Author Topic: Tokyo60 v1 HHKB-like Keyboard Kit  (Read 5205 times)

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Offline Hypersphere

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Tokyo60 v1 HHKB-like Keyboard Kit
« on: Mon, 10 September 2018, 17:40:43 »

The Tokyo60 v1 kit provides a relatively easy way to build a custom keyboard for people who lack the skill or desire to do any soldering. The keyboard has a 60% form factor with 60 keys in the HHKB layout. The kit includes an anodized aluminum case with built-in plate for mounting the switches, hot-swappable (solderless) completely programmable (QMK) printed circuit board (PCB), mini-USB cable, mounting screws, silicone rubber feet, dye-sublimated keycaps (optionally), and a choice of Cherry mx or clone switches (optionally). The v2 kit includes an option for an acrylic diffuser for visualizing RBG underglow effects.


The kit arrives attractively packaged in a white cardboard box that can be used to store the assembled keyboard when not in use.


Although assembly is straightforward, it would have helped to have printed instructions included with the kit. However,  eventually Massdrop posted some abbreviated instructions that were helpful.

Briefly, the steps are as follows:

1. Attach the stabilizers for the left Enter, Left Shift, and Spacebar to the PCB.
2. Insert 3-4 switches into opposite corners of the top case/plate.
3. Invert the case and gently press the PCB onto the switch pins – this serves to align the PCB with the plate.
4. Screw the PCB to the top case/plate, but only partially tighten the screws to allow the remaining switches to align properly when inserted.
5. Turn the assembly right side up and carefully insert the remaining switches through the top case/plate and into the PCB.
6. Turn the assembly over again to tighten the PCB screws and to screw the bottom case onto the top case/plate.
7. Add the supplied silicone feet or add your own according to the typing angle desired.
8. Press the keycaps onto the switch stems.

Assembly Notes

1. Do not over-tighten screws! This can result in stripping the threads.
2. To quieten stabilizer rattle, I suggest lubing them. I use Super Lube 21010 synthetic grease.
3. When inserting switches into the PCB, be sure that each switch is oriented correctly so that the metal legs are aligned with the hot-swap holes. The Esc and #1 switches are mounted upside-down to allow for the mini-USB connector on that corner of the PCB.
4. Insert each switch loosely and gently maneuver it so that the metal legs find their way into the hot-swap receptacles before gently pressing the switch into place. Finish installing each switch by pressing firmly to be sure the switch housing is flush with the metal plate.
5. Test each switch before installing the next one to be sure it is making proper electrical contact. I find it helpful to use the free software, “Switch Hitter” (for Windows) from EliteKeyboards. This shows an image of a keyboard with each key lighting up as the stem is pressed. The software will also flag keys that have “chatter”. If the switch test is abnormal, first be sure that the switch is properly seated. If an abnormal result persists, remove the switch and check for bent metal legs. If the legs are bent, straighten them with small needle-nose pliers, carefully reinsert the switch, and test again. It might be necessary to discard the switch and replace it with a new one. An easy way to remove a switch is to invert the board and push on the center plastic post with a BIC pen or similar tool.

The Tokyo60 keyboard is completely programmable. Every key can be remapped to anything the user desires using QMK firmware:

Complete programmability is a great feature in a keyboard. I believe that all new keyboards should be completely programmable using firmware such as TMK or QMK. However, I did not need to take advantage of this feature on the Tokyo60, because the default layout was already my favorite: HHKB.

Finished Product

An image of my assembled keyboard is shown below:


The spacebar and modifiers are blank black PBT in Cherry profile from Imsto. The alpha keys are black on blue dye-sublimated PBT from Imsto. The Fn key is a blank yellow PBT keycap from Originative.

Originally, I had installed 65g purple Zealios, but I decided to remove these and install 67g blue Zilent switches (also from Zeal PC).

Impressions and Conclusions

My first impressions of the Tokyo60 v1 kit were negative. However, in retrospect, this was due in part to my not taking sufficient care when installing the switches. During my first attempt, I had a number of seemingly dead switches owing to the fact that I had bent the metal legs during installation. However, after replacing the damaged purple Zealio 65g switches with Cherry mx clear switches that I had on hand, I was able to get all the keys operating correctly.

Initially, I also did not particularly like the sound or feel of the keyboard. These attributes improved markedly after removing all the switches and replacing them with blue Zilent 67g switches. The keyboard is now extremely quiet. Moreover, the feel of the board is quite refined – a pleasant surprise after negative experiences with most Cherry mx or mx-clone keyboards.

There are still a few minor glitches and some concerns. For example, during normal typing, I get occasional unwanted spaces – this is probably due to having the same weight of switch in the spacebar as in all the other switches. I might go back and install a heavier switch under the spacebar or change my typing habits to avoid resting my thumbs too heavily on the spacebar.

In addition, although the keys are largely quiet during normal operation, an exception is the Return key – the keycap seems to contact the plate only on this key. I might try filing down the Return keycap or installing a different brand in this location.

Finally, during the first two rounds of switch replacements, removing a switch from the top sometimes resulted in pulling off the top housing, and removing a keycap sometimes pulled the switch out of its socket. However, these problems can be circumvented by removing the switches by pushing them out from the bottom, although of course this entails removing the bottom part of the case.

Overall, after a rocky beginning and two rounds of changing switches, I am now quite pleased with the Tokyo60 keyboard. It has many of the features I prefer, including a 60% form factor, HHKB layout, dye-sublimated PBT keycaps, and a hefty attractive case. I am also an advocate of complete programmability, although I did not need this feature, because the default configuration was already my preferred HHKB layout. The hot-swappable PCB in this kit affords a good way for a novice to build a keyboard and to be able to swap out switches without desoldering and resoldering. My former reservations about the Tokyo60 keyboard kit have been largely addressed, and I am now able to give it a high recommendation.

On the other hand, the Tokyo60 keyboard kit is rather expensive, and the cost escalates depending on extras such as replacement keycaps and switches. Although the kit can result in a highly serviceable HHKB-like keyboard, its final cost can exceed that of a genuine HHKB Pro 2, and it will not likely replace the Fujitsu Topre-switch model as my daily driver.

Additional Comments on Switches           

Zeal PC blue Zilent 67g switches are the first Cherry mx-type switches I have liked. I have tried many mx switches, including Cherry red, black, brown, clear, blue, and green; Cherry vintage black; Gateron yellow; and Zealio purple 65g.

Up until now, my favorite switches included 45g Topre, vintage blue or white “pine” Alps, and IBM Model F capacitive buckling spring. I am now inclined to add 67g Zilents to the list.

The tactility and weight of blue Zilent 67g switches are ideal, and there is only a hint of scratchiness that becomes unnoticeable after typing for a while. The switches are internally silenced on both the downstroke and the upstroke. There is neither a click nor a clack with each keystroke, but the switches do not feel mushy. There is a decent amount of tactile feedback – more than with mx browns but without the heavy end-stroke cushion of mx clears. A similar silencing principle is used in Cherry mx silent red or black switches, but unlike the Zilent switches, the silent Cherry switches are linear and non-tactile. Matias “Quiet Click” switches are also silenced on both the upstroke and downstroke, but they rattle; consequently, they are much noisier than Zilents.

For me, the Zilent 67g switches made all the difference in the sound and feel of the Tokyo60 keyboard. I highly recommend the combination of the Tokyo60 keyboard kit with Zilent 67g switches. The only downside is the relatively high price of Zilents. However, they are newly on the market, and with increased adoption, the price should decrease.
« Last Edit: Mon, 10 September 2018, 17:45:37 by Hypersphere »