An early Christmas present^Wkeyboard

Tagged as hardware
Written on 2017-12-17 12:25:40

Picture of the half-built keyboard

Picture of the keyboard with soldering iron

Almost at the end of this year I finally had enough components to build a custom keyboard. The case is reused from my existing Poker II, but I'm on the look-out for either a wooden or all-metal case instead of black plastic. Additionally I'm missing one 1.25u and one 1.5u key - with the maximum set of keys you end up needing a few more of those than on even a regular sized keyboard (but I do have an ISO Enter and Shift key too many).

Okay, so from the start. The goal was to have a fully reflashable keyboard. Although Vortex (the makers of the Poker keyboards) have provided some updated firmware, they don't want to share the firmware sources and the one GitHub project I found to reverse engineer it didn't go anywhere in the last few years unfortunately.

Looking through the number of various projects it seemed that a GeekHack GH60 or a similar model would suffice for me. The layout isn't much different from my previous keyboard and it would fit a lot of keys in a good form factor.

I actually went with the (Chinese?) "Satan" variant - comes set up for more LEDs, a feature which I'm not yet using (and might not in the long run at all actually). With that PCB, a black plate for mounting the switches, a stabiliser for the Space key, green Cherry switches and keys I now have something matching my taste quite well. The keys I'd actually like to replace with a nicer option later on, but they're alright for the moment.

All in all thumbs up, would build it again.

Build

Testing the PCB with a bit of wire is a good idea, so check every key ... possibly also the LEDs, but I didn't have any handy for it. As far as I understand modding the switches with SIP sockets can be done even after soldering in the switches, so I didn't do it yet.

Once that's confirmed the rest is also easy: Put in the first switches into the plate. Stabiliser goes onto the PCB, then the plate on top. Check the contacts are visible on the other side of the PCB and nothing was bent. Solder the switches to give a bit of stability. Then fill up the rest of the keyboard. I checked the layout with the keys in the most critical areas too because I wasn't sure it would all align well.

Check the solder joints, movement of the switches (my space key was a bit weird, sometimes getting stuck a bit), plug it in and confirm with debugging mode or some online keyboard tester.

Firmware

The default firmware is fine for testing, but of course the objective is to customise the hell out of it.

The best resource for me was this gist that is a bit cumbersome to set up with the different repositories, but works pretty well.

The wiring isn't completely in sync with the regular GH60, therefore a separate revision needs to be selected in the TMK sources. Also, it seems like at least one key is completely missing even with that and the default layouts are all ANSI! To use the remaining three keys the regular KEYMAP macro needs to be used. Note that also a few keys are on a different position in the macro, therefore I changed it slightly such that it more closely resembles the physical layout.

For debugging either cat from the /dev/hidraw devices (might take a moment to find the right one), or perhaps compile the HID Listen program. You really don't want to disable this until you've sorted out all keymap issues. By default the magic keys are left shift + right shift - h will print the short help, while x, the most interesting one for me, will print the keyboard matrix on every raw keypress.

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Unless otherwise credited all material Creative Commons License by Olof-Joachim Frahm