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  1. Log Completed 9-19-17 Welcome, munkys! It's be a grueling few months what with numerous setbacks with projects, and storms, but an EEL abides I guess. Gotta keep on truckin'. I've been tinkering with some things, and decided I'd distract myself temporarily from the big projects I should already be done with but can't seem to quite get there due to temperatures being unbearable, and lack of desire. I guess a good way of describing trying to push yourself against your will to finish a project you don't want to work on: it's kind of like having a bowel-movement -- you can't force it or you'll be in pain. I was able to snag one of the Team Wolf Zhuque "CIY" 87-key decks really cheap, and decided I'd do something with it to make it my own. Out of box, it's a damn fine piece of keyboard for the price, with a few gripes. Let's get to this! These cheaaaaaap decks come in decent packaging... CIY = Change It Yourself! Basically, you can hot-swap new key switches into the deck without having to disassemble and desolder. Perfect as a switch-tester on the go! Inside the box, they even have a layer of vellum paper to further protect the deck inside from dust, critters, or whatever. Nice. Let's get this deck out on the workbench and take a look at things. I've seen uglier! That logo though.... I can't stand excessive badging, to be honest. I like subtlety when it comes to that kind of thing. That logo has gotta go! Not really a fan of Blues, but I guess they could be worse. These are Gaote Blues. Weird round opening on the switch top instead of the usual rectangular box shape of the stem meeting up with the housing. Doesn't matter; they're gone too, haha. Caps are kinda meh too, but I've seen worse. The Cherry-esque stabilizers (stabs) are interesting though. I like how they snap onto the bar instead of having to fiddle with getting the bar inserted prior and pushing the caps on. This makes more sense in an odd way. I was going to replace them with Cherry stabs, but I may just keep them instead. Kinda cool! All caps pulled, and ready to further breakdown... This key in particular is kind of a pain though.... The Windows key. For some reason, the manufactuer decided the backlighting on it will stay on ALL THE TIME, even if you turn off the backlighting (like I do). I don't get it, lol. Easily fixed though. SMD LEDs; surface-mount diodes. If you're careful with your soldering iron, you can get it off with no damage. One of the things I dislike about this deck is the backlighting. I don't understand why a lot of these manufacturers decide that the 'rainbow' backlighting is acceptable. Just....choose a color. One color. That's it! I don't need a couple rows of red, then blue, then yellow, etc. Ugh, ugly! If I really felt like going through the trouble, I'd just desolder all the SMDs and replace with a single color (such as orange or something), but it's not worth it to me. I just rarely ever even look at it with backlighting. Basically, this is a work-station keyboard. In fact, I'm typing this log using it! After removing all the switches using the CIY removal tool, a few screws through the top plate and some in the bottom held the hold thing together. I'm going to make the permanent wire a removable one too. I don't like permanently-attached cables! PCB is held on to the top plate with a few screws... Remove those, and you're ready to screw around with the deck some more. Stabs installed on plate. I contemplated removing these and going Cherry, but I think I'm going to keep them. Have to strip these off though for what I'm doing... There's the offending SMD LED. You gotta GO, dude! ...and bye-bye! Moving on, let's start working on that switch-plate and its offending logo. I just attacked it with my mouse-sander, and was careful not to go too deep. Just enough to get rid of the stamped, raised logo. A few minutes later, it's brand-less! I'm ditching the flip-down plastic feet that a majority of keyboards have in favor of some metal standoffs instead. Just have to drill a couple of holes for them. Hahahaha, yeaaaah..... warranty stickers don't warn people like me off -- it attracts us like flies on munky-poo! After drilling holes for standoffs, sanding down, prepping and spray-painting the bottom of the deck orange (I had it left over and had just enough to finish this piece, so why not?), I decided I'd continue with the theme I decided on.... a weathered, lived-in, fallout-shelter kind of thing. I went back to my method I used on my CMC Field Server project.... ...using a small amount of my favorite india ink mixed with rubbing alcohol, and blotted and rubbed on to give it some 'personality' and grime. I also sprayed the top plate with a mixture of dark-grey etching primer and light misting of some black spray-paint, and already began weathering that up as well. I want it to look and feel like it's seen some action. The less-perfect it is, the more perfect it becomes to me! Starting on the weathering for the base frame... a simple paper-towel works great for this initial step. To give it a more personalized touch, I decided I'd add something on the base since it has such a large area! Heh....I said "large area".... Masking off... ...and ready for spray-job. A couple light passes is all it takes. Doesn't have to be blobbed on! I let that set up for a few mins to give it some 'tack'. ...And peel the mask off carefully. Done! I let it cure for about 15 mins or so before attacking it some more. Always sign your work! Tried-n-true trusty 3M Scotchbrite pads work wonders. And done. Ready for the final weathering pass. Unfortunately, those openings there where the plastic flip-down legs used to be are going to show the white internal plastic frame when it's all put back together. I could technically cover those over and hide it all, but it's really not a big deal. I just don't care that much about it. Just a work keyboard! Airbrushed some additional grime and build-up in some areas to give it some more lived-in feel. ..Same on top plate. Need to finish up with that as well... Not too much needed; just 'enough'. I didn't snap pics of it when I did it as I was preoccupied with other things, but I powder-coated matte-clear sealed/top-coated the top and bottom pieces of the deck. It's now permanently weathered and will be really resilient to any further damage. But the best part of a weathered project is, you can beat on it with a hammer and you won't notice much beyond what you've already done to it, haha. I also snipped the stock USB cable and soldered it to a micro-USB Adafruit port and installed it inside the base of the deck. I had to use the rotary tool and needle-files to create a new recessed area on the back of the deck, and I used some epoxy putty to 'soft-install' it. I let it set for a day and cleaned it up a bit more using files, and finally painted over it with black acrylic paint to 'hide' it a bit more. Ultimately, it doesn't matter much as it's on the back side of the deck. I highly suggest reading this individual's guide. A lot of great info there. I did my own little 'spin' on it but that's a great way of doing it! After re-assembling everything, and doing some other additional touch-ups on screws, etc., I was able to begin popping in new switches. I opted for the new Kailh Speed Coppers since I had a bag of them on launch, and they're SMD-compatible. They're interesting switches for sure. I'm more of a linear dude, but these feel really nice. The shorter actuation takes some getting used to, but they're nice. And that's coming from someone who hates Cherry Browns. That's about it for the log. I installed a keycap set that I snagged from overseas. A cheapy, "Carbon-esque" Cherry-profile set that fit theme to me. Nice caps for the price though. Nice and thick. So without further delay, I present the final pics! FINAL PHOTOS
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