Author Topic: DK1 Build Thread: Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 with Cherry MX Switches  (Read 52394 times)

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Offline VoteForDavid

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Cliffs: I intend to mod an MS 4000 keyboard to use Cherry key switches.  For $0 thanks Jesus!  I'll call it the DK1.

The layout of the Microsoft keyboard is almost perfect.  The rubber keys are . . . not.  The feel during the key stroke is actually decent for my hands but the squishy touchdown, inconsistency and (therefore need to constantly be) bottoming out just aren't cutting it anymore after ~7-8 years and wearing 3 or 4 these boards out.  Durability is also a problem.

I *would* give $200 for this keyboard, but nobody makes a split, spread, one-piece ergonomic battleship with media and ten keys, with the fantastic swell in the middle, with mechanical switches.  This is a huge gap in a small market.  Come on, Capitalism!  Supply us!  ...uh, I mean...

I am trained as an electronics technician, and can do manual fabrication including plastics, fiberglass and some metal.  I work at a recycling center.  This is an ideal situation for the electronics hobbyist let me tell you.  We had come through (as low-value scrap) three Chyron Infinit! character generators.  These are big old video production equipment with lots of keys.  The first one had the wrong kind of switch but the other two have nearly-complete sets of what I am pretty sure are vintage Cherry MX Clears.  I stripped off 30lbs. or so of formerly-expensive housings and circuitry and came up with





The feel is somewhat better on the key press, and miles better at the bottom of travel, than the MS keyboard.  I asked the boss and he donated these to the cause, on the condition I let him see the final product.  And he laughed.  A lot.  Then he donated a Microsoft Natural 4000 keyboard to hack as well.

These were not exactly clean.  I let the caps soak in some soapy water until someone went to use the sink and spilled a couple down the drain.  I decided that was a good time to start and spent two HOURS wiping the caps off with Clorox wipes.



Those two hours were a clue this will take a lot of work.  I found these pictures http://forums.anandtech.com/showpost.php?p=29551849&postcount=93
... and it looks like it will be possible to use sections of flat mounting plate for the central swell but they may need to be made from scratch.  I might be able to reuse some of the Chyron circuit boards, possibly cutting and bypassing the traces.

Long-winded blog posts on:
Motivation: https://votefordavid.wordpress.com/2015/03/06/i-may-be-dying/
Considerations: https://votefordavid.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/let-it-begin-the-perfect-keyboard-shall-be-mine/
More: https://votefordavid.wordpress.com/2015/03/21/problem-partially-solved/
More: https://votefordavid.wordpress.com/2015/03/22/virtual-progress/

to be continued...
« Last Edit: Wed, 06 November 2019, 12:57:29 by VoteForDavid »
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Offline Lain1911

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Sorry whenever I see "DK1" I time travel to a warm safe place where I play Dungeon Keeper 1 on my 350mhz computer...but what you are doing sounds fun too :)

Offline VoteForDavid

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Many, many "more" pictures
« Reply #2 on: Mon, 23 March 2015, 20:51:27 »
The curves which make wrists happy:


The tenkey is flat, but the keycaps have non-flat profiles

Mr Keyboard seems unhappy about being torn apart but that's what he gets for being a keyboard.




Lots of pictures of partial disassembly of a keyboard follow.  Some commentary on same as well. 


More
The unfortunate victim:





Screws from the bottom panel in their relative positions.  Longer screws at the sides, circled in yellow.  the unhappy face designates a stand-in screw, because one of these rolled off my desk.  I'll find it later.  Or not.



Pictures of screws because these are all going in a bag, possibly for re-use and I don't like to be confused as to what went where, or waste too much time organizing screws I may not reuse.

The wrist rests pull right off, and there are a few more hiding screws under the space bar.  I don't know why people recommend screwdrivers, paint can openers, removing nearby keys, etc. - I just plucked the space bar out with my fingers. :shrug:



Peel from the top edge and the keys come out with the top panel.



Very, very encouraging to me: the keys are held in place on FLAT plates.  This makes mounting my Cherry MXs on flat plates a much more reasonable thing to do.  I started this project wondering how I was going to do compound curves on a circuit board.



This, by the way, is all held on with nearly as many screws as the base.



The angled plates come out easily after their screws are removed



The silicone bits:
Overall
Showing the angles of the keys a little better
Media keys
Shocking number of traces by the calculator key
Spacebar contact



The actual switch membranes still in place
They are tacked together in one spot with an itty baby plastic weld.  Other locations are established with locating pins elsewhere in the base
The zoom toggle is a gussied-up pot with a little slip-in connector all its own, also part of the membranes.



The controller lives in the huge void between the banks of keys.  Four screws, three of which are tensioners for the membrane-to-PCB connection



Speaking of which...



Part numbers on the larger parts

Note that a couple are marked DJ1.  Amusingly, depending how you count, this is one before DK1, which is the name of the project  ;D

The populated bottom plate
Left and Right rear support plates for the angled keys
Screws for the zoom toggle
Routing for USB cable



The membrane-to-PCB connection is clamped with a (silicone?) strip between steel braces.



The Curve is a LIE!  Angles, all the way down.



Key caps all snap into their mounting plates.  These should come off with pliers or stiff tweezers fairly easily.  I was impressed that the media keys are discrete sliding parts also, not just plastic spring arms tacked on the sides.



My lunch time ended as I was wondering what-all else comes apart.  The top plate has clips and screws to ...itself?  This needs further investigation and may have interesting implications for custom painting the MS 4000 even if that's all you want to change on yours.

« Last Edit: Mon, 11 November 2019, 13:58:32 by VoteForDavid »
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Offline heedpantsnow

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Wow, seems like you can pull the sliders, cut holes, and hot glue in your switches?? 
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Offline VoteForDavid

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If you wanted to hot glue them, I guess that would be the fastest way to get the construction finished.  I would much rather be able to service the board as required later, so hot glue is currently a method of last resort for this project.  What would be sweet is if my calipers tell me the round mounting holes are the proper size to cut out a 0.55" square from the middle of each, and slap a switch in the existing plate.  I consider that unlikely at this point but we'll see.
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Offline heedpantsnow

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If you wanted to hot glue them, I guess that would be the fastest way to get the construction finished.  I would much rather be able to service the board as required later, so hot glue is currently a method of last resort for this project.  What would be sweet is if my calipers tell me the round mounting holes are the proper size to cut out a 0.55" square from the middle of each, and slap a switch in the existing plate.  I consider that unlikely at this point but we'll see.

Hmm, better build a Dremel jig of some kind then. You have a lot of tedious cutting ahead of you!
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Offline SpAmRaY

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Just a note there's an old thread on here somewhere in which someone did this mod before, might help you.

Offline rowdy

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Just a note there's an old thread on here somewhere in which someone did this mod before, might help you.

https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=10510.0
"Because keyboards are accessories to PC makers, they focus on minimizing the manufacturing costs. But thatís incorrect. Itís in HHKBís slogan, but when Americaís cowboys were in the middle of a trip and their horse died, they would leave the horse there. But even if they were in the middle of a desert, they would take their saddle with them. The horse was a consumable good, but the saddle was an interface that their bodies had gotten used to. In the same vein, PCs are consumable goods, while keyboards are important interfaces." - Eiiti Wada

NEC APC-H4100E | Ducky DK9008 Shine MX blue LED red | Ducky DK9008 Shine MX blue LED green | Link 900243-08 | CM QFR MX black | KeyCool 87 white MX reds | HHKB 2 Pro | Model M 02-Mar-1993 | Model M 29-Nov-1995 | CM Trigger (broken) | CM QFS MX green | Ducky DK9087 Shine 3 TKL Yellow Edition MX black | Lexmark SSK 21-Apr-1994 | IBM SSK 13-Oct-1987 | CODE TKL MX clear | Model M 122 01-Jun-1988

Ị̸͚̯̲́ͤ̃͑̇̑ͯ̊̂͟ͅs̞͚̩͉̝̪̲͗͊ͪ̽̚̚ ̭̦͖͕̑́͌ͬͩ͟t̷̻͔̙̑͟h̹̠̼͋ͤ͋i̤̜̣̦̱̫͈͔̞ͭ͑ͥ̌̔s̬͔͎̍̈ͥͫ̐̾ͣ̔̇͘ͅ ̩̘̼͆̐̕e̞̰͓̲̺̎͐̏ͬ̓̅̾͠͝ͅv̶̰͕̱̞̥̍ͣ̄̕e͕͙͖̬̜͓͎̤̊ͭ͐͝ṇ̰͎̱̤̟̭ͫ͌̌͢͠ͅ ̳̥̦ͮ̐ͤ̎̊ͣ͡͡n̤̜̙̺̪̒͜e̶̻̦̿ͮ̂̀c̝̘̝͖̠̖͐ͨͪ̈̐͌ͩ̀e̷̥͇̋ͦs̢̡̤ͤͤͯ͜s͈̠̉̑͘a̱͕̗͖̳̥̺ͬͦͧ͆̌̑͡r̶̟̖̈͘ỷ̮̦̩͙͔ͫ̾ͬ̔ͬͮ̌?̵̘͇͔͙ͥͪ͞ͅ

Offline VoteForDavid

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Thanks to the three of you.  Too bad the pics are gone from that thread :(

If (big IF) the holes are close to the right size, a hot square shaft could maybe be forced through to get the holes square.  i doubt that but it needs measurement.  Right now it looks like it might not be that much effort to make new mounting plates .  The plates in the MS board are not all that big.  A dremel jig is another idea but alignment could be tricky, and cutting fine corners would be HARD with a round bit.  Maybe a series of shavings with a chisel in a manual arbor press could be used to expand the holes?  In case y'all can't tell, I am hoping to figure this out as I go along.

As I type it occurs to me that if I am using plastic, i could go ahead and make a little lip around the outsides of the key holes for spill protection without too much additional hassle.  Have to be careful of key cap clearance though.

I'll have to do something for the media keys.  Maybe microswitches on baby circuit boards?  I don't see it being very likely that I can maintain the membranes for JUST those keys.
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Offline invariance

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Using this board at work and it is the closest thing to something reasonable that will be supplied for free in a workplace.
Even have the front 'riser' which clips on underneath below the board to give a negative tilt which I am really liking.
It was getting well worn, feeling scratchy and some of the legends rubbing off, so I stripped it down, sanded the letters off and lubed the stems.
Besides using too thick a grease (which is slowly breaking in and becoming easier to press) it has made a reasonable RD into a slightly better RD.  :)
Looking forward to see how you go with this project!

As you already have the switch mounting plate, could this be cut to fit?  What would it entail as you mention the MS plates are not that big?
Would be cool if there was any way to integrate the media keys.  Quite a challenge to see where they are incorporated into the matrix  though.  If possible, maybe even use FPC connectors to wire into the keyswitch matrix.  But if you don't really use them...........meh, leave them disconnected.

In one of your blogs you mentioned about the spacebar, which made me think one option could be to reduce it to a smaller key (2-3U?) or if you are likely to use the left thumb occasionally, then two separate smaller spacebars.  Would entail having to source the keycaps though.
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Offline VoteForDavid

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LOL I have hundreds of caps review the images in the OP!  The problem is which ones to use, and this is a good problem to have. 

The Chyron plates are metal, and would require some quality time with a Dremel which is not a problem.  The also have a regular arrangement of keys, which in some cases is a problem for the MS layout.  Then there would be either brazing or welding the plates together again if necessary, and that is one more thing to deal with.  I have some good flat fiberglass sheets that may be the right thickness to use for a mounting plate if I can't work the MS plates to fit the new switches.  I intend to keep the media keys God willing; I intend to grok this matrix and they are part of it.  Mounting a few microswitches will be much less of a problem for me than the Cherry key switches.  I might even be able to score some switches on circuit boards like from an old VCR or something, who knows?

Lunchtime progress report:

I cut the matrix apart and made decent pictures of the layers.  I'm working up a .psd file with layers of the layers, with different colors for the traces.  It might be useful to make a .gif that alternates between the individual layers and the composite, but that will have to wait.  This file should help to see exactly what switch goes to what without having to press "buttons" to figure out the matrix with a magnifier and multimeter.  This will take some time.

There are two keys in the matrix that must be for sum dang furriner layouts.  Three key switches under left shift and main enter, but only one of each of them used. 

I took most of the keys out and found (in addition to funky profiles on a few) that the Fn row has narrower key caps.  I took pictures as they came out, so I'll have an idea what MS was thinking when they laid out the caps.  Surprisingly the main Enter key was not stabilized.  Some of the stems are drastically different lengths, and some keys (especially left Shift) are curved (along the length of the key) to a surprising degree. There is the possibility that I will be doing some custom or modified key caps.  I am not specifically aiming to use the MS keys, but it would probably end up looking nicer if I did.  I'll have to scrounge some better keys if I go that route though, as this victim has some worn-off legends.       

I measured the holes for the keys on the MS plates.  From where the bevel angle begins off the back of the mounting plate, the regular key holes are pretty much exactly 0.55" diameter which is a magic number for Cherry MX lovers.  They are 3/4" on center and I will have to do some research to figure out if that is going to be adequate for my existing MX-compatible caps.  The big keys on the bottom row of the keyboard have funky larger square sized holes and square stems and will need some creativity to reuse if I go that route.  I will have to relocate and/or rework at least a few key holes anyway, as I have some plans for (slightly) modifying the layout to be revealed at a later time.  At least the cutouts for stabilizers on these plates are small which may make this a little easier.

In addition to the snaps on the top panel, there are yet more screws under the keys.  The silver border around the keyboard IS the mounting plate.  The black parts around the keys are a skeleton frame.  These could be painted to suit one's preference without too much trouble, and have a REALLY pleasant effect.
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Offline CPTBadAss

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I've been saying that a 4K with mechanical switches would be my ultimate office keyboard for a while. What actually drew me to the Cherry G80-5000 is my opinion that the keyboard is the closest thing to a 4K as I could find. I'm excited to see how this project turns out.

Also you work at an e-waste recycler and you're into keyboards???! Lucky!
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Offline heedpantsnow

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I've been saying that a 4K with mechanical switches would be my ultimate office keyboard for a while. What actually drew me to the Cherry G80-5000 is my opinion that the keyboard is the closest thing to a 4K as I could find. I'm excited to see how this project turns out.

Also you work at an e-waste recycler and you're into keyboards???! Lucky!

Yep. One of these days he'll start a thread entitled "So we got in a pallet of Kishsavers at work today..."
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Offline VoteForDavid

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I'm not so much into keyboards specifically as into having tools that suit my preference.  A membrane keyboard for a daily driver has finally gotten too old to ignore any longer (and yes, this is a good place to work at times like this).  I have a lot of custom stuff I made because it suits me.  My desk chair is based on a coil spring from a truck suspension, my bench has just-so lighting and drapery for photography, the vents on my laptop are modified oversize.  Heck even my oscilloscope sits at a useful-but-ugly angle. 

People shake their heads, but then they go back to their bog-standard equipment and don't even realize they are suffering :D

meanwhile...

I spent two and a half or so more hours working out the traces in the matrix.  The bottom is simple enough, a single layer.  The top layer is double-sided.  The top of the top is all one common trace and does not connect to anything but the USB shield ground.  I guess this is for RFI shielding, which makes sense as a lot of the traces are good lengths for radio antennae.  The bottom of the top is a whole 'nother set of traces, and it connects to one of the connectors for the bottom layer.  The contacts for HALF of the bottom sheet of the matrix seem to directly overlay and touch the contacts for the top half.  I'm not sure why they did this, but it makes figuring out the matrix harder.  I've scraped off the shield layer on the top of the top sheet and combined a picture of *just* the key switch traces into my .psd file which is several tens of megabytes for the time being.

Someone is wondering why I don't just use a standalone controller and wire up a normal matrix of switches.  I would spend as long figuring that out as I will figuring out this matrix, and then I'd still have to buy (or scrounge) and impliment the controller.  The next person who has this (specific revision) MS4K keyboard will in theory be able to look at what I've done and do the same.  Pro bono publico!

ETA: I'd never heard of a Kishsaver but it looks like a nice alternative to a standard scissors-and-membrane laptop keyboard.  It also looks loud and I've selected my laptop keyboard for quietness out of consideration for a wife who falls asleep while *some of us* are still up and doing.  We do occasionally get in some old clicky IBMs, but they generally are worth the effort to resell (so they are resold).
« Last Edit: Wed, 25 March 2015, 19:50:08 by VoteForDavid »
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Offline Zustiur

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The top of the top is all one common trace and does not connect to anything but the USB shield ground.  I guess this is for RFI shielding, which makes sense as a lot of the traces are good lengths for radio antennae. 

That seems likely. They do make a wireless version, so they're probably using a lot of the same PCBs for both boards. There's a good chance you'll find some traces that head off to where the batteries would be stored also.

Offline VoteForDavid

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With a solder sucker in need of lubrication, it took two hours to depopulate one of the larger keyboards of all its switches.  These things need washing!  A decade or so of studio use left some debris under the mounting plate.

Another couple of hours tracing out the matrix.  My image is 3000 pixels wide, and I'm using 1 pixel wide brushes to separate the traces, it's crazy.

The spacing of the microsoft keys is highly variable; it will take mocking-up a BUNCH of switches with caps on them to be able to tell if the spacing will allow using MX-compatible keys.  I am not really against the idea of modifying the stems of the MS caps to fit MX switches, but it would be a lot of work.  It would probably look better in the end if I did.
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Offline berserkfan

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MY jaw dropped, fell onto the floor and started burrowing underground.

That said, why don't you look at Kurplop's Alumaplop keyboard thread? I think the two of you are very similar in terms of capabilities, and you might find it worthwhile to incorporate a mouse while you're at it.

https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=67467.0
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Offline Dihedral

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The switches look kinda grotty, are they still smooth?

Offline VoteForDavid

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I looked through the Alumaplop thread with some interest.  It is a road too far for me to machine away 9+lbs of aluminum (and my machinist friend was rightly shocked as well! ) but his keyboard looks nice.  I have toyed with the idea of integrating a pointing device of some kind, but that remains to be seen.  I kinda like IBM/Lenovo's little baby joysticks on their laptops, and I have seen those available as standalone modules.  I also like a well-done Alps touchpad.  There is probably room between the banks of keys for *something* especially if I go for a split space bar.  ...But I've been using Kensington Expert Mouse series trackballs for longer than I've owned computers and that's a good long time now.  It's not on the front burner to integrate a pointing device, but it's not off the list (yet) either.  Thanks for the suggestion!

The switches aren't as grotty as the mounting plates!  The switch actuation feel is somewhat variable but none of them want to make me throw a switch across the room.  None of them are buttery smooth but probably none have ever been lubricated.  They all need to come apart for cleaning because there is bound to be some debris inside from all those years of use, especially as dirty as the rest of the keyboard is.  That works for me, because they also are probably going to get a spring swap to "ergo clear" if I can lay hands on some springs.  I'd also like to have a look at them up close for a microscopic inspection (various microscopes are available at my work).  There are enough switches here to be able to be choosy and reject any that have any obviously-bad aspects at all to them.  I am probably already going to reject a few bases for having corrosion on the pins from (?) spilled soda or whatever.

Amusingly: there is one key on both of the boards that had a stopper and was possibly never actuated.  I'm not sure if they're good or bad, but it's different.

Another 2ish hours in Photoshop dealing with the traces on the switch matrix sheets.  The top is done and ready to be worked with to find out what switches connect to where, but the bottom is only maybe 1/4 done.  I would have done some side-by-side mounting plate comparisons during the day but I spent pretty much all day working on a J&L 30" optical comparator - a 1985 version of this:  http://www.jlmetrology.com/remanufacturedproducts/29.html which is pretty amazing stuff to play around with.
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Offline VoteForDavid

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Pictures of various parts of the Microsoft keyboard, disassembled, with comments, below the jump!

More
The key caps on most of the board, except the media keys and the two central plates.  Note the different profiles including the waved tops.  The keys slope up on the bottom row, down for the next two rows, then up again, then flat on top.  A few have different stem lengths to keep the curves smooth across the board.



This is one of the tilted central plates, held upside-down so the caps drooped, and then inverted in Photoshop. 
Note the multiple curved edges on the N key
And the P key with different angle on the sides/different widths from top to bottom of the cap
I am not sure how problematic this will be when it comes time to put caps on my Cherry switches.  I think at best there will be funky gaps with normal square-edged caps.  At worst it will not work at all and the caps will crash into each other.



The media and other top row key caps plus the back and forward buttons.  These have dramatically different stem lengths and angles to meet a curved top plate from a flat switch matrix membrane.  They look like they should push straight down fairly reliably no matter what's under them, and microswitches are my first choice.  I may have to modify the ends of these caps to actuate whatever switches I use.  We'll see.



The top of the Top Cabinet.  If you wanted to change the color of the silver trim on the Microsoft keyboard, this is the thing to paint.



The bottom of the top cabinet.  Also, see the tiny holes for stabilizers on long keys.  I don't think these line up properly to use a Cherry stabilizer but it remains to be seen.



It's married to the top cover with more screws.  They work of course but I am surprised to see so many screws in a keyboard.



The Top Cover.  This is where you're looking to mount any custom pointing devices. It's nice in a way because you can work with this separate from the key mounting plates . . . and it's not so nice also because of how far you have to break down the keyboard to get this out.  Because the Microsoft F row keys are so skinny, this may have to be modified to accept Cherry MX-compatible caps.  I hope I don't also have to modify the Top Cabinet much (if at all) to fit standard sized F row caps.



Now for some possibly-good news: the majority of the key mounting holes are well and truly a good diameter to modify for a Cherry MX: 0.551"!  Make it square and you're most of the way there!  There is also the matter of plate thickness, which is hard to measure at this point.  It would be a blessing to find it 1.5mm thick exactly but this remains to be seen.  The holes for larger switches are substantially larger in one direction; whether they are also usable also remains to be seen



...to be continued...
« Last Edit: Mon, 11 November 2019, 14:04:45 by VoteForDavid »
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Offline Dihedral

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I think youre going to have a hell of a time modifying those plates - might be best to consider just getting plates made.

Offline VoteForDavid

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The spirit of this project is such that there will be no "getting" things made if it can be avoided.  I have noted that some of the holes in the MS plates are awfully close to the edges in the middle of the board, but the tenkey and arrows look positively usable.  I'm thinking some back-of-the-mind thoughts about some thin flat sheets of fiberglass in the garage for making up custom plates.  Some head-scratching was done and it looks like the way to make mounting holes in the MS mounting plates might be a DIY square broach.  I'd like to be able to use a square mortising drill bit but a) I don't have one and b) 14mm doesn't seem like a common size for those.  There's also the idea of a punch/die set, but it would suck to get one all made up and then find out it cracks the plastic!

In an amusing twist of irony, working so much on the circuitry images has given me a warm fuzzy feeling inside - inside my wrist!  Working on my anti-RSI project has led to RSI!  SOMEBODY must be doing this wrong :(  Instead of hours in photoshop, I did some comparisons of the physical parts and other stuff and will probably be working on either the physical parts of this project or some other less computer-intensive projects for a while until my wrist is all the way calmed down.   

As the four buttons over the tenkey area are to be unused in my design, I think I will be safe using their mounting plate areas for experimenting with hole-making for mounting Cherry switches.

I did a quick 'shop of the layout and I think I like this:



areas highlighted in green are changed.  The original layout, for reference:
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I have access to a bunch of old lenovo laptops and I think I like the idea of integrating the trackpoint from one of them.  It would be cool to have left and right click buttons also, for full mousing operations from the middle of the keyboard.  I'm right handed so an offset of the trackpoint to the right would be nice.  It might be cool to have a scroll WHEEL in the keyboard too;  I'll have to think about that a bit.

This starts to raise problems with cabling.  The keyboard has a USB cable.  The trackpoint hopefully will have cable, so there's two.  If I can't get a trackpoint that lets me connect buttons to it, then the buttons will likely come from a scavenged mouse for simplicity's sake so three cables.  A scroll wheel could probably be from that same mouse, so still "only" three.  I don't mind this number of cables, and a braided cable could even be made attractive - but some people will have problems with all these cables coming out of one device.  A USB hub that's small enough could be rigged up to fit inside the keyboard, but you either still have two cables, or you have a keyboard that may not wake up fast enough to be useful for pressing buttons for menus during computer POST and boot.  This is broken IMO so I think I'd like to have the keyboard remain "just" a keyboard on its own cable.

I've put about 17 19 man hours on this project so far, and it's all R&D.  JUST the key switches are going to be 400+ solder joints, plus cable work.  Once I figure out what to do for mounting plates, it's going to be several hours making mounting plates.  This is going to take ... a while.

ETA: yes, cables.  I can hardly stand the thought of wireless input devices for all day every day use.  And yes, permanent cables.  I've worked on enough electronics to know that good cables fail less often than connectors.  Especially small, scavenged connectors! :)

Edit 2: 2 hours more down the rabbit hole, and I think I have a pinout for a scavenged Lenovo Trackpoint.  Just now, it's PS/2 from an old laptop keyboard.  It would be nice to have a modern version with USB support built right in but we're still right at $0 so far.  If I can get a PS/2 cable installed on this trackpoint module and talking to a computer through a USB converter, that will be good enough.  If money were no object I'd go buy a "Thinkpad USB Keyboard with Trackpoint" and hack that up.  That will have to wait until I've got a preorder for a $600 keyboard from some GH member with more money than time for this sort of thing.  That, of course, will have to wait until I can get the prototype working  ;)
« Last Edit: Mon, 11 November 2019, 14:07:12 by VoteForDavid »
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Offline VoteForDavid

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(partial)VICTORY!  I got one of my scrap trackpoints pointing over PS/2 bus to a PC.  Then I scrounged up an active PS/2 to USB converter, and it tracks like normal over USB!  I want to figure out how to get switches going with this trackpoint, and then comes mounting which is a whole 'nuther set of challenges.  Of course when I broke into the converter it used the same wire colors for different purposes, but wire colors are arbitrary anyway and don't really matter I guess.

Pictures of the trackpoint board and the wiring:
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Top:


Bottom:


Bare bottom:


Wiring for a PS/2 connector.  Note this is the male end of the connector, as I was using a keyboard PS/2 cable.  PS/2 pinouts are all over the internet.  Pinout for this board is...not.  The "reset" pin is at the bottom of the PCB in the pictures.  The top three pins are not labeled on my Boogie Board (which is awesome BTW) but they are for connecting up to three external switches.  The wire colors labeled below match the keyboard cable I was using, and don't match the (same) color cables currently connected from the PS/2-USB converter, so :shrug: sorry there are no pictures of wiring.  It's pretty jerry-rigged right now and the wiring for switches isn't done, so ... maybe later on wiring pictures for this part.


This trackpoint came from a defunct Lenovo laptop keyboard, and this is the label that was on the keyboard
https://i.imgur.com/iTF7fE6.jpg

Trackpoint credits:  This is a road less traveled, but I think solid documentation in more and more places will help those who come after.
https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=55960.0
http://jpad.wikispaces.com/Making+a+Nugget
http://deskthority.net/workshop-f7/my-diy-keyboard-collection-or-how-i-became-a-kb-geek-t2534-30.html

I did a LOT of reading up on this and looking at different laptop keyboards to find a trackpoint to which I could find a pinout.  This one in particular has connections for up to three buttons and I hope to integrate at least two of those near the trackpoint.  If it's over a USB converter, the driver functions will be lost which sucks a bit but at least I hope to be trackpointing on it.  I'm really happy to be able to use a Lenovo trackpoint, as they are reputed to have the best feel and action.  It would be REALLY cool if I can sort out how to program the trackpoint to scroll in both directions; that's supposed to be in the firmware somewhere.

It looks like I'll be able to reuse the arrow and tenkey portions of the Chyron PCBs, which is nice.  The rest of the board only lines up partially, at best.  I should be able to get the switches to mount well in these two areas, but it will require some crappy custom drilling on a minority of the keys.  The MS tenkey area has odd-shaped keys on the right side and a large-radius curve on the bottom left.  I'll have to add some plastic to the frame and remove some from the zero key cap if I don't reuse the MS keys.  There is a height difference with the Cherry switches and caps to consider, and I am not sure if it will increase the height of the overall board, or have the Cherry caps sticking out too far from the frame of the board (which would be not-okay for me).  Low profile MX key caps would maybe be nice.  There are a couple of screw bosses in the tenkey area and the arrow key area (and probably others elsewhere) that will be problematic and probably will be cut.  This sucks; I'd like to keep as many fasteners in there as possible for rigidity.

Here's some "More" to keep the length of the page reasonable - Tenkey and arrow key areas, side profile and a couple MS/Chyron alignment comparisons
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Tenkey area with random keys for an idea of relative position


Arrow key area:


Side profile:


Partial alignment of holes for MS and Chyron keys for one of the side angle plates


...and the flat main-chassis plate key holes, which are much less regularly-spaced than the central plates:


I found these two threads by Lanx copied on the wayback machine, which is cool because the pictures are mostly there but disappeared from here because of %reason%. 
http://web.archive.org/web/20141118180436/https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=10510.0
http://web.archive.org/web/20140703132149/https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=12439.0

I hope my finished product comes out better looking than his second attempt.  That's not a knock on Lanx's mod but I have to look at this all day so I want it to be pretty or at least unobtrusive.

20 hours and counting...

It has only just occurred to me that this is a pretty rare amount of effort for a keyboard modification.  Some people will get as far as changing caps or even soldering and assembling a DIY keyboard kit, but this amount of stuff to do is intimidating to you.  Let me say this with authority: We all start off with zero knowledge and zero skills.  Even the masters* had to learn basics before moving on to intermediate skills.  If you want to be able to do high-level work, you can.  Most of the knowledge for common mods has already been gathered for you, and a lot of work has been done for you.  GH is a great place to learn and Google is also your friend if you want to do custom mods.  The limiting factor is *you*.  If you start and screw it up, you don't have to tell the community about it, but we will learn from your mistakes if you do.  If you start and you get it close or even nail it first try, you will find a surprising level of encouragement here and elsewhere online.  Don't let your FUD stop you!  Or as the old saying goes, "Take no counsel of thy fears".  Worst case you're are only out some money.  Everyone makes mistakes and even occasionally fails royally.  Everyone, except those who never began the work because they didn't think they could succeed - those have failed already.

 

*not referring to myself here, just saying!
« Last Edit: Mon, 11 November 2019, 14:14:29 by VoteForDavid »
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Offline CPTBadAss

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Really enjoying this build log so far. Thanks for sharing so many details :).

It has only just occurred to me that this is a pretty rare amount of effort for a keyboard modification.  Some people will get as far as changing caps or even soldering and assembling a DIY keyboard kit, but this amount of stuff to do is intimidating to you.  Let me say this with authority: We all start off with zero knowledge and zero skills.  Even the masters* had to learn basics before moving on to intermediate skills.  If you want to be able to do high-level work, you can.  Most of the knowledge for common mods has already been gathered for you, and a lot of work has been done for you.  GH is a great place to learn and Google is also your friend if you want to do custom mods.  The limiting factor is *you*.  If you start and screw it up, you don't have to tell the community about it, but we will learn from your mistakes if you do.  If you start and you get it close or even nail it first try, you will find a surprising level of encouragement here and elsewhere online.  Don't let your FUD stop you!  Or as the old saying goes, "Take no counsel of thy fears".  Worst case you're are only out some money.  Everyone makes mistakes and even occasionally fails royally.  Everyone, except those who never began the work because they didn't think they could succeed - those have failed already.

 

*not referring to myself here, just saying!

100% agreed with this part :).

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Offline VoteForDavid

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I like it when other people show lots of details and it's a bit of Golden Rule action on my part.  Also, this is pretty much the only place all my notes are going to be together, in order, with pictures - so it's kinda for me as well.

It looks like, without cutting the circuit board, the trackpoint is going to have the nub about where the current zoom control pokes out.  That's ok I guess.  I may dress up the area by shaping the plastic into a little cup around the nub.  I will also have to do some modification to the frame of the keyboard to mount this, but it's all in places that are hidden so I can ugly it up a bit if necessary.



Notes about trackpoint mounting angle:
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I'm not sure what to do with the trackpoint assembly just yet.  I am assuming I'll figure it out somewhere down the road.  The board has big components on one end and little components on the other.  This means it sits at an angle relative to the top of the keyboard, which is also at angles relative to everything else.  I don't know if there is a "better" angle.  The manufacturers who use trackpoints tend to make them flush with the top of the keys or just a little higher, but then they usually have to consider "don't smash the LCD" as a major design point.  I don't.  I can make my nub flush with the plastic of the keyboard as just a tacky spot for my finger to touch (hold the jokes, please) or I can make it maybe as high as flush with the keycaps.  Probably it will be somewhere in between.  Possibly at an angle.  I dunno.  Maybe I will find a way to experiment with this.  Maybe I will find one of the 'cat's tongue' texture round tops and the angle will be a moot point.  This is just one of those minor crises that comes along when you start out on a project without a 100% definite Plan to work off of.  Oh well.

Have I missed something?  Is it better proud, or recessed/shrouded? Is it better (or good enough) half-exposed?


A wider PCB for the trackpoint by even a millimeter or so would require some fancy fabrication but this one is exactly as wide as it can be without considerably cutting up the top of the keyboard panels or the PCB.  Some other Lenovo trackpoint PCBs are too wide, as are the HP ProBook trackpoints I have seen.  Dell trackpoints have no conjoined PCB and the electronics for the pointer seem to be on the motherboard somewhere.

The pointer switches could be be tricky.  I did some experimentation and comparing dimensions for alternate switch mounting locations and a few switch types, and usable options are limited.  The middle keyboard mounting plates are secured to the underside of the bridge just "North" of where the zoom control lives, and it's an important structural area for putting the keyboard together right.  It's either external switches there (inelegant) or internal switches somewhere else.  Seeing as I HATE the back and forward keys*, and seeing they fall right under the tip of a thumb, it makes sense to me to cut the traces on the existing controller PCB and repurpose those two switches as right and left click buttons for the trackpoint.

This could, of course, possibly be done with a custom key map - but I want this to be a (relatively) plug-and-play affair.  No custom programming of the keyboard controller (if it even can be done) and no custom programs on the computer so the keyboard can be taken to a different computer and still work properly.  The Microsoft software that tries to install when you plug in this keyboard (via an optional Windows Update) may allow some key mapping to be done; I don't know, I never used the software.  The only thing that program ever did for me was bring up unwanted webpages or programs when I accidentally hit the web/search/mail buttons when I missed the Escape key.

If someone wants to implement a middle click button (linux users come to mind) I guess the easiest place would be to slip a switch under the My Favorites button if you don't want to use it for your Bookmarks.  There are really no simple options for extra switch placement near the home row that aren't already taken or have stuff behind them.  I think I'll do this and if I never need a third mouse button it won't hurt anything.  If it ends up being in the way, I could always go back in and cut the wires.  A $$$ production version should have a jumper or DIP switch setting for this.  Proof-of-concept items get "maybe I'll cut the wire later" haha.

As I typed out the notes for this update, the inconsistency of the Microsoft keyboard was slowing me down, again.  I have GOT to get this project done.

This is how the trackpoint looks right now, by the way:
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Inset is the model of the converter.  The converter is potted in solid, or else it'd be smaller but at least I got the plastic case cut off.  I'll pretty this up a bit before I'm done, and probably cut off the Keyboard input cable.


 
I chucked up a bull-nosed end mill bit in a vertical press and took off most of the mounting bosses from the button mounting plates.  This resulted in about a liter of ABS shavings and dust when I swept up!  Fortunately, even on a slow speed, the (sharp!) mill was able to work fast enough to prevent melting the plastic.  It didn't stink up the place or send scalding drops flying at me.  Unfortunately it went a little past where I wanted to go on a couple of spots, and the rest still need minor clean-up with a dremel or something.  I'm not sure I'm even going to use these mounting plates though, so my feelings aren't too hurt.

Gratuitous picture of half-done milled plates:
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I'm considering more layout changes. I could add a duplicate backspace key where MS put a (useless!) BACK key over the tenkey.  Maybe instead of a large delete key, a duplicate Enter key over the Delete or in place of the FLock key (the two Enter keys do different things in Photoshop)


22 hours


* my work uses custom web-based software and the back/forward buttons under the space bar navigate away from the page in use, deleting all the data that have been input.  These buttons are occasionally pressed by accident and losing a half-hours' work is a pisser, so I pull the back and forward buttons off all my MS4K keyboards immediately upon putting them into service.
« Last Edit: Fri, 15 November 2019, 13:12:50 by VoteForDavid »
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Offline jacobolus

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Wow, great project!

Canít wait to see how it turns out!

Offline VoteForDavid

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You and me, both!  It is looking increasingly possible as I go along.

I did some research and it looks like a DIY square broach is the way to go for consistently producing the key mounting holes in the MS plates.  If I want to make the itty bitty side notches in the mounting holes (for switch modifiability), I have a machinist who can make up a little broach/punch for that.  It looks like the main plate may be usable, or at least partially usable.  It's about 2mm thick, which is too much for the switches to snap into but not as thick as some custom boards you see on GH.
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Somebody lost the battery cover on my mic!  A screw and a piece of tape, it still works and that's all I ask.
It is theoretically possible to reduce the plate thickness to 1.5mm, but that seems like it could be touchy because there are protrusions on both sides that would make fixturing and/or milling difficult.

I cut one of the holes in my mount-testing area and put a switch in it.  The installed height of the keycap is approximately the same as the height of the Microsoft keys, which is a huge win (thank you Jesus!). 



The stem of the MX switch just baaaarely peeks over the side of the frame when viewing the frame end-on.
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The depressed height of the key is still comfortably out of the frame.
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  I think this could work.  I used an xacto knife to carve out the hole for this test.  I was a little worried about the potential for the knife to slip and cut the [deleted] out of me, but the surrounding plastic tends to be relatively thick compared to the round bezeled area for each keywell and this prevented knife slippage somewhat.  I just took care to keep the blade well into the hole and it didnít slip out much at all.  I clamped the metal Chyron frame over the MS frame (for a square hole template) and scored the rough outline of the hole, then removed the Chyron plate and just freehanded the cutting.   It didnít take all that long, and alignment is what you make of it when doing things like this.  I did learn that when the hole is too narrow, the switch body will squeeze the key stem and the stem will bind up instead of rebounding.  I don't know why but that surprised me a little.  It fit and worked fine after just a little shave more from the sides of the hole.

I guess I could do them all by hand and then not have to pay $15 for a piece of square steel stock to make a broach.  Heck, working at this place, I might FIND a piece of 14mm square stock.

Test-tapping was a foretaste of good things to come.  The keypress on the MS keyboard is very much like the press on the MX clear, but where the MS bottoms out and squishes, the Cherry just goes clack and stops.  Better than that, it has already actuated, reliably, hopefully, and I donít have to smash down EVERY SINGLE KEY PRESS.  WHEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeee!
« Last Edit: Fri, 15 November 2019, 13:15:35 by VoteForDavid »
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Offline VoteForDavid

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Ok, this has officially cost me money now.  I just paid the invoice from Sprit for a set of 62g gold plated springs.   :thumb:  I'll get some lube later, when it gets closer to time to do some per-switch work.

The day after I mention itÖ

I found a slab of FRP that is hard enough to cut ABS when sharp, and soft enough to work with hand tools.  I could cut that into a broach, but I kinda wonder how long it would stay sharp  A metal tool would probably stay sharp approximately forever, cutting through 2mm plastic.  Then again, it is rather cathartic, carving out the squares for key holes.  I carved out a few more mounting holes by hand to see how long it would take.  It took about six minutes per switch location and it was very relaxing.  If youíve ever done crochet/knitting/needlepoint or reloaded ammunition, you may have an idea of the relaxed concentration I got from this.  Still, at that rate it's 10 hours of carving.  Versus a few seconds each with a broach?  I think I'll try to make a broach, and hand-carve a few holes at a time, until I get the broach done.

I realized that working for long hours on my laptop's touchpad is what caused my CTS to flare up.  Figuring out how to make a USB trackpoint was inspirational - now I want to put one in my laptop as well.  It looks like there's room, but I think that's for a separate thread.

Expect little to no progress reports this weekend - happy resurrection day, everyone!
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Offline infiniti

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I miss my ergo 4000...but its breakdown is what led me to the path of mechanical keyboards!

Amazing project you have here! :thumb:

Offline VoteForDavid

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Re: DK1 Build Thread
« Reply #29 on: Mon, 06 April 2015, 20:30:23 »
Mondays are sometimes Ö not optimal for me.  About all the hobbying I managed to do was to start shaping my broach.  I was using a BIG, SHARP rasp and only had to slip and chew up my fingers twice before I thought to put on gloves.  Then I remembered the end mill I used on the keyboard frame is also sharp on the sides.  Thatís going to be the ticket for this job.  I used the rasp to get overall width close, then went to the mill for shaping the profile.  It seems like this stuff is at least as hard as aluminum, which is a good sign for the potential durability of the finished tool.

Anyway, it looks like a taper from a ~9mm circle to a 14mm square (with cuts all around) is what Iím after for my broach.  The material I found turns out to be 13.6mm thick.  This is actually a good thing, as the switch I measured actually has a 13.8mm square flange.  13.6mm in one dimension allows for minor rotation correction per hole without resorting to welding up the plastic.

...and now my DW wants me to build her a keyboard too.  Fortunately, I didn't demolish both the Chyron keyboards and she authorized a non-standard layout that will allow me to use the Chyron PCB *and* mounting plates, and I'll just have to come up with a case and a controller.  Double-plus good head start news is that I still have an intact, hopefully-identical PCB with no switches on it, to trace out the matrix.  God willing it will have something like a normal circuit and I can just slap a controller and case on there and call it good.  That will be for its own thread, though, and after this board is completed.

I think I'm at around 24 hours into this build and it's STILL almost exclusively research and design.  If I can get the fabrication done without (further) injury and stay out of the Emergency Room it could still be $0 total yet, which is *very* cool.  (no I'm not counting the springs I bought in that $0, because those are optional! )
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Offline VoteForDavid

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More work on the hopefully-will-be-a-working-broach.  This is unglamorous.  The tool currently looks like a stick.  TIA.
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Offline VoteForDavid

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Re: Broaching the Subject
« Reply #31 on: Wed, 08 April 2015, 21:12:11 »
I pulled the switches out of the second of the two smaller boards.  I managed to remember to squeeze them top-and-bottom instead of on the sides, but only after pulling out and mangling the clips on half the switches.  If I'd paid for these I'd really be kicking myself for this, but ...

There's nothing like having one of these open on your bench to help understand just how a switch works.  I opened one and learned from it.  That was cool.

Also, I put in just a little time on my hopefully-will-work broach.  I cut one tooth in one spot and rubbed it against a random section of the frame of the MS keyboard.  It took a teensy tiny shaving.  That is to say, it worked!  The teeth are going to have to be deeper than I thought they might, but that's ok.  I did some maths and I think each tooth on the broach will need to cut 1/2mm deep.  That might be too much.  I won't know until I get more of the broach done.

A barely-shaped DIY broach, with one baby plastic shaving on one baby tooth:
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...25 hours in.  My boss who gave me these parts, asked if I were done yet.  I told him I'm over 20 hours in and not even close, we laughed at me some more.
« Last Edit: Fri, 15 November 2019, 13:18:40 by VoteForDavid »
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Offline VoteForDavid

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The broach is formed and I had time to begin cutting a couple of teeth.  One of them is a bit longer than the others ;)  I was going to use a mill for this but it ended up being easier and far less dangerous to use a sharp hand file.  Not for the first time I wished I had a lathe at this location, but hand tools are getting it done so far.  I want to cut these teeth deeper, but I ran out of lunch hour as usual.



It takes more force than I thought to broach through the plastic.  I think I could do it by hand, but for ease of use on 100+ holes I may try to come up with a press.
« Last Edit: Fri, 15 November 2019, 13:20:06 by VoteForDavid »
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Offline Niomosy

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Ahhh.  The keyboard I so want Microsoft (or anyone) to put into production.  Good luck on the project. 

Offline VoteForDavid

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Thanks!  Hopefully I can figure out a way to make it that doesn't take 10 hours per board.

...which goal has had a setback :(



I guess 2mm ABS isn't strong enough to stand up to me jamming a broach through it like this.  The alternative may be a punch press, but I'm not getting one set up.  There is too great a variety of protuberances on the plate to be able to use a flat die on either side.  I am back to totally new plates or carving out these holes one at a time.  It will maybe take only a couple of minutes each, if I dremel out most of the hole and only xacto out the final shapes.  That takes mechanical construction time from 600+ to only 200+ minutes.  That's a lot faster, yes, but at that rate it begins to make sense to use the Plate Builder.

So I use the Plate Builder and nail the layout first try, then I'd just have to find someone who will make the plates with all the screw bosses on the back side, and all the reinforcement ridges etc. that poke out all over the place.  It makes sense to have the plates 3D printed.  Depending on the printer I'd STILL have to touch every hole for final fitment.  And then the model turns out to have one key out of position by a couple of millimeters and the stabilizers flipped on one key.

I think it makes sense to do this by hand.  I've got to find a faster way to do it by hand.  An artist may suffer for his art, but this looks like it could be just plain tedious! :-\
« Last Edit: Fri, 15 November 2019, 13:21:20 by VoteForDavid »
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Offline VoteForDavid

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Change of Direction
« Reply #35 on: Mon, 13 April 2015, 22:35:56 »
Ok enough with the dead-end DIY broach.  Iíve gone back (for the lack of better ideas) to manual hole shaping.  And run into a pretty serious snag.  And arrived at a meaningful revelation.

It's time to revisit my M.O. because the more I think about it, the more I realize that keeping the MS key mounting plates is not practical, and I think I can do better for myself.  I want to fit this keyboard to my own hands.  The universal appeal of the keyboard will suffer, because a board laid out to suit me wonít be perfect for the next user.  Mass-produced parts are exercises in compromise, and I think I may be ready to stop compromising on the tool I use most, all day every day.  MS put some keys too large and there are some keys offset wrong for me.

I overlaid a populatd MS4K keyboard with where my fingers naturally fall on the plane of the key caps.  The minor quibbles I had with Microsoft's layout decisions fairly leap off the paper at me.  Yes I missed one spot on the left side; you still get the idea.


 
Some now-moot ideas on using the MS plates to mount switches:
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The tenkey is super simple aside from cut-outs for stabilizers.  The central plates should be similarly easy.  But.  The combination of angled key caps and various-length stems allows Microsoft to make truly compound curves on the main keyboard.  MX switches are all the same height, and the key caps are all straight right angles relative to their stems.  To use the flat plates would result in two angled sets of keys on each side.  This is not the goal.  The next step is to modify the MS plates so the keys are sitting at appropriate angles and distances relative to the top of the keyboard.  At that point, it's stupid to not be using fresh sheets of ABS for this.

The command buttons on the bottom row would present a hefty challenge.  They sit at angles, and they are at various depths from the top of the frame.  Iíd have to MAKE some custom ABS pieces to mount these at the right height and angles.  Iíd have to figure out how to make these parts, and how to make them as rigid as the rest of the board.    The keys in the transition between the angled plates and the flat base are also different heights, which is accomplished with differing stem lengths.  And keys with angled caps on MX switches would need custom angled stems, or angled mounts which could cause caps to crash into their neighbors.

The space bar also has a HUGE amount of curvature to it.  To retain the space bar and use Cherry space bar stabilizers Iíd have to move some Cherry stems onto the Microsoft space bar, which will be challenging to get right with nothing to set it on.  I guess Iíd have to measure and make a guesstimate for the mounting heights, then mount the switch and stabilizer pieces at the appropriate height with educated guesswork, THEN try to get the bar glued up straight to MX-compatible stems.  The alternative is to use a splitspacebar, and the MS bar already has most of the curves required Ė maybe I could cut it up.  I might be able to put a couple of stabilized switches  (one on each side) and cut the space bar right down the middle and use that for custom MX-stabilizer-fitted key caps.  I notice that my keyboard has one big shiny spot on the right side of the space bar.  My thumbs donít even really venture out into the middle or outside edges of the space bar; itís like itís just that big on there for decoration or traditionís sake.  The space bars could be much smaller.  Real-estate could be freed up for a scroll wheel or more buttons or whatever.

Yellow is where the flat plates sit now.  Green is where they would need to be.

]
 
The whole bottom row, in fact, is fitted with caps that are kinda stupidly-large.  I can see using regular sized keys all the way across.  The space keys could be fitted farther away from the rest and at odd angles, because my thumb prints are only in a couple of spots.  Using regular keys means doing "something" to fill in the void spaces where there used to be 2x-sized keys, but that is minor compared to the mounting angles just now.

 
Laying out the switch cutouts to show myself where to cut the far-right side of the board is easy enough.  The tenkey was super easy.  Overlay the tenkey area from the Chyron keyboard and lay in with a scalpel.  Done-ish.  Just go cut them out!



The plan is changed for the main keys.  The guts are cut out to a consistent height around the edges, and flat plates will be bent and glued to these at about the same distance from the top of the frame as the mounting plates in the tenkey and arrows areas.  Mounting holes will be cut, keys will be mounted.  You're welcome - if you are planning to try this mod yourself, I just saved you 20 hours of head-scratching! :D



During the laying out of my fingerprints on the keys, I noticed that this keyboard is WAY asymmetrical.  I also noticed that my right hand tends to splay a little more than the left "naturally" and the left tends to bunch up more than the right - on my LAPTOP keyboard which is a typical flat/straight affair.  For the most part, I have to give them credit: Microsoft *really* hit a home run on the layout for the 4000/7000 keyboards.

...28 hours in...
« Last Edit: Fri, 15 November 2019, 13:25:09 by VoteForDavid »
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Offline Dihedral

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Is it worth gluing in some enablers and then fixing the switches to them?

Offline VoteForDavid

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Enablers are a great idea and may yet be required, but they would be several tens of thousands of percent higher cost than the rest of this project to date ;)  Thanks for mentioning them.

At last, I think I have found a definite direction.  For the switch mounting plates, for prototyping locations in a custom layout quickly: slots.  Establish the locations of the rows of keys, and cut slots of the appropriate width along the entire length of the row.  Switches can be slid from side to side.  If a switch is slightly out of position to suit my hands, it can be moved along the slot. 

I went and traced out the layout again with finger spots for all the keys this time.  Just tapping on paper with the keys laid out in the "proper" spots has me more eager than ever to get this board done.  I've also got cardboard nearly cut to fit and some ABS to cut into mounting plates once I get some good cardboard templates.  A bit of rotary tack-welding and I'll try to lay out the slots in the frame.  I think a hot knife (ground-thin soldering iron tip) may be the tool for getting most of the slots cut out, and a dremel for the final cuts.

Special Capitalism Bonus: *if* someone wanted to start selling these keyboards (or ANY custom-per-order layout), it would be possible to send a customer a slotted switch location mock-up plate or plates mounted in a frame without electronics, and have the customer figure out where to place key switches.  Charge a deposit on the plates to help ensure they come back.  Send instructions on spacing, and have the customer send the plates back with desired switch mounting locations marked out, or with switches installed by the customer in the preferred location.   Maybe send the switches and caps to the customer and charge a deposit for them too.  Making custom keyboards, with each set of mounting plates suited to the customer - that would be very slick!

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Offline jacobolus

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The enabler is a total waste. It doesnít save money, it doesnít save effort, it doesnít save space, it doesnít improve structural integrity, .... I honestly donít understand why anyone would ever use them for any purpose.

Offline VoteForDavid

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Ok forget the slotted plates idea for this project.  My fingers want wavy rows of keys and by golly they are going to get it.  I need to figure out how to get a location marked without moving the cap, but I think the way is to lay it out on paper literally- with key caps on paper and marking around the caps.

I did a bit more cutting, and there is more to do.  If I left the escape key support in place, I would have a very strong escape key, but no room for the rest of the F row.  Combine this cut and the leaving-out of the FLock key, and there is room in the F row to have proper spaces after F4 and F8.  Cutting the bar that made the F row narrow, and going to normal sized bottom row keys, are enough to be able to fit standard sized F row keys and still have some slack on interrow spacing.



The widths of the outside function keys (tab/shift/enter/backspace etc) are going to be much, much smaller.  Some of them nearly normal-sized.  I don't know where I'll come up with the caps, but that's a problem for Future David.

The ABS I thought to use is pretty old, and it was cracking like nobody's business when I tried to cut it.  Time to find more ABS sheets.

...30 hours...
« Last Edit: Fri, 15 November 2019, 13:25:56 by VoteForDavid »
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Offline invariance

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Re: Change of Direction
« Reply #40 on: Wed, 15 April 2015, 23:18:35 »
The combination of angled key caps and various-length stems allows Microsoft to make truly compound curves on the main keyboard.  MX switches are all the same height, and the key caps are all straight right angles relative to their stems.  To use the flat plates would result in two angled sets of keys on each side...........The plan is changed for the main keys.  The guts are cut out to a consistent height around the edges, and flat plates will be bent and glued to these at about the same distance from the top of the frame as the mounting plates in the tenkey and arrows areas.  Mounting holes will be cut, keys will be mounted.

I was wondering how you would approach this.
This is just a thought and I have no idea how feasible it is but, the column of keys where the plate would bend (p, :, /), would it be possible to cut from the top down between the keys on the original plates, leave a bit of metal at the bottom of each cut, and then bend and splay it slightly?  Then repeat for the next column ([, '), etc.  Of course finish off with reinforcing the top of the plate.

During the laying out of my fingerprints on the keys, I noticed that this keyboard is WAY asymmetrical.  I also noticed that my right hand tends to splay a little more than the left "naturally" and the left tends to bunch up more than the right - on my LAPTOP keyboard which is a typical flat/straight affair.  For the most part, I have to give them credit: Microsoft *really* hit a home run on the layout for the 4000/7000 keyboards.

That was one major aspect I noticed with this keyboard also: even though MS designed for a better wrist position both inline with the forearms and rotationally (the tenting of the keyboard), they fell down when keeping the traditional key layout.  I find the right hand feels good with the key positions being in line with with finger extension/curl (ie row 3 and 5), but the left fingers still  bend uncomfortable in the wrong direction.  Now if the left hand could be a mirror of the right, then the left row 3 and 5 keys would be more inline with finger motion........
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Offline jonlorusso

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The enabler is a total waste. It doesnít save money, it doesnít save effort, it doesnít save space, it doesnít improve structural integrity, .... I honestly donít understand why anyone would ever use them for any purpose.

What if you leave them attached in a grid? 

Offline VoteForDavid

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Progress
« Reply #42 on: Thu, 16 April 2015, 22:29:13 »
@invariance
I could have kept modifying the Microsoft plates to mount my switches.  But then I'd end up with more and more of a mess.  A couple of the holes near the edges were going to be worryingly thin as well - might not even be strong enough to hold a switch!  If I weren't going for totally custom spacing, it might still be worth trying to "splay" either of my existing sets of switch plates.  Might, but I doubt it.  I really think fresh plastic is the way on the main sets of keys.

@jacobolus
The Enablers are just that - they enable.  If you want to observe best practices for soldering to switches, you can't do flying leads.  Flying leads are a bodge even when done nicely.  Enablers allow clean joints that will be strong with full penetration and nice fillets.  They also allow proper spacing and placement of diodes and LEDs which can be challenging if one is not accustomed to dead-bug soldering.  I guess if you really wanted to, you could use them to make a PCB with some clever fiberglass work. Surely there is already a thread on GH where the relative merits/demerits of the Enabler are beaten to death.

I spent some more time working out the matrix in Photoshop.  It kinda sucks to work on, but it's coming along.

I found some scrapped 22" LCD monitors with flat back panels and ripped them apart.  The ABS is much newer and softer, and cuts nicer than the sheets I tried to use the other day. I got the new plates cut out, and roughly the right shape.  I felt my mind not clear enough to do any welding, so I left off plastic work for the night.

An ancient soldering iron tip was ground down into a hot knife, tinned, and then the temperature was turned down to something more suitable for ABS than for solder (400ish F) and I put in a little practice welding butt joints in preparation for putting my new plates on.  Cutting the plates a leeeeetle bit oversize on some of the edges could be a good way to get them welded to the frame without having to add material when welding.  That would have been nice to think of before I finished cutting down the plates exactly to size.  I'll figure it out.  I thank God once more for a good mind and hands.  This would be expensive or impossible for me, if I couldn't do it myself.

...32 hours...
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Offline CPTBadAss

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It's kinda weird to see your timer at the end of the posts. I don't even want to  know how many hours I've sunk into various projects.
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Offline VoteForDavid

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I've never seen an in-progress hour log on a job this involved either.  It's as much for my own curiosity as to let everyone else know how long this is taking.  This is where I am keeping my notes, after all!

It occurred to me that I could yet use the Chyron switch mounting plates for the ďrightĒ side of the keyboard.  I finally thought to try heat staking to mount the metal to the plastic.  Drill a bunch of holes in the steel, melt some plastic through the holes.  Mounted.  The hardest part is making a surface to which to mount and stake the plates Ė but that is not so hard, just a lot of plastic welding.

So I cut into the Chyron plate.  The tenkey wasn't for a normal keyboard, so there's no stabilized spot for a big + key.  I cut one of the other stabilized key locations out of rest of the plate, and cut a hole for the stabilized key in the side of the tenkey plate.  I took a little care letting it in, and it fits snug.  I cut a few little bits of aluminum and glued it up with them on the underside of the plate.  I'll take off the clamps and flex it a bit tomorrow and see if it seems strong.  I used CA glue.  It's not great for aluminum really, but this is anodized and would clean up perfectly with acetone if it didn't work - so I figured I'd give it a shot.  I'd have rather had a nice TIG welded joint but why start using proper tools now?

...34 hours...
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Offline VoteForDavid

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The tenkey plate seems strong enough.  It's just "superglue" but it's also just a keyboard and not exactly subject to outrageous force.  It may have been overkill but it didn't hurt anybody to leave it clamped up for a few hours.  Then I laid a bead of glue along the seams for good measure.



A bit of cutting and trimming, a bit of the hot knife, and I was able to get the tenkey plate about where it should be.  Two of the corners of the black frame rubbed on the top and bottom right keys as expected.  I notched the corners a little but was able to mostly leave the top of the plate.  It looks okay.  I might be able to fill in the area to the right of the + key area but I'm not entirely sure I will.  It would be tricky to get it to look right.



...It probably wouldn't come out as nice as this did.  This could have been better, but I think this is probably good enough to leave permanently.  It's tack welded in for now.  The little filler plate is flat, and the frame curves.  I couldn't set it flush, but a little bit recessed looks good I think.  It looks like an option that wasn't installed.  Maybe it wants a logo etched into it.



« Last Edit: Fri, 15 November 2019, 13:30:19 by VoteForDavid »
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Offline VoteForDavid

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My 62g springs have arrived, and I am a fan of the one I installed so far.

I spent some time with the hot knife working a little on the frames closer to the shape they need to be.

And I feel like there are little Influenza demons working on the inside of my head with chisels and sandpaper.  Work on everything may be on a slow roll for the near-term future.  Nobody tell my boss.

...37 hours and slowing :( ...
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Offline VoteForDavid

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I spent a little time working out the matrix circuit.  I finally got a clue and quadrupled the resolution so I could use brushes more than 1 pixel between the finer traces.  The working file is closer now to 200MB than I usually like to use, but storage is cheap and my computer was not ;)

I spent a little time working on a tool.  I made a little jig to open all four legs of a switch at once, but it's fiddly work.  I think it is easier and faster to use the metal tips of my compass to open one side of a switch at a time.  It's easy enough to open a switch but I wanted to see if a quick DIY tool would make it easier.  It didn't.  Oh well.

At least it seems to have been a temporary allergic (over)reaction to mold in the local air, vs. influenza in my nose, thanks God.

...38...
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Offline VoteForDavid

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More work on the matrix. 

I realized I still need to figure out exactly what I'm going to do with the space bar(s) and I'll go with that as the reason I've been avoiding working on the maybe-hardest part of the project (the main switch mounting plates).  As the lady said, "I'll think about that...tomorrow."

...39...
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Offline VoteForDavid

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Behold the fruits of two hours' labor:



It's crazy that I would bill out nearly a hundred dollars to draw a bunch of squares on this paper, but there it is.  I found that I have enough of the right sized non-standard-sized switch caps for a full keyboard worth that will fit.  I found that the old, huge shift keys from the Chyron boards should be suitable for my new space bars.  I found that my space bars should fit just fine on the mounting plates I have (if the curved plates don't kill me there). 

This is looking more and more do-able.  I might be able to shift the right home keys a little closer to my preferred locations, even though these squares look pretty tight.  These lines were drawn around the outsides of key caps, and even where the lines touch there is like 1mm space between the keys.  The board is going to look pretty gap-toothed.

...41...

P.S. I looked in our inventory system at work, and found DOZENS of 122-key Cherry POS keyboards.  Before I let myself freak out, I checked.  Membrane switches.  0/10 do not want.
« Last Edit: Fri, 15 November 2019, 13:31:15 by VoteForDavid »
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