Starting slow, easing into the hobby or dive right in

I’ve just received my switches (Tealios v2) and case (KDBFans 60% grey). Still waiting for the PCB and plate.

I’m planning to build this thing up, use and abuse it at work to decide whether this hobby is for me or not. If I do like it, I want to replace my home keyboard as well. currently using a CM Quickfire TK

But there are really interesting GBs running as well, particular paying close attention to perhaps new Mekanisk, Iron165 or Rama. So also a bit FOMO that if I do like this new setup, I missed some great opportunities to get a quality case. On the other hand, this “budget” setup costs around 400 euros (without keycaps, but need to buy a soldering iron, etc). So another 500 euros just for a case (Iron165) pushes the budget to 900 euros in a single month just on keyboards.

Any take on this? How frequently are these small producers releasing new cases for instance?

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Don’t give in to the FOMO. The number of people designing and running GBs for keyboards and keysets is continually increasing. I think it’s pretty unlikely that you would have to wait more than a couple of months for a GB you really like to start once you’re ready to get into the higher pricetags, especially if you decide you like 60%.

And a bit on that last note. Not everybody likes 60%. Do the build you’re planning right now and use that board for a while before making the decision to do something really expensive. Layout is something you can’t make major changes to after a build like you can with switches.

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I think my advice would be to try new things you think you’re going to like with cheaper, budget builds, and the commit to an expensive build when you know your preferences. Also, remember that boards can feel very nice without looking very nice. Also also: know your wallet. Don’t overspend. It’s very easy to do that. If you’re spending more than 500$ (390 pound) on a keyboard, you really have to ask yourself if it’s worth it. If you’re worried about soldering irons, you can always go with hotswap PCBs, though those have their downfalls and will heavily limit your selection.

PS: I love 60% boards, but my unrequited love is in 65% boards: they’re like 60%s with arrow keys and 4 free buttons that usually get mapped to macros.

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Thanks for the advice.

I currently have TKL but a special one, TKL but with TK. However I have to toggle with the numlock between arrow mode or keypad. I know for certain that I don’t like that.

I would go with 65% to have the arrow keys and others but since my first one is a Mac build (or probably will be used for Mac work), I compared it to my current wireless Apple keyboard. It has no delete, page up, etc. but I did choose a PCB & plate that support dedicated arrows on a 60% size.

We’ll see, but glad you could temper my FOMO a bit. It feels like the BTC rush two years ago… though I wish I’d have sold my assets. In that case, I wouldn’t be doubtful about these new cases :joy:

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If you have the oppertunity to go to any local meetups that would be a great way to try all sorts of things!

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I love TK layouts and have one myself.
If yours is programmable you can do the same trick that I did: activate numpad by maintaining CAPS LOCK (or another key).

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So do keep in mind the function keys: they let you toggle between layers. If you didn’t know, layers are basically different keyboards in one: layer zero (default) could be qwerty, but layer 1 could be page up / page down / home etc. For example, I have delete set to fn+backspace. If your board is QMK programmable, which is almost a standard for today’s boards, you can set each key to whatever you want on whatever layer you want. Your only drawback would be if you physically wanted to see the fn layer on keys: you’d have to custom print them through a company like WASD, but you also probably wouldn’t want to change bindings after printing them on your caps.

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I completely agree with this. There will always be some cool new board right around the corner, don’t get lost in the hype. It’s worth figuring out what you want first.

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I was strong and resisted last Saturday to join in on the Iron165 :wink:

@noteveneric I didn’t know that but happen to read articles about these functional layers on the board. > One thing I’ve noticed however is that the layout I want to use, doesn’t seem to be available on the QMK website as a configuration for the DZ60, although it is listed on the website of KBDFans.

I’m after this layout: https://imgur.com/DppmbKM

I’d put the ~ symbol as a “shift” on the ESC key, so I can have a 2u? or at least larger than 1u backspace. But I can only find the “Directional” layout: https://config.qmk.fm/#/dz60/LAYOUT_directional but this layout only includes a 1u backspace. Do I just assign both keys the same functionality, or are there other ways to configure the layout besides the web based panels?

I discovered that if you download the qmk firmware from Github, more layouts are available and that there is an 60_plus_arrows and 60_ansi_arrow_fkeys so I guess I can start of those for the base layer and adjust for the FN layers, if necessary.

I can’t access imgur at work, so I can’t see the images at the moment, but I’ll try and to do my best. I’m confused, though it’s probably related to the pictures: 2u is the physical size of the key, not the amount of layers. Traditional backspace is 2u, and Esc, because it’s a normal row 4 1x1 key, it is just 1u. What you’ve described is an escape key slightly smaller than your backspace. (WASD has a really nice keycap size guide if you’re confused.) If that was what you wanted, you could not do that– the PCB does not have holes for stabilizers there. You definitely should be able to bind ~ to shift+esc via QMK unless I’m crazy.

EDIT: Thanks @dwarflemur for correcting me. Backspace is 2u, Rshift is 2.25u.

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This is wrong, it’s 2u.

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I would say to dive right in, but not with the high end customs. There is plenty of sites like KBDfans, 1UP, Sentraq, etc. that sell “budget” kits (I say budget, but you can easily sink enough money to buy a custom kit into one). I would build a few of those first to get experience building & modding switches/stabs, try different switches out, & try different layouts out. Once you’ve identified your favorite type of parts, modding materials (lube, sound dampening material, etc.), & layout it’ll be much easier to find & drop the money on a expensive high end kit.

Also to be 100% honestly a well built “budget” board can feel every bit as good as a well built “high end” board. So don’t get to drawn into the hype surrounding some of the more sought after KBs in the community. Sure high end customs are very nice to have & use, but a great typing experience is not exclusive to them.

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So a silly thing about this hobby that I think all of us have come to realize is that: we all wish we could have joined this hobby sooner so we could have got x, y, and z.

At the same time, we all realize that there are always going to be designers working on awesome projects. Sometimes you miss something good, sometimes you are able to hop into a good GB. Sometimes you find something in the aftermarket you thought you missed out on, and sometimes you don’t.

So should you jump in to the deep end or ease yourself in the shallow? You should do what you want to do. You see something you like? go for it. Hesitant? Maybe give it a solid :thinking:

I started a medium pace and suddenly I’m off the deep end trying to explore uncharted territory lol. I hope your keyboard adventures are also very fulfilling no matter where they take you

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Hi people

I got all the parts in and as usual did the deep dive into soldering but I’m stuck… and I have to return the soldering iron on Monday.

For my keyboard, based on the DZ60 PCB from KBDFans, I’m after this layout:

From what I understand (and hopefully did so correctly) the PCB supports this, if you choose the correct plate and to my knowledge I did. But I don’t have the keycaps yet, as I’m undecided between Dracula, Phosphorous or Ursa.

But this PCB has so many holes, I’m not sure where to solder the switches in?

I know the “up” arrow switch should be more to the left. First I put it in incorrectly and to make it even worse, I forgot that one was in the wrong place and soldered it onto the board :joy: So I’m going to get desoldering wick to get it out and place those two correctly. But the capslock, left shift, left OS, left ALT and spacebar are a bit unclear where to solder them.

Left shift should be a 2U in the end and the spacebar a 6.25 if I remember right.
Another question is if I buy the GMK Phosphorous Core kit + spacebars if I have everything to cover this layout/board? I could buy the ortho as well, to have the 1U right shift, but I can use one of the “dot” keycaps for that?

TL;DR
1/ where do I solder the remaining switches for the example layout?
2/ is the “core” set of phosphorous + spacebar enough to cover the entire board?

Caps lock should be the one on the right. Left shift should be centered between the stabilizers.

The bottom row is more tricky visually so let’s go with measurements. 1U is 19mm. Super and alt are 1.25u in the layout you want so measuring from the center post of ctrl 23.75mm should get you the super placement and another 23.75mm to get the alt placement. Spacebar is 6.25u, so ((6.25/2)+(1.25/2))*19=71.25mm from the center post of alt.

The phosphorus base kit includes everything you need except 1u shift. It does include a few 1u “dot” keys so if you’re OK with that you wouldn’t need to get the 40s/ortho kit.

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@Laughmaster Thanks for the information. I was able to complete the whole board and by placing some switches from another keyboard I think everything should fit whenever a dedicated keycap set for this board arrives.

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As I pointed out a few times before, I’m looking to join a group buy for Dracula, Ursa or Phosphorous. Or I might wait until a new version of Dolch is launched.

However most keycap GBs that are currently running, won’t be shipping before March 2020. As I don’t want to wait that long before I can actually use my new keyboard, I’m looking for alternatives.

I found that KBDFans has a clone named Maxkey Dolch SA, but I don’t see the sizes for the keys listed there. So I’m wondering if this set is appropriate for my layout (see this post for layout). I’d need a 6.25 space bar and a left 2U shift. For the right shift, I can use a novelty keycap. I know it’s a different profile to those I want to join the GB for, but it seems to be only one of the select few keycap sets readily available.

6.25u spacebar is the standard, so you don’t need to worry about anything not being compatible with that. It doesn’t look like that set includes a 2u shift though, the only extra shift key looks like 1.75u (it’s slightly shorter than the numpad enter key which is 2u tall).

But, if you want a suggestion of something from KBDfans that would work, there’s these two sets, which imo are hideous individually but if you buy both you’d have a full red set and a full yellow set: Set 1 / Set 2. Plus they’re dirt cheap on account of the aforementioned hideousness, less than half the price of a maxkey set to buy both of them.

These maxkey sets are slightly closer though they still don’t include a 1u shift: Gray and blue / White and green

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I would honestly ease into this hobby. Things can change in less than a heartbeat. When I first started, I could not wait to have a board fully dedicated to Laser GMK. Then sadly, the first renders did not turn out like the final renders. I found GMK Taro and fell in love. Now I am looking at different switches and what not. Things can change so quick! Ease in and do a lot of research.

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I resisted temptation to get additional boards even before I had my first completely build. I’m still waiting for the keycaps to arrive. After that I’ll test the 60% layout with a passion, read: at work :slight_smile:

I’m still not convinced and it’s even more difficult (I think) because I’ll be using it on OS X, which supports some weird key combinations. In the end I think a 65% or even 75% layout would be a better fit for me but we’ll see. Thanks all for the advice!