My first custom keyboard project: the Ortholinear Planck

I started here: with buying the kit from Ortholinear Keyboards.

I didn’t want the aluminum housing, so I bought only the PCB and the universal top plate (which houses the switches on the keyboard).

I waited around on Massdrop for a good deal on some Gateron keyswitches, and made the decision to get the heavy, linear Gateron Blacks for use with this keyboard.I know I would be using this for work and travel, so I prioritized getting keyswitches that would be comfortable for longer periods of typing, and had the potential for quiet typing.

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Then, came the planning phase. I knew it was going to be a Planck and not something else, and I know I didn’t want the stock aluminum case, but I had no real idea about what it was going to look like at the end of the day. After some research and a lot of brainstorming, I decided on a simple wood base that would keep it light, but would also give off a sort of retro vibe. That meant choosing keycaps that fit the style, as well. The Signature Plastics 1976 SA Keycap Set was perfect for the job. That was also purchased on Massdrop, and took about 4 months for the order to fully complete.

In the meantime, I would have to solder the switches onto the PCB, and test out the circuits for any potential issues. First came just the initial process of testing the switches for any mechanical problems.

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All the switches seemed to work fine, so it was time to plan out the soldering. The first step was to decide if, and what type of LEDs to use. I decided on an orange, warm glow that matched the whole 1976 aesthetic. In preparation for any future LED issues (a preparation that came in handy!) I used SIP-sockets (bought from Keyclack) to make the LEDs replaceable on a whim. Sure enough, a couple of the LEDs failed soon after the build, and I was able to replace them so they were brand new again.

The keyboard worked. It didn’t have a case, or any keycaps, so I used it as a glorified desk toy for a couple months using old keycaps, awaiting the arrival of the 1976 set. iPhone_6s 0740.JPG

Finally, when the keycaps arrived, I tested them all out to make sure there weren’t any defects and that they all fit okay, and they did!

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The last step was to either buy or make a base. Given that I have zero woodworking skills, and no easy access to a wood fabrication shop, I started looking online for some opportunities to buy a pre-made wood case. Surely enough, on Reddit’s r/mechmarket , there was an ad for Birdseye Maple cases for the Planck. I jumped at the opportunity and bought one from N33d.

The case didn’t take too long to come in. I mounted the PCB into the case, and just like that, my first custom-built keyboard project was complete!



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