Author Topic: The Eagle 70% Ergonomic Keyboard [Complete] Build Log Parts 1,2,3,4,5 & 6  (Read 7495 times)

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Offline Rose

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Here's my first ever mechanical keyboard.  Big thanks to the geekhack community for all the information and inspiration. Three months ago I knew nothing about keyboards.  Now I have designed and built my own.  Along the way I learned some about electrical engineering, soldering, Inkscape, acrylic laser cutting, and lots of other neat stuff.

My biggest inspirations for the design were the ergodox, key64, and Atreus. Special thanks to hasu for his open source firmware, CPTBadAss and everyone on the 'Simple Questions, Simple Answers' thread, swill for his plate building tool, and Dan Hawkins at the NCSU Hunt Library Makerspace.

Here are links to my primary Dvorak layer and secondary function layer.  I also have a QWERTY layer and a number pad.

The Eagle "ka-kaw!"
102295-0
100552-1100556-2

Take a look under the hood:

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Some finishing touches:
Lubricant
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O-rings
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Caps Lock LED
100564-6


« Last Edit: Wed, 24 January 2018, 14:24:38 by Rose »


Offline suicidal_orange

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Re: The Eagle 70% Ergonomic Keyboard [Completed]
« Reply #2 on: Tue, 12 May 2015, 19:08:41 »
Rubber dome user to designer/cutter/builder in three months?  That is seriously impressive progress, and you've got a great looking board to show for it :)

I have one concern though - is there another LED under Vol -?  My OCD hates seeing the perfectly symmetrical design ruined by an off-centre LED :-[
                               
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Offline metalliqaz

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Re: The Eagle 70% Ergonomic Keyboard [Completed]
« Reply #3 on: Tue, 12 May 2015, 19:22:44 »
Very unique and incredibly polished for a first effort.  Color me green with envy  :cool:

Offline Rose

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Re: The Eagle 70% Ergonomic Keyboard [Completed]
« Reply #4 on: Tue, 12 May 2015, 19:31:28 »
Rubber dome user to designer/cutter/builder in three months?  That is seriously impressive progress, and you've got a great looking board to show for it :)

I have one concern though - is there another LED under Vol -?  My OCD hates seeing the perfectly symmetrical design ruined by an off-centre LED :-[

Haha.  Is this better?  There are actually three LEDs installed.  I was going to use the other two as layer indicators but these proved to be complicated and unnecessary. Any suggestions for a good use of the other two?

100417-0

Offline rm-rf

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Re: The Eagle 70% Ergonomic Keyboard [Completed]
« Reply #5 on: Tue, 12 May 2015, 19:47:15 »
you could line up the leds vertically in the middle

Offline kurplop

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Re: The Eagle 70% Ergonomic Keyboard [Completed]
« Reply #6 on: Tue, 12 May 2015, 20:55:06 »
I'm impressed.

Congratulations on a well thought out and beautifully executed board.

Now, let's see more pictures!

Offline CPTBadAss

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Re: The Eagle 70% Ergonomic Keyboard [Completed]
« Reply #7 on: Tue, 12 May 2015, 20:59:29 »
**** me....that's your FIRST custom board?? I want to see what your fifth iteration will look like!! Incredible job!!
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Offline VoteForDavid

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Re: The Eagle 70% Ergonomic Keyboard [Completed]
« Reply #8 on: Tue, 12 May 2015, 23:01:12 »
Am I the only one around here who likes the overall look of the wiring?  Thanks for my future project, which should now have various colors of wiring instead of the two-tone I was considering.
Jesus loves you.

Offline Hzza

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Re: The Eagle 70% Ergonomic Keyboard [Completed]
« Reply #9 on: Wed, 13 May 2015, 02:50:21 »
Nice job dude, can't wait to see what your second hand made board looks like :D.

Offline shaymdev

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Re: The Eagle 70% Ergonomic Keyboard [Completed]
« Reply #10 on: Wed, 13 May 2015, 09:29:33 »
It looks you stumbled upon this custom keyboard world about a month ahead of me. I've been reading many of your posts because I have similar questions. I'm impressed by your awesome build. I'm hoping I can end up with something half as clean looking as yours!

I don't know if it's just me but the pictures you've posted are pretty small, any way you could update with bigger pictures so we can admire your handy work (and get some more ideas for our own builds ;))?

I have a lot more pictures from just about every step of the design and building process. Maybe I'll post a more detailed build log in the future.
I'm sure I'm not the only one that would love to see the more detailed build log you tease us with.
« Last Edit: Wed, 13 May 2015, 09:31:50 by shaymdev »

Offline Rose

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Re: The Eagle 70% Ergonomic Keyboard [Completed]
« Reply #11 on: Wed, 13 May 2015, 11:10:31 »
It looks you stumbled upon this custom keyboard world about a month ahead of me. I've been reading many of your posts because I have similar questions. I'm impressed by your awesome build. I'm hoping I can end up with something half as clean looking as yours!

I don't know if it's just me but the pictures you've posted are pretty small, any way you could update with bigger pictures so we can admire your handy work (and get some more ideas for our own builds ;))?

I have a lot more pictures from just about every step of the design and building process. Maybe I'll post a more detailed build log in the future.
I'm sure I'm not the only one that would love to see the more detailed build log you tease us with.

The OP has been updated with larger images.  Sorry they aren't all the best quality.  A detailed build log is on the way.
« Last Edit: Wed, 13 May 2015, 13:42:27 by Rose »

Offline shaymdev

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Re: The Eagle 70% Ergonomic Keyboard [Completed]
« Reply #12 on: Wed, 13 May 2015, 12:12:07 »
Maybe I should wait to ask questions until you post your build log, but I'm very curious as to your case layers in general. And specifically what did you end up doing in relation to this thread about plate thickness and support layers.

Also, it sounds like you used swill's plate tool then used inkscape for rotating keys and building out the shape of the case. Is that so? (I'm getting really close on my own build but plate/case implementation is one of my current blockers.)

Offline suicidal_orange

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Re: The Eagle 70% Ergonomic Keyboard [Completed]
« Reply #13 on: Wed, 13 May 2015, 18:19:24 »
Rubber dome user to designer/cutter/builder in three months?  That is seriously impressive progress, and you've got a great looking board to show for it :)

I have one concern though - is there another LED under Vol -?  My OCD hates seeing the perfectly symmetrical design ruined by an off-centre LED :-[

Haha.  Is this better?  There are actually three LEDs installed.  I was going to use the other two as layer indicators but these proved to be complicated and unnecessary. Any suggestions for a good use of the other two?

(Attachment Link)
Much better :))

Not sure what you can do with the side LEDs, the only uses I know are layer/lock indicators or to make artisan caps glow.  I guess you could wire them all together but make the side ones dimmer, just because you can?
                               
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Offline technomancy

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Re: The Eagle 70% Ergonomic Keyboard [Completed]
« Reply #14 on: Fri, 15 May 2015, 07:53:18 »
Great work! What's the total key count? Is it more than the Ergodox?

I'm curious how you find it in everyday use. Do the innermost column keys actually feel like something you could hit while typing, or are they more like function keys that you only use occasionally?

I like the screws, or whatever they actually are, that are holding them together; I don't think I've seen those used in a custom board design before.

Offline metalliqaz

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Re: The Eagle 70% Ergonomic Keyboard [Completed]
« Reply #15 on: Fri, 15 May 2015, 08:16:29 »
Those are called Chicago screws.  I've seen them once before.  ;)

Offline Rose

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Re: The Eagle 70% Ergonomic Keyboard [Completed]
« Reply #16 on: Fri, 15 May 2015, 15:10:45 »
Great work! What's the total key count? Is it more than the Ergodox?

I'm curious how you find it in everyday use. Do the innermost column keys actually feel like something you could hit while typing, or are they more like function keys that you only use occasionally?

I like the screws, or whatever they actually are, that are holding them together; I don't think I've seen those used in a custom board design before.

74 keys.

Typing on it is awesome.  I haven't used another keyboard since its completion.  The four inner most keys aren't too much of a reach.  I can hit them without my other fingers leaving home row even though I usually move my whole hand over a bit to comfortably get them while typing.  It's pretty easy to find the last key of a row or column without looking. I'm using them for Page Up, Page Down, Home, and End- keys that are more useful than I realized while writing and web browsing.

I wanted to use fasteners with a low profile that wouldn't scratch a table or desk.  Thought I was going to have to spend a fortune special ordering when I found these at the local hardware store for about a quarter a piece. They're aluminum.  1/2 Inchers went through all 5 layers without sticking out the other side. 
100791-0
« Last Edit: Fri, 15 May 2015, 18:17:11 by Rose »

Offline Glod

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Re: The Eagle 70% Ergonomic Keyboard [Completed]
« Reply #17 on: Fri, 15 May 2015, 16:17:59 »
id hit that keyboard so hard  :-X

 :thumb: :thumb: :thumb: :thumb:

give it to me now

Offline Rose

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Re: The Eagle 70% Ergonomic Keyboard [Completed] --> [Build Log Part 1]
« Reply #18 on: Sat, 16 May 2015, 16:04:55 »
The Eagle Build Log - Part 1
Design and Test Cut

While poking around this site and reading other build logs I traced my finger tips and thumbs in a few different positions. There was a noticeable difference between the left and right hand in the tracing.  I very briefly entertained the idea of reflecting this difference in my design.
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Keyboard-Layout-Editor.com was very helpful when experimenting with different layouts. Here's the first design:
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This eventually evolved into this next design which I was set on using. It's shaped like a bird.
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I decided to name the project 'The Eagle' after I spotted this bald fellow in Maine on spring break. 
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Started drawing mock-up cases in good ol' MS Paint and added a few keys here and there.
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Okay, I have a layout I like. Now I'll just use swill's plate building tool and I'll be ready to cut my plate.
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Oh. His tool does not support rotated keys. Time to learn Inkscape. Here is a little guide for making a plate with rotated keys. Figuring that out was one of the more daunting aspects of this build but it turned out to be fairly simple once you learn the software.

Eventually I had drawn up all five layers. This took a while because I was constantly making tweaks to the design as I went.  I made a base, spacer, switch plate, reinforcer for the switch plate, and cover.  The reinforcer was just like the switch plate except with slightly larger cutouts and a spot for the USB port.  The idea was to have this support the flimsy 1/16 inch thick switch plate which the Cherry MX switches clip into nicely. This thread was a discussion weighing the pros and cons of this method vs just gluing the switches into a thicker sheet.

Okay. Time for a test cut.  I wanted to test the sizes of the switch and fastener holes, see how well the reinforcement layer works, and get a feel for the layout of the keys.
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Here I realized that my thumbs had to reach to use the 1.25 keys.  I wanted my space bar and backspace to be directly under my resting thumbs so I went back to the drawing board. After trying to rework the thumb cluster several different ways I ultimately decided on just shifting the 1.25's closer to the main clusters.
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Almost ready to start building!
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Test soldering.  It's pretty ugly and one of the diodes is going the wrong way but the connections were good enough. 
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I've never liked stripping wire because I usually cut too deep and sliced through half the strands. When I read about the method of using magnet wire I jumped on it. Basically the insulation burns off the wire when and where you solder it so there is no need for stripping.
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When I tried soldering the magnet wire, the soldering iron actually melted away a lot more insulation that I expected. Maybe I was using to high of a gauge. It was clear that this would cause shorts with all the bare diodes so I switched to this 22 gauge solid-core.
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I used these diodes. At about 2 cents a piece, I ordered lots of extras and ended up being thankful that I did.
100960-23




Coming Soon:  Part Two - Building the Case
« Last Edit: Sat, 16 May 2015, 16:59:23 by Rose »

Offline metalliqaz

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Re: The Eagle 70% Ergonomic Keyboard [Completed] --> [Build Log Part 1]
« Reply #19 on: Sat, 16 May 2015, 17:15:44 »
Nice work  :cool:  Who's laser cutter is that? Do you have unrestricted access?

Offline naz

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Re: The Eagle 70% Ergonomic Keyboard [Completed] --> [Build Log Part 1]
« Reply #20 on: Sat, 16 May 2015, 17:46:32 »
Nice to see the working process. I have a few questions if you don't mind:

- how much did you spent on materials and tools???
- if you have to do another one (now that you know what to do): how many man hours would it take you???
- now that you have been using it: is there any thing you would change (more distance between hands, more or less keys, dedicated arrows, more column stagger, etc, etc)???

Best regards and thanks for charing  :thumb:

Offline Vizir

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Very cool!

Offline berserkfan

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Re: The Eagle 70% Ergonomic Keyboard [Completed] --> [Build Log Part 1]
« Reply #22 on: Sun, 17 May 2015, 13:59:06 »
strange that no one ever wants to build a split layout board. If you are going for ergonomic might as well consider the breadth of your shoulders and split the board.
Most of the modding can be done on your own once you break through the psychological barriers.

Offline Rose

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Re: The Eagle 70% Ergonomic Keyboard [Completed] --> [Build Log Part 1]
« Reply #23 on: Sun, 24 May 2015, 00:28:50 »
Nice work  :cool:  Who's laser cutter is that? Do you have unrestricted access?
It's the laser cutter in the Hunt Library Makerspace at NCSU. There's a small fee to use it.

Nice to see the working process. I have a few questions if you don't mind:

- how much did you spent on materials and tools???
- if you have to do another one (now that you know what to do): how many man hours would it take you???
- now that you have been using it: is there any thing you would change (more distance between hands, more or less keys, dedicated arrows, more column stagger, etc, etc)???

Best regards and thanks for charing  :thumb:

I stopped keeping track of exactly how much I was spending because I realized it was going to be depressing. I'd say about $100 for all the keycaps and switches, $100 for all the other parts and tools, and close to $100 cutting the case.  That's including several test cuts, ordering a few parts and tools I didn't need, and making a small donation to this forum. (How awesome is it not having advertisements plastered all over the place?) I guess in the end less than $25 a week for a fun new hobby isn't bad. And now I have all the tools and a bunch of extra parts for other projects.

A lot of the time I spent on this project was designing. If I already had a design and all the parts, now that I know just how to solder and modify the firmware, I could probably put it all together in a weekend. That's if I ignored my school work and girlfriend.

Most of the things I would have done differently on a future build, I just redid on this build. As far as the location of the keys, there is nothing I would change. I do have dedicated arrow keys. They are the diamond in the middle. I have changed the layouts in the firmware quite a bit. I'd realize I don't need a certain key or I do need another. My latest tweak was programming my user name and password for school stuff into a macro. I was typing them many times a day and now it's just two key presses so that's nice.

strange that no one ever wants to build a split layout board. If you are going for ergonomic might as well consider the breadth of your shoulders and split the board.
I considered building a split board. Being as how I knew nothing about making keyboards before I started, that seemed like a good idea for a second project. I like the idea of having this keyboard for my laptop and school computers and then a split version with all the same layouts and layers for my desktop at home. I think it'd be cool to have a split keyboard but it has nothing to do with shoulder breadth. It's just as comfortable sitting with my hands in my lap as it is with them at my sides.

Offline Rose

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The Eagle Build Log - Part 2
Building the Case


I fixed the thumb keys and cut these layers:

Bottom - 1/8 inch green acrylic
Spacer - 1/8 inch black acrylic
Reinforcer - 1/8 inch black acrylic
Switch Plate - 1/16 inch black acrylic
Cover - 1/8 inch green acrylic

Note: I didn't actually use the reinforcer as it appears below. I ended up cutting out the middle so it was more like the spacer except with a gap for the USB port.

101517-0101519-1101521-2101523-3101525-4101527-5101529-6

After a switch is clipped into place, the plastic part hangs down 1/4 inch below the plate. The metal leads need to be snipped to this height so they don't bend against the base plate.

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Now that everything will fit I can see how the case will look when it's all put together. How exciting!

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Even though I adjusted the switch hole size after the test cut, somehow the holes were still to big. When I tried removing a keycap, the switch came with it. I did more test cuts and made a new switch plate that held the switches as tight as I could get them- any tighter and the acrylic cracked. Still many of the switches came up when I tried removing keycaps and the plate cracked in a few places. I read these clear switches in particular are stubborn about letting go of keycaps.

I decided to glue the switches into the first plate with the larger cutouts. I don't know why I was opposed to gluing in the first place. There isn't a single reason I can think off to remove the bottom half of the switches from the board. I made sure to only glue the top and bottom edges allowing access to the inside of the switches.

101551-17101557-18101553-19101555-20



Coming Soon:  Part Three - Soldering the Matrix
« Last Edit: Sun, 24 May 2015, 01:33:00 by Rose »

Offline naz

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Great Log! i've spent a lot of time looking for a keyboard, but there is always something a bit better coming up (but doesn't most of the time and the search lives on). So i want to make my own (try at least) and your log is a great starting point.

by the way, could you add the places where you bought the different parts (like you did with the diodes)??

Regards!



   

Offline Rose

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Great Log! i've spent a lot of time looking for a keyboard, but there is always something a bit better coming up (but doesn't most of the time and the search lives on). So i want to make my own (try at least) and your log is a great starting point.

by the way, could you add the places where you bought the different parts (like you did with the diodes)??

Regards!
 

Thanks. I will post a list of all the parts and tools I used and where I got them, probably at the end of the build log. In the mean time, I'd be happy to let you know about any specific parts you are wondering about.

Offline Rose

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The Eagle Build Log - Part 3
Soldering the Matrix


It's not pretty but it worked. I used the tried and true method of putting a dab of solder on all the leads and then going back through to attach the wires and diodes. Tweezers were very helpful. Always cleaning off the excess solder and oxidization with a damp sponge and then tinning the tip is key.

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For the columns, I used 22 gauge solid core wire. Here is the process I found to be the easiest:

  • clip a segment of wire to the desired length
  • strip one end of the wire
  • hold the stripped end with needle-nose pliers and pull the insulation off of the rest of the wire
  • snip the insulation tube into segments of appropriate lenght to go between switches
  • thread the insulation snippets back onto the wire
Pro Tip- Stripping the end of the wire may put crimp on that end. Threading the insulation back on the other side is much easier.

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Coming Soon:  Part Four - Adding a Micro USB Port
« Last Edit: Mon, 25 May 2015, 10:39:14 by Rose »

Offline CPTBadAss

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This build log gives me a happy. Thank you for the shoutout in the OP. I really love this board and your build log. Plus the action shots in the pictures are fun :).
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Offline absyrd

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This build log gives me a happy. Thank you for the shoutout in the OP. I really love this board and your build log. Plus the action shots in the pictures are fun :).

A build log like this REALLY makes me want to hand wire a board. Thanks for sharing in such detail.

You need a taller work bench / desk, btw. Your neck and back must be ****ed after that ("action shots"). I do mine on standing desk and still get pains.
My wife I a also push her button . But now she have her button push by a different men. So I buy a keyboard a mechanicale, she a reliable like a Fiat.

Offline Rose

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You need a taller work bench / desk, btw. Your neck and back must be ****ed after that ("action shots"). I do mine on standing desk and still get pains.

Good idea. I'll try lowering my chair next time.  I have considered buying/building a standing desk. Is yours basically a tall bench?

Offline Rose

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Re: The Eagle 70% Ergonomic Keyboard [Complete] Build Log Parts 1,2,3 & 4
« Reply #31 on: Sun, 31 May 2015, 18:04:15 »
The Eagle Build Log - Part 4
Adding a Micro USB Port

I decided to go with a micro USB port because they are they same height as 1/8 inch thick acrylic. I bought a couple such ports but they were way to small for me to solder without creating shorts. Instead, I ordered a cable that had the port I wanted on one end. A hobby knife and tweezers were used to remove the casing and insulation. There was a glob of dried glue where the wires connected to the port. I held it with a vise grip while whittling away some of the glue. The grip must have been a tad too tight because the plastic casing around the port shattered. This was actually helpful because the port would have been too tall otherwise.

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Now it's time to repeat this process with a male mini USB cable. This is the connector that will go into the Teensy.

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Next I super glued the port into it's slot in the case and used a clamp to pinch the layers together. The glue isn't supposed to take long to set but I gave it a full day to be sure.
 
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I carefully stripped about a centimeter off of each wire. When I was removing the casing from the mini USB, I went a little too deep and nicked a couple wires. I cut at those nicks and use the length of the other cable. The alligator clamps were chomping down hard enough to cause minor damage to the wire so I used a scrap of cardboard for protection.

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Eventually, when I was ready to start the firmware, I couldn't get my computer to recognize the Teensy. Hmm. It turns out, the Micro USB cable I bought had green, red, white, and black wires like all USB cables but they were not hooked up in the ordinary spots. And here I thought I could just connect matching colors...  Correct me if I'm wrong but I'm pretty sure the following is standard:

Red- VCC
White- Data -
Green- Data +
Black- GND

The pinout on the port was like any other so I was able to figure out which color went where.

102285-25 102287-26




Coming Soon:  Part Five - Connecting the Controller
« Last Edit: Sun, 31 May 2015, 18:15:25 by Rose »

Offline kurplop

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Re: The Eagle 70% Ergonomic Keyboard [Complete] Build Log Parts 1,2,3 & 4
« Reply #32 on: Sun, 31 May 2015, 19:53:30 »



Eventually, when I was ready to start the firmware, I couldn't get my computer to recognize the Teensy. Hmm. It turns out, the Micro USB cable I bought had green, red, white, and black wires like all USB cables but they were not hooked up in the ordinary spots. And here I thought I could just connect matching colors...  Correct me if I'm wrong but I'm pretty sure the following is standard:

Red- VCC
White- Data -
Green- Data +
Black- GND

The pinout on the port was like any other so I was able to figure out which color went where.



Interesting. I had a similar problem.

I had two usb cables going to a mini hub inside my Alumaplop project and found the data lines were reversed. That is, the green and white wires were in each other's order. It cost me a fried hub before I discovered the right order.

Offline Rose

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Re: The Eagle 70% Ergonomic Keyboard [Complete] Build Log Parts 1,2,3,4 & 5
« Reply #33 on: Fri, 05 June 2015, 21:39:34 »
The Eagle Build Log - Part 5
Connecting the Controller

Stripped wires were poked through one side, soldered on the other side, and then clipped short.

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Every wire was neatly tucked under the diodes to keep a low profile. Tweezers were essential. Here's the color code:
Yellow- rows
White- columns
Blue- LEDs
Green- ground

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The LED wiring got messy. My goal was to have few crossed wires but they were inevitable here. I used tape to ensure no shorts with the diodes.

102786-17 102788-18 102790-19 102792-20 102794-21



Coming Soon:  Part six - Finishing Touches
« Last Edit: Fri, 05 June 2015, 21:50:21 by Rose »

Offline yehoshuaf

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Re: The Eagle 70% Ergonomic Keyboard [Complete] Build Log Parts 1,2,3,4 & 5
« Reply #34 on: Sat, 06 June 2015, 10:16:12 »
Looks very clean, nice work. That is a lot of keys to wire. :) I like the idea of only using 1 and 1.25 sizes.

Offline VoteForDavid

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Re: The Eagle 70% Ergonomic Keyboard [Complete] Build Log Parts 1,2,3,4 & 5
« Reply #35 on: Sat, 06 June 2015, 13:44:16 »
I like the way you tucked the wires under the diode leads.  Good work.
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Offline Rose

  • Thread Starter
  • Posts: 62
  • Location: Raleigh, NC
The Eagle Build Log - Part 6
Finishing Touches

The acrylic was sharp so I put a minor bevel around the edges with a rotary tool.
103454-0

As mentioned in the OP, I lubricated the switches and dampened the bottom out noise with rubber o-rings. I have since removed the o-rings.
103456-1 103458-2 103460-3 103462-4

Final product:
103464-5 103466-6
« Last Edit: Mon, 14 September 2015, 11:52:57 by Rose »