The funny thing about keyboard end game is that it usually involves more than one keyboard. Rare is the board that is great for both home and away. Having finished their dactyl build, [RalphCoder13] was looking to build something slimmer and more portable, and the Birdy44 was born.
This hand-wired beauty uses a pair of Waveshare RP2040 Zeros and features a pair of 40mm Cirque track pads that were salvaged from a Steam controller.
As you may have guessed, there are 44 Kailh Chocs that sit underneath a combination of MBK and 3D-printed keycaps. Our favorite part might be the tenting legs, which are optional and connect magnetically.
Part of portability is how you decide to carry the thing. You probably don’t want it naked and loose in your backpack if you can avoid it, right? To that end, he designed a nice little case for the halves. The original plan was to use magnets to hold them in place inside the topless case, but that didn’t work out so well, so he added wide elastic bands to stretch around the case.
As with any other community, it takes all kinds to make the keyboard world go ’round. Some like them thicc — more backing for the clacking and all — but some like them sleek and prefer the slimmest possible keyboard. For now and the foreseeable future, the go-to method for making whisper-thin keebs is to use Kailh Choc switches, because that’s about all that’s out there.
The whole video is great, and at less than 2½ minutes long, it’s definitely worth your time. There are a few little gems of wisdom sprinkled throughout, like printing keycaps standing up on their backsides (like where they would have a little flash dot if they were factory-molded). This gives them a nice texture thanks to the layer lines. But the real reason we’re here today is this DIY method for making doubleshot keycaps with little fuss that [Khmel] just tosses out there toward the end.
Traditionally, doubleshot keycaps are made with two layers of plastic — one for the legend, and one for the rest. This produces a quite durable keycap and (used to be the norm), but the expensive process gave way to laser-etched and pad-printed keycap legends in the ’90s. [Khmel] was able to fake the look by printing legends at 0.25 layer height and then fusing each one to its respective keycap by laying a thin piece of glass (think microscope slide) on top and applying a soldering iron for a few seconds. Classy!
Every key on the home row is a five-way switch — like a D-pad with straight down input. [SouthPawEngineer] has them set up so that each one covers a QWERTY column. So like, for the left pinky switch, up is Q, right is A, down is Z, and left is 1. Technically, the split has 58 keys, and the uni has 56.
Both of these keebs use KB2040 boards, which are Adafruit’s answer to the keyboard-building craze of these roaring 2020s. These little boards are of course easy to program with CircuitPython, which supports KMK, an offshoot of the popular QMK. Thanks for the tip, [foamyguy]!
You may have noticed that I neglected to write an introductory paragraph for the last one of these — I was just too excited to get into the keyboards and keyboard accessories, I guess. I can’t promise that I’ll always have something to say up here, but this week I definitely do: thank you for all the tips I’ve received so far! The readers are what make Hackaday great, and this little keyboard roundup column is no exception. Fabulous fodder, folks!
Like any keyboard enthusiast worth their soldering iron, [deʃhipu] keeps trying for the ultimate keyboard — ideally, one that runs CircuitPython and makes a great daily driver for high-speed typing.
The latest version is the Kamina, a one-piece split with a SAMD21 brain that is slim and narrow without being cramped. [deʃhipu] started by splitting the Planck layout, spreading it, adding a number row, and eventually, an extra column of Kailh Chocs on the right hand. One-piece splits are great as long as the split suits your shoulders, because everything stays in place. When you do move it around, both halves move as one and you don’t have to mess with the positioning nearly as much as with a two-piece. And of course, since he designed it himself, it fits.
The really cool thing here is the center module concept. It’s functional, it looks nice, and as long as it doesn’t get in the way of typing, seems ideal. So far, [deʃhipu] has made a couple different versions with joysticks, encoders, and buttons, and is currently working on one with a Home button made for cell phones to take advantage of their built-in optical trackpads.
Esrille NISSE Looks Nice
This is the Esrille NISSE keyboard and it comes in two sizes! Okay, the two sizes don’t look that different, but the key spacing specs say otherwise. To me, this looks like an Alice with a better and ortholinear layout. These bat-wing beauties are new to me, but they’ve been around for a few years now and are probably difficult to stumble upon outside of Japan. Although Esrille doesn’t seem to make any other keyboards, they do make a portable PC built on the Raspberry Pi compute module.
I love me a one-piece split when its done properly, and this one seems to be pretty darn close to perfect. How do I know? You can print out a paper-craft version to try out either of the two sizes. I didn’t take it quite that far, but you can bet that I opened the smaller size’s image in a new tab and put my hands all over the screen to test the layout.
I especially like the thumb clusters and the inside keys on this thing, but I think the innermost thumb keys would be too painful to use, and I would probably just use my index finger. I would totally buy one of these, but they’re a little too expensive, especially since the smaller one costs more. (What’s up with that?) The great news is that the firmware is open-source. Between that and the paper-craft models, a person could probably build their own. Check out [xahlee]’s site for a review and a lot more pictures of the NISSE and similar keebs.