Boring background stuff
My first keyboard as a child was an Apple Extended Keyboard with SKCM Orange, so the sound and feel of Alps is very nostalgic for me. I’ve come to favor linear switches these days, particularly Cherry MX Blacks, but a linear Alps TKL had been on my to-do list for a while. Ever since I saw the old GH/DT posts from Delirious (here and here, respectively) about a half-plate Alps TX-84, I knew I had to try it myself. I referenced their post extensively while working on my build and I couldn’t have done it without their work. This log won’t be quite as extensive and has less extensive photographic documentation than the original, but will still hopefully provide useful information to anyone else determined to pursue this project.
The case I used is a dark grey Freyr TKL by CherryB Works, a Vietnamese keyboard maker that recently went out of business in a very shady and disappointing way. The board itself is a pretty standard older Korean-style TKL, winkeyless with an 8 degree typing angle. It uses a modified Jane V1 plate and has no alignment tabs on the case top and bottom, but it’s a really solid (if basic) board.
I had quite a few SKCL Greens on hand, but most of them were in pretty rough shape. After boiling and waxing, I was impressed with how much better they felt until I got my hands on some NOS greens and realized just how far from greatness those waxed switches really were. NOS Greens have a light crispness to them that’s absent from waxboiled Greens, which feel a bit heavier and ever so slightly sluggish in comparison.
The NOS springs were incredibly pingy, like Model F levels of ping that nearly drowned out that oh-so-special Alps sound. I’m typically very hesitant to disassemble switches just to lube springs, but I knew once the keycaps go on, they’re probably staying there until I desolder the switches. Easily lubing the springs later was out of the question.
For the PCB, I initially planned to use a Hiney h87c because Hiney PCBs are well-designed, easy to build with, and the holes for the switch pins aren’t too large, but at some point along the way I decided it simply had to be a thin PCB. It seems thin variants of the h87 are significantly harder to come by than the thin h88, but as I was planning the build the Alpine PCBs by Zykrah and NeonKnight were released. I chose the Alpine FL for this build for the obscene amount of flex cuts - I wanted near-meme levels of flex, or at least a very soft bottom-out.
Final plate design
I created the half plate by editing Hiney’s Jane v1 Alps plate, although you could easily do it with a hobby knife if you already have a POM full plate handy. The plate was cut in 1.6mm POM instead of the 1.2mm I had specified but I still made it work. Slightly filing the stab cutouts allowed them to still clip in without putting too much strain on the plastic clips.
Delirious’ build used a sort of ‘alignment comb’, a plate-like piece of POM for horizontal alignment, along with in-switch LEDs as makeshift fixing pins to maintain vertical alignment. I could do that…but tbh
I’m a lazy stoner and drilling additional holes in every bottom housing seemed like way too much work. Besides Instead I decided to just….not use the LEDs and hope for the best. #YOLO
Demonstrating the ‘comb’ before soldering.
So far, so good…
Alpha cluster completed
A wild spacebar appears!
After a quick fitment test in the Freyr case, I mounted the remaining keycaps and fixed any remaining alignment issues. The comb held the switches tightly enough that the build only required minimal corrections, so now all that’s left is reassembly and testing.
The finished build
Ignore the missing infill…
Typing test and musings
Sound test (now with 100% less scuff!)
The final build feels very soft indeed - it was honestly unusable until I tape-modded the PCB, first covering the flex cuts, then the entire back side. Now it’s much better behaved It’s comfortable to type on for long periods and has a pleasing sound. I enjoy the way plateless builds let you feel and hear the switch with less influence from the plate material, and this is no different. That lovely solid Alps sound we know and love is still there even without the plate’s support.
The flex cuts offset the shorter travel of SKCL/SKCM by allowing the entire build to move a bit, although the effect is unsurprisingly most noticeable towards the center of the alphas. One oddity I’ve noticed is the switches mounted into the plate sit about 1mm higher than the alphas and I can’t figure out why. It’s most noticeable on the modifiers and the pipe key (so I don’t think it’s the stabs), it’s not enough to really feel awkward but some of the mods sound pretty muted.
This entire build has been quite a learning experience. Leaning into the meme flex was fun and the outcome is surprisingly good. I’ve already begun planning a follow-up with a few adjustments to make a better daily driver. The proper plate thickness makes a major difference with Alps plate-mount stabs - too thin/thick and they don’t clip in properly - and should resolve all the minor stabilizer issues I ran into. I’ll make a hybrid plate to support MX split spacebars, and I’ll definitely use a PCB without obscene amounts of flex cuts. They’re so much fun, but I need just a little bit more firmness in a daily use board. All in all, these are pretty minor shortcomings and I’m very proud of this build.
Thank you so much for reading!
-Delirious: for writing the original Alps half-plate build log and sharing the design of their alignment tool
-Karolus: a very good keyboard friend
-NeonKnight: for designing the AlpineFL PCB
-Hineybush: for open-sourcing his Jane v1 Alps plate, his lovely PCBs, and for catering to the Alps crowd in general
-Zhol: for promoting keyboard communism ☭