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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
E.E.L. Ambiense posted a topic in E.E.L. Ambiense Institute of Sarcastic TheoryLog Completed 12-31-16 Welcome, munkys! It's been a little while since I've done any projects (last one being LilyPC), and I've been diligently plugging away at the poorly-kept secret project as well as being 'side-tracked' by a new gaming/humor YT channel called "FidnaL4D2?". Hopefully I can finish up a lot of the long-dormant logs that are stinking up my area of the forum here like rotting carrion in the warm, summer FL sun. I'll let that one hang in the air (pun intended) so you can just....think about the mental-image. Moving on. I've decided to distract myself a bit and try to do a homemade mechanical-keyboard deck. Instead of the typical full-deck I'm more of a TKL (tenkeyless) kind of user, but I've decided I'd try to make something a little smaller than that as well. There's a modestly-priced mini mech-deck you can pick up called the Magicforce 68, which comes with Kailh mechanical switches (another MX clone) on it from factory. Not my first choice, to be honest. I'm more of Gateron switch user, so I've decided to pick up just the bare PCB for the keyboard relatively cheap so I can solder on my own switches choice along with my own LED backlight color choice. And to make it even more interesting, I'm making my own custom frame/shell for it. I've decided on wood and acrylic; maple and trans-gray to be specific, with a gray-stain on the wood with clear poly to seal it. Let's get started, shall we? Sexy Gateron reds; linear switches. Generally I tend to use Blacks (or yellows; same weight), but figured I'd try out something a bit lighter this time and see how I feel. A nice bag of 2x3x4mm white LEDs for the switches to light things up. ...And some Costar-style plate-mount stabilizers (or stabs for short). I will have to modify these to work with what I plan to do though. This is what the stock Magicforce 68 deck normally looks like, for comparison: Eh... it's okay I guess. To each their own. The caps are atrocious IMHO, but I didn't even get those with my bare PCB. I plan on giving it more personality specific to my own aesthete's tastes. Spending some time taking care of some design work (and coffee drinking) along with accurate measurements, I've come up with a completely new shell to replace the stock one. I'm not a major fan of the floating keys look (even if my daily driver is a Varmilo 87), so I wanted something with the more 'recessed keys' kind of look. I decided to approach the shell's design utilizing what is referred to as the 'sandwich technique', in which you build up layers of flat material to create 3D structure instead of having two pieces that snap together like any typical keyboard's shell would. What I pictured in my head is a simple, logical shell layering that would allow clearance of the PCB, the keyboard's USB controller, and the switches themselves. Everything will be tied together with recessed screws, threaded inserts, and the top trim will be held on simply with double-sided tape as it's merely for looks. What I'm picturing is a white-glowing frame through the acrylic layer, as well as around the keys themselves (although I probably won't be using backlit caps). PCB is clean and easy to read, unlike many domestic car manuals, or stereo instructions. Here's the game-plan. Breakdown of the layers are all based on measurement requirements for the switch-to-PCB distance as well as spacing to allow custom feet to 'tilt' the deck up a bit as I like my decks with a tilt for typing purposes. Layering goes: Base (6mm wood) Frame (6mm) wood) Switch plate (6mm acrylic) Tie-down frame (3mm acrylic) Top trim (3mm wood) Normally you would use a 1.5mm metal plate for the switches (distanced enough from the PCB; I think it's usually around 2mm or so, but not sure) to allow use of stabilizers, but I didn't have that option here by going completely-custom, however 6mm acrylic will probably be plenty strong. Thankfully the PCB is very sparse so the plate can literally sit against the PCB without issue. The stock USB control-board's wiring was so short due to the stock frame's plug location being on one end, but with the new frame I wanted the USB connector to be in the middle-back, so I had to de-solder and re-solder new, longer wires crimped and reusing the original PCB connector. This is the layer the controller will reside at on the frame... This is how the controller will sit on its layer of the frame... ...And the switch plate layer surrounding the controller. A shot from the back side... Here are some sequential shots of how the deck will build up... Bottom layer with PCB sitting... USB controller layer... Switch plate layer... Frame-tie layer... And finally, the top fascia trim. On the base, I needed to begin by counter-sinking the holes which will allow me to install screws that really short standoffs will screw on to on the inside of the base, which will allow the PCB itself to sit on top of allowing screws from the top to sandwich it in place. Just like that. Doesn't have to be perfect, and it certainly won't be. It's the bottom anyway, heh heh. A short screw pushed through... ...And a thin, nylon washer on it, followed by the standoff. ...And done. After that, I needed to 'mill' out a recessed area to allow clearance of the dip-switches and USB connector itself on the PCB, as the goal was to make the overall height of the completed deck as svelt as possible. I just used some rotary-tool attachments and worked the wood down enough and cleaned it out for a test-run with the PCB. Again, it doesn't need to be perfect as it will be on the inside bottom hidden by the PCB anyway. ...And cleaned up a bit with some sanding. Seems like it'll work fine. Moving on. For the feet, I didn't want to just use some simple, off-the-shelf stereo equipment feet or even a set of the awesome milled keyboard feet I've seen resellers peddling. Not that any of those are bad; quite the contrary. I simply wanted something that fit the aesthetic of the overall mech-deck, so DIY it is. I designed the deck so it would tilt up a bit to angle the deck to an approx. point where I tend to like a keyboard to be angled at. By accomplishing this I designed the feet so they will be a wedge shape to meet the angle of the keyboard itself as it sits on the desk. Here's what I mean. The new feet. I wanted four of them spread across so it would make the deck stable and strong on the desk. I don't beat the hell out of keyboards; at least, not anymore. But I do prefer them to be strong and stable. I mean, who doesn't? Here's how the feet will meet up with the base. Two screws for each foot spread evenly across the base. It will require me to countersink the screws as well so it will clear the PCB, as there is very little room for error in there. ...And angled shot showing how it will (hopefully) work. ...And an extreme side shot showing it in action. I considered adding rubber bushings or something on them as well as the bottom front of the deck, but I use one of those total-desk mats anyway so no real need for it. Hopefully the finished deck will be heavy enough that it won't skate around though. Guess I'll see, and fix the issue when I get there. Alrighty, until the next update, thanks for wasting your time reading this schlop!