Building a custom mechanical keyboard - Part 1

Published 12/23/2018 12:06:13 PM
Filed under Developers life

I've always been a huge fan of mechanical keyboards. Personally I use the daskeyboard mechanical keyboard. It's a clicky, loud typing beast. Great for writing books and blogposts and occasional programming when I get to it. But I want something different. I decided to build an Iris custom keyboard.

Why build your own keyboard?

The big question is, why would you ever build your own keyboard? There are so many good choices available! Yes there are and I would suggest that you try a standard one first. They are much cheaper than building your own.

Building a custom keyboard is pretty expensive. Most likely you will end up spending 200 euros to get a good one. The fun for me is in building one.

I've recently picked up the soldering iron again. I started working on some smaller projects with my Raspberry Pi and a couple of arduinos. My wife and I are working on a robot car. 3D printing parts and soldering up cameras, sensors and what-not.

Building something electronic sparked an old love for building hardware. And as soon as a colleague of mine showed me his blog on custom keyboards, I decided I wanted to build one myself.

What is an Iris keyboard?

So while I was reading his blog I wondered, what kind of keyboard do I want. I definitely wanted something ergonomic. A split keyboard is an excellent choice for a more ergonomic typing experience.

There's a couple of DIY mechanical keyboards that fit my criteria. For example:

They all look fantastic. Some of them are harder to get parts for than others though. So be sure to look around the internet for a good webshop to order the parts from.

I went with the iris keyboard because it is the one that is the easiest to get in the Netherlands. Also, I kind of like the layout and lighting options on that one.

Getting the parts

The iris keyboard is sold by and candykeys. You need several things to build a fully functional keyboard.

It all starts with the Iris PCB kit. A set of PCB boards to which you have to solder the keyboard switches and some other components. The kit includes the following:

  • A set of PCB plates for the keyboard (left hand and right hand)
  • A set of diodes for the switches
  • A cable to connect the two halves together
  • Two connectors for the cable
  • Two reset buttons so you can flash the microcontrollers on the keyboard

Additionally you will need to order the following extra parts:

If you want to add lighting to your keyboard you need to get the following parts:

I personally didn't get the lighting kit through a webshop but bought them from a local electronics supplier. It's much cheaper that way.

Next steps

Full disclosure, I didn't receive all the parts yet, so I can't say anything about the build itself. Hopefully the stuff arrives soon so I can start building!

Stay tuned for more soldering and fixing action soon.