” out whole words at once, especially common words. Because of this it makes it a lot easier to keep good typing form – there’s just so much more that you can type with just the home row! Additionally, I’m right handed and dvorak pushes most of the necessary fine/accurate hand movement out to the right hand. I actually found it quite hard to adjust to using the pinky finger of my right hand so much.

            Anyway, YMMV, but it has been an very positive non-statistically significant switch for me :)

          3. There have been actual studies, and it’s pretty much just personal preference. On average it’s about the same as qwerty. Not to say that one isn’t faster for some people, just that it all cancels out.

            The moral of the story is don’t listen to anyone who evangelizes or talks shit about either layout. Try both and use what you like. :)

  4. While I feel honoured to find my projects mentioned here, some statements are a little misleading – more detailed explanations as well as answers to all the questions posted here can be found in the rather lengthy DIY thread over at deskthority.

    Had I been contacted beforehand I would have gladly given a more detailed description with recent pictures here, but thanks for the surprise anyways

  5. While I feel honoured to find my projects mentioned here, some statements in the description are a little misleading – more detailed explanations as well as answers to most of the questions posted here can be found in the rather lengthy DIY thread over at deskthority.

    Had I been contacted beforehand I would have gladly given a more detailed description with recent pictures here, but thanks for the surprise anyways.

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