Keyboard design: cases vs PCBs (curiosity killed the cat thread…)

Hi there,

I’m sure every keyboard noob comes to the point where they know enough to think “I could do that” but not enough to realise they can’t…:wink: so, here’s my go at questions re keyboard design (and for the time being they are all very hypothetical and in the name of research/curiosity).

Whenever I get the itch to google “how to design a keyboard” I mostly get guides or wikis to PCB design, rather than case design, and since my interest is firmly in the latter, I wondered:

  • Why? What makes one PCB “better” (whatever that might mean apart from the great flex cut debate) than another? Is there something in the electronics that is “better”? Why not just use an existing PCB like a Hiney PCB or an extra from a group buy? And, I suppose, the joy of learning and building?

  • why is there so little on case design (other than how to learn blender or fusion), or why is it so much harder to find information on that? I’m thinking of both practicalities like tolerances or angles or hard to produce, as well as aesthetic design language for keyboards (best practice, for lack of a better description). Also, how does case design affect sound?

In my own keyboard fantasy, I have a vague collection of design ideas, mostly centred on making it look interesting to look at from the top, potential variety of mounting styles, and sound, all of which I cheerfully no next to nothing about :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

Given my ongoing shelf building experiments, don’t hold your breath anything coming of this, but while I am still off work, help my imagination wander to new places, and have at me with your tips and tricks, advice, caution, and links, etc


So, in my searches I agree some of the design side of things for cases is not well documented. I did two things, lots and lots of searching. I did come across these for some reference:
The Reference Guide to Keyboard Sizes & Layouts [Infographic] - TheGamingSetup.
They have info on what 1U actually means. Including the the switch plate pocket size. Of course from there you can easily extrapolate the other key sizes.
Developer Page - CherryMX
Cherry also has some reference date for switches.

The other thing I did was just buy a an established keyboard to use as reference. Which you can take measurements off. Main thing I got from it was stabilizer sizing since I was not able to find that data easily. Other thing to keep in mind. A good example for what you would want to design. Just looking at the keycap options in say a normal GMK base kit can help with various options for the design.


Thanks for the links! And for explaining your process. It seems to me to be the easiest to modify an existing design (eg take a plate and PCB and design a case around it), and I like your approach of extending current designs!

I feel like I am missing something re: the PCB design, it seems to me that once you have one that works there isn’t much to be improved, but that’s probably because I have no technical knowledge whatsoever on the matter…

Anyhow, I’ll keep looking for case design resources just for the fun of it!

@kb123 If you haven’t, I would check out the community at MechWild and Keyboard Atelier.