Build #2: Clueboard
With my first build complete, what next? There are a lot of things I want to try, but there is only so much time (and only so much discretionary income). In an ideal world, I’d be able to explore the effects of changing one aspect of the build while holding everything else constant, but that just doesn’t seem practical in the keyboard space, at least not when you’re starting out and trying to quickly get a handle on things you love or hate.
So, for me, that means each of the next few builds will be changing multiple options at once, with the hope that something useful can be gleaned from hopping all over the “endgame solution space”. There’s also the possibility that this will hopelessly confuse matters, but what the hell - at the end of the day, it’s a keyboard. We’ll somehow find a way to struggle onward.
It was a near thing between the 62g and 67g Zealios for the first build - I found them to be quite similar, and with 67s chosen for the TADA build, I wanted to use the 62g variants for this one. I also wanted to look at a different case and PCB, and the intriguing idea of an integrated case/plate combo led me to the Clueboard.
Finally, having learned my lesson about stabilizer treatments with the first build, I wanted to do a better job with stabs on the second build. With all those changes, however, it’s still a kit build. So this should be pretty straightforward. Right. Right?
This build wasted no time in fighting back. Out of the box, only half of the underglow RGBs lit up when the PCB was plugged in - whatever this PCB was supposed to do when it was first plugged in, I’m willing to bet that wasn’t it? Fortunately, Clueboard was quick about replacing the PCB, and after a little return/replace postal cycle, the second one fully lit up and passed the tweezer keyboard test. The kit comes with two sets of rubber feet, a thin and a thick set - I liked the thick feet, so I stuck those on before going further.
Stabilizer mod time! First up, clipping. The idea of taking a perfectly good piece of molded plastic and cutting pieces off of it to “improve it” seemed a little deranged at first read, but after finding a couple of videos online, the concept made more sense. And it’s super easy with flat cutters; after popping the wire out of each stab and removing the stems from the housings, clipping the two “bent” legs from each stem takes all of ten seconds.
Next up, lubing. This time, before mounting the stabs! I applied Permatex dielectric grease relatively liberally to the ends of the stabilizer wire and the clips where the wire snaps into the housing, as well as the sides of the stems, and inside the housing where the wire ends move up and down. This felt like a generous amount of lube, but the stems seemed to move freely in the housings after the stabilizers were reassembled, so let’s run with it.
Time for the build to fight me again. I took the time to place switches and keycaps on the modifiers, as a sanity check prior to soldering, and that turned out to be a good idea - I had mounted the spacebar in the wrong set of holes on the PCB. Sigh. A little annoying to undo all of this and remount the spacebar, but better to discover the issue now, when the fix is more straightforward. The PCB with stabs mounted:
And, more fighting. The backspace stabilizer seemed to fit cleanly in a notch on the integrated plate, and I spent a somewhat embarrassing amount of time trying to figure out why the spacebar stab wouldn’t fit in a notch before it finally dawned that there wasn’t one. If I haven’t previously told you that I’m not exactly the most mechanically inclined person in the world, now seems like a good time for sharing and caring. Once I figured that out, switch placement proceeded apace. Enjoy a plateful of Zealios:
After soldering and testing the PCB again, I peeled off the protective paper from the acrylic spacer (carefully, it’s quite flexible), and then lined up the bottom case, the spacer, and the top case to get everything screwed together. The first time around, this yielded a build that felt a little loose, as though something wasn’t quite seated properly. One last punch at your master, eh, Clueboard? I ended up having to unscrew the pieces and realign them. Thankfully, that did the trick. Much more solid.
Initially, I put a set of Tai-Hao lavender caps on the board, but after a little time, I swapped those out for an SP SA Lime set, and as with the first build, the sound and feel of the board was noticeably improved. Regardless of keyset, it’s worth mentioning that the stab feel is quite nice on this board - no surprise to this community, but clipping and lubing really make a difference. No mush, no rattle, just nice and crisp, if not as bass-driven as the typing sounds from the TADA68.
Regardless of keyset choice, the most noticeable aspect of this board was the typing experience with the 62g Zealios. My hunt-and-peck has evolved over the years into something not too far removed from proper touch typing, but I do tend to use a bit more force on the keys, and on these switches, I found that while this light, fluid tactility was quite pleasant, I really had to back off on the amount of force I was applying - it was almost too easy to type quickly, bottom out frequently, and make more mistakes. I think the 67g Zealios on the TADA68 were a better fit for me, force-wise.
- Clipping stabs is easy (with the flat cutters) and also a good idea for sound and feel - and again, a lot easier to do it before installation!
- It’s worth taking the time to place keycaps and stabs before soldering - we discovered the spacebar stabs were in the wrong set of holes, and as annoying as it was to remove everything and start over, it would have been that much worse if we had soldered!
- I’m thinking about writing a little tool to match keyboards with keysets. This was my first experience with non-standard key sizes (2x2.25u shift keys), and it would be quite nice to run a script that would, for example, take “Clueboard” and “SA Lime” as input and return: “yes!”
- My initial impressions were that the TADA68 build was more solid than the Clueboard initially, but after unscrewing and realigning the top, acrylic, and bottom, it’s now feeling solid. Still nearly a pound lighter than the TADA, but depending on your viewpoint, that could be either good or bad!
- 62g Zealios are very light…more so than the switch tester revealed, at least to my fingers.
- The Tai-Hao Lavender ABS caps purchased with this kit were flimsy feeling and sounding - and the rough texture wasn’t great either. The SP SA Lime set was a significant upgrade in all aspects, which I suppose is to be expected given the price difference.
case: Clueboard 66% V3/V4 (3mm frosted white spacer, thick feet)
PCB: Clueboard 2.9
switches: 62g Zealios
switch lubing: N/A
layout: Clueboard default
keycaps: SP SA Lime
stabilizer mods: clipped and lubed with Permatex Dielectric Grease
case dampening: N/A
HxWxD (without caps): 1.25"x12.9"x4.3"
HxWxD (with caps): 1.9"x12.9"x4.3"
assembled weight: 2.43 lb