On a Quest for the Perfect Numpad

Often times, the only way to get exactly what you want in a device is to just build it yourself. Well, maybe not the only way, but we’ve all certainly told ourselves it was the only way enough that it might as well be true. We don’t know if the DIY imperative felt by [Olav Vatne] to construct his own Bluetooth mechanical number pad was genuine or self-imposed, but in either event, we’re glad he documented the process for our viewing pleasure.

Broken up into three separate posts on his blog, the construction of his custom numpad starts innocently enough with buying a kit from AliExpress. In a rather bizarre twist, the kit arrived assembled, which lead to an arduous period of desoldering to separate all the principle parts [Olav] wanted in the first place. So much for saving time.

Once he freed all the mechanical keys from the kit’s PCB, he went to town hand-wiring the matrix. After testing to make sure all the keys were wired correctly, the matrix got connected to an Adafruit Feather 32u4 Bluefruit. With the electronics sorted, [Olav] moved on to the software side. Here he was able to accomplish one of his primary goals, having a numpad that works over both USB and Bluetooth.

The last step of the process was creating the wooden enclosure. It basically goes together like a picture frame, with special care given to make sure there are appropriate openings in the case for the switches and USB port to pop through without ruining the overall look of the device.

Thanks to cheap USB-capable microcontrollers, hand-made artisan keyboards are now a thing. This project is a nice way to get started with custom input devices, and it only gets better from here.

16 thoughts on “On a Quest for the Perfect Numpad

    1. Everyone I know who gushes over a numeric keypad is an accountant. They stare at their printouts and legal documents and they punch in pages full of numbers without even looking at the screen. Since they’re not looking at the screen, lag is totally irrelevant.

      1. I use Blender extensively so a numpad is very, very important.
        Lag is also pretty unimportant there too.

        Really, I can’t imagine lag being that big of an issue even for gaming. Bluetooth latency will be small compared to the time it takes to lift your hand off WASD or the mouse and hit the numpad.

      2. Everyone I know who gushes over a numeric keypad works with numbers in some capacity. If all you’re doing is posting in comment sections and playing video games and scrolling through facebook, then sure you don’t need numbers all too often.

        Like many things, the need boils down to use case. Just because your use case is different from the person making this project doesn’t mean it’s only for accountants.

        What I find particularly silly is the fad for tenkey-less keyboard in the mech keyboard community, and the sudden rush of people buying (or making) the tenkey pad that they left off the damn keyboard in the first place. If only someone would design a keyboard that had this attached…

          1. It’s as though games don’t give you the option to changes the key configuration to put your hand closer to the mouse. They’re doing it for the aesthetic and not much else. Perfectly fine for them, unacceptable for a general use keyboard.

    2. Why Bluetooth, Yeah I got nothing it’s ok I guess for bad audio in the car and some phone calls as a dedicated input device no thanks, but Logitechs version of Bluetooth on their devices is very consistent and has always worked well mostly.

      1. I use it all the time, since I use my mouse with my left hand I can use arrow keys for control and the num pad + the page buttons for functions without moving my right hand

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