Author Topic: A 40% design, The Fabricator, or Fab47  (Read 3444 times)

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Offline lectricleopard

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A 40% design, The Fabricator, or Fab47
« on: Sun, 17 September 2017, 16:13:21 »
I'm somewhat new to the community, but I'm all in here!  With all the pet peeves about keyboards I've had for so long... I feel like I've wasted so many key presses.

So after picking up a 30%, 60% and 75%, I've been looking to get myself a 40% keyboard, but nothing I can find fits the bill for me. 

I call this the Fabricator because I'll literally be fabricating it myself.

My layout (motivations below):



These are my motivations for my layout:

- A 40% keyboard that my wife or a coworker can sit down and use with out too much trouble.  I want to share the feels :)
- Standard stagger.  I know the ergonomics aren't the best, but this helps with the above constraint, and also makes my life easier.  I've typed for a couple months on a gherkin, and enjoyed it, but switching between linear at home and staggered at work was a little goofy.  I imagine other folks want to use their existing muscle memory as well.
- Dedicated arrows, in a standard orientation.  I use vim, and I'm used to home row arrows, and I've been using function layer arrows on my banana split, but I miss the ease of browsing pdfs or websites with standard arrows (also helps with the first item).
- 40% key cap compatibility.  How can you use it without caps, right?  And if your arrows can fit your profile even better.
- Minimal Layers.  I don't want to think about my keyboard, I want to use it.  Using the gherkin absorbed a significant amount of mental power.
- Triple space bar.  I love using my thumbs.  They are the only fingers that normally average less than a key per finger.  This gets it up to 1.5 per thumb.
- No chords.  I'm not a pianist (props to the musicians out there, I'm not that coordinated).
- Num Lock.  Everyone knows what that means.  Let's just make that center space bar toggle the number layer on the top row.  Then I can shift to get the symbols like normal.
- Custom keymaps.  Why not have tmk/qmk and all the power they offer?  The biggest complaint I see others have about the core is that they wish they had more flexibility in the programming.
- No stabilizers.  Reduces the complexity of the design.  Nothing to rattle.  1.75u is a stable key (I use caps lock as control and love it) and plenty big for any function.

My case design (rough, just to confirm its not terrible, prototype forthcoming):



Motivations for the case:

- Steel.  I want the weight and I want a small size.  I need a dense metal to get both.  I love the large bezel look, but this keyboard is meant to be portable.  The weight I want is just enough for a stable feel.  The gherkin doesn't move around much, but I did find myself making little adjustments to position more than usual.
- A healthy angle.  8* here.  Front and rear are parallel.
- A completed and clean look.  Most narrow bezel cases are small metal trays, and while nice, I want a bit more style.
- I want the case design to have no visible seams.  There is a lot going on in a keyboard, and you need to get it all in somehow.  However, the more seams you have on a case this small the more cluttered it looks (imho), and the more potential for noise (leaking from or created by the case).  The plan is to do the following:
     - Integrate the plate into the case.  Fewer screws, less fiddling, keeps the sound in the case.
     - One layout.  It's nice to have options, but the extra holes make for bad acoustic properties, and other fiddly design problems.
     - Recess the bottom access panel into the case.  You will only see it if you turn the board over, but I have some jewelry in mind ;)
- White.  I want a white case.

How am I going to do this?  Well the plan is to have the parts cut by a CNC place that is only an hour drive from my home.  I'm going to weld them together and paint them myself ( color and clear coat like a car  :thumb: ). 

PCB's aren't a big deal.  I've got experience having a design spun a couple times, and the cost is relatively low if you are careful.  I've got the first pass together in KiCad.  Prototype will be handwired with a pro micro, which will let me determine installation issues with the integrated plate and recessed back panel before 1st rev.  The pro micro will rest in the back panel making the usb port as low as possible.  I'll copy the form factor of the pro micro board in a break out board that contains just the usb port ( which will be usb c), to keep my case design as clean and functional as possible.

Potential flaws (at least what I'm struggling with right now):

- The .25u blockers.  I'm not a fan of blockers (just my personal taste) and I'm sure that people who do like them will consider these anemic if I fill it with steel case.  The current solution is to use the space for 3 mm LEDs, two on each side (the pic shows them as metal just for visualizing that solution).  I'm hoping they will look like tail lights, but they might look like junk.  We'll see.  Suggestions are welcome.
- The layout.  I really want one more key in width to get a full home row with an '/" key and ;/: key (right now I'm flip flopping on which will live there).  I think 13u is as wide as a 40% can go without defeating the purpose tho.  I'll be using tap dance and space cadet to work out unusual keys like \,|,/,[,{,],}

Non obvious features:
- I have a plan to make shift+up make a ?
- LEDs will show that you have the NUM LOCK/CAPS LOCK on
- FN shift for CAPS LOCK
- FN plus arrows for pgup, pgdn, home, end
- space cadet for parens and braces/brackets
- Likely a fork of qmk to really do everything I want, but it's be cool if my changes get merged too :)

What are my plans?  Well I'm making a working prototype (probably just the first, but wouldn't be sad if the first go works out).  The parts have been ordered.  I'll be posting plenty of pics  ;D 

If I love it as much as I hope I will, then I'll post an IC by the end of the year.  I'm not trying to make a business out of this, just share.  I see key cap sets struggling to get MOQ for 40% kits, which sucks for anyone who uses this size keyboard.  I figure if I can lower the barrier for people by giving them another option, its good for the community (maybe others have had similar concerns about trying this size).  It'll be byo switches and caps, for under $200 (barring unforeseen issues).  I've got quotes on all the materials, so this seems reasonable to me, and if it would cost more than that, I don't think I'd be providing enough value to justify moving forward.  (Stretch goal would be to include switch options and a simple cap set, which could bump that over $200, but I haven't looked into this in great detail as of yet).

If I do end up making this for other people, there will be limits on the numbers (because I'm doing some work myself, not just design and placing orders).  I'd love to spend the winter making keyboards in my workshop, but I have to keep this realistic :D

Let me know what you guys think!

Offline lordgiblite

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Re: A 40% design, The Fabricator, or Fab47
« Reply #1 on: Mon, 18 September 2017, 13:28:06 »
Definitely looks like a really cool project, especially if it turns out well :) I'll be keeping an eye on this and maybe when I can get to a desktop I'll have some input on some things!



Offline lectricleopard

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Re: A 40% design, The Fabricator, or Fab47
« Reply #2 on: Mon, 18 September 2017, 15:04:08 »
Please provide all the nitty gritty feedback you care to.  Looking to make this as good as I can  :)

Offline lordgiblite

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Re: A 40% design, The Fabricator, or Fab47
« Reply #3 on: Mon, 18 September 2017, 23:09:11 »
I guess my only concern is with the blockers.

- The .25u blockers.  I'm not a fan of blockers (just my personal taste) and I'm sure that people who do like them will consider these anemic if I fill it with steel case.  The current solution is to use the space for 3 mm LEDs, two on each side (the pic shows them as metal just for visualizing that solution).  I'm hoping they will look like tail lights, but they might look like junk.  We'll see.  Suggestions are welcome.

I don't believe that the LED's will look like junk but I'm unsure that they will fill the void you might think the blockers create. Honestly I think they'll be best left alone or only put LED's in one side. It would be a tricky business and also do you want the LED's to just "be there" or to actually serve a purpose?



Offline lectricleopard

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Re: A 40% design, The Fabricator, or Fab47
« Reply #4 on: Tue, 19 September 2017, 01:01:48 »
The blockers are .25u or 4.75 mm.  A centered 3mm led would have less than a mm to the keycap and less than a mm to the case on each side.  I was thinking I would put two on each side so, vertically there would be more space.  But I'll definitely start without in the prototype and add them if it looks unfinished to see if it helps.

They would light up when the board in in caps/num lock (amber on the bottom on both sides for num lock and red on the top on both sides for caps).  There is a mild car theme I'm aiming for.  I've ordered leather colored key caps.  So I'm hoping the leds lighting up like brake lights would be attractive. 

If none of that is convincing, then I'll probably just leave the blockers empty.  We're talking about the amount of space the q overhangs the a key on a normal layout, so I'm probably over thinking this detail.

Offline dead_pixel_design

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Re: A 40% design, The Fabricator, or Fab47
« Reply #5 on: Tue, 19 September 2017, 06:11:06 »
So you just wanted a Minivan with an extra space key in the middle?

Offline Zobeid Zuma

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Re: A 40% design, The Fabricator, or Fab47
« Reply #6 on: Tue, 19 September 2017, 07:18:49 »
- A 40% keyboard that my wife or a coworker can sit down and use with out too much trouble.  I want to share the feels :)

I hope you could go into more detail about this, and how you think the key assignments are going to work, because right now I'm not seeing it.

I've had my JD45 for three days, I'm typing on it now, and a few of the key combinations do drive me a bit nutty when I'm happily touch-typing along and then hit them. . .  like Fn-I for dash, Fn-Shift-apostrophe for a colon, or Fn-Shift-V for an exclamation point.  And that's on a keyboard with a whopping 47 keys!  (Although, there is some redundancy since it has two Control, two Alt, two Command and two Backspace keys!)

Offline lectricleopard

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Re: A 40% design, The Fabricator, or Fab47
« Reply #7 on: Tue, 19 September 2017, 10:03:27 »
So you just wanted a Minivan with an extra space key in the middle?

This is .25 u wider than the minivan giving me an extra key in the top right corner.  And yes I really do want that extra space key :P  It will make the keyboard much easier to use.  See below, and a full keymap this evening.

- A 40% keyboard that my wife or a coworker can sit down and use with out too much trouble.  I want to share the feels :)

I hope you could go into more detail about this, and how you think the key assignments are going to work, because right now I'm not seeing it.

I've had my JD45 for three days, I'm typing on it now, and a few of the key combinations do drive me a bit nutty when I'm happily touch-typing along and then hit them. . .  like Fn-I for dash, Fn-Shift-apostrophe for a colon, or Fn-Shift-V for an exclamation point.  And that's on a keyboard with a whopping 47 keys!  (Although, there is some redundancy since it has two Control, two Alt, two Command and two Backspace keys!)

By making it usable for my wife and coworkers I mean that the planck and gherkin aren't going to inspire this build very much, and that the 30 most common keys should all work as close to normal as I can manage.  I've seen 40% layouts that didn't have very clear , and . keys, and some that didn't follow the .25 and .5 u stagger of the rows.

I'll work up a full keymap this evening to share.  The JD45 was the keyboard that was closest to what I wanted, but I want the thumb keys under v,b, and n, as well as a particular functioning of them as modifiers.  Hopefully you'll like what I've come up with, and if you think I've made a mess of it I'd be glad for the feedback.

Offline lordgiblite

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Re: A 40% design, The Fabricator, or Fab47
« Reply #8 on: Tue, 19 September 2017, 15:46:52 »
The blockers are .25u or 4.75 mm.  A centered 3mm led would have less than a mm to the keycap and less than a mm to the case on each side.  I was thinking I would put two on each side so, vertically there would be more space.  But I'll definitely start without in the prototype and add them if it looks unfinished to see if it helps.

They would light up when the board in in caps/num lock (amber on the bottom on both sides for num lock and red on the top on both sides for caps).  There is a mild car theme I'm aiming for.  I've ordered leather colored key caps.  So I'm hoping the leds lighting up like brake lights would be attractive. 

If none of that is convincing, then I'll probably just leave the blockers empty.  We're talking about the amount of space the q overhangs the a key on a normal layout, so I'm probably over thinking this detail.

Thanks :) Having a car theme sounds really awesome, I hope you can manage to get the LEDs to turn out well in that case! Looking forward to see what's coming up.




Offline lectricleopard

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Re: A 40% design, The Fabricator, or Fab47
« Reply #9 on: Tue, 19 September 2017, 22:21:56 »
Ok, so here's the keymap.  The goal is to avoid chords, and make everything available through a single function key that either thumb can press.  I've labeled the center thumb key the Fab key, because its like a Num Lock and Function key combined.  The worst chord is Fab+shift+<key>, which I think will be super comfy  ;D.  You might want to start by ignoring greyed out keys, as they are completely duplicates, that I may leave out for simplicity in the end.




I've pulled out the four keys I think may need the most customization for each person (all the way down to the coding layer), and I think you can just flop around the key/layer of these four for the most part.  I think everything lives in a sensible location, with respect to it's position in a full size keyboard, and frequency of use.

My gherkin experience involved a lot of accidental chords when typing fast, and I ended up holding a key down for a while trying to remember what symbol was on that layer.  If I made a mistake, then I had too many key presses to undo and try again.  This map should allow your hands to remain relaxed if you need a moment.  Guessing shouldn't hurt too bad.  This layout doesn't have a Fn key hiding under another key (where it can be accidentally activated).  The layers are sorted, and symbols live in a hierarchy.

Of course you disagree  :)  Tell me how what I did wrong so I can make it better  :thumb:

Offline lordgiblite

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Re: A 40% design, The Fabricator, or Fab47
« Reply #10 on: Fri, 22 September 2017, 17:34:06 »
I think the layout is at a pretty good standpoint as is. You'd have to test it in real time to see its fully viability for what you want it for but I can't see an issue with it (although I am fairly new to mechanical keyboards).



Offline lectricleopard

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Re: A 40% design, The Fabricator, or Fab47
« Reply #11 on: Sat, 23 September 2017, 23:49:26 »
Thanks for the sanity check.  I've got everything I need to build a prototype except the laser cut plate I ordered.  I'll be sure to share the results :)

Offline lordgiblite

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Re: A 40% design, The Fabricator, or Fab47
« Reply #12 on: Mon, 25 September 2017, 15:43:27 »
I look forward to the updates  :D



Offline tex_live_utility

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Re: A 40% design, The Fabricator, or Fab47
« Reply #13 on: Sun, 15 April 2018, 11:41:55 »
I like this layout! Any update?
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