Author Topic: ErgoMini? - Build  (Read 3787 times)

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Offline ThatRusty

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ErgoMini? - Build
« on: Sat, 14 March 2015, 00:27:33 »
I've been waffling between building a custom board and buying an ergo kit (either and ergoDox or Atreus) for the past week or so and was hoping that the GeekHack community could help me out!

That being said, I wanted something slightly different than any kits I came across; so LET THE BUILD BEGIN!
Just a precursor, this will be my first build so any advice/help is appreciated! I have a background in mechanical design (I'm a CAD Engineering Technologist at a mechanical engineering company) and have dabbled in electronics in my post-secondary education and personal projects.

Here is a list of boards that will most likely influence my custom:

With all that in mind, this is what I'm thinking. I like the idea of a thumb cluster; the ErgoDox seems like there is a few too many keys and the Atreus doesn't have enough. Oobly's thumbs cluster seems great, the only thing I'm thinking is I would only have 3 keys in the cluster (1-2u and 2-1u).

For switches I was trying to decide between MX Greens or Clears, but I just got in on the Gateron GB! So I have some Gblues and Gbrowns on the way. I want my switches to be a bit stiffer so I'm planning of swapping out the springs to the heavy greens springs (good idea? maybe? I don't know).

I currently use MX Browns, my only complaint is they make a pinging noise when you get moving and I think I would like something a bit heavier e.g. Gbrowns with heavy springs (MX Clears) . My issue with Gblues(modded) is that they may be too loud, but you only live once right!

Finally the case and keycaps, I really like the looks and sound of SAs, I've never used them but I find myself drooling over them daily. I want a fairly low profile case, so I'm thinking two metal plates, bent for the thumb cluster and then set into a wooden base (un-split). I have some crazy ideas on making the metal plates fully adjustable (thumb cluster angle, "tent" angle and space between halves), but I think that will be for the future.

Also has anyone had experience with implementing a DIP switch into their custom board? Not sure if it would be something I would do, but maybe I would find I want to be able to switch some base layer layout without having to re-flash the firmware.

Sorry if this seems a bit scatter brained, but I thought if there was any place to get some advice, this is it!
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Offline CPTBadAss

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Re: ErgoMini? - Build
« Reply #1 on: Mon, 16 March 2015, 07:13:28 »
I'm not 100% sure what you're looking for out of the OP but I think this might help. Are you looking for confirmation your idea is ok? Or advice that the switches/keycaps you think you might like are ok?

For the tenting options, check out the AcidFire's board or the ErgoDock from kurplop.

I don't know anything about DIP switches unfortunately.

Welcome to Geekhack. I had the same job as you until very recently :).
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Offline ThatRusty

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Re: ErgoMini? - Build
« Reply #2 on: Mon, 16 March 2015, 10:34:28 »
I'm more looking for general advice/guidance on building I guess. Like I said I'm a bit scattered brained on this project, so I thought writing it down and presenting it to like minded people might help me straighten things out!

I plan on basically using this as a build log (which may be a long process).

Thanks for the links, those are some pretty sweet concepts. I especially like the ErgoDock, there is just something about combining technology and woodworking that I love!

I think I skimmed past something in the TMK firmware documentation that had mentioned a virtual DIP switch; not sure what that really means, but I may have to look into that a little bit more.

Thanks for the welcome! This community seems pretty awesome so far! What made you switch careers, if you don't mind me asking? I like what I do, but there is just some days that I just want to design what I want to design, things that really interest me i.e. keyboards, woodworking projects, a deck for my house, etc. you know fun stuff!
Current Build - ErgoMini

Offline CPTBadAss

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Re: ErgoMini? - Build
« Reply #3 on: Mon, 16 March 2015, 10:39:13 »
There's a ton of build logs in Making Stuff Together. I really like Matt3o's builds so I suggest checking those out. Could be a good start.

I'm definitely the wrong person to talk to to about anything with programming though. Emphasis on the mechanical in mechanical engineer lol.

I didn't really change my job that much. I work in manufacturing now for the same company. Just on the other side of the drawings now.
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Offline vivalarevolución

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Re: ErgoMini? - Build
« Reply #4 on: Mon, 16 March 2015, 11:47:35 »

I didn't really change my job that much. I work in manufacturing now for the same company. Just on the other side of the drawings now.

So you're INSIDE the drawings now?  Whoa, man.  Whoa.  I gotta see this.
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Offline ThatRusty

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Re: ErgoMini? - Build
« Reply #5 on: Mon, 16 March 2015, 16:10:28 »
There's a ton of build logs in Making Stuff Together. I really like Matt3o's builds so I suggest checking those out. Could be a good start.

I'm definitely the wrong person to talk to to about anything with programming though. Emphasis on the mechanical in mechanical engineer lol.

I didn't really change my job that much. I work in manufacturing now for the same company. Just on the other side of the drawings now.

Ya, I've been perusing all the builds on here, definitely a good place for ideas.  I read Matt3o's write up on custom firmware (using TMK firmware) and it really helped me actually follow what was going on in there. I'll have to do a bit more looking around to see if there is any more in-depth write ups on using TMK besides the TMK documentation.

I took some programming classes in school and started pursuing it a bit in my personal time. I know just enough to be dangerous and had never dealt with C before, but It's starting to make a bit of sense. I still have a long way to go though.

That's pretty cool getting to see the other side of things at work, I often find seeing something you helped design in real life is pretty awesome! We deal with mostly one offs, so some pretty neat stuff comes through from time to time.
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Offline ThatRusty

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Re: ErgoMini? - Build
« Reply #6 on: Mon, 16 March 2015, 22:05:36 »
Here's where my design is at so far. I'm still not decided, do I want to add in 6th column? Am I ready for a ~40% board? I guess no one is every really ready.



Current Build - ErgoMini

Offline kurplop

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Re: ErgoMini? - Build
« Reply #7 on: Mon, 16 March 2015, 22:21:52 »
do I want to add in 6th column?

If you want a portable board,  then the 40% makes sense. If you want an ergo board, I'd put in as many keys as you can comfortably reach. The magic number for me is around 66.

Nice design. I'm looking forward to see where this is going.

Offline CPTBadAss

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Re: ErgoMini? - Build
« Reply #8 on: Tue, 17 March 2015, 08:38:00 »
+1 to what kurplop said. I'm liking where this design is going. Honestly I don't think I'm ready for 40% and I've had a JD40 for a little while now.
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Offline Oobly

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Re: ErgoMini? - Build
« Reply #9 on: Tue, 17 March 2015, 08:57:24 »
It's looking very good so far :)

40% is great, as long as you have sane placement of numbers and dedicated arrow and edit keys. I use a numpad layout on the right half on my Fn layer, which I've found to be quite natural to use, but you could also place them on the top row to emulate their "normal" positions.

Are you going for pinkie or thumb shifts? The reason I use 4 keys per thumb is to have all the modifiers easily available, without having to use the pinkies for any "holding", like on normal Shifts, Ctrl, Alt, etc. I use the thumb for both "striking" (Space, Enter, Backspace, Tab) and "holding" (Fn, Shift, Ctrl, Alt) actions, although the positions shown in my thread are outdated. "Striking" is better in downwards movements, "holding" better in inwards movements, so I have altered the right thumb keys to have Alt and Ctrl on the top, Space and Enter on bottom. Left side is already correct, with Fn and Shift on top, Backspace and Tab on bottom. This is not a factor on your layout, though, since you have a single thumb key angle.

Your pinkie rows look either a little too high (if the 2nd row is your home row) or a little too low (if the 3rd row is your home row). I've found they need a fair bit more stagger than the other fingers, but if you print out your layout you can find the optimal column staggers for your own hands by resting them on it with it propped up at the correct angle and height.

Very interested to see how this one progresses :D Great job.
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Offline vivalarevolución

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Re: ErgoMini? - Build
« Reply #10 on: Tue, 17 March 2015, 10:52:14 »
Adjusting to a 40% is like fitting into tight jeans.  It's tough putting them on and getting comfortable.  But once you try them out, you can't take them off.
Wish I had some gif or quote for this space, but I got nothing

Offline ThatRusty

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Re: ErgoMini? - Build
« Reply #11 on: Tue, 17 March 2015, 21:58:46 »
do I want to add in 6th column?

If you want a portable board,  then the 40% makes sense. If you want an ergo board, I'd put in as many keys as you can comfortably reach. The magic number for me is around 66.

Nice design. I'm looking forward to see where this is going.

I'm not really looking to make this portable, but I do like the minimalistic-ness of a smaller board. My desk tends to get pretty cluttered, so the less room I can take up the better. That being said, a 6th column probably wouldn't make this board that much bigger.

It's looking very good so far :)

40% is great, as long as you have sane placement of numbers and dedicated arrow and edit keys. I use a numpad layout on the right half on my Fn layer, which I've found to be quite natural to use, but you could also place them on the top row to emulate their "normal" positions.

This is exactly what I was looking at doing. I used to work in retail (BLOCKBUSTER!!! RIP :-[), and started using a numPad then and can't really live without one.

Are you going for pinkie or thumb shifts? The reason I use 4 keys per thumb is to have all the modifiers easily available, without having to use the pinkies for any "holding", like on normal Shifts, Ctrl, Alt, etc. I use the thumb for both "striking" (Space, Enter, Backspace, Tab) and "holding" (Fn, Shift, Ctrl, Alt) actions, although the positions shown in my thread are outdated. "Striking" is better in downwards movements, "holding" better in inwards movements, so I have altered the right thumb keys to have Alt and Ctrl on the top, Space and Enter on bottom. Left side is already correct, with Fn and Shift on top, Backspace and Tab on bottom. This is not a factor on your layout, though, since you have a single thumb key angle.

Your pinkie rows look either a little too high (if the 2nd row is your home row) or a little too low (if the 3rd row is your home row). I've found they need a fair bit more stagger than the other fingers, but if you print out your layout you can find the optimal column staggers for your own hands by resting them on it with it propped up at the correct angle and height.

Very interested to see how this one progresses :D Great job.

My current plan is to have shift on my pinkie (more familiar) using dual function keys. The 2u thumb keys are going to be backspace and space, and then the others will probably be ESC (essential key for drafting), Enter and the two function (maybe). I would like to have some toggle and momentary function keys, I'm curious to see if I can have a function key be momentary when held and toggle when tapped, not sure if this is possible.

I'm going to try and get some layouts posted soon and hopefully get some more feedback for you guys! I was able to add another key after adjusting the thumb cluster position.

I'm still tweaking the column positions, just been getting hung up on the layout. I'll most likely make a couple mock ups before I'm happy. I've also been considering disconnecting the thumb cluster entirely so that in the future if I want to change the cluster up a bit I would be able to.

Adjusting to a 40% is like fitting into tight jeans.  It's tough putting them on and getting comfortable.  But once you try them out, you can't take them off.

Great analogy, think I need to go buy some tighter pants now.
Current Build - ErgoMini

Offline ThatRusty

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Re: ErgoMini? - Build
« Reply #12 on: Fri, 20 March 2015, 00:32:43 »
Alright, here is my first attempt at layer 0. I'm in the process of learning the Workman layout, so this post is taking me an hour to write. Let me know what you guys think!
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Offline Oobly

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Re: ErgoMini? - Build
« Reply #13 on: Fri, 20 March 2015, 04:03:01 »
I like the dual mode letter / Shift key idea.

Are the media keys more important to you than arrows? Which do you use more? For my use I find the arrows and edits on the default layer to be a big benefit over my 60% board, but that's because I do a lot of text editing with moving the cursor all over the place to cut, paste, insert chunks of text / words, so I use them a lot.

Also, it helps me then to have the shift key on a thumb since I can then select by holding it, but your dual role key shift will also work well for this.

Have you thought of how to do Ctrl-C, V, Z, X or are the shortcuts different in MacOS?

Also, Workman / Colemak / Dvorak have been designed for standard staggered layout boards, so are not optimised for staggered column boards with thumb keys. The only layout I found that was properly optimised for this type of physical layout is AdNW Bu-Teck, but that's optimised for German and has more keys than my and your boards. I'm using a modified version of it as shown in my thread, although it has changed a little now (Q X [ ] { } , and - have moved around, also swapped Space and Enter for Ctrl  and Alt).

These are just my opinions and thoughts from use of my own board / layout so don't take it too much like criticism (and in the end the only opinion that matters for your own board design is your own), I like how this is progressing a lot.
Buying more keycaps,
it really hacks my wallet,
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Offline ThatRusty

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Re: ErgoMini? - Build
« Reply #14 on: Fri, 20 March 2015, 10:23:56 »
Thanks for the input! I agree with a lot of what you saying (a lot of those same questions have crossed my mind already). When I was first laying this out I did have arrow keys instead of media keys. It's one of those things that I don't really know how much I use those keys, but I'm sure it will come glaringly obvious once I start using it. My plan was to put the arrow keys where the media keys are in the next layer (that might switch in the future).

The "Pause" key isn't a media key and the only reason I put it there was because I had read it needs to be on the top layer if you want to access the boot loader instead of hitting the reset button on the teensy(which I could just build the board to have access to the reset button). I might swap this with a "ctrl" key, or put the "Play" key there and put "ctrl" where the "Play" button is for the soul reason of ctrl-z, ctrl-v, ctrl-c. On Mac the "Command" Key is used instead of the "ctrl" key for these operations, but I want to keep both Mac and Windows in mind, since I use both almost daily.

I've also considered using the "Space" key as a dual key as I've seen a couple people do this. Not sure if that would work out for me, I think that I would either use it as a "FN" key or "ctrl".

As for Workman, I'm not fully set on it yet. I have been liking it, but I'm not fully committed. That's why I think having a DIP switch to swap the layout on the fly would be great.
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Offline CPTBadAss

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Re: ErgoMini? - Build
« Reply #15 on: Fri, 20 March 2015, 11:45:24 »
You could always do toggled layers for different layouts in place of a DIP switch. For example, I put an MX Lock switch on my JD40 so I could toggle a layer. It could be used to toggle on a DVORAK layer and keep the base layer QWERTY. I believe you can do that in the TMK firmware and metalliqaz's EasyAVR.
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Offline ThatRusty

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Re: ErgoMini? - Build
« Reply #16 on: Fri, 20 March 2015, 23:02:24 »
You could always do toggled layers for different layouts in place of a DIP switch. For example, I put an MX Lock switch on my JD40 so I could toggle a layer. It could be used to toggle on a DVORAK layer and keep the base layer QWERTY. I believe you can do that in the TMK firmware and metalliqaz's EasyAVR.

This is true, I was also reading in the TMK firmware documentation about the Boot Magic functions. This would give me the ability to switch a lower layer to the base layer. The one problem I think I'll have is I need number keys on the base layer to be able to do this, which I do not.
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Offline ThatRusty

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Re: ErgoMini? - Build
« Reply #17 on: Wed, 01 April 2015, 11:35:48 »
***Moved to its own thread***
« Last Edit: Sat, 04 April 2015, 22:24:42 by ThatRusty »
Current Build - ErgoMini