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    My pride and joy - My Colemak keyboard!

    • Started by Culinia
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    • Registered: 07-Oct-2010
    • Posts: 28

    Background Info
    My 'Colemak experience' would never have started if I was not fed up of changing batteries for my wireless keyboard. So it was around about this time last year that I started into researching my next keyboard. Inevitably I ended up on the topic of mechanical keyboards which intrigued me. I must have one. However, as I was essentially a hunt-and-pecker I was unsatisfied with what I had just purchased for a considerable sum and seriously considered returning the keyboard. This is when, I thought I would learn how to touch type albeit in the infamous QWERTY layout. Which I wanted to do properly for some time but could not find the motivation or energy to get started.

    After successfully learning to touch type at around 50wpm, my original concerns, which can be found here document some of my worries whether or not to go ahead with learning Colemak, for which I happily did. Earlier this year I was offended of looking at the QWERTY keyboard layout on my beloved mechanical keyboard. The reason why I could not just rearrange them is because the keys are different sizes and profiles which meant it would result in an uneven feel which I did not want to do. So therefore I started to investigate (use internet search engine) if it was possible to get keys for this keyboard online.

    Luckily through this website and another it seemed that they were organizing a 'group' buy for keys that are compatible for my keyboard - I swiftly jumped on board since there was an option for a Colemak set. However it is interesting to note at the time there was no 'backspace kit' (for the Capslock position) and it took one colemak member to realize and luckily he managed to get one included. Lastly, I wanted a Capslock key in the Backspace position and so I 'petitioned' - gathered up some interest from other uses and managed to get some available if the minimum quantity was ordered. Which it was. So this is what I want to show you, my keyboard.

    Keyboard Pictures - FKBN105MC/UK
    What you are seeing is a Filco Majestouch 105 Click Action Keyboard (Cherry MX Blue) FKBN105MC/UK mechanical keyboard stripped off its default QWERTY keycaps and replaced with Colemak keycaps from the Geekhack Round Three group buy.
    PoRK8l.jpg

    p9QVBl.jpg

    7IMb9l.jpg

    NSEG6.jpg

    Although the classic design of the layout is not to everyone's taste -- the dark and light grey scheme, the centred and all Capital modifier without symbols keys, most importantly (for touch typists I would guess in my opinion) is the bumps on the T and N keys and the absence of any for the F and J keys. Also notice that I have customized the layout to my region (United Kingdom, pound sign on the 3 key for example) and my keyboard (ISO enter, small left shift).
    Whilst the actual design of the keys are not perfect, for example some keys are noticeably off-centred (I, :, D) and the modifier keys have abnormal spaces (SHIF T stands out the most) and the font and sizes are perhaps non-uniform (Windows, Control key are different size font). I do feel that this keyboard actually does a good job of representing a true Colemak layout and whilst I would be much more happier/prefer if everything was uniform, centred = perfect I am still happy since this is the first native Colemak keyboard I currently have.

    Keyboard Picture - FKBN87MC/EB2
    What you are seeing is a Filco Majestouch 2 87 Click Action Keyboard (Cherry MX Blue) FKBN87MC/EB2 mechanical keyboard stripped of its default QWERTY keycaps and replaced with the above Colemak keycaps from the same place. I recently got a Tenkeyless Leopold Linear Touch Keyboard (Cherry MX Red) FC200RR/AB and was unimpressed. However I was impressed with the tenkeyless form factor and so decided to downsize since I found myself not using the keypad in addition to prefering the ANSI layout (Enter and left shift key differences essentially).
    jP0sSl.jpg

    F93xi.jpg

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    4IeC3l.jpg

    Keyboard Picture - Unicomp Ultra Classic 104
    This one here is the Unicomp Ultra Classic 104 with a customized UK layout (note the ANSI key configuration and the additions of £ and EUR symbol on the 4 and 5 key. It is a Unicomp keyboard which has buckling spring mechanism and therefore has interesting history as it can trace its roots to the IBM Model M keyboard!
    0gyl5HFl.jpg

    Build Your Own
    The Mechanical Keyboard
    After some replies indicating availability and desirability, I thought it would be useful if I posted some basic information for people who would like a similar set-up or would want alternatives. I have hotlinked to forum geekhack.org where I first researched mechanical keyboards and got these keys from. So follow the blue links for more information.

    Firstly, for those who don't know. This is is no ordinary/standard keyboard that you get from the supermarket or that came with your computer. This is a mechanical keyboard. What I think will entice colemak users the most about these keyboards, despite the prohibitive cost compared to a standard keyboard I think it would be reasonable to assume colemak users are touch typists and perhaps desire not only for a better layout but also a better typing experience. I quote, from the above mentioned wiki:

    geekhack.org Mechanical Keyboard Guide said:

    The best reason is Mechanical Keyboards just feel better and they will make you more efficient at gaming/typing. After you try one most people find standard rubber dome keyboards mushy and boring!

    The Cherry MX Switch
    If you didn't know, or didn't read in full the guide. The keyboard I use and therefore the switch-type I have got are based on the 'Cherry MX' variety. Which, seems to be one of the most popular switches. This is useful if you want to have a colemak keyboard like mine. Due to the fact that there are different key switch types, the fact that Cherry MX variety are the most popular makes it useful for you to buy since you will have the chance to participate in these group buys that sell keycaps with a colemak set because when ordered in vast quantities makes the prices cheaper which perhaps won't be available on other switch types -- since there simply is not enough demand to produce the key caps at a reasonable price.

    Where to Buy 1 -- WASD Keyboards
    An alternative, this time an actual company who can make required custom (such as in colemak) keycaps (and prefitted keyboard) is WASD keyboards

    Where to Buy 2 -- The Geekhack Group Buy
    The particular keycaps I bought for my Filco where from a group buy (organized by forum members) from Geekhack Round Three Groupbuy. You may also want to look for Deskthority, another forum where it is possible to participate in these group buys. However, they may not be always in Colemak nor have the exact same style as my ones.

    Where to Buy 3 -- Unicomp
    Another option is to order a custom keyboard from the company called Unicomp.

    So that's all I have to say, hope at least you found some of it useful and brought you some idea closer where to get an albeit expensive but quality native keyboard.

    Last edited by Culinia (01-Mar-2013 17:31:56)
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    Wow, great pictures. Love to see some videos of your typing on that native Colemak keyboard.

    I cannot afford these keycaps, so I replace Qwerty keycaps with Ninja or blank keycaps on my Filco brown mechanical keyboard.

    Last edited by Tony_VN (13-Aug-2011 16:24:13)
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    • From: California Coastal Living!
    • Registered: 24-Aug-2009
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    FYI:
    There is a new supplier of keyboards and custom keycaps, WASD Keyboards (www.wasdkeyboards.com) that can etch keycaps with whatever you specify...their link on Geekhack with pics and reviews: http://geekhack.org/forumdisplay.php?83-WASD-Keyboards

    I've been to their business and can verify their abilities and service. The currently offer different color Cherry MX switch keycaps. Their keycaps match Filco. They are a great option and there does not need to be a group buy. Excellent for Colemak users and the prices are very good.

    So far, I've gotten keycaps with no legends since I'm a touch typist, so I'm not a good custom-Colemak-keycap example :)

    An Evil Screaming Flying Door Monkey From Hell typing with Colemak saved my life!

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    I'm super jealous I missed that group buy. Looks great!

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    Round four is going on right now if you want to get in on it. (http://geekhack.org/showthread.php?2048 … OUND-FOUR!)

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    After some replies indicating availability and desirability, I thought it would be useful if I posted some basic information for people who would like a similar set-up or would want alternatives, which has been edited above for your information.

    Tony_VN: I'm camera shy! Would not have the slightest how to position camera and I would probably make to many mistakes when typing!
    Not sure if I like those ninja caps, I assume they still have the infamous qwerty on them? Blank ones sound like a good idea though!

    Thanks input nirvana -- I hope you don't mind me referencing you above for information.

    pettijohn - I hope the information I have gathered is perhaps useful for you and especially other people. (I say useful for other people because I think I seen your id in geekhack so you probably know all of this stuff, nice to have another colemaker)

    Thanks again for the people have posted and AUAnonymous. You guys have been my inspiration -- and a reason to procrastinate not to get anything done today!

    Last edited by Culinia (01-Sep-2011 02:57:59)
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    Culinia said:

    Thanks input nirvana -- I hope you don't mind me referencing you above for information.

    Of course not. It's about helping people out. I went to WASD 80% for others, 20% my curiosity. It's so nice to be pleasantly knocked off your feet by a business that suits your needs, fills a unique gap, is totally service oriented, and has competitive pricing and lead times. It's a natural for the Colemak forum since WASD Keyboards ships everywhere.

    An Evil Screaming Flying Door Monkey From Hell typing with Colemak saved my life!

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    Haha. Well thanks for taking the risk. And I  sure bet you were pleasantly pleased when everything turned out fine :) I also noted - and added - relevant information above since it seemed that they now offer laser engraving which is quite exciting!

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    @Culinia,

    Colemak + mechanical keyboard rocks!

    Debian GNU/Linux Jessie NitroType TypeTest

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    Ain't that the truth -- which one do you have penguin?

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    @Culinia

    I bought a Leopold FC200R a month ago.

    This is my first mechanical keyboard. I really like the feeling of Cherry MX (Red) key.  The keyboard size and housing is alright.

    The printing quality of key cap letter is poor. The key cap letters already began to faded. I'm going to customize key caps anyway. I gotta quote from WASD around $60 for Colemak set. Adding Linux keys, and some words on the space bar will make it to $70. It's hard to judge the expense is worth or not because there is no price tag for customization at this point.  I know if every works fit right, I'll have an unique keyboard that I like for a long time.

    I'm planning to remove all the key cap letters, put different color on them. Then, build a DIY laser engraving machine, which I found on the net,  to put letter on them later on.  It will be fantastic to have a laser engraving machine for myself.
    http://www.instructables.com/id/60-Lase … r--Cutter/
    I gotta spend some time to understand how the laser devices work.

    I want to put a big Debian logo on the keyboard too.  Black keyboard body, dark gray Colemake key caps, the red vortex Debian logo.

    I'm sorry to other people whoever use my computer one day.  Literally they can't even type Korean or English on this machine. LOL. My buggy PS/2 mouse was replaced to an old Wacom Tablet also.

    During last month, I played with six keyboard layouts.
    Korean: Two set -> Three set 390 -> Three set final.
    English: Qwerty -> Dvorak -> Colemak.

    Three set final has auto spell checking feature. It composes the basic syllable - two or three letters - without specific orders in most case. Two set can't do it due to its inferior mechanism. I never thought about it's possible.  For example, I type the word meaning 'Hi' on three final set, I can type 'Hi' or 'iH'. It composes 'Hi'.

    Three set final for Korean, Colemak for English are truly impressive IMHO. I put few articles on my blog and other keyboard forum how theses layouts superior. I met one person who showed great interest about Colemak so far.

    Debian GNU/Linux Jessie NitroType TypeTest

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    Hey penguin. I've seemed to had a sabbatical from these forums, sorry for the late reply!

    I've actually bought the same keyboard as you! If I like the switchtype I intend to replace the key caps as well from WASD but the only thing is the space bar - you will have to have it modded to fit because the ones WASD manufacture fit Costar stabilizers (Filco/DAS & others) and not Cherry stabilizers (Leopold, Cherry, Steelseries & others), they have different stem placements.

    Glad you like the feeling of the Red switches, just wondering do you do any FPS gaming on them? I ask because I intend to keep my blue for typing and red for FPS mostly.

    Your DIY machine sounds very ambitious - good luck with that one!

    Interesting...so you have finally found the perfect keyboarding combination for both languages, nice one!

    I have yet to meet any real-life persons who would show any interest in touch typing not alone typing Colemak :(

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    True, the Colemak community is quite small and scattered. In my city of 7 million people, I think the number of Colemak users is only at maximum 20 users.

    It's funny that I have met two Dvorak users, but never met any other Colemak users.

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    I have included another Keyboard Picture section. This reflects my recent purchase of a Filco Majestouch 2 Tenkeyless - for those who are interested seeing Colemak in this style on a ANSI keyboard. I have also added a Numeric picture of the 105 keyboard I found.

    @Tony I hope that Colemak does grow bigger at any rate!

    Last edited by Culinia (05-Feb-2012 18:24:33)
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    Have also got a new Unicomp Ultra Classic 104 keyboard. Needless to say it has been colemak'd (with my UK custimization)!

    0gyl5HFl.jpg

    Last edited by Culinia (01-Mar-2013 15:10:05)
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    Did you get this shipped to the UK?  I'm not that bothered about customised keycaps.

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    Physicians deafen our ears with the Honorificabilitudinitatibus of their heavenly Panacaea, their sovereign Guiacum.

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    Yes, came from USA, but you can buy a QWERTY 105/ISO from UK at keyboardco if you want.

    Umm, one thing I would tell you now is that the quality/finish is subpar compared to a, say Filco. I think my picture and indeed Keyboardco's picture reflects this as you can see the marks between the F4/5 and F8/9 keys and the spacebar. Also my one and keyboardco one in particular you may notice the keys are slightly off centre ("wonky"). My N key also suffers from poor moulding marks and it is noticeable resting in the home position. Also another anecdote I feel that some particular keys requires more force to actuate than others.

    Maybe I am just too used to my Filco. Only have been typing on it for 2 and a half weeks compared to my filco ~2 and a half years but I will stick with it and I am glad however I have it in my possession, a piece of history wrapped in my modern keyboard layout and helping an independent, indeed some would say the "original" mech keyboard maker.

    Last edited by Culinia (01-Mar-2013 18:09:11)
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    That's good to know.  It is a bit ugly.  My Dell 102W is better looking!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z61DlsSKlmQ

    I was thinking about getting the Cooler Master clone of the Filco, for a little bit cheaper.  But are the buckling springs superior?  Do write up how it feels after you get used to it.

    It's funny that you mention that some keys require more force.  I could say the same thing about my Dell.  But I think it's a case of how you press the key.  If I come from the side at an angle, it's no good, if I come straight down on the key it's better.  Perhaps yours is like that.  Not that good for those that drag their fingers from key to key.  It's the one thing that upsets me a little about the Dell.   But I kind of think that it gets me into good habits, and a better typing positon because of it.  Then again it could all be in my imagination...

    Last edited by pinkyache (01-Mar-2013 18:37:44)

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    I did two things to my own Unicomp: I got a set of blank black keys and used them for the ones I didn't want text on, and I made a new black label atop the garish Unicomp one.

    To get a nub for the N key (I don't need the left-hand one) I swapped the arrow block and the UNEI block. I think that's cute, since I use UNEI as my Extend mode arrow block!

       Cmk-AWideSl_Unicomp_DreymaR.jpg
       DreymaR's Unicomp Spacesaver

    Last edited by DreymaR (05-Mar-2013 11:17:24)

    *** Learn Colemak in 2–5 steps with Tarmak! ***
    *** Check out my Big Bag of Keyboard Tricks for Win/Linux/TMK... ***

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    Culinia said:

    p9QVBl.jpg

    Wow! Congratulations.

    Swapping Backspace and CapsLock should be a standard option on every operating system. Also, I like that the Backspace doesn't have a step, like most key caps going there do.

    Last edited by spremino (03-Dec-2013 22:12:03)

    Dvorak typist here.  Please take my comments with a grain of salt.

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