First Custom keyboard Design and Build log, KB-TKL-001

Hey all,
Wanted to start a design and build log for the key board I have been designing. All of this so far is my own work. It will be using a Hiney H87C north PCB. Figured I would start out with a TKL format. This post will get updated when I am able to things machined.

Also, I do welcome feedback.

-TKL with high quality materials that as far as I can tell aren’t generally used on keyboards.

  • Modular feet option for flat, 3 and 5 degrees, could be more options, can be a positive or negative incline.
  • A production keyboard, stocked in some nominal colors, but customs can be made on request.

I have been working on this for a bit now. Have made a few changes before having a complete prototype. It is a gasket mount sandwich? It kind of matches both descriptions.
Top plate - Has remained the same though I do have one tweak I will be making shortly to allow for better assembly and reducing the chance of over tightening the fasteners. This will be achieved by adding a small shoulder to the alignment bosses as a hard stop.

The fixture for the second operation:

Base plate - This is on its second iteration already. Due to a change on the mounting plate. The feet will mount with magnets in the 4x tapered holes. I might update these pics with non-potato pics.

Mount plate - This is made out of 0.125" thick Ultem 1000. The amber is the natural color for this plastic. The current version is the full thickness out to the edges. First version was scrapped since it was going to be a major problem for the work holding to actually control tolerances of the outer edge thickness.
First version:

Current version:


Gaskets - This is something I wanted to go a little out there on for a premium feel and look. The material for this are going to be leather, and 100% wool felt. I have some material in hand. Prototypes will be laser cut but production will be die cut. I just haven’t sat down to work on designing a die or have a press to use one in at the moment. Reasons for these materials is that the edge of them will be visible all the way around the keyboard, and they are on the top and bottom of the mount plate. The colors shown are just some I thought would look nice. The leather can be dyed so initially its just natural veg tanned.


Love the look of that plate for sure. I don’t know anything about the material. Are it’s tensile properties more like acrylic or more like polycarbonate?


I had ordered the Ultem 1000 (PEI = Polyetherimide) from Boedeker plastics. And since I can do a comparison on their site here is the Ultem compared to an Acrylic and Polycarbonate. The density of Ultem is the highest but only by a tiny bit. The Ultem is 0.46 g/in³, Acrylic and Poly come in at 0.43g/in³. Tensile strength on the other had the Ultem is the highest at 16500psi.
Side note - I have worked with it before and it machines very well.


Well, I tried to understand the difference between Tensile and Flexural strength and now I just feel dumb:

I guess what I’m wondering is, does it shatter or crack like acrylic, or is it bendy and resilient like polycarbonate :slight_smile:

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Based on how I scrapped the first one its more likely to crack vs bend :sweat_smile:. Especially considering usually harder materials tend to be more brittle. Ultem is a fairly tough plastic though. I have seen it used for pocket knife handles, manifolds, stuff like that.
Though I have kept in mind that it is a more brittle material. The final version will have fillet radii and no sharp corners to avoid stress risers.


Well people do “flex tests” so those.


I think one says how much the material can deform before cracking, and the other how much the material can deform with the ability to return to it’s original shape

Looking for some feedback on incline angles. I am planning on 0, 3, and 5 degree. Are there other popular angles I should consider including?

Update on the mount plate. Made two more with the new work holding. Was able to do an initial test fit on things. Probably a bit too close on my base plate to the bottom side of the PCB.


I’m in love with that plate, that’s for sure. Very cool progress!

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Can we expect sound tests in the near future? Very interested in the plate’s acoustics.

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For sure. I dont have a mic yet but have plans to get a proper sound recording setup. Aluminum is not the intended material for this case. So, as soon as I am happy with the aluminum version I will source either grey cast iron or nodular cast iron. Either should produce similar end results.


I’ve been dreaming up my own design, and am very much enjoying seeing yours! I wish more keyboards would do something like yours with the side “stripe” (plate visibility), but from the top. I was thinking it would be cool, for example, to have a, say, burgundy bottom case, and grey top case but they lock into each other so that the bottom case creates a border in the top case. I’m sure I’m explaining this badly…:face_with_peeking_eye:

Anyway, yours looks great!

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0 and 3 degree angle are not very common but very comfy to type on.
5 is commonly accepted as a low typing angle that gives very good typing comfort (Geon Works Frog TKL is 5 degree).

Then you have 6 degree, 6.9 degree (sic) and 7 degree.
More than that and you are going for more extreme experience, if I am remembering well Duck boards have an 11 typing angle.

Thanks for the feed back! The feet will be removable and reverseable. So, I may consider adding a 7 deg option.

I don’t know what it is about that Amber colored switch plate, but it’s amazing and it’s even better that your design makes sure it’s being shown off.

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Thanks! I started with the intention of showing off the gaskets, and switch plate. I had noticed a lot of keyboards dont do that. Which is another reason why I habe picked more interesting materials to work with.


So, I’m going to start getting the equipment to do proper sound recordings. As far as examples for switches and keycaps. I will have lubed and filmed Azure Dragon V2 tactiles, and lubed and filmed Gat Ink Black V2s. Key caps I have a Double shot PBT cherry profile set, and a GMK Yuri R2. Should I consider other key caps to provide a decent range? Or does that cover me well enough for the sounds tests?

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Maybe, just for the sake of argument/testing, a few variations of foam? Like maybe case foam or an ixpe sheet? Or something along those lines?

Don’t know anything about tactile switches, but I think the Ink Blacks are so well-known they’ll provide a good baseline.

Good luck with it, this is a super-exciting project to watch! Would love some actual work videos too - how do you machine something like this?

Ps: I LOVE the look of GMK Yuri and it’s been sitting in a cart at my favourite vendor for the longest time…together with GMK Moonlight…ah one day I’ll buy a GMK set :wink:

Currently I do not have plans for case foam. Reasoning is that the case will not be aluminum but cast iron(either grey or nodular). With the natural vibration dampening properties of cast iron I am thinking that case foam would not be needed. I will keep that in mind though for if I do an aluminum version, or if the cast iron doesnt work as hoped :sweat_smile:.

I do have to make a new version of the base plate and modify the top plate. So, I will try and get either a time lapse or short videos to post of the work. I could also post time lapse simulations of the machining from my CAM software.

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