Author Topic: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING  (Read 97831 times)

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Offline Eiji Murakami

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1000 on: Thu, 13 December 2018, 06:00:21 »
I like the design of Norbaforce now.
The two models I bought this time was a wonderful finish.
Next time GB begins, I'd like to order a WKL model.
I hope to be able to make a full size case if possible.

Online norbauer

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1001 on: Thu, 13 December 2018, 10:21:17 »

is there a date for European shipments?

KMK Labs.

+1. Mykeyboard any update on the shipment to you?

I'm pretty sure that they should already all have shipped. I already spoke to someone in Italy whose order somehow got missed in the proxy (data export issue from Shopify, I think), to whom I'm sending the order directly, so perhaps that was you, Kerasan? Will_26, or anyone else in the proxy who hasn't gotten his or her case yet or at least a tracking number, feel free to email me (shop@norbauer.com) and I'll be happy to follow up with MyKeyboard.eu and to double-check that your order made it into the spreadsheet that went over to MyKeyboard.

Actually, it turns out that MyKeyboard didn't ship these until today. I misunderstood their previous communication to me; apologies for the confusion. Folks who were in the proxy should have gotten tracking numbers a few hours ago.

Offline omjak

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1002 on: Thu, 13 December 2018, 18:10:26 »
For those who are still waiting, it truly is worth the wait.

Thanks Ryan.

Offline Howser

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1003 on: Fri, 14 December 2018, 06:24:35 »
just wanted to say thanks Ryan as well for this wonderful case!
love the box and the guide, it's details like this that sells the hole "experience"


Offline phinix

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1004 on: Fri, 14 December 2018, 17:34:44 »
OK, who wants to sell me one??!!  ;D
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Online Kerasan

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1005 on: Tue, 18 December 2018, 08:34:18 »


probably the most beautiful cases I've ever seen. the enigma gray finish is wonderful especially under direct light.

Only note the backplate I was a little disappointed, I would have preferred more thick. compared to the norbatouch it makes it too light and you can hear a little echo sound

KMK Labs.

Offline Lansky

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1006 on: Tue, 18 December 2018, 12:25:11 »
Show Image


probably the most beautiful cases I've ever seen. the enigma gray finish is wonderful especially under direct light.

Only note the backplate I was a little disappointed, I would have preferred more thick. compared to the norbatouch it makes it too light and you can hear a little echo sound

KMK Labs.

Make sure you use some sort of dampening material for the case. It made a pretty significant difference. The board had a relatively hollow sound before putting it in. Now it's a much more muted and "dense" sound.
Norbaforce 88UB (BKE Heavy, silenced), Singa R2 (Retooled MX Blacks w/ 68g CWW springs), LZ GH V2 (V1 Zealios 67g)

Offline Audiobs

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1007 on: Wed, 19 December 2018, 19:24:20 »
To answer the semi-implicit question from above, btw, if I do a second run it would definitely have a vintage-style "forehead." To me, that's a big part of the wacky/awesome RealForce aesthetic, which I'd love to preserve.

In fact, I implore you to also make a version of this for Novatouch, or better yet, for generic TKL. :)

Offline Lansky

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1008 on: Thu, 20 December 2018, 03:30:07 »
Only note the backplate I was a little disappointed, I would have preferred more thick. compared to the norbatouch it makes it too light and you can hear a little echo sound

Speaking of the backplate...

Ryan, are you still planning on making a stainless steel or brass backplate for the Norbaforce? And maybe a new switchplate too? I know a lot of people would be interested in that, especially considering the well-known rust issue on the default plate.  :rolleyes:
Norbaforce 88UB (BKE Heavy, silenced), Singa R2 (Retooled MX Blacks w/ 68g CWW springs), LZ GH V2 (V1 Zealios 67g)

Online Kerasan

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1009 on: Thu, 20 December 2018, 03:57:04 »
Only note the backplate I was a little disappointed, I would have preferred more thick. compared to the norbatouch it makes it too light and you can hear a little echo sound

Speaking of the backplate...

Ryan, are you still planning on making a stainless steel or brass backplate for the Norbaforce? And maybe a new switchplate too? I know a lot of people would be interested in that, especially considering the well-known rust issue on the default plate.  :rolleyes:

Quote

KMK Labs.

Online DribbelDog

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1010 on: Thu, 20 December 2018, 15:15:54 »






This is my result (EU proxy - received the case last week). The quality of the case is excellent, unlike any keyboard case I've personally seen (including the Norbatouch). Packaging was also gorgeous. Thank you for all your hard work Ryan. The color combination turned out even more extreme than I probably anticipated, but I do think it turned out gorgeous. I also feel it's a rather unique color combination; I'm glad I picked up these green Topre caps when they were still decently available. The keyboards sounds a lot better than stock to me, and I'm not using any foam.

The lovely end result almost makes me forget how long it took to get here. I do feel a year worth of waiting and frantically checking Geekhack was a bit too much for me personally. We only have so many years in our lifetime, and next time I would probably take the turnaround time into more serious consideration.

The fancy USB cable works, although the next step up would probably be to find a cable that complements this beauty.

If a brass plate is still up for consideration, I'd definitely be in.

Thanks again for all of the hard work!
« Last Edit: Sun, 23 December 2018, 05:52:19 by DribbelDog »

Online tanvir175

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1011 on: Fri, 21 December 2018, 10:23:46 »
Only note the backplate I was a little disappointed, I would have preferred more thick. compared to the norbatouch it makes it too light and you can hear a little echo sound

Speaking of the backplate...

Ryan, are you still planning on making a stainless steel or brass backplate for the Norbaforce? And maybe a new switchplate too? I know a lot of people would be interested in that, especially considering the well-known rust issue on the default plate.  :rolleyes:

Quote

KMK Labs.

Didn't know Ryan was ever planning this :o
That would be greatly appreciated since the OP of this post https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=97096.0 isn't responding to messages about the thread and I've been told that he has abandoned the project and is unwilling to share/sell the plate files.

Offline hammerbrotha

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1012 on: Fri, 21 December 2018, 12:46:18 »
Man these cases are beautiful, have extras already been posted/ sold?

Offline omjak

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1013 on: Fri, 21 December 2018, 21:45:48 »
check out shop.norbauer.com/

(enigma gray available ...if you hurry)

Online pixelpusher

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1014 on: Sat, 22 December 2018, 12:55:18 »
check out shop.norbauer.com/

(enigma gray available ...if you hurry)

I think it’s just messed up. When you go to check out it says out of stock
:)

Offline phinix

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1015 on: Sat, 22 December 2018, 16:32:23 »
Ooooh man... I tried to buy it and shows out of stock...
7500|1080Ti|2x 500GB SSD|2TB HDD|Z270 ITX|16GB RAM|SFX 600W|Philips 40" 4K BDM4065UC
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star citizen :::  CMDR Phinix 325A LTI

Offline thelaughingman

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1016 on: Sat, 22 December 2018, 23:13:59 »
check out shop.norbauer.com/

(enigma gray available ...if you hurry)

I think it’s just messed up. When you go to check out it says out of stock

probably Ryan is saving that for a specific customer :) it happened before

Online Puddsy

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1017 on: Sat, 22 December 2018, 23:58:33 »
check out shop.norbauer.com/

(enigma gray available ...if you hurry)

I think it’s just messed up. When you go to check out it says out of stock

probably Ryan is saving that for a specific customer :) it happened before

yeah that's what i figured it was
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Online norbauer

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1018 on: Wed, 26 December 2018, 14:42:46 »
Hey everybody! I hope you had a great Christmas if you celebrate it. For some reason GeekHack sometimes just stops sending me new-post notifications occasionally on threads (I think it's when I look at a new post linked from an GeekHack on my phone and am not logged in on that device), so I didn't see all these posts since my last post several weeks ago until now, but they were a delight to read. I adore that green and purple keycap combination and really appreciate all the kind words everybody had to share.

I am indeed still contemplating steel back-plates, but things got more complicated since I'm also looking at doing a revision of the Norbaforce design to that would fit both the 87U family and the new R2 boards that are more readily available. Depending on what kind of pricing I can figure out, I might simply get all of those made with steel back-plates. The blocking thing on that, however, is the Heavy-6 Monolith. I'm getting those PVD coated here in California and I want to wait to see how those come out before committing to another larger run of steel parts. A switch-plate, however, would be considerably more tricky and probably not a top 2019 priority for me, as I've got a lot of projects going on at the moment and/or about to be launched, all the while having a bit of New Year's resolution to figure out how to get this keyboard thing not lose me money on every run and also not to be a source of stress and endless time-urgency. :) As such, I'm trying to focus on doing small runs of in-stock stuff that people can buy and have ship more-or-less immediately. Group buys seem nice superficially in that they help you with cash-flow if you don't have money to front for a project, but they're a ton more work and actually care a lot more risk than simply producing something and selling it when it's ready. If you produce something in advance, nobody gets impatient about delays or delivery times (i.e. less stress), and you can actually price the thing based on what you know it actually cost to make (i.e., less risk of losing money overall on the project due to unanticipated expenses).

Anyway, my plan is to try to do these sorts of things in 2019 in a way that works better for everybody. It probably means more limited supply of stuff that I make and probably slightly higher per-unit prices due to making in smaller in-stock batches, but I think it'll be a better experience for people getting the objects I make as well as for me. As always, if you want to be the first to be notified of when I stuff have in stock, you can always join my email list, which is where I share such things first, including a couple of Norbaforce-related accessories I have coming in the next couple of weeks. ;)

Online Kerasan

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1019 on: Wed, 26 December 2018, 14:59:38 »
Hey everybody! I hope you had a great Christmas if you celebrate it. For some reason GeekHack sometimes just stops sending me new-post notifications occasionally on threads (I think it's when I look at a new post linked from an GeekHack on my phone and am not logged in on that device), so I didn't see all these posts since my last post several weeks ago until now, but they were a delight to read. I adore that green and purple keycap combination and really appreciate all the kind words everybody had to share.

I am indeed still contemplating steel back-plates, but things got more complicated since I'm also looking at doing a revision of the Norbaforce design to that would fit both the 87U family and the new R2 boards that are more readily available. Depending on what kind of pricing I can figure out, I might simply get all of those made with steel back-plates. The blocking thing on that, however, is the Heavy-6 Monolith. I'm getting those PVD coated here in California and I want to wait to see how those come out before committing to another larger run of steel parts. A switch-plate, however, would be considerably more tricky and probably not a top 2019 priority for me, as I've got a lot of projects going on at the moment and/or about to be launched, all the while having a bit of New Year's resolution to figure out how to get this keyboard thing not lose me money on every run and also not to be a source of stress and endless time-urgency. :) As such, I'm trying to focus on doing small runs of in-stock stuff that people can buy and have ship more-or-less immediately. Group buys seem nice superficially in that they help you with cash-flow if you don't have money to front for a project, but they're a ton more work and actually care a lot more risk than simply producing something and selling it when it's ready. If you produce something in advance, nobody gets impatient about delays or delivery times (i.e. less stress), and you can actually price the thing based on what you know it actually cost to make (i.e., less risk of losing money overall on the project due to unanticipated expenses).

Anyway, my plan is to try to do these sorts of things in 2019 in a way that works better for everybody. It probably means more limited supply of stuff that I make and probably slightly higher per-unit prices due to making in smaller in-stock batches, but I think it'll be a better experience for people getting the objects I make as well as for me. As always, if you want to be the first to be notified of when I stuff have in stock, you can always join my email list, which is where I share such things first, including a couple of Norbaforce-related accessories I have coming in the next couple of weeks. ;)

will the steel backplate be available only for the new norbaforce design or even for the existing one?

KMK Labs.

Online norbauer

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1020 on: Wed, 26 December 2018, 15:01:47 »
Hey everybody! I hope you had a great Christmas if you celebrate it. For some reason GeekHack sometimes just stops sending me new-post notifications occasionally on threads (I think it's when I look at a new post linked from an GeekHack on my phone and am not logged in on that device), so I didn't see all these posts since my last post several weeks ago until now, but they were a delight to read. I adore that green and purple keycap combination and really appreciate all the kind words everybody had to share.

I am indeed still contemplating steel back-plates, but things got more complicated since I'm also looking at doing a revision of the Norbaforce design to that would fit both the 87U family and the new R2 boards that are more readily available. Depending on what kind of pricing I can figure out, I might simply get all of those made with steel back-plates. The blocking thing on that, however, is the Heavy-6 Monolith. I'm getting those PVD coated here in California and I want to wait to see how those come out before committing to another larger run of steel parts. A switch-plate, however, would be considerably more tricky and probably not a top 2019 priority for me, as I've got a lot of projects going on at the moment and/or about to be launched, all the while having a bit of New Year's resolution to figure out how to get this keyboard thing not lose me money on every run and also not to be a source of stress and endless time-urgency. :) As such, I'm trying to focus on doing small runs of in-stock stuff that people can buy and have ship more-or-less immediately. Group buys seem nice superficially in that they help you with cash-flow if you don't have money to front for a project, but they're a ton more work and actually care a lot more risk than simply producing something and selling it when it's ready. If you produce something in advance, nobody gets impatient about delays or delivery times (i.e. less stress), and you can actually price the thing based on what you know it actually cost to make (i.e., less risk of losing money overall on the project due to unanticipated expenses).

Anyway, my plan is to try to do these sorts of things in 2019 in a way that works better for everybody. It probably means more limited supply of stuff that I make and probably slightly higher per-unit prices due to making in smaller in-stock batches, but I think it'll be a better experience for people getting the objects I make as well as for me. As always, if you want to be the first to be notified of when I stuff have in stock, you can always join my email list, which is where I share such things first, including a couple of Norbaforce-related accessories I have coming in the next couple of weeks. ;)

will the steel backplate be available only for the new norbaforce design or even for the existing one?

KMK Labs.

They would also be available separately. The idea is that if I batch it with a larger order where all the units have steel back-plates, I'll be able to order extras beyond those that go with the assemblies to be sold separately at a much lower price than if I just ordered a few of them. However, steel parts are crazy expensive (mostly due to the fabrication cost, not the material), so doing all steel backplates might raise the overall price way too much. I'm waiting on some quotes. :)

Online atlas3686

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1021 on: Fri, 11 January 2019, 07:19:26 »
Loving my Norbaforce overall so this is a very minor gripe :) I know the subject of risers has come up before, is there any chance we might be able to get some higher ones done? The current risers don't even get you to the stock angle.

Something like this could even be an option for those of us that like the seamless case and don't want to ruin it but just an idea.

Offline Butter

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1022 on: Fri, 11 January 2019, 10:49:42 »
Anyone know where I can get a batter looking USB C cable that work with Norbaforce. So far I try 2 other USB C cable none of them work.

Offline phinix

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1023 on: Fri, 11 January 2019, 12:03:53 »
Any extras or leftovers???
7500|1080Ti|2x 500GB SSD|2TB HDD|Z270 ITX|16GB RAM|SFX 600W|Philips 40" 4K BDM4065UC
2x Novatouch 55g silenced|Filco TKL MX blues|Zowie EC2 Evo|X52 PRO
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star citizen :::  CMDR Phinix 325A LTI

Offline Lansky

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1024 on: Sun, 13 January 2019, 06:42:49 »
Anyone know where I can get a batter looking USB C cable that work with Norbaforce. So far I try 2 other USB C cable none of them work.

I'm using this cheap USB-C cable from Ikea. It's been working flawlessly.



Norbaforce 88UB (BKE Heavy, silenced), Singa R2 (Retooled MX Blacks w/ 68g CWW springs), LZ GH V2 (V1 Zealios 67g)

Online norbauer

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1025 on: Sun, 13 January 2019, 11:44:02 »
Anyone know where I can get a batter looking USB C cable that work with Norbaforce. So far I try 2 other USB C cable none of them work.

I'm using this cheap USB-C cable from Ikea. It's been working flawlessly.


Ooh. That's a really nice pairing of cable and finish!

Any extras or leftovers???

I currently have a batch being coated right now, supposedly complete next week (but factory timeline promises are almost invariably wrong/lies). Once they're boxed and assembled, I put them into stock and send out an email notification on my list. There aren't very many, unfortunately, though. =\

Offline Eiji Murakami

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1026 on: Sun, 13 January 2019, 20:26:03 »
Hello everyone!
I am using L type USB cable.
It turns to either left or right.
And it is a mechanism to connect with the magnet.
The magnet is strong and will not come off.

Offline Choobies

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1027 on: Mon, 14 January 2019, 06:38:35 »
Hello everyone!
I am using L type USB cable.
It turns to either left or right.
And it is a mechanism to connect with the magnet.
The magnet is strong and will not come off.

What caps are you using for the alphas?  Those are sweet.

Offline Eiji Murakami

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1028 on: Mon, 14 January 2019, 07:10:38 »
Hello everyone!
I am using L type USB cable.
It turns to either left or right.
And it is a mechanism to connect with the magnet.
The magnet is strong and will not come off.

What caps are you using for the alphas?  Those are sweet.
I bought this.

https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B07BLK7KF5/?coliid=I2NM4GOQ5RDCJN&colid=7ZX7TUUVU0L3&psc=0&ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_it

Offline Choobies

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1029 on: Mon, 14 January 2019, 07:11:51 »
Hello everyone!
I am using L type USB cable.
It turns to either left or right.
And it is a mechanism to connect with the magnet.
The magnet is strong and will not come off.

What caps are you using for the alphas?  Those are sweet.
I bought this.

https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B07BLK7KF5/?coliid=I2NM4GOQ5RDCJN&colid=7ZX7TUUVU0L3&psc=0&ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_it

Oh whoops, I meant the blue keycaps!

Offline Eiji Murakami

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1030 on: Mon, 14 January 2019, 08:16:09 »
Hello everyone!
I am using L type USB cable.
It turns to either left or right.
And it is a mechanism to connect with the magnet.
The magnet is strong and will not come off.



What caps are you using for the alphas?  Those are sweet.
I bought this.

https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B07BLK7KF5/?coliid=I2NM4GOQ5RDCJN&colid=7ZX7TUUVU0L3&psc=0&ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_it

Oh whoops, I meant the blue keycaps!

I'm sorry.
This is what I bought a long time ago.
It may not be sold now.
It has five colors of red, yellow, orange, white, and blue. (JIS)
ANSI also had other pink and light green as well.

There is a picture of this keyboard one page forward.

Online tanvir175

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1031 on: Mon, 14 January 2019, 14:04:09 »
Hello everyone!
I am using L type USB cable.
It turns to either left or right.
And it is a mechanism to connect with the magnet.
The magnet is strong and will not come off.

What caps are you using for the alphas?  Those are sweet.
I bought this.

https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B07BLK7KF5/?coliid=I2NM4GOQ5RDCJN&colid=7ZX7TUUVU0L3&psc=0&ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_it

Oh whoops, I meant the blue keycaps!

https://deskthority.net/wiki/Topre_Realforce#Full_sets

I don't think the sets are sold anymore, though.

Online eksuen@MD

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1032 on: Mon, 14 January 2019, 16:54:16 »
Well overdue, but here's one of mine. I've been using it as a daily driver for a couple months now.


Online clappingcactus

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1033 on: Mon, 14 January 2019, 19:50:22 »
If you are having a R2 Ryan, have you considered having space for a USB-to-USB converter inside the case to help with programmability?

Offline Wetherbee

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1034 on: Mon, 14 January 2019, 21:20:55 »
Have we confirmed there is no support for USB-C to USB-C? Is this an issue that can be corrected with an updated PCB? Perhaps clappingcactus' suggestion would fix this issue as well.

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1035 on: Tue, 15 January 2019, 19:19:02 »
Have we confirmed there is no support for USB-C to USB-C? Is this an issue that can be corrected with an updated PCB? Perhaps clappingcactus' suggestion would fix this issue as well.

I'll need to revise the PCB anyway for R2 compatibility, so I'm happy to include USB-C to USB-C in the requirements next time around. (It never even occurred to me that they wouldn't do this by default.) I don't actually myself own any computers that have a USB-C port, and I've gotten differing reports of what the problem is, so any further follow-up information or confirmation that anyone can provide would be appreciated, as it'll help me in talking with the folks who would be helping me design the new breakout PCB (i.e., in describing to them what the problem is).

Offline codywanks

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1036 on: Wed, 16 January 2019, 14:00:05 »
...figure out how to get this keyboard thing not lose me money on every run

 :confused:

This really shouldn't be happening, and Ryan is the last person it should happen to. I have to say I'm a bit concerned.

Online clappingcactus

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1037 on: Wed, 16 January 2019, 14:38:36 »
...figure out how to get this keyboard thing not lose me money on every run

 :confused:

This really shouldn't be happening, and Ryan is the last person it should happen to. I have to say I'm a bit concerned.

Agreed. Ryan your prices are fairly towards the lower end of the spectrum given the quality/customization options and especially given that you design cases for keyboards that no one else is working on (with a realistic deadline in mind). You should really look at slapping a flat $20 or even $50 fee on top of your current prices to make sure you end up in the green. That, or partner with Massdrop. You already handle all of your R&D etc. so there shouldn't be an IP transfer requirement to just run GBs through their system. Throw a poll up on there in the next week or two and let it get votes for the next 6-8 months until you're ready to run your next big project.

Online Puddsy

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1038 on: Wed, 16 January 2019, 14:43:38 »
...figure out how to get this keyboard thing not lose me money on every run

 :confused:

This really shouldn't be happening, and Ryan is the last person it should happen to. I have to say I'm a bit concerned.

nobody runs GBs for the money, but ryan should at least be breaking even for how good the end product is
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Offline naasfu

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1039 on: Wed, 16 January 2019, 15:26:38 »
I currently have a batch being coated right now, supposedly complete next week (but factory timeline promises are almost invariably wrong/lies). Once they're boxed and assembled, I put them into stock and send out an email notification on my list. There aren't very many, unfortunately, though. =\

hey norbauer, what colors will be available?  gotta make some decisions. :)
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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1040 on: Wed, 16 January 2019, 20:55:05 »
...figure out how to get this keyboard thing not lose me money on every run

 :confused:

This really shouldn't be happening, and Ryan is the last person it should happen to. I have to say I'm a bit concerned.



Agreed. Ryan your prices are fairly towards the lower end of the spectrum given the quality/customization options and especially given that you design cases for keyboards that no one else is working on (with a realistic deadline in mind). You should really look at slapping a flat $20 or even $50 fee on top of your current prices to make sure you end up in the green. That, or partner with Massdrop. You already handle all of your R&D etc. so there shouldn't be an IP transfer requirement to just run GBs through their system. Throw a poll up on there in the next week or two and let it get votes for the next 6-8 months until you're ready to run your next big project.

nobody runs GBs for the money, but ryan should at least be breaking even for how good the end product is


Thanks, guys! I really appreciate that. Firstly, if for some reason anybody is particularly preoccupied with the continued financial viability of my projects, I cordially invite them to pick up a Norbaforce keyring. :D (Though hopefully no appeal to altruism is necessary; I actually think they're pretty cool—check out the video.)

Anyway, I've actually been doing a lot of meditating on this very subject over the past few weeks: namely, my level of commitment to continuing to do keyboard projects after shipping my current on-order group buys (Heavy-6 and Norbaforce Round 3.14). Puddsy's point is well taken, but I believe that if one wants to do anything truly creatively ambitious or interesting, the resources of a profitable enterprise make it much more feasible. As such, I think profitability is a worthwhile goal, even though I haven't yet quite hit that mark. It would simply make it possible to do cooler stuff, and more sustainably.

As such, I had been intending to double-down and make some 2019 investments in my keyboard work/infrastructure in hopes of figuring how to turn it into a more sustainable business that could become a primary focus of my time. However, I still sort of vacillate every day on whether that's a worthwhile goal. This is perhaps a good occasion to muse out loud on the subject and, in so doing, to clarify my own thoughts for myself. And maybe some of you will just be curious to learn a bit of the background of these projects, so I'll indulge in a bit of navel-gazing below.

I enjoy making keyboard-related stuff enormously, but there are two things that make it sometimes quite discouraging. The first one is just the economics. I tend to focus on the quality of the end product and its creative properties, which means hiring various third-party firms to help me with stuff like inspections, logistics, etc., so that I can meet my own standards of cosmetic of quality and the seemingly insatiable demand for me to make more housings available. However, compared to most consumer products, these are fantastically small-scale projects, so I have very little price negotiation leverage with manufacturers and, when it comes to the non-manufacturing vendors, I often find myself carrying the same overhead of an operation that has millions of dollars a year in revenue (whereas my projects aren't even the tiniest fraction of that). For example, my monthly carrying costs for the business, whether or not I sell anything that month, is easily something like $2000+. This includes a bookkeeping firm and accounting software system that are required to comply with IRS requirements, inventory/COGS tracking software (which is shockingly expensive), third-party sourcing and inspection firm, MailChimp subscription, SurveyMonkey subscription, web hosting, Shopify subscription and fees, warehousing and fulfillment fees, etc., etc.. On top of all that, California requires over $1000 in yearly state and local fees just to be able to have a business here, before you take in your first dollar. So that means that, in any given year, even before I've sold a single item, I start out down $25,000. And I can't just sell $25,000 in housings to cover that, because the majority of the retail price on a given item goes to direct costs related to manufacture. That $25k needs to be margin after manufacturing costs are paid. All this just to break even. And the problem with group buys is that you price them in advance, so you have to have an ironclad handle on what all your costs are going to be before you actually go into production. Any slight miscalculations or surprises and it all comes directly out of that margin, easily pushing a project from the black into the red. So I can find myself investing hundreds of hours of work on a project and a over year of stress, worry, and fighting with factories for quality, as I did with the Norbaforce project, and at the end of the day finding myself actually paying for the privilege of contributing my time and taking all that financial risk—all due to factors entirely out of my control. Even for the most temperamentally entrepreneurial of folks, this can be a bit demoralizing.

The second issue is that when you're not physically manufacturing the stuff yourself, it's nearly impossible to get manufacturers to care about the quality of the end product as much as you do. The ways factories will try to screw and cheat you are truly endless, and witnessing this firsthand regularly makes me despair for our species. Factories all seem to care only about inputs and not outputs; that is, if they went through the motions of making your parts, regardless of whether what comes out at the other end looks good, they figure they've done their piece and will do everything they can to collect their payment before you have any chance to do anything about it. Factories will regularly deliver parts, representing them as good to go, that absolutely no honest, non-blind human being inspecting the part would have passed as cosmetically acceptable—just hoping that you somehow won't notice, or that the cost will have been so high of shipping and importing them that you won't want to go to the bother and expense of returning them because doing so would cost more than it's worth. With the exception of a couple of trusted US manufacturers (which, sadly, don't make machined parts), this has happened to varying degrees on literally every manufacturing run I've ever done on any product, keyboard and otherwise. Factory visits, QC docs, third-party inspection firms, reiterating my high quality standards across endless conversations before production begins: none of it seems to prevent it from happening. I'm constantly switching factories and searching for better ones after previous ones prove themselves to be somewhere on the incompetent-malicious spectrum; I've explored in detail working with probably about 50 different factories just this year on keyboard related projects alone.  I regularly see reject rates as high as 50%, and getting it fixed often happens partially or entirely at my own expense, all the while stressing out as I watch shipping timelines slip, again entirely outside of my control and in spite of effusive assurances beforehand by factories that they're different and nothing like that could possibly happen with them. When I feel like I'm letting people down by potentially slipping delivery timelines and all the vendors I'm working with are figuring out how to pass off inferior product as acceptable is when I really start to feel like it's not fun anymore. I've been having one of those weeks this week, actually. But I know from experience that this feeling also usually passes, and in the end I always figure out how to ensure that only good stuff goes out to people who support my projects.

As to how to start making this process less miserable and someday actually financially self-sustaining over the long term, I have a few ideas. Firstly, I really need to get away from the group buy model. For one thing, it's a lot of overhead responding to requests to change addresses, people selling slots and wanting to switch buyers, changing their mind and cancelling their orders or wanting to switch finishes, and responding to the unending barrage of "any updates?" messages on six different social media platforms (I always push out updates whenever there's anything important actually to report). But, even more importantly, group buys make pricing the product an act of total guesswork, as unforeseen costs always seem to creep into every project, no matter how much experience I accumulate and try to account for things that went wrong on the last project. Producing in advance and then selling in small in-stock batches would make sensible costing and pricing possible. The trouble, of course, is that doing in-stock inventory means making guesses about how popular something is going to be, and also taking a big personal financial risk. The landed cost of a batch of keyboard housings, even around the factory MOQ, can easily run around $40k and well upwards, which to my mind is a lot of money to front, especially when you don't know whether and how many people will actually buy the thing. I recently decided to take this plunge experimentally with my TKL carry bags (coming into inventory any day now, or so I am promised), but I don't really know if I'll sell only 10 or if the whole 200 will sell in a matter of hours like some of my other stuff has. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Regarding clappingcactus's suggestion: I'm afraid that switching to Massdrop might only worsen the problems I've described above. It only creates more layers of indirection, money-vacuuming middlemen, and loss of accountability for quality to the final end factory. I don't personally have anything against Massdrop and have only had largely positive dealings with them, especially the lower-levels folks like Yanbo, formerly Kunal, and now my old pal Elbert who works there. However, I'm sufficiently enmeshed in the keyboard community to have heard quite a few truly compelling horror stories from fellow designer-creators (many of them quite well-known in the keyboard world) who have sworn off the notion of ever working with Massdrop after whatever that person's last project was with them. It's enough to give one pause. And, in any event, I simply just don't want to give up control over the QC process and have something arrive on people's doorsteps that's junk, but with my name on it.

Another obvious suggestion would be trying to source outside of Asia, something I have tried endlessly over the past two years to arrange. I don't source products abroad in order to save money; I do it because it's the only way I can find factories even willing to consider the work. Low-volume consumer products with high cosmetic standards are something most US machine shops don't want to touch with a 99.5-foot pole. The ones that are left here in the States prefer exclusively to work with high-paying aerospace and medical customers who don't care about a little scratch here or there because they're functional parts. When, after exhaustive searches, I have been able to find factories that are even willing to quote the job, it varies anywhere from 2-10x the China price (no joke). But a $300-400 housing is already pretty bonkers. It's also very hard to find shops that do finishing work (such as blasting, polishing, anodizing, etc.) at all here, regardless of price.

Anyway, I don't really have any great answers on these subjects yet beyond to persist. I do keep getting better at finding ways of playing the various strengths and weaknesses of certain factories off each other: for example, I have one factory that can do stainless steel cost-effectively but is awful at finishing, so I arrange to get them to make the parts and then ship them to another trusted shop on a different continent to do the finishing work. I use a different place for CNC milling billet aluminum, and yet another for machined sheet goods. And I've been working with a company that does computerized inspection processes that are quite rigorous that might prevent me from personally doing all the final inspections by hand in person. Combining that with more in-stock stuff and fewer group buys (when finances permit) might make things more sustainable. I also have some other big new product ideas that could help bankroll ongoing keyboard work, but I won't bore anyone with those details here, as it's all still very much in development.

Anyway, since a few of you seemed interested, I thought I'd give the full back-story to my rather off-hand comment before. Any thoughts are, as ever, welcome.

Online clappingcactus

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1041 on: Wed, 16 January 2019, 22:47:50 »
That's a lot to take in and consider, and I'm not trying to act like I'm a better authority or idea generator than you are: I'm not.

On the business front: Why run a company out of California at all? Nowadays (I'm part of the photography community) people who only have an online store-front really try to host companies out of Estonia. You don't pay tax during non-revenue generating periods, and the monthly overhead for having an intermediary compliant company to provide physical addresses and government facing paperwork is on the scale of 100EUR a month. You can still have and hold physical products in California for your final QC, but as long as you do everything above board in Estonia, you can 'run' your company from anywhere in the world. On the Shopify front: Is your whole website hosted with Shopify or are you on their $9 'shopify button' plan? If you want to cut some costs there let me know, some of my best friends work at Shopify (their main HQ are in my city), I can't help you get a discount but I can connect you to someone who can help you work everything exactly as it is right now on their bottom tier plan. This is all assuming that you don't sell enough boards in person to effectively count as 'doing business IN the USA'.

When it comes to manufacturing, there are a few new community options. Have you considered teaming up with ALF? Their delivery windows are poor, but they do work with the community intensively, and if you're okay with the model of footing bills upfront, maybe ALF will let you find some middle-ground (like pay half up front and receive half of the machined cases, receive second half after a GB, otherwise they're free to send it to China under their own GB). The folks on https://www.reddit.com/r/Skookum/ also do a lot of small batch in-house US-local machining.

Sorry. I'm sure this is stressful for you, and upsetting. You're one of the community's favourite makers, and I'm sure you know it. As soon as the month rolls over and I have next month's disposable keyboard budget, I'm buying at least one of your gorgeous keychains. I'll also buy one of your bags as long as you have a recommendation for foam to fit a 60% :P. I'd like to echo codywanks when they say that this shouldn't happen to you. You're awesome, and support the community with so much and I hope you know the community would support you back if you made this kind of struggle clearer. It might seem shameless, but you can start providing some 'value-added' incentives for these revenue-generating side-gigs like the keyring (i.e. purchasers have first dibs in your next sale, or get a vote on what your next project could be) or on the carry-bag (i.e. purchasers get an extended colour change or upgrade window in your next sale - that way your 'overhead' on the admin side is still compensated somehow). I hadn't considered that the keyring could be more than a passion project to you, but now that I know, I will support it. I'm sure if you tell everyone, everyone would do the same.

Offline poodude

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1042 on: Wed, 16 January 2019, 23:11:18 »
That was extremely interesting and insightful, thank you for sharing.

It feels like these Chinese factories are taking advantage of you due to being on the other side of the world. Being native to China and able to personally inspect progress would give them far less leverage.

Just reading this would make me want to throw in the towel, so I think most people would appreciate your dedication.

Hopefully you find a business model that works for everyone involved.

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1043 on: Wed, 16 January 2019, 23:34:17 »
Sorry. I'm sure this is stressful for you, and upsetting. You're one of the community's favourite makers, and I'm sure you know it. As soon as the month rolls over and I have next month's disposable keyboard budget, I'm buying at least one of your gorgeous keychains. I'll also buy one of your bags as long as you have a recommendation for foam to fit a 60% :P. I'd like to echo codywanks when they say that this shouldn't happen to you. You're awesome, and support the community with so much and I hope you know the community would support you back if you made this kind of struggle clearer. It might seem shameless, but you can start providing some 'value-added' incentives for these revenue-generating side-gigs like the keyring (i.e. purchasers have first dibs in your next sale, or get a vote on what your next project could be) or on the carry-bag (i.e. purchasers get an extended colour change or upgrade window in your next sale - that way your 'overhead' on the admin side is still compensated somehow). I hadn't considered that the keyring could be more than a passion project to you, but now that I know, I will support it. I'm sure if you tell everyone, everyone would do the same.
Thanks, as always, for the kind words. :)

I hope it didn't sound like I was complaining at all. I don't even mind losing a bit of money on projects like this when it comes to that; I can afford it. I feel very fortunate to be able to undertake these projects and to be part of such an awesome community of folks who are always so kindly cheerleading me on. When I first got into keyboards, I could only dream of being able to do stuff like I'm able to do now. I was really only attempting to answer why exactly these projects have, in aggregate, lost money overall so far, since I just kind of mentioned it in passing previously. I just thought I would provide the full context.

Thanks for the suggestions regarding company registration and Shopify, but alas I've looked into both and, for various reasons that probably wouldn't be interesting to anyone, I'm kind of stuck with the current situation. To put it briefly, I need the higher tier of Shopify than the lowest one because the higher per-transaction rate on the lower tier doesn't justify the cost savings, and also registering the company elsewhere (including just in another state) doesn't make a lot of sense. I talked to a lawyer about it before registering and there's just really no way of getting around a California registration and getting a local municipality business license that is actually advantageous. Those two are relatively minor costs, in any case. Like most people, I just hate ongoing monthly rolling fees that bill whether you're actually using them or making money each month. It creates this time pressure that makes it hard to walk away take a break for a month or something—because you feel like you are pointlessly burning cash. Sadly, it turns out that running a business isn't something that you can really half-way do very well, unless of course it's somehow extremely lucrative.

For a 60%, you might actually be better off picking up the Heavy-6 ballistic carry brief. It doesn't have the modular num pad bag option but otherwise is analogous to the TKL bag, just with a smaller form factor. It's also in stock and shipping now (unless bundled with a Heavy-6 group buy order). The TKL bags are currently en route to the new fulfillment warehouse I'm using from the first one I tried (which sucked).

You know, I also actually thought about some kind of "early access" email list that would come from supporting side projects like the keyring. Still mulling on that one. :)

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1044 on: Wed, 16 January 2019, 23:42:21 »
That was extremely interesting and insightful, thank you for sharing.

It feels like these Chinese factories are taking advantage of you due to being on the other side of the world. Being native to China and able to personally inspect progress would give them far less leverage.

Just reading this would make me want to throw in the towel, so I think most people would appreciate your dedication.

Hopefully you find a business model that works for everyone involved.

Alas, it's a very common problem to companies of sizes anything below that of large mega-corporations who can operate their own facilities in China directly (like Apple). I recently read the excellent book Poorly Made in China by Paul Midler, which at least gave me the solace of knowing that all the problems and run-arounds I've dealt with are more or less par for the course for small businesses sourcing products in China and not just something I'm personally doing wrong or being naive about—which is what I had initially feared. I've founded and sold three companies in the past, one of which had an office in New Delhi, so it's not exactly like I'm new to international commerce or cross-cultural issues, or business operations in general.

Thanks for the encouragement though. As I say, I keep persisting as best I can, and each time I do learn a little bit that I can apply to the next time, so it's not entirely futile. Now that I think about it, I've learned soooo much about consumer products manufacturing, international sourcing, and logistics in the past few years, and a lot of that has come from keyboard stuff. I have done large runs of consumer products for other well-known national brands during this period as well, but nowhere am I as involved in the process at even level as in the keyboard projects. It's a lot of fun learning about this stuff, even if it sometimes causes headaches. Admittedly, some of that probably comes from being a bit of a perfectionist and perhaps caring a bit too much, but that too is a big part of the fun.  :D

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1045 on: Thu, 17 January 2019, 08:14:57 »
That description of the under-the-hood economics of a group buy ought to be required reading for anyone considering running one, or joining one.  Thanks for sharing this hard-won information (and the Midler recommendation).

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1046 on: Thu, 17 January 2019, 09:10:39 »
That description of the under-the-hood economics of a group buy ought to be required reading for anyone considering running one, or joining one.  Thanks for sharing this hard-won information (and the Midler recommendation).

It is ridiculously difficult for how much you get out of it. I've got framework for another one right now and I'm seriously considering just not doing it because I don't know if I can commit that time right now.
QFR | MJ2 TKL | "Schumiboard" | "Bulgogiboard" (Keycon 104) | MIRA SE "2Y10M" | TGR Alice "Pink + White" | MEME "Sound Meme" | Keycult No 1 "The Brass Behemoth" | Southpaw Fullsize (when it ships) | Daily driver: TGR Alice

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Offline thelaughingman

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Re: the Norbaforce: after-market housing for RealForce TKL keyboards — SHIPPING
« Reply #1047 on: Thu, 17 January 2019, 10:08:08 »
More
...figure out how to get this keyboard thing not lose me money on every run

 :confused:

This really shouldn't be happening, and Ryan is the last person it should happen to. I have to say I'm a bit concerned.



Agreed. Ryan your prices are fairly towards the lower end of the spectrum given the quality/customization options and especially given that you design cases for keyboards that no one else is working on (with a realistic deadline in mind). You should really look at slapping a flat $20 or even $50 fee on top of your current prices to make sure you end up in the green. That, or partner with Massdrop. You already handle all of your R&D etc. so there shouldn't be an IP transfer requirement to just run GBs through their system. Throw a poll up on there in the next week or two and let it get votes for the next 6-8 months until you're ready to run your next big project.

nobody runs GBs for the money, but ryan should at least be breaking even for how good the end product is


Thanks, guys! I really appreciate that. Firstly, if for some reason anybody is particularly preoccupied with the continued financial viability of my projects, I cordially invite them to pick up a Norbaforce keyring. :D (Though hopefully no appeal to altruism is necessary; I actually think they're pretty cool—check out the video.)

Anyway, I've actually been doing a lot of meditating on this very subject over the past few weeks: namely, my level of commitment to continuing to do keyboard projects after shipping my current on-order group buys (Heavy-6 and Norbaforce Round 3.14). Puddsy's point is well taken, but I believe that if one wants to do anything truly creatively ambitious or interesting, the resources of a profitable enterprise make it much more feasible. As such, I think profitability is a worthwhile goal, even though I haven't yet quite hit that mark. It would simply make it possible to do cooler stuff, and more sustainably.

As such, I had been intending to double-down and make some 2019 investments in my keyboard work/infrastructure in hopes of figuring how to turn it into a more sustainable business that could become a primary focus of my time. However, I still sort of vacillate every day on whether that's a worthwhile goal. This is perhaps a good occasion to muse out loud on the subject and, in so doing, to clarify my own thoughts for myself. And maybe some of you will just be curious to learn a bit of the background of these projects, so I'll indulge in a bit of navel-gazing below.

I enjoy making keyboard-related stuff enormously, but there are two things that make it sometimes quite discouraging. The first one is just the economics. I tend to focus on the quality of the end product and its creative properties, which means hiring various third-party firms to help me with stuff like inspections, logistics, etc., so that I can meet my own standards of cosmetic of quality and the seemingly insatiable demand for me to make more housings available. However, compared to most consumer products, these are fantastically small-scale projects, so I have very little price negotiation leverage with manufacturers and, when it comes to the non-manufacturing vendors, I often find myself carrying the same overhead of an operation that has millions of dollars a year in revenue (whereas my projects aren't even the tiniest fraction of that). For example, my monthly carrying costs for the business, whether or not I sell anything that month, is easily something like $2000+. This includes a bookkeeping firm and accounting software system that are required to comply with IRS requirements, inventory/COGS tracking software (which is shockingly expensive), third-party sourcing and inspection firm, MailChimp subscription, SurveyMonkey subscription, web hosting, Shopify subscription and fees, warehousing and fulfillment fees, etc., etc.. On top of all that, California requires over $1000 in yearly state and local fees just to be able to have a business here, before you take in your first dollar. So that means that, in any given year, even before I've sold a single item, I start out down $25,000. And I can't just sell $25,000 in housings to cover that, because the majority of the retail price on a given item goes to direct costs related to manufacture. That $25k needs to be margin after manufacturing costs are paid. All this just to break even. And the problem with group buys is that you price them in advance, so you have to have an ironclad handle on what all your costs are going to be before you actually go into production. Any slight miscalculations or surprises and it all comes directly out of that margin, easily pushing a project from the black into the red. So I can find myself investing hundreds of hours of work on a project and a over year of stress, worry, and fighting with factories for quality, as I did with the Norbaforce project, and at the end of the day finding myself actually paying for the privilege of contributing my time and taking all that financial risk—all due to factors entirely out of my control. Even for the most temperamentally entrepreneurial of folks, this can be a bit demoralizing.

The second issue is that when you're not physically manufacturing the stuff yourself, it's nearly impossible to get manufacturers to care about the quality of the end product as much as you do. The ways factories will try to screw and cheat you are truly endless, and witnessing this firsthand regularly makes me despair for our species. Factories all seem to care only about inputs and not outputs; that is, if they went through the motions of making your parts, regardless of whether what comes out at the other end looks good, they figure they've done their piece and will do everything they can to collect their payment before you have any chance to do anything about it. Factories will regularly deliver parts, representing them as good to go, that absolutely no honest, non-blind human being inspecting the part would have passed as cosmetically acceptable—just hoping that you somehow won't notice, or that the cost will have been so high of shipping and importing them that you won't want to go to the bother and expense of returning them because doing so would cost more than it's worth. With the exception of a couple of trusted US manufacturers (which, sadly, don't make machined parts), this has happened to varying degrees on literally every manufacturing run I've ever done on any product, keyboard and otherwise. Factory visits, QC docs, third-party inspection firms, reiterating my high quality standards across endless conversations before production begins: none of it seems to prevent it from happening. I'm constantly switching factories and searching for better ones after previous ones prove themselves to be somewhere on the incompetent-malicious spectrum; I've explored in detail working with probably about 50 different factories just this year on keyboard related projects alone.  I regularly see reject rates as high as 50%, and getting it fixed often happens partially or entirely at my own expense, all the while stressing out as I watch shipping timelines slip, again entirely outside of my control and in spite of effusive assurances beforehand by factories that they're different and nothing like that could possibly happen with them. When I feel like I'm letting people down by potentially slipping delivery timelines and all the vendors I'm working with are figuring out how to pass off inferior product as acceptable is when I really start to feel like it's not fun anymore. I've been having one of those weeks this week, actually. But I know from experience that this feeling also usually passes, and in the end I always figure out how to ensure that only good stuff goes out to people who support my projects.

As to how to start making this process less miserable and someday actually financially self-sustaining over the long term, I have a few ideas. Firstly, I really need to get away from the group buy model. For one thing, it's a lot of overhead responding to requests to change addresses, people selling slots and wanting to switch buyers, changing their mind and cancelling their orders or wanting to switch finishes, and responding to the unending barrage of "any updates?" messages on six different social media platforms (I always push out updates whenever there's anything important actually to report). But, even more importantly, group buys make pricing the product an act of total guesswork, as unforeseen costs always seem to creep into every project, no matter how much experience I accumulate and try to account for things that went wrong on the last project. Producing in advance and then selling in small in-stock batches would make sensible costing and pricing possible. The trouble, of course, is that doing in-stock inventory means making guesses about how popular something is going to be, and also taking a big personal financial risk. The landed cost of a batch of keyboard housings, even around the factory MOQ, can easily run around $40k and well upwards, which to my mind is a lot of money to front, especially when you don't know whether and how many people will actually buy the thing. I recently decided to take this plunge experimentally with my TKL carry bags (coming into inventory any day now, or so I am promised), but I don't really know if I'll sell only 10 or if the whole 200 will sell in a matter of hours like some of my other stuff has. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Regarding clappingcactus's suggestion: I'm afraid that switching to Massdrop might only worsen the problems I've described above. It only creates more layers of indirection, money-vacuuming middlemen, and loss of accountability for quality to the final end factory. I don't personally have anything against Massdrop and have only had largely positive dealings with them, especially the lower-levels folks like Yanbo, formerly Kunal, and now my old pal Elbert who works there. However, I'm sufficiently enmeshed in the keyboard community to have heard quite a few truly compelling horror stories from fellow designer-creators (many of them quite well-known in the keyboard world) who have sworn off the notion of ever working with Massdrop after whatever that person's last project was with them. It's enough to give one pause. And, in any event, I simply just don't want to give up control over the QC process and have something arrive on people's doorsteps that's junk, but with my name on it.

Another obvious suggestion would be trying to source outside of Asia, something I have tried endlessly over the past two years to arrange. I don't source products abroad in order to save money; I do it because it's the only way I can find factories even willing to consider the work. Low-volume consumer products with high cosmetic standards are something most US machine shops don't want to touch with a 99.5-foot pole. The ones that are left here in the States prefer exclusively to work with high-paying aerospace and medical customers who don't care about a little scratch here or there because they're functional parts. When, after exhaustive searches, I have been able to find factories that are even willing to quote the job, it varies anywhere from 2-10x the China price (no joke). But a $300-400 housing is already pretty bonkers. It's also very hard to find shops that do finishing work (such as blasting, polishing, anodizing, etc.) at all here, regardless of price.

Anyway, I don't really have any great answers on these subjects yet beyond to persist. I do keep getting better at finding ways of playing the various strengths and weaknesses of certain factories off each other: for example, I have one factory that can do stainless steel cost-effectively but is awful at finishing, so I arrange to get them to make the parts and then ship them to another trusted shop on a different continent to do the finishing work. I use a different place for CNC milling billet aluminum, and yet another for machined sheet goods. And I've been working with a company that does computerized inspection processes that are quite rigorous that might prevent me from personally doing all the final inspections by hand in person. Combining that with more in-stock stuff and fewer group buys (when finances permit) might make things more sustainable. I also have some other big new product ideas that could help bankroll ongoing keyboard work, but I won't bore anyone with those details here, as it's all still very much in development.

Anyway, since a few of you seemed interested, I thought I'd give the full back-story to my rather off-hand comment before. Any thoughts are, as ever, welcome.


Most people buying Realforces or Novatouches for the keyboards itself and their uses.

I bought a Realforce and a Novatouch just so I could put them into your cases, ONLY THEN I'm satisfied. Looking back I wish I could have joined the Heavy-6 GB then (no budget :( ) and if I did, I would have to go out and hunt an F660C later just to use it in your case - that would be 3/3 right there.

It's always a pleasure to read through your sharing but this one is quite sobering indeed. All I could offer is some cheerleading for you, anticipation for your next project and the vote with my wallet whenever it may come  :thumb: