[GB] the Norbaforce Mark II


I have to say this is probably one of your best projects yet. I’m extremely happy that you have found vendors that can walk the walk when it comes to your high quality standards, and in the U.S. as well! I can tell that this has been a combination of all your experience from your past projects and I hope that this is the easiest and smoothest batch to date.

Aesthetically, I think your finish options are perfect and there’s something for everyone. As a vintage watch enthusiast myself I love the idea of a polished finish with no protective coating. I personally never have my vintage pieces repolished, but instead embrace every bang on a desk or door knob as it ages gracefully.


Damn I was originally going to get two cases, a wkl for my 87u and a normal one for my R2.
However… I really want that veracity steel case so I can only afford one.

But really can’t decide between wkl or normal?

Normal gives me more options (works for everything, easier to mx stem swap the r2)… but wkl has always been the dream.

Too hard to decide.

(Plus I think if you get a $1300 case, you’re kind of obligated to go find a 86u)

Ooh. That’s a tough one. I personally prefer the 87U/87U family, as it has that singular old-school feel that I’ve become very used to and, as you say, WKL is an option. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Topre drops those from the line eventually, so the R2 might be more future-proof, if that’s a concern at all.

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Purchased that sweet veracity steel wkl.
Can’t wait!!


@norbauer is the retro refrigerator really glossy now? also, about the K2, is it a straight white version of the old enigma black in R1? I still have the textured enigma black in R1 and I really love it. I didn’t like the enigma gray of the heavy6. Hoping the white K2 gets the old texture of the R1 enigma black. Attached photo for reference.

You’ve outdone yourself once again good sir! I really like the business model you’re trying to set up here also. If things work out well, any plans or interest in designing your own complete kits or helping others run custom board designs through your network of manufacturers?


most of them are fake USB-C like the Mark I had (i.e., you can’t actually use a proper C-to-C cable)

That’s interesting. Other than the Mark I, my USB-C keyboards have worked fine using USB-C to USB-C cables. I’m typing on a KBD75v2 right now using w C-to-C cable to my MacBook Pro and it works just the same.

Hand made/sleeved cables can and are made with USB-C connectors too. I think replacing a cable is not as big of a deal, even for hand made ones. Not that I would consider such cables luxury items, but rather personalized ones. On that note, I don’t think having USB-C is a luxury, it’s just a standard for me. The fact that Mark II uses USB Mini-B instead of USB-C due to technical challenges, and supposedly in favor of supporting older handmade cables doesn’t really vibe with me.

we’re adding a special anodic priming process to the metal, similar to anodizing, as a base layer in order to get much more reliable results on powder coating. I also have a negotiated agreement with the new powder coater that they’ll automatically re-work parts with any significant cosmetic defects, and (importantly) they’ve actually proved to me that they actually know what that means, rather than just making vague promises as previous vendors have.

That’s great to hear and reassuring. I really wanted the Retro Refridgerator since I saw it on Mark I, but it suffered from the same surface defects mentioned in my earlier post, and mine was actually part of the shortfall because of it.

It would be more precise to say that Retro Refrigerator is glossy again. After some detours to matte finishes on intervening projects, I’ve returned to the same finishe used on the Mark I now that I’ve got powder coating quality control in hand. (Glossy solid colors are by far the hardest to apply and get good cosmetic results.)

Enigma Gray and Enigma Black are actually entirely identical finishes except for the color. Same vendor. Same texturing chemical. Did you order a gray one, are you just going from the photos? The reason I ask is that I’ve never liked my Enigma Gray photos on the Heavy-6 and keep meaning to re-shoot/re-edit them.

In any case, the new K2 is similar to both Enigma finishes but white.

I do plan on selling complete MX keyboards soon, but I still have some things to work out on that, including finalizing PCB production. Regarding your second question, I know Rama is working on something like that. I wouldn’t want to interfere with his effort by offering a competing service with one that he is just now trying to get off the ground. I do think it’s a good idea, and highly encourage it.

I asked around when investigating this subject and was told by multiple enthusiasts, including PCB designers, from the MX world that almost all C support currently out there wasn’t full C support with the excetion of Input Club boards and a few others, but I could be wrong since I’m working from secondhand information. But, this is still not material point, for reasons I’ll reiterate below.

You’re operating on a wrong assumption and therefore mischaracterizing the situation. I don’t shy from expensive or complicated technical challenges that have a point to them (hence my HHKB project); I just saw no actual need for USB-C and therefore didn’t deem it worth the slightest effort, thought, or expense. When the USB-C connector caused a confusion for one or two people on the last round and adding C-to-C support was going to cost more than zero cents, that was enough for me eagerly to switch back to mini.

More ranting on this subject here:

I’m actually going to go with the Lindy Effect here and predict that we’ll have USB Type A sockets on computers longer than we’ll have C sockets. Keyboards are exceedingly low-power, low-bandwidth devices, so I can’t think of any rational for requiring C on a keyboard except that it might prevent someone having to buy an extra cable. I’ll remind everyone that this is a $400 housing for a $200-300 keyboard.

Let us also bear in mind that the original Realforces themselves don’t support USB-C (a detachable cable of any kind for that matter). And that the core premise of my love of the Realforce and of my interest in keyboard production in the first place is a love of and embrace of the wonky, weird, and retro–hence my preservation of the “forehead” design even for the R2 keyboards that don’t require it. If one is looking for a keyboard that is naively hyper-rationalized or caters to bleeding edge techno-signalling, they’re emphatically barking up the wrong tree by being interested in my work. After all, the core group of greatest enthusiasm on my last round was among those who chose WKL option, which purely makes the keyboard less useful and functional, purely for purposes of aesthetic whim and fancy. I’m all about that.

Yes, I’m unwilling to ship products with anything I deem significant cosmetic defects, so I’d rather cancel an order than shipping something I don’t think is awesome. Nevertheless, I hate doing this and disappointing people who are trying to support a project of mind, so all of my work over the past year or so and this re-orientation in my supply chain is largely about reducing the likelihood of such issues. The alodine coating seems to have entirely stopped one particular technical issue that kept recurring on the Retro color in the past, across multiple powder coating vendors. So I was willing to give it another go on this round because, as you can see on the photos, when it comes out well it really is a thing of beauty.


I mean, none of this is rational. It’s all highly based on materialistic wants, rather than needs. As you’ve said yourself, we’re talking about spending $400-$1300 on a $200-$300+ keyboard. Throw rationality out the window.

WKL isn’t rational either – it’s what people want and feel enthusiastic about. Although I would argue having USB-C is probably more rational than having WKL. In the end, I think we can both simply agree to disagree based on our personal opinions on the matter.

Long way of saying that USB-C matters to some, just as WKL would to others, and I’m disappointed we didn’t see it return for Mark II. I just hope it doesn’t mean it won’t be there for any future projects.

I had the enigma grey Heavy 6 but gave it up because it somehow looked to have some sparkles. I really love the enigma black texture, and has set a high standard for me. With your clarifications, I’ll most probably go for the K2, and a RF R2.

I was about to say, my novatouch is def glossy

So I should probably just let the subject drop because it’s a pointless argument at this time but on the subject of usb C vs mini…

Mini makes way more sense to me. It means it uses the same cable as almost every other Topre keyboard. It means I don’t have to swap cables to use my Hkkb’s or Leopolds. (Which was really annoying with my Novatouce before I harvested it.)
Actually it also means I don’t have to swap cables with basically every MX or Alps custom I have that didn’t come out in the last year or two.

I mean I understand why people want usb C and I would be fine with it either way, but for those who make arguments about it being more functional or needing to buy more cables, please keep in mind there are lots of people like me who started this keyboard journey many years before usb C was an option and have literally 10x the number of custom usb mini cables and custom usb mini pcb keyboards compared to usb C. Just something to keep in mind.

Yeah, totally get that it makes sense to have Mini-B as an option for those who want it. I myself have older customs also using Mini, as well as a FC660C, and HHKB. However, I would like for my new collection to have USB-C moving forward rather than stick to Mini. Imagine having a Norbaforce Mark I with USB-C, then getting a Mark-II with Mini-B. It’s essentially the same as your situation, but reversed. Along with all my other USB-C boards. I’ve seen some customs even offer consumers a choice in the matter, but it’s not available for this pre-order.

Yeah I totally understand where you’re coming from, specially considering MK1 had usb c.
It would definitely have been nice to have both options, I was just merely pointing out that there are also some advantages to having mini over c and I trust Norbauer’s judgement that the extra complication and cost of having c or both may have not been worth the benefits.

Is the plate on the RGB Realforce white?

Yes, I believe that it is.

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Sorry if it’s already been asked but do I still need a new breakout PCB (for the R1 Realforce boards) if I already have one from an Mk I Norbaforce? I’m thinking of just getting one for the R2 Realforce boards.

So, I’m wondering if it makes more sense to use the R2 RGB for the “guts” of the Mark II, and then source 55g domes from an 87u…
OR, instead use the 87u, but use the sliders from the R2 RGB.

I feel like I’m overthinking this, but I’m not sure if the sliders/housings from the R2 would even fit in the 87u. Not to mention, I can’t really speak to the quality of the R2 sliders.

I have a NovaTouch TKL coming in this week, but I plan to use those sliders in my Heavy-6 for the time being.

Yes, Mark II requires one of the Mark II breakout PCBs. There are just two options, depending on which type of Realforce you own and want to use with the Norbaforce.

This is an interesting question, and I’ll have to speculate a little bit here, but I would personally use the 87U plate/PCB and the R2 sliders, assuming there aren’t compatibility issues that I’m not anticipating (since I’ve never actually tried it). The 87Us feel more solid in my view, and perhaps by virtue of simply filling the interior space more with PCB and therefore reducing echo, they also seem to have better acoustic properties. You also wouldn’t have to worry about turning off those gauche LEDs. :wink:

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Excellent. That’s what I figured you’d say. In fact, it’s what I had originally planned, but I wanted to see if anyone could offer me some insight to make an informed decision. Frankly, the best point that I hadn’t considered was the overwhelming LEDs on the R2. Thanks for your feedback!