Author Topic: Mod a pre-built TKL keyboard to use a 7u spacebar?  (Read 767 times)

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Offline thrownewexception

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Mod a pre-built TKL keyboard to use a 7u spacebar?
« on: Sat, 01 August 2020, 14:30:13 »
Hi all,

I'm looking for a mechanical keyboard that has the bottom row as 1.5-1-1.5-7-1.5-1-1.5 (the 7u part being the important bit). Nowadays it seems difficult to find parts, especially for a 80% config (I'd prefer 100%, but that's even harder) so I'm looking at pre-built keyboards.

I found a Durgod Taurus K320 on Amazon, but it has the standard layout (extra Fn key on the right side). Do you think it would be possible to mod the bottom row to make it a 7u? I'd probably have to buy a new set of keycaps (no problem).

Newbie here... hope it's not a stupid question (I did try to search the net / youtube without luck)

Thanks

Offline powwu

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Re: Mod a pre-built TKL keyboard to use a 7u spacebar?
« Reply #1 on: Sat, 01 August 2020, 15:19:20 »
The PCB will most likely not have the correct pin layout to support it. Even if it does, the plate will not. You're gonna have to build a custom. The Mysterium is very difficult to build, but it's the cheapest board that will support your layout.

Offline thrownewexception

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Re: Mod a pre-built TKL keyboard to use a 7u spacebar?
« Reply #2 on: Sat, 01 August 2020, 16:03:10 »
Wow... that Mysterium kit looks really nice! Too bad it's a pre-order; I'll see if I can wait until Oct...

Not being able to change to 7u is probably true for all pre-builts, right?

Is there a way that I could tell if a board/plate supports 7u? It seems like most keycaps make it super obvious for a beginner, but it's not clear (to me) for the rest. It's probably super obvious for pros.

Thanks

Offline Leslieann

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Re: Mod a pre-built TKL keyboard to use a 7u spacebar?
« Reply #3 on: Sat, 01 August 2020, 21:19:16 »
Prebuilts never support layout changes, what would be the point you bought a ready to use board, modding it would void the warranty.

Beware, very few boards, prebuilt or custom offer a 7u spacebar layout. Most customs seem to either go with a wide spacebar and no Winkey at all or they go with a standard layout. What you're after just isn't common at all.  As for spotting it, the pcb will have 3 sets of holes for the left ALT switch and 2 or 3 for the Winkey.


As to modding a pre-built
If it was just the spacebar it wouldn't be such a big deal, the problem is you need to mod 4 other switches.
You can find the trace path and re-wire them, the plate can be just cut straight across. Where it gets tricky is re-drilling the pcb, if another trace runs through where you need to drill you will need to kill that trace (at both ends) and put in a jumper wire each time. It's doable but you may end up needing nearly a dozen jumper wires. Also keep in mind the plate would be the only thing holding the moved switches. It's quite a lot of work just to shrink 2 keys.


One PCB you can buy that supports it is the old Phantom PCB, they aren't too difficult to find, you might want to dig through the old thread to be sure (it was a group buy item), then buy a keyboard it fits, there's quite a few, as well as aluminum cases. Beware, there be dragons here... It will fit many keyboards, but to get the 7u the plate will need to be cut, from there you can use a stock case, the Tex case, and the YMDK case, it will NOT fit the Vortex without cutting a hole it in the bottom. There are universal plates you can buy to fit this which support 7u spacebars, however, here too be dragons, there's no easy way to mount them, most used foam I bvelieve, if you have a Tex case, you can 3d print some adapters. It may bolt into a YMDK, but I can't be sure. If you go with these cases you don't need a sacrificial keyboard, but you will need stabs and a cable.

This option is a lot of research and may be hard to get parts for, but you have the option of doing it easy by throwing money at it or going cheap and doing some work. With used parts you might get it done for $200 if you manage to salvage the switches, if you buy all new or go aluminum case and nice switches so you don't have to desolder you could be in it for nearly $400.
Filco MJ2 L.E. w/hand milled Vortex case, custom feet/paint/winkey blockoff plate, HID Liberator, stainless steel universal plate, 3d printed adapters, Type C, sound dampened,  Thick PBT caps (o-ringed), Cherry Jailhouse Blues w/lubed/clipped Cherry light springs | HMMK TKL | Magicforce 68 | YMDK75 | KBT Race S L.E. | Das Pro (Costar model) | GH60 | IBM Model M (x2)

Offline thrownewexception

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Re: Mod a pre-built TKL keyboard to use a 7u spacebar?
« Reply #4 on: Sun, 02 August 2020, 15:50:52 »
Quote
It's quite a lot of work just to shrink 2 keys.


Good point! Thanks for all that info  :thumb: Yeah, I'm OK with soldering, but rewiring PCBs is beyond my skill at the moment...

The only 80/TKL board currently available (not pre-order) that I could find is XD87 HS on kprepublic:

https://kprepublic.com/products/hot-swappable-xd87-hs-xd87-custom-mechanical-keyboard-kit80-supports-tkg-tools-support-underglow-rgb-pcb-programmed-gh80-kle?_pos=2&_sid=942fc9524&_ss=r&variant=14736539189292

Based on the pictures in the listing it looks like it supports 7u on the bottom row, but there's nothing in the description that I can tell that mentions this.

This kit comes with a simple plastic case. Do you think it'd be possible to upgrade just the case later? Or would a case have to be designed specifically for a particular PCB?

Quote
if you buy all new or go aluminum case and nice switches so you don't have to desolder you could be in it for nearly $400

Yeah, I'm starting to realize there's no middle ground. But even on the high(er)-end, there are almost no cases readily available atm (probably because of the pandemic).

Thanks for your help!

Offline Leslieann

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Re: Mod a pre-built TKL keyboard to use a 7u spacebar?
« Reply #5 on: Sun, 02 August 2020, 21:34:09 »
Nothing is available because a lot of companies are retooling for Type-C and RGB and it's a relatively slow moving industry. Covid made it worse, as did the stimulus, it seems a LOOOT of people bought new computers and keyboards with the money, companies said it was as big as Black Friday, which they hadn't yet recovered from (and may not be by the next one at this rate).

Couple important things, that is only a available in hot swap, hot swap doesn't allow for ANY layout change but they may have a non-hot swap version. More than few Krepublic offerings have multiple cases but they seem to be revamping their line, so buying now you may not have that option later. Then there is shipping, it's a DISASTER from China right now, Krepublic was hit especially hard by this. It could be anywhere between 3 to 6 months before it arrives at this point.

If you plan on keeping this a long time, while it sounds like a lot of work getting it all done the Phantom, especially in a Tex case, is one of the best options you have. This would be a rock solid setup that will survive almost anything.
Filco MJ2 L.E. w/hand milled Vortex case, custom feet/paint/winkey blockoff plate, HID Liberator, stainless steel universal plate, 3d printed adapters, Type C, sound dampened,  Thick PBT caps (o-ringed), Cherry Jailhouse Blues w/lubed/clipped Cherry light springs | HMMK TKL | Magicforce 68 | YMDK75 | KBT Race S L.E. | Das Pro (Costar model) | GH60 | IBM Model M (x2)

Offline thrownewexception

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Re: Mod a pre-built TKL keyboard to use a 7u spacebar?
« Reply #6 on: Sun, 02 August 2020, 22:18:29 »
Very good point on the HS version. I picked that one because I got greedy and thought it would be nice to try out different switches with little effort.

They do have a non-HS version and this article is really nice with pics and detailed instructions: https://blog.louwii.com/2018/10/xd87-tkl-kit-build-log/ The listing on kprepublic should just point to this article; much better than their stuff  :)

Looking at one of the non-HS PCB pics, to me, it looks like it would support 7u https://blog.louwii.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/DSC_0537.jpg I'd just put the stabilizer where the right Alt key is? (guessing)

With the HS version (https://ae01.alicdn.com/kf/HTB1SiqqaUCF3KVjSZJnq6znHFXaB.jpg) it doesn't look like that's possible like you said.

The Phantom board looks nice (to my untrained eyes looks the same as XD87, both programmable) and the Tex alu cases look veeerry nice. The problem is that I can't find any of them in stock anywhere. The kit above at least it's available, even if it may take a long time to ship...

Doesn't look like I picked the best time to do this; I shall put Holy Panda switches on it and call the keyboard Holy Panda-Mech  ;D

Offline Leslieann

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Re: Mod a pre-built TKL keyboard to use a 7u spacebar?
« Reply #7 on: Sun, 02 August 2020, 23:09:58 »
Yes, the soldered one supports your layout (4th one down in the image). I think they used to offer an aluminum case but it hasn't been seen in a while, they do have two stamped stainless ones though (with plex or stainless bottom).


You're correct in that now isn't the best time to build a keyboard, everything is low inventory, you missed the Tex and Phantom buy by just a few weeks, probably wiped out by the stimulus. I would imagine there's plenty of the PCB floating around and the plate is a hassle but not hard. The Tex case, the one I would recommend, that's the real hard part, not many were made and they were bought by people who planned on keeping them. If you are tempted, I'd put a WTB listing in the marketplace here and on the Reddit mech market and see how quick you can find one and what they want for it (including shipping! they are HEAVY!). You could always just put out feelers, it wouldn't surprise me that you actually could have this before an XD87 could arrive, or come up empty handed but at least you would know pretty fast how doable it is. The XD87 isn't likely to disappear tomorrow, though you could go into their chat and ask them about inventory to be sure. Waiting a few days for leads to shake out isn't going to matter when you have a 4 month shipping time on the alternative.

Sorry, I'm not trying to push you that way, I do think it's the better choice long term, but it's certainly more complicated, hence spending more time on it. I'm just trying to flush out your options as much as possible.
Filco MJ2 L.E. w/hand milled Vortex case, custom feet/paint/winkey blockoff plate, HID Liberator, stainless steel universal plate, 3d printed adapters, Type C, sound dampened,  Thick PBT caps (o-ringed), Cherry Jailhouse Blues w/lubed/clipped Cherry light springs | HMMK TKL | Magicforce 68 | YMDK75 | KBT Race S L.E. | Das Pro (Costar model) | GH60 | IBM Model M (x2)

Offline treeleaf64

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Re: Mod a pre-built TKL keyboard to use a 7u spacebar?
« Reply #8 on: Mon, 03 August 2020, 12:27:10 »
to mod 7u spacebar . . .


you need pcb that supports it.

And you also need special plate that allows you to use 7u space.

No HS should be swappable, but it means that you must use different caps on other keys ( Ctrl Win Alt)