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[IC] Slate - FRL TKL | New Prototype Photos - 5/21

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Ustinj:
Slate FRL TKL

Now that I'm wrapping up on a small self-fulfilled keyboard GB for Moment, here is the very early IC for SLATE, an F-Rowless TKL keyboard that I've been working on for a while. Yes, I spend a lot of my spare time trying to make things...

The Goal
When I start a new keyboard project, I always try to do something a little bit differently. Moment had the angled chamfers and curves; Cloudline had the soft, sweeping, contrasting curve fitting closely with its theming; Derivative has a somewhat interesting side-profile and a gently-curved cherry lip. All of these boards have some form of a shelf / handle side-profile and slightly angled rears, leading to a bit of an 'aggressive' stance between all of them. After seeing so many beautiful and distinguishable boards without shelved side-profiles such as the HHKB HG, Keycult No.2, Bisoromi's Kei, various Noxary boards, etc., I really wanted to make something without the previous shelf design - it proved to be a bigger challenge than anticipated.


To my dismay, I constantly ended up with a keyboard that looked a little too much like something else. It either ended up looking like a No.2 with the gently lifted rear, a wedge with an HG chamfer, or a plain wedge. There is nothing wrong with any of these, because they all looked clean and beautiful... but I didn't feel worth putting it forward, as it didn't have that 'unique' touch that I strive to include (plus I'd probably get roasted for "looking like ______").

I've attempted to start this project dozens of times, and ended up abandoning what I had, dozens of times - it was frustrating!

TL;DR: I badly wanted to make a keyboard design without a "shelf" / handles, but my dozens of attempts were scrapped for lack of identity.

History of "Slate" (expand for more)

More
The name SLATE was initially chosen around on the basic wedge-like design I was aiming for. The wedge design is usually the very first keyboard design any keyboard designer creates - I created my first wedge on September 5th, 2020 (thank you to my partner Shannie for encouraging me) - a blank SLATE, if you will. The Tofu (the wedgiest of them all) was the first foray into custom keyboards for many enthusiasts here today. Almost every keyboard design I've made starts as a blank slate (Moment, Cloudline, Derivative, this), and is built upon into a more refined, unique, and complete product. Oh yeah, and a slate is also a flat stone that people used to write on.

However, though I've given up on the project multiple times, picked it back up, re-used the name for different designs - I think I've finally settled on a design that *doesn't* have a shelved side-profile, and something different enough that I'm happy with it. I have decided to keep the name SLATE following its annoying history..

Details

* Layout: F-Rowless TKL (WKL / FULL)
* Mounting: Top mount / PCB gasket mount
* Materials: 6063 Aluminum top, [Dyed] polycarbonate bottom, stainless steel / brass weight
* Typing Angle: 7 degrees
* Front Height: ~17.5mm, ~22.6mm EKH
* Plates: tbd, HALF plate by default
* Pricing: timeline is very far away so will definitely change - target price <$5xx

The Design (finally)

A simple soft chamfer around the front and rear edges of the board transitions seamlessly to a more interesting convex left and right face. The side profile is something I'd liken to an "inverse Dolphin" - while the curves might look a bit expensive, this side profile can be milled entirely with a 3-axis CNC: a convex face, crossed with a 45-degree chamfer on the top case, creates a visual curve that seems to exceed the three linear axes.


Moving towards the bottom edge of the case - the accented bottom piece lifts gently at the edges, giving the board a subtle 'floating' effect. With the planned underglow PCB, cases with clear polycarbonate bottoms can expect a subtle spill of underglow from the sides (to be verified / tested). Also makes the board a bit easier to pick up.


The case design also aims for a fully-screwless exterior design similar to the Keycult No. 2, in which the case fasteners are hidden by a bottom weight that is secured through screws reached through the plate. While it does make assembly a bit more complex and painstaking, it allows us to avoid screw threads tapped directly into the polycarbonate bottom case, which are prone to stripping. Also, it isn't nearly as visible as having the fasteners near the plate between the keycaps. Another highlight of the bottom is the contrast of several materials - an aluminum top case accents the perimeter, while a color-coordinated dyed polycarbonate bottom curves down into the stainless steel or brass weight. The blend of these three different materials is definitely something that I hope to see more of.


The Mounting
The Slate FRL TKL is designed to have two comfortable options for mounting - a classic top mount, and a gasketed PCB-mount. A single layer of non-adhesive (removeable for top-mounting) gasket strips will be sandwiched between the bottom case and the PCB, while the top case's slight compression of the plate will secure these strips in place. If these isolation strips aren't used, the plate can instead be fastened to the top case in your traditional, tried-and-true top mount.



Project Timeline / IC things
Some of you guys may know that I tend to juggle multiple projects (but will never run more than one self-fulfilled group buy at once). I've just wrapped up fulfillment for my previous small run, Moment. The sale model I hope to follow for my projects is is that I'll do a small, self-fulfilled limited run with limited color options and engravings. If people still want the board after, then I'll pass the project to a vendor to do a larger sale, as I can only handle so much myself.


* Prototype 0 (complete, design changes made)
* Apr 2022: Initial IC
* Prototype 1 + PCB prototype (in progress)
* ...
* Q3/4 2022: Round 0 (small run)?
* ...

Initial IC Form: https://forms.gle/3hgH18KF895LyHak7
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jjw_kb
Discord (any small runs / news will happen here): https://discord.gg/uwBXETHrP9




Prototypes / Media
Was not a fan of prototype 0 - the side profile had large fillets which didn't look great in direct light. Prompted an external redesign (proto enroute). However, the contrasting bottom materials looked fantastic and the screwless assembly worked handily (though I've slightly tweaked the plate to allow for larger tool clearance.

More





Thank you for any feedback / support.


sirieous:
very cool mr justin

ankit-sachdeva:
that side profile :p

unusuaL_:
very interesting variation on the wedge, nice job

linell:
I love the chamfer  :thumb:

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