Author Topic: My Dream Board: Hotswappable Alps Mira TKL Prototype w/ JP Spherical Dyesubs  (Read 5009 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline E3E

  • Thread Starter
  • Posts: 2778
  • Location: New Orleans
  • Alps Evangelist
Man, I must be lazy, huh? I don't really write up as many build logs as I should, but the Mira really deserves it. So, let's try this again.


The MIRAMASA, My Dream Board: Hotswappable Alps Mira TKL Prototype









Striped Ambers, Itohs, Red Mira? So what is this?


For people who aren't very familiar with Alps, and even those who are, some of this might go right over your heads. There are some very obscure, rare, and exotic components to this build, so I'll break it down.

A lot of this took ages to find and some of it was just luck, but I couldn't be happier. So, let me begin.

Miramasa
Yep, the name came to me after thinking of the Muramasa blades, cursed katana with blood red blades, at least in fiction. Fitting, right?

(I know, I'm a dork. :()

The Beginning:
  • The origin story.
More
So really, this does actually go back all the way to when I first got into mechanical keyboards and found this community, back when my only keyboard was a measly Rapoo KX. When it comes to customs, the very first board to introduce me to them, that caught my eye, was the Lightsaver. After becoming more aware of customs, I scanned the IC threads for cool boards that were in the works. 
 
I found this:



The Mira. The fact the board had such a strong theme was something that seemed novel to me. It's more common these days, but as far as I know, in 2015, there wasn't really a lot of that. I loved the design. I felt like it was unique but not over the top, with some nice homages to NASA and space. I seriously considered joining as an early adopter to get a numbered model, but I decided against it and convinced myself that I should focus on 75% boards at the time. That ended up changing after I got my Orion and realized I enjoyed TKLs more than I thought, haha.

Still, the Mira made a strong impression with me, becoming something of a dream board to own, especially when the IC was in dire straits for a while.

At one point around 8 months or so ago, a prototype of the Mira landed on MechMarket.
 




 At the time, the Mira had been undergoing some revisions, and it lost its iconic "O'Mira" logo above the arrow cluster in favor of a more simplistic "MIRA" and also lost its exposed weight design which was very disappointing. This prototype was as close to the original design as I could hope for, but...

I missed it. :( :( :( Someone else bought it.

Luckily, it happened to be a good friend of mine here on GeekHack, and over a few months, we worked things out and I managed to acquire the prototype! I was overjoyed. I think he knew how much I wanted it. I appreciate it. I am eternally grateful.

...So with the Mira in hand, I set out to figure out just how I wanted to build it!


Initial Ideas, Build Mock Ups:
  • Ideas and mock ups I tried before settling on the final build.
More

  • Lubed stabs, Silicone Pad Mod
  • 62g Thicc Lubed Gateron Blacks
  • OG Cherry NCR Dyesubs
After just having received the board, it came with an MX plate with Gateron Blacks. At the time, I had my Cherry NCR dyesub keycaps and so I slapped them on to see how I liked the board. The assembly admittedly wasn't really done so well, with the stabilized keys in particular feeling mushy, and that combined with the wobble of Gaterons made this pretty unfavorable.

GOING ALPS!
(ofc)



Took the Alps plate out of my Orion at the time and put it into my Mira, as the mounts are the same.

Pictured above is when I had the carbon fiber plates made for my Orion and Mira, but originally I used the original stainless steel plate from my Orion to test in the Mira, as seen below.



  • Alps SKCM Blue, SKCL Brown w/ LEDs on Indicators
  • Stainless Steel plate, painted smoke grey
  • OG Alps Electric Chinese Dyesubbed PBT Uniform Profile Cylindrical Keycaps
This was done mainly to see if the Orion's plate was compatible with the Mira, as I had suspected it to be. The uniform Chinese PBT caps are fantastic on the Orion v2 due to its steep angle, but they felt a wee bit too low on the Mira. Overall, I liked the build, but it wasn't what I imagined for the Mira. I didn't want clicky switches nor cylindrical caps. As expected, many parts are being borrowed from the Orion for now, including the cable.

All caps are OG Alps Electric manufactured unless otherwise stated.

Cap change!


  • x2 ICL One Per Desk sculpted spherical high profile key cap sets, doubleshot ABS
  • NeXT non-ADB WoB cylindrical ABS doubleshots, partial
  • Tai Hao WoB cylindrical ABS doubleshots, partial

Just a cap switch up. I liked the look; it reminds me of the Retro colorway, but it didn't quite do it for me either. The caps also have very flat tops. I measure the depth of the scoop to be less than .3mm, so it's nigh imperceptible. I liked it, but not enough. The color just did not fit with the red of the Mira enough.

NEXT!


  • Chinese Market IBM Multistation Sculpted Spherical ABS Doubleshots (blue alpha legends)
  • Japanese Market IBM Multistation Sculpted Spherical ABS Doubleshots
  • Canon AP Typewriter Sculpted Spherical ABS Doubleshots, partial, mock up (the profile is not 100% the same as Multistation)
  • Dell AT101 Dyesubs, partial
  • IBM P70 Cylindrical PBT Dyesubs, partial

As you can see, this is a huge mashup of keys. For a while I was set that this would be the set that'd do it for the Mira, more specifically a Multistation set. After building it, I decided against it. It didn't feel good to type on and didn't look as great as I thought it would. The set would eventually end up on my FJELL.
 
Another One!


  • Chinese Market IBM Multistation Cylindrical PBT Dyesubs
  • Dell AT101 PBT Dyesubs, partial
  • IBM P70 PBT Dyesubs, partial

Much more straight-forward. This is actually the set I liked the second most overall, and although I liked the look, I was set on adorning my Mira with sculpted spherical key caps, so these were out. Classy, but nope.

So, it came down to this.



  • C.Itoh Sculpted Spherical PBT Dyeusbs
  • Acer 6011 Modifiers, Spacebar, partial

This was it. I loved it. This was what I had actually imagined at first, but then, because the Itoh set didn't look so good on the Orion (sure, with such a rectangular design, curvy caps like the Itohs wouldn't work). I came back to them and realized they were just amazing. However, this wasn't the end. As you can see from the top pictures, I managed to find an amazing Japanese version of the board which had everything I needed to give the function row its proper color variation as well as some other keys.

Acer caps match fairly well, and I have several sets. I wanted to try nabbing an SGI Granite (I've had two Beige sets, but no Granite), but the price is too much at the moment just for a few modifiers. If the font wasn't in italics on the SGI, I'd be less hesitant.

Anyway, let's back up some and get into how this all came together!


Acquisitions:
  • Essentially, the parts list to the build.
More
SWITCHES



Alps SKCL Striped Amber

Fabled switches. Only three people having been documented to own them. They're beyond SKCM Neon Meme rare, beyond Nixdorf and so on. When I saw the board on eBay with what appeared to be linear Amber switches (Ambers were known as a space bar switch, note that Striped Amber is distinct), I was confused. I was surprised to see the switches were actually quite light. Weighed in at 55g to bottom out, they're very pleasant to type on and my favorite linear Alps switches.

They were sourced from a Tandem 6526, a Korean-made Alps keyboard (Goldstar Alps partnership). This keyboard typically comes wit the already rare SKCL Brown switch, but a slim few have had Striped Ambers. 
 


The board might look grimy, but the switches were in great shape. I got an additional two from a trade with a friend so I could have an even 101. I sonicated the switch top housings and lubricated the springs with victorinox to eliminate spring ping, which I detest. Nice and smooth.

PLATE




A friend of mine helped design the plate I needed for the Mira, and I decided to be ridiculous and get a custom sheet of "Blue Mirage" carbon fiber laid up, and then cut. It shimmers blue in certain lighting, which is a subtle, but very pretty effect. Overall, carbon fiber has been a favorite plate material of mine to use, and this is no exception. There's a bit of give but it has enough rigidity to make for a solid board.

CAPS




Itoh Spherical Dyesubs

I saw these posted once on the forums and thought they were uniform profile until XMIT posted the caps on DT and I realized they were, in fact, sculpted. I knew I had to get them, for collection's sake at the time, but they're extremely rare. Though a lucky random search, I found two. They were in Russia though, so I had to do a lot of work to get a proxy to help me procure these! Luckily, after months and months, it all worked out, and the proxy even helped find the lost second board for me. 


(I restored one to display)

I figured the PF keys would make great function row keys, but I only had two boards. Luckily, XMIT had keys he was not using, so I bought the extra keys and had enough for the function row!



Of course, I ultimately found these and everything just got even better. :) 

PCB

 

Leeku L3 Alphas PCB

The design chosen for these PCBs was worked out between myself and two friends through Leeku when his last stock was depleted. Made in Korea, Alps, white solder mask. :) Perfect!

CABLE




Sourced from a Cherry board. A friend helped me out with these. Satisfyingly thick.  :-* Admitteldy, the inspiration for the cable came from seeing so many OTD boards at the time and wanting a very clean aesthetic.

For the connector, I used this:





As well as a gold plated USB mini B connector with shrink tube on both ends, one side able to have the tube retracted like a sleeve to expose and hide the connector, in order to give a more flush look.
 
HOLTITE (HOTSWAP) SOCKETS



Boy, these got popular since my first foray with them. Yeah, before they were cool!  :cool:

These are for the switches and these for the LEDs. Standard fare by now, eh?

DRILL BITS




2mm bits are what you need for the job (to get the holtite sockets to fit into the PCB). I have several!  ^-^

CONDUCTIVE INK



Inevitably, you will need to repair traces when modding a PCB for these sockets, so it's imperative you use a conductive ink unless you're fine with messy jumpers all over the place (it's also a bit impractical, tbh).
 
"APPLICATOR"



Pretty much just a thin wire used for applying the ink more precisely.

"SCRAPER"



This scalpel is used for scratching solder mask off of the PCB more precisely. Both of the above tools are recommended so that you don't end up getting ink contacting the ground plane of the PCB, which will end up causing entire rows or columns (or both) to be triggered by a single key press.

I'd also recommend strong isopropyl alcohol to clean up any errors or messes.

That's it for parts! Onto the actual build log!



BUILD LOG:
  • Details of everything that went in the build.
More


So the first order of business was to solder on the resistors and diodes onto the PCB!



For the Mira, I decided to use  L4148 SMDs, which I find pretty and classic looking, since they remind me of the through-hole style diodes. I used 820 Ohm resistors.



Now beginnings the most visually painful of processes, drilling the PCB. Fresh new drill bit.



Top two rows done. Ugh.



Skip a bit forward, and the drilling is done. (also don't breathe this)



Starting to fit the sockets in at this point. After drilling, the tapered tips of the sockets fit well. At that point, all you then need is to put a blunt tip on your soldering iron, heat it up, and push the socket in until it's flush. This is also a very visually and aurally painful process.

No dirty thoughts. 
 


And done! Now just to REPAIR EVERY SINGLE TRACE that go to and from each pad because this process is quite stressful on the pads and does not leave them intact. Some may be, but with the L3 Alphas PCB in particular, I've noticed that the majority isn't.

In doing this with my Duck PCBs, you could get away with a good bit of pads being just fine.

REMEMBER:



Use these tools to make your life easier! I learned!



Done! Don't let the pictures fool you, this took a great many hours to do.

With my prior experience doing this for my Orion, I got everything working 100% the first time around, whereas I had a lot more troubleshooting to do. This PCB is complicated to hotswap mod.



Plate's looking great!



Now it's time to add the switches. One of the most satisfying aspects of any hot swap build like this! :D



Kept the Alps SKCL Amber in its own separate baggie with the other switches so I could easily identify it, as it is a space bar switch.  :thumb:





Bright and sunny switches, stained with the blood of their enemies!



I used the bottom housings of these brave three SKCL Green LED switches for the three in-switch indicators of this PCB, swapped with Striped Amber tops and internals; I wanted to keep everything looking official, so I didn't simply drill LED holes in the bottom housings of the S. Ambers.



Nice and secure! I love it! ;D



The idea for this came from the PCB that the S. Ambers came from, actually. Since it was Korean-made. Alps SKCL Ambers, Striped Ambers, and SKCL Browns were all products from Goldstar Alps.





I had two sets of Itoh caps at this point, with one that was mint and one that was already a bit worn in. I wanted to keep the mint one as such because of the low odds of finding a set like that.
 
So, I had originally put my used set on the Xerox 6085 just for fun and to test how they felt with SKCM Greens (which turned out to be fantastic), so now it was time to take the caps off and make them a part of this build!



Clean, no? Hodge-podged with a few keys from an Acer 6011, as the Itoh boards are LK201 clones, with almost no usable mods or space bar.



After months of keeping the Mira stowed away, as I had not been using it after the initial mock ups, it was finally time to take it out again! (I also used this foam you see here as case dampening; it's a very soft memory foam)





I was very happy with this and still enjoy the look!



However, it was missing a cable! I couldn't and didn't just want to use my Orion's cable, nor a sleeved cable of that sort.

At this point, I was thinking I wanted to give it a pseudo-fixed look ala the hard wired OG Korean customs from OTD.









I cut down the mini USB connector to make it shorter and shaped some shrink tube to act as a bit of a shroud that can slide off the connector to expose it, yet remain secure.

Originally, I tested this with a normal silver plug, but I later bought some gold connectors so the PS/2 and USB ends would match. I used the same metal 6 pin mini DIN connector as I used for my NCR Alps project.

Around some time after this point, I came across a Japanese version of the Itoh keyboards, thanks to a good friend. It had several caps in the grey colorway and so I saw it could actually fill out the color on the board!



Pretty much me.











Mmm, delightful. The Mira is finally complete! Except...

THE SPACEBAR!!!

Call me OCD; I mean, I could live with the mods, as it's kind of the way of life for a hardcore Alps fan, but something about the Acer 6011 space bar just did not make me feel content.

Since I now had 3 Itoh boards, I decided to sacrifice one for the greater good of my Mira and cut down its space bar, much like I did on my Orion (Uniform Profile Chinese PBT, 8u to 7u).

This process takes a lot longer than it seems. 4-5 hours if not more, and is quite a delicate undertaking to get right.

So let's go.



Just in case you missed it, the Itoh's LK201 layout has a 9.25u length spacebar, aka absolutely ridiculous. This was common for a lot of layouts back in the day.



First thing to do is mark off the correct length, and the cut the edge off precisely. This is how we can get a near seamless cut down space bar. 



Clean!



Except I foolishly didn't realize I was holding the dremel so close to the bar when it was on, and the lock nut skirted across the right edge. Fuuuck. I won't get another chance at this, so I was very stressed.



In the end, I fixed it by color matching and filling the gouge and sanding it carefully. :D


 
This is a shot of the work under the hood of the cap, so to speak.

With this, we're pretty much...

DONE!



The build took over 20 hours, but that's nothing compared to the time it took to get all the parts. Patience is a virtue. :blank:


Typing Video:
  • Just a simple video of typing on the board.
More


Sound Tests:
  • This shows off the typing sound alone.
More


SPECIAL THANKS:

Thank you to everyone who helped me attain a piece to the puzzle that was this build:
  • chilldude_22 - For giving me the opportunity to buy the Mira in the first place. Thanks a lot, man.
  • alienman82 - For helping me with the plate files and also for the wrist rest coming in for this board.
  • mike52787 - For helping with the OG Cable and everything else. :)
  • Wingpad - For your support with some of the parts!
  • mindgame - For helping me get the Itoh boards out of the motherland, and being a really great proxy
  • XMIT - For letting me buy your spare Itoh caps, which gave me enough PF keys for the first build - I still plan on getting keys based on these cast and sculpting ANSI mods, eventually.
  • ohaimark - For helping me out with the Striped Ambers. Thanks a lot!
  • Mattr567 - For trading me 2 extra Striped Ambers!
  • katushkin - For helping proxy the mini Din 6 connector for me. Thanks, dude!
  • Leeku - For the sweet PCBs
I think that's about it! Sorry if I missed anyone.  :-*
« Last Edit: Tue, 31 October 2017, 16:16:26 by E3E »

Offline E3E

  • Thread Starter
  • Posts: 2778
  • Location: New Orleans
  • Alps Evangelist

Offline HouseofSuffering

  • Posts: 121
  • Location: California


Awesome Board!

Offline alienman82

  • * Elevated Elder
  • Posts: 4010
    • Youtube - Alienman82
man this is a long read -_-;;;


glad I could help you out with the plate and pcb designs !

Offline E3E

  • Thread Starter
  • Posts: 2778
  • Location: New Orleans
  • Alps Evangelist
man this is a long read -_-;;;


glad I could help you out with the plate and pcb designs !

Yes! Much appreciated, my man.  :thumb:
 
I tried to make it as easily digestible as possible haha, but it is a hell of a write up.

Offline chilldude_22

  • Official streetman
  • Posts: 108
  • Location: South Dakota
Ridiculous commitment as always! Beautiful result. You've got great taste.

Glad I could play a small part :thumb:

Online FioraCorp

  • Posts: 103
    • My insta
Insanely awesome board!  Cheers and well done  :thumb:

Offline _haru

  • Formerly linuxfanatic
  • Posts: 263
  • Location: Perth, Western Australia
  • Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
    • Need for Speed Secrets
Lovely board!
Quote from: My friend Ellie
It's not da bomb, it's A bomb.

Boards: AMJ60 (45g MX White), SMK-8851 (SKBM White Alps), Let's Split (Holy Greilh Red), XD64 LapBoard (55g Gateron Tactile Clear), Bleach60 (SMK White), GH60 Satan (Kailh Yellow)

Offline engicoder

  • Posts: 708
  • Location: North Carolina
Fantastic! Thanks for compiling all the build information in a single post, it makes is so much easier to follow.
   

Offline Weltschmerz

  • Posts: 76
  • Location: Denver
Do you still happen to have the cad files for that plate design? Of course minus your name, I would never want to take that from you