Author Topic: Gingham Review - Beginner Perspective  (Read 1441 times)

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Offline khaaaaan

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Gingham Review - Beginner Perspective
« on: Wed, 09 December 2020, 09:16:07 »
I haven’t seen many reviews of the Gingham through-hole kit and am so taken with it I thought I’d share my experience from a complete beginner perspective. I have had a little past experience with electronics, used to build guitar pedals from similar kinds of kits but I wouldn’t say I’m in anyway an expert, very much a beginner and my first keyboard build.

Purchased from NovelKeys. Very fast delivery to the UK, four days via FedEx. Ordered with some lube and cherry red switches. No issues at all as you’d expect. I did make a mistake and ordered plate mount stabs, when PCB mount is required – I’ve since ordered the correct ones so all good. It currently has just a really cheap test set of keys while I decide what set I really want on it.

The packaging is excellent. Everything in foam inserts and parts packaged in separate bags. I didn’t even realise it came with a case somehow, it has a useful mesh pocket and feels high quality – a slight gripe would be there is no real padding. It isn’t exactly hard but it doesn’t have the normal soft fleece type material that a case, for anything really, would normally have. Also comes with an M2 screwdriver which was nice, I had one already but they’re not a very common household tool so a thoughtful bonus.

The Build
I went with a standard layout, no split keys and in ANSI – I’m in the UK but just prefer ANSI over ISO for whatever reason. Slight confusion over which way to mount the switches given the multiple layouts possible on the PCB but referencing a layout diagram was easy. I didn’t fully follow the instructions in terms of order but obviously this isn’t particularly important. It was much easier to insert and solder the diodes in blocks of five, otherwise the legs get in the way if trying to do them all at once. It was quite time consuming to get them evenly spaced and sitting exactly over the markers on the PCB – they’re not all perfect still and one resistor got egregiously bent somehow; it may not bother some I suppose but I’ll be redoing a few parts.

Overall the whole process was very easy. One thing that required some reading and wasn’t very well explained in the instructions was the USB-C port. The outer shield pins are obvious and have large contacts, but the tiny little inner pins – Jesus wept. The contacts are tiny and it took three or four goes at reflowing with a magnifier to try and keep it as clean as possible before I finally got it working. My iron may have too large a tip, a finer needle point would have been better. It was causing an error “USB device has malfunctioned” and in device manager came up as an unrecognised and malfunctioning USB device, with VIA not seeing the board. At first, I thought I had made a mistake with a part inserted the wrong way around or similar, but after some digging around discovered it’s apparently a common error for beginners. One thing also not mentioned in the instructions is pressing the Reset switch after plugging in for the first time. When finally working it shows as “Gingham”. The USB-C port was really the only frustrating part of the whole build. I would say it took roughly two hours all in.

There are two bottom section options. I went with the script, which I believe says Gingham Keyboard. The other option is plain black with some very small logos. Easy and intuitive to put together, however it took ages to balance the tension on the screws at the top of the board (the four screws holding the plexi cover in place). There is a lot of bending otherwise, didn’t seem to cause any problems but a bit anxiety provoking.

Lubed the switches with Krytox 105. Painted the switches and bag lubed the springs. Easily the most time-consuming part of course, and obviously not required as part of the kit but in for a penny. One faulty switch that I discovered, it may not even have been faulty and more likely I damaged the metal contact in the process, first time doing this so I’m not sure what the failure rate normally is (1/70 ?). Worth it in the end, scratchiness gone and I’m quite pleased with myself. It took around three hours to do 62 switches, with some ****ing around and breaks of course.

I somehow initially missed three pins when soldering the switches – so the 6, 7 and B keys didn’t function. Further frustration. Easily done I suppose, double check your work and work methodically.

Cheap no name AliExpress keys for now while I decide on what set I really want to go with, I think it looks kind of neat with the blank keys from the top though, side printed.

Potato Pics
I didn’t really take many pics during the process but a couple of finger print riddled shots below. I'll have to take it apart again to show the absolute butchery that are my soldering skills but it works!

-   10/10 would do again.
-   Clear instructions. No need to figure out resistor colour values or +ve -ve legs, etc. all clearly labelled with pictures. If you’ve never even held a soldering iron before you can still build this kit. Idiot proof.
-   No faulty parts, I appreciate luck of the draw to an extent perhaps.
-   Comes flashed with standard ANSI layout, so “just works” when completed. VIA & QMK compatible.
-   The finished product is gorgeous. Bare bones kit but still looks and feels premium. Comes with a nice carry case and a bonus M2 screwdriver too.
-   Jesus Christ the USB-C port. Not the fault of the kit at all, but these parts in general combined with my lack of experience. There was much screaming.
-   The M2 screws for the plexi spacers/joining to the bottom plate require a lot of fiddly balancing to avoid bending the board at the top.
-   The glue residue from the paper covering on the plexi cover took a lifetime to clean off.
-   Very minor indeed, but no extra components included – given the kit is clearly aimed at beginners.
« Last Edit: Wed, 09 December 2020, 09:17:42 by khaaaaan »