Author Topic: AEK II Split  (Read 1973 times)

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Offline ScarletSwordfish

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  • Posts: 5
AEK II Split
« on: Tue, 10 December 2019, 21:33:08 »
Hello,

I've been planning this project for a month or so. This will be my very first custom board and I'm going in the deep end. The plan is to build a custom split ergo board using Apple Extended Keyboard II keycaps and switches.

Here is the current state of my layout. Scroll Lock would toggle the nav layer (red) while num lock would toggle the numpad layer (blue). 0 and enter thumb keys would both be spacebars. The random keys on the far left are mostly just to use up otherwise empty area of the symmetrical shape.

231631-0

Design Goals:
- Use AEK II keycaps and switches (Alps SKCM Cream damped for tactility and relative quietness)
- Split layout with column stagger and thumb clusters
- Full ANSI QWERTY layout with number row and f-keys, so I don't have to remap and relearn any of Photoshop & Illustrator commands I use all the time
- Nav and Numpad on layers
- Adjustable tilt & tent
- Case design should echo late 80s–early 90s Apple aesthetic
- Should be as quiet as possible so I don't annoy my co-workers

Questions:
- (to myself) Can I personally deal with sacrificing right-side keys to make the whole thing slightly narrower? I use most of those right side keys a lot and I want to keep having to learn a new layout to a minimum.
- Should I try a flat Ergodox-style build first to see if I like the layout, or go straight to a dished Dactyl-style build?
- If I go the Dactyl-style route, I want the columns to have a nice smooth curve with no stepping between caps. This will be difficult because AEK caps have stepping built-in with different height stems. The switches will need to be mounted reverse-stepped (i.e. higher rows are mounted deeper in the case.) Can the Dactyl Clojure code be modified to do this, or will this require a whole new CAD model to be designed from scratch?
- What firmware should I use?
- How the heck do I wire this thing?
- How can I make the quietest case?
- How do I get the case the closest color to the keycaps?

I would welcome any thoughts, ideas, and suggestions you all might have. I'd like to finalize my layout and start modeling the case this month.

Thanks,
Scarlet Swordfish

Offline nevin

  • Posts: 646
  • Location: US
Re: AEK II Split
« Reply #1 on: Wed, 11 December 2019, 08:08:27 »
- if you are planning on using the layout you created which is really unique (i like what you did), i would do a custom flat plate and sandwich/layered style case.
     * remember all alps stabs are plate mount
     * remember all AEKII F-keys are rotated

- if you go dactyl-manuform style, stick with 1U or keys that do not need stabilized
     * you can go with non-uniform profile caps and still get a really nice look/feel i've seen at least one example with MDA Big Bones on a dactyl-manuform and it was fine. yes the columns are curved but all it really does is brings the tops of the caps closer together, not stair stepped. (i think you're thinking too much into this)
     * if you want truly even caps, there are dsa alps caps (dsa is a uniform profile, no differentiation between rows)

- if you want to get up & running quickly with a kit that accomplishes 90% of what you want to do, check out the keeb.io viterbi. it's a 5x7 split, ortho, that supports alps. this size/format will also be the easiest transition into split/ortho with very little layout changes. i built one over a year ago and it was an easy transition. this is the layout i've been using (this is the older rev.1 that supported 1.25 mods) i thought i'd miss the larger keys, but now i see how unnecessary they really are.
231671-0

Ditching dedicated F-keys is not a big deal, they just get placed on a layer on the number row. very common and super easy to get used to.

- firmware - QMK there are already a handful of split boards that you can base your firmware configuration on
- wiring - great article & links for handwiring (you'd hand wire if you make a plate for the layout you created or if you build a dactyl-manuform) use 2 pro micros, trrs jacks and serial (unless you really need i2c)
- quiet - they are already dampened. non-metal plate?, lube switches as well (Tribosys 3204)? if you design a 3d case, the roomier the better/deeper the sound.
- case color - if you go with flat sandwich style case you're limited to the colors they have in the material you want (unless you paint it, which really isn't a good idea for something your hands will constantly be all over). if you 3d print a case, get samples of filament to see what's closest to keycap color. check adk64 & adk18 GB threads for examples of some other 3d printed apple cases

resources:
- QMK     https://github.com/qmk/qmk_firmware
- Dactyl-Manuform      https://github.com/qmk/qmk_firmware/tree/master/keyboards/handwired/dactyl_manuform
- Handwire Guide     https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=87689.0
- Keyboard Layout Editor     http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com/
- Plate Builder     http://builder.swillkb.com/   (use code from keyboard layout editor)
- Laser Cutting     https://make.ponoko.com/   (laser cut layered case with files from swill plate builder)

...i'm actually currently working on building a dactyl-manuform with dampened alps & AEKII caps as well.
...and i work in creative suite all day every day too...
Keeb.io Viterbi, Apple m0110, Apple m0120, Apple m0110a, Apple 658-4081, Apple M1242, Apple AEK II, MK96, GH60/Pure, Cherry g84-4100, Adesso AKP-220B, Magicforce 68

Offline superbia

  • Posts: 128
  • Location: Republique de Croatie
Re: AEK II Split
« Reply #2 on: Wed, 11 December 2019, 10:43:25 »
After some initial hurdles I'm pretty satisfied with my AEKII powered Iris, it's a weapon.   :thumb:
It may be useful to check out how I programmed mine.
Keebio Iris 2.8 (Alps) X Colemak Mod-DH

Offline 4sStylZ

  • Posts: 99
Re: AEK II Split
« Reply #3 on: Thu, 12 December 2019, 06:47:19 »
I have also thinked many times about a AEK or ASK split,
The keycap profile is a pain to deal with. For me, it’s better to use another profile in complement than using keycaps at the wrong row.

Here is an AEK mixed with XDA.


I would use this set for the thumbs keys.
Bépo user here : AEK64 White linear dampened, XD75 Cherry Blue Jailhoused, TypeMatrix2030 black skin, Lenovo 0B47200 w/ trackpoint, G13, G512. Kensington Expert Trackball & Orbit, Magic touchpad 2.

Offline ScarletSwordfish

  • Thread Starter
  • Posts: 5
Re: AEK II Split
« Reply #4 on: Thu, 12 December 2019, 22:16:06 »
Thanks for the comments. Glad to hear I'm not the first person to try something like this. I printed the layout out to get an idea of the size and both halves pressed together are about as wide as a fullsize. I may cut the far left column and sacrifice symmetry for compactness. Don't know what I'd use those keys for anyway.
231810-0
I think I'm going to try out the Dactyl modeling code this weekend to see if it can do what I want it to. Otherwise I may end up designing a model from scratch in SketchUp.
After some initial hurdles I'm pretty satisfied with my AEKII powered Iris, it's a weapon.   :thumb:
It may be useful to check out how I programmed mine.
That is cool, and thanks for the json file too, it gives me a little better idea of how that works.
- quiet - they are already dampened. non-metal plate?, lube switches as well (Tribosys 3204)? if you design a 3d case, the roomier the better/deeper the sound.
Wouldn't a roomier case make it more resonant and loud? The switches are dampened, but I may try putting some foam in the case for more sound dampening. I wasn't sure if an more dense or foam-filled case would be quieter or louder than a completely open one like superbia's. Thank you for the tips and links too, and I'd like to see your DM when you are ready to share it.


Offline ScarletSwordfish

  • Thread Starter
  • Posts: 5
Re: AEK II Split
« Reply #5 on: Tue, 11 February 2020, 17:41:22 »
It's been a couple months since I last posted but I've done a lot of work on this in that time.

To try to get accurate profiles of the keycaps, I attached a slider to one of each row, taped it to a vertical surface (the edge of a VHS cassette was the handiest one I could find), placed it on my scanner and scanned it at 600 dpi; I then traced the scans in Illustrator. I then drew the switch housings based on dimensions in an old Alps catalog. This let me draw the plate profile with the angles and depths necessary to create a nice smooth contour between the cap tops.
235614-0

I've been creating schematics in Illustrator, exporting them to DXF format, importing them into SketchUp, and extruding them to make my basic plate and bezel models. It doesn't give the most precise result, and there's still a lot of manual tweaking necessary, but it's a quick and dirty way to make the basic shapes to build around.
235616-1235618-2

A couple weeks ago I got a small test print done at my local library. It's really cool seeing an idea of yours take physical form. I desoldered a few switches from the donor board (I pulled switches that I'm NOT using just in case i damaged them, as this was my first time every trying to desolder something) and test fitted them along with the caps. This was just a single column to make sure the switches fit right and my keycaps weren't colliding with each other or the bezels. Form wise it was very good, I just want to make the bottom row switch sit about 1mm deeper so it's not taller than the next row, and raise the top bezel a couple mm. I've made these modifications to my schematic and am working on a revised model. My next test print will be a full left hand upper case & plate.
235620-3235622-4

The holes for the switches were very tight and I needed to scrape the edges down a bit to be able to squeeze them in. Even so, the keycap mounts are even tighter and I was not able to remove the caps without yanking the switch out of the hole. I'm worried that on the finihed board, if I want to remove the caps for cleaning I will end up pulling out the switch and the handwiring along with it. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to keep the switches securely in the plate?
« Last Edit: Tue, 11 February 2020, 17:49:04 by ScarletSwordfish »

Offline nevin

  • Posts: 646
  • Location: US
Re: AEK II Split
« Reply #6 on: Tue, 11 February 2020, 18:03:47 »
NICE WORK! i know that wasn't easy, but necessary to use the the complete set, looks like your using the rotated F-row as well?

- please post your findings, what your measurements were or what the offset is, would be very handy for anyone else using these caps.

thanks @ScarletSwordfish !

a lot of people will glue the switch bases in place (you can always open the top of alps switches, even when in a plate) when placing into a 3d print/plate, but if you're using these caps on these switches, you probably won't be changing cap sets, as these are extremely unique because of the case they originally came in and the varying heights. this isn't the only apple board to do varying cap height but i'm sure the others do not use the same offset (IIgs keyboard is another i'm thinking of )

most other alps caps are not offset like this.
« Last Edit: Tue, 11 February 2020, 23:16:53 by nevin »
Keeb.io Viterbi, Apple m0110, Apple m0120, Apple m0110a, Apple 658-4081, Apple M1242, Apple AEK II, MK96, GH60/Pure, Cherry g84-4100, Adesso AKP-220B, Magicforce 68

Offline Quercus

  • Posts: 13
  • I have not been murdered.
Re: AEK II Split
« Reply #7 on: Tue, 11 February 2020, 21:24:31 »
Very cool! You can epoxy or superglue the switches to the plates to make pulling the keycaps less risky. The keycaps might loosen up  a bit with a few mount and removals, so you can try that before mounting to the plates. I'm excited for you! Keep up that deep dive. This will be awesome.