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Building Redox Keyboards
I've been using a split keyboard for some time, which I assembled using one of the cheaper kits on
Aliexpress
. Some time in September 2021, my wife remarked that she also wanted a split keyboard, and that sparked in me what might be called a hacker's burning desire to build the thing.
Ordering the parts
Now, I knew that split keyboard were difficult to find. In our little search, we found that if we wanted to buy a customized set which was programmable (the only kind of split keyboard which makes sense), it would set us back some $600 SGD per set.
Obviously we balked at the cost, and so I said I'd build it, and better yet, I'd build a prototype first so we could try the keyboard layout before actually spending more money on it.
About $200 SGD later, I had bought enough switches for 3.25 keyboards, enough hotswap sockets for 3, TRRS jacks and diodes for 6, and so on... I went a little crazy there.
I got a friend to help me 3d print the cases for the prototype, and after he sent them over, I gave it a little test fitting.
Test_Fitting.jpg
With a little more research we confirmed that we wanted the Redox keyboard for a couple of reasons:
-
There was enough
documentation
on it
-
It was viable to buy parts for it (keycaps and cases were especially tricky to find)
-
It was a design where either side could be the master
So we ordered some cases and PCBs from
FalbaTech
and keycap sets from
Aliexpress
.
Flashing keyboards with QMK
Wooden_Case.jpg
Funny enough, I delayed the hand-wiring so long that the cases and PCBs that we ordered arrived before I had finished hand-wiring. So we went ahead and started on those first, and finished them over a weekend. It wasn't difficult to solder in the hot swap sockets, but it did give me a couple of lessons in managing the microcontrollers and working with QMK.
1.
Don't solder until you absolutely have to
2.
Read the documentation carefully before making any permanent decisions
Obviously, I made some mistakes, and cost myself a little. It took me awhile to figure out that on a Windows machine, the COM Ports would appear only for a moment on a microcontroller that was already a USB host. Shortly after I figured out that I had soldered my right microcontroller upside down.
Other than that, configuring a keyboard layout flashing the microcontrollers was simple enough using
QMK Configurator
and following
QMK Documentation
The end result: My wife and I both got new split keyboards for the price of one Ergodox.
Finished_Build_Chinks.jpg
Finished_Build_Jul.jpg
Hand-wiring a keyboard
I then realized that I did want a second keyboard to bring to the office, so I figured I would finish my hand-wiring. This took me longer than both other keyboards combined, partly because I wanted to use the hotswap switches, and partly because stripping little sections of wire is very time-consuming.
Hotswap_Sockets.jpg
Handwire_Complete.jpg
Once all those were done though, it was a simple matter to assemble the pieces, and since I had already experienced the trouble with QMK, that was no issue either.
I debated for a while on whether to keep the microcontrollers inside the case, but my wife commented that it looks nice outside, and I kind of agree (we named it Hackie, and the look sort of fits the name).
Working_Prototype.jpg
Overall the experience of building the three keyboards was really quite tiring but also very rewarding. There's something about being able to use the thing you've made everyday; plus it looks good and is enjoyable to use.
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