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Make your own physical Colemak board!

  • Started by DreymaR
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  • From: Oslo, Norway
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Vilem: Late answer, but - that looks nice! I notice that there are no special problems under the index finger home keys on that Genius SlimStar, which makes it a very moddable board. I see from their site that they have various keyboards including a gaming board - SlimStar 335 BattleCraft - with anti-ghosting (useful for fast typists as well!) and programmable extra keys (useful for most people!) but the same slim keys from the looks of it. I may look out for one of those babies in a Norwegian shop, actually. Looks like you can get several variants including very fancy ones and quite cheap ones, so there should be a Genius board for most tastes as long as slim keys are acceptable (and for us remappers I think there's hardly a way around so we'd better like them!).

I remapped another Fujitsu Siemens board today (a KBPC S2 to be more specific), and it went well apart from the K and N keys which had to lose their attaching hooks because they were in the wrong corners. For a moment I thought I could bend the hooks in under the next row of keys, but then pressing L or U would also press N simultaneously, haha! So scratch that idea. I don't really turn my boards upside down a lot, so as mentioned it's not a real problem.

Last edited by DreymaR (14-Feb-2008 10:22:41)

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I've remapped a BenQ A800 keyboard. This is a slimline board with a couple of twists:
- It has a convex profile. Most boards will rather tend toward the concave if anything, and it looked strange to start with. But having typed on it a little I found that it seems nice enough. If the curve seems daunting, they also have a concave model (the X122).
- It has a double-swivel stand beneath it that lets you choose 3 different angles. I don't know what tilting it backwards would do though - maybe make it easier to type while standing? While Googling this board I found a review from someone who had tried it on an airport computer stand, so apparently it's sometimes used by standing typists.
- A newer model of this is named X800 (http://benq.com/products/Keyboard/?product=797), after the "X-structure" technology under the keycaps. This is a little two-piece plastic jig that makes keypresses feel better and make less noise. Although it is a membrane board like almost any other board that doesn't cost a fortune, it gives a somewhat "switchy" feel to the keypresses because of the X jig. I think it feels very good indeed, so far.

The BenQ A/X800 has 5 multimedia keys which isn't much nowadays, and no volume knob or suchlike. The function keys are arranged in groups of 3 instead of the usual 4, in a misguided attempt at innovation I guess. These are probably minor issues for most, but check out the full collection of BenQ boards if one doesn't fit your bill.

Overall, it seems very stylish. I found this is a quiet, classy keyboard. It comes in black and your standard computer gray. There are several other BenQ boards that seem to have a similar technology but have more fancy buttons and suchlike.

   115123446874956099.jpg
      The BenQ A800 - bulging with style

All the caps on this board are the same shape underneath, making it an excellently moddable board. Prying the caps off the underlying X jig presented a challenge at first but after one or two keys it was simple. I eased one lower corner upwards, taking care not to insert whatever tool I was using too far in so it'd hit the X structure. Once that corner popped off I'd ease off the upper corner so the keycap came free and then clicking it in place on the recipient X structure was a simple matter afterwards. The two pieces of one structure came apart on me (they're just clicked together), but looking at another I managed to puzzle it back in working order without much trouble.

The T and N bumps were made gently with a small soldering iron as described above.

A recommended board for most people!

Last edited by DreymaR (22-Feb-2008 14:10:06)

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Here's mine.  Feel free to steal the pic for use if you so desire!

Colemak_JoshuaAustillr_Keyboard.jpg

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Oo, neat! Please tell me the model, and whether you hit any particular snags such as weird bumps under some keys.

Looks very comfortable. If I can find a Norwegian one, maybe that'd be what I'm looking for.

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DreymaR said:

Oo, neat! Please tell me the model, and whether you hit any particular snags such as weird bumps under some keys.

Looks very comfortable. If I can find a Norwegian one, maybe that'd be what I'm looking for.

Hey, I'll check the make and model when I get to work on monday as I can't remember it.  The only snags were having to trim the n key to fit and then it's slightly raised, neither of which bother me at all.  It's perfect for me since my employer payed for it haha.  It's about a 115 USD keyboard :-]  Hope they aren't planning on reusing it hahahahahaha

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DreymaR said:

Oo, neat! Please tell me the model, and whether you hit any particular snags such as weird bumps under some keys.

Looks very comfortable. If I can find a Norwegian one, maybe that'd be what I'm looking for.

It's a Belkin Ergonomic Keyboard, here's a link, enjoy :)

http://www.nextag.com/belkin-ergonomic- … earch-html

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Thanks. It's a nice board from the looks of it, and luckily it seems to be available for around $30 these days. I'll search for a Norwegian one, I think. It's nice to know that it takes remapping well enough (apart from that pesky N key - many boards have a problem with either that or the J).

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If I had a bit more cash I'd love to commission a custom Colemak keyboard from Datamancer:

http://www.datamancer.net/keyboards/keyboards.htm

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WorldMaker: Oo! I don't think anything else needs to be said. Ooo!!!

Next out: I found this one too astounding not to give it honorable mention:

keyboard_finished_front.jpg
   http://joshcarter.com/miscellany/how_to … r_keyboard

That's not a physical Colemak, you say! It's just a very interesting (and ergonomic) conversation starter! Aye, but if you wanted to and aren't too much of a purist I'm sure a set of key stickers would fit on there just fine. And what a board you'd then have - one of a kind, and your own very special creation! I feel another "Oo!" coming up...

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I've went the opposite way: my keyboard now reads:

quick,brown[
f0x.jvm,d;
thelazy]*g

(a semi-successfull stab at `Quick Brown Fox')
with no connections to either QWERTY or Colemat at all.

The only time it's unwieldy when inputing password to LILO. But that's a once-in-a-quarter occasion.
Ah yeah,  I haven't made any bumps on the new home keys. Works for me, somehow.

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If you're not in this thread to discuss the physical aspects of your keyboard, I'm afraid you're in the wrong thread. Sorry.

If you have a successfully modded keyboard, show us a pic and tell us of any problems or benefits you found and we won't mind that it isn't Colemak.

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I am a recent convert to colemak, and being quite handy with a screwdriver I happily pulled apart my 2 keyboards.
The first was a generic Dell multimedia. It was easy too pull apart, but it had lots of things interfering with rearranging the keys. Each row had a different profile and also the rows had small extra sections in the keyslots that required a file to remove. Reassembly was slightly tricky because of the volume knob.
Next was a much greater challenge, a Logitech G15 first edition, with the full 18 'G' keys. You will need some patience, a large and a small phillips head screwdriver and a good memory. Sorry that I have no photos.
First to come off is the black outside ring of plastic. This was held down by a lot of screws and 6 clips. 2 on each side and 2 on the bottom. Remove very carefully because it takes the LCD screen with it. Remember where the LCD connector came out of. The next layer was the silver section that holds the keys. I removed all the small screws and then tried to take it out, and found that there are 4 more screws at the top under the multimedia keys that need to be removed, and then 4 data transfer cables, and another series of clips. Once the silver section was removed and turned over, I took out the backlighting, which was 4 bars with blue LED's at the base of the keypad. The membrane layer is sandwiched between the keys and a hard plastic backboard. The backboard was easy to remove and then the layer of electronics and the  membrane layer could be pulled out. I used a 5mm Hex key or Allen key to push out the keycaps. Only the 2 marked home row keyspaces needed filing to allow other keys to fit.
Reassembly was made easier by the backplate for the keypad. Reinserting the data cables was done with a small pair of pliers. The clips made it easier to reassemble by holding things together while I got the screws back in. Reattaching the outisde layer was the hardest because the LCD connector was very fiddly.
I am currently typing on the modified keyboard, and while it does not feel as responsive as before, I am happy with it.

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Wait - are you saying that the G15 requires you to open the case rather than simply pry off and reattach keycaps? That sounds awkward. Is this because of the backlights?

Are the keys the same height, so that the impression of the rearranged keyboard is perfect?

Generic Dell boards have different key heights/pitches for each row, so they're a right mess to rearrange. I wouldn't touch one of those.

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Just a quick note: I bought a slightly used black MacBook from my store's Apple rep, and one of the first things that I did when I got home was Colemak it. Much like my the (newer) keyboard for my Mac mini (https://forum.colemak.com/viewtopic.php?id=234), the key caps pop off and back on nicely... except that the springs are rotated ninety degrees to the left, so that you don't have to pry against the screen to pull them off. It's crazy attention to detail like that that makes me so fond of my growing collection of Macs.

No need for pictures, however, since it looks exactly like kalixiri's picture above in this thread.  Mine also has the numpad hints in the bottom corners, too, since my new(ish) MacBook is still a generation behind the current ones... which no longer have numlock or a numpad. Still, for $600 less than the price of new, I'll take some extra little numbers on my keys.

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On the G15 the keys are all the same height. The resulting keyboard is the same as the original. It is possible to pull keycaps off from above, I just opened the keyboard right up. The keyboard is backlit by sections rather then by key. The space, shift, caps lock and backspace keys do have extra things securing them, but they just mean you have to be more careful with those keys.
I don't find the small differences between the keys actually affects my typing after rearranging the dell.

Last edited by Adrian Billiau (19-May-2008 08:32:07)
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I see that some users have already remapped their MacBook boards, and it seems so nice that I've started wanting one for my Windows machine.  :)

In case anyone wants a thorough guide to this project, here's a writeup. The writer uses Dvorak but the principle is obviously the same.

http://www.instructables.com/id/S2RYZGJF82EZK49/

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My new Inspiron Mini 12 netbook from Dell, with Colemak keyboard.

As you can see, some of the punctuation keys (comma, stop, slash) are smaller than the letter keys (which is annoying), so remapping to Dvorak is not an option, but luckily the semicolon key is full size so Colemak is not a problem. :-)

mini12_colemak1.jpg

mini12_colemak2.jpg

Last edited by ghen (11-Nov-2017 17:10:31)
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so netbooks are Colemak compatible but no Dvorak compatible.   
:-)
the list grows longer

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Hmm. If I didn't already ignore my EEE PC's keyboard in favour of an Apple bluetooth one I modded just now (and mentioned in another thread here), I'd be tempted to convert that EEE's keyboard to Colemak, just for the heck of it. As it is, I think I'm starting to understand why hooligans pull pranks like rearranging keyboard letters. It's fun to do something that normally seems impossible. (Honestly, if I wasn't afraid of getting caught at it, I'd start rearranging the physical keys on work keyboards too. Not to use, since I touch-type now, but just to feel different and show off :-)

Oh and to contribute to this thread, the easiest keyboards to do this with, since all the keys are the same, have got to be Apple keyboards. They work in Windows, even the wireless kind, and as a bonus, they look and feel nice, and the USB version has two USB ports also. As with most keyboard keys, I'd recommend starting at the upper left, and working first the top off, then the bottom. The top takes more force -- once it's off, the bottom bits almost detach themselves. But like I said in that other thread, I miss the home-row bumps, though I'll try to get used to typing without them. And it's not ergonomic in any way, except perhaps how you don't have to use much force to type anything on these keys. And unlike netbook keys, these are full-size, even in the tiny wireless version.

Anyway, just thought I'd mention how even though I've been using this layout for years now, and that I've told everyone that I use it, people don't "get it" until they see the keyboard rearranged. Then it's even more obvious when I explain how the pain I used to get has disappeared since switching from Qwerty, and why they should switch too. (My neck still hurts, but that's because I need to raise my monitor, and get a new chair.)

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As this topic shows, there are ways of replacing the home row bumps - both drastic and less drastic ones. I'm sure those sticker thingys work just fine, for instance.

The problem with the modern Apple keyboards, to my current tastes, is that they aren't clicky. I'm in love with clicky boards now, having tried out a friend's old IBM M board. Layout enthusiasts love the fact that the keycaps on those boards pop right off the stems and can be rearranged to suit your tastes very easily and without risk of messing up any key mechanisms!

See for instance this review from a Mac owner:
http://jseliger.wordpress.com/2008/05/0 … -keyboard/

Last edited by DreymaR (23-Apr-2009 12:22:11)

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DreymaR said:

The problem with the modern Apple keyboards, to my current tastes, is that they aren't clicky. I'm in love with clicky boards now, having tried out a friend's old IBM M board. Layout enthusiasts love the fact that the keycaps on those boards pop right off the stems and can be rearranged to suit your tastes very easily and without risk of messing up any key mechanisms!

See for instance this review from a Mac owner:
http://jseliger.com/2008/05/07/product- … -keyboard/

Indeed—I'm actually the writer of that website, and would note that Unicomp will actually give you whatever you want on your keys. See, to that end, this post:

http://jseliger.com/2009/01/31/ibm-mode … ac-edition

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Why, hello Jake! How nice of you to drop by. Would you consider trying our layout products? :)

Up until right now I didn't savvy the true value of that fact. I just thought one would get a Unicomp board and then move all the keys around to a Colemak configuration. But now it dawns on my slow mind that the nice people at Unicomp would probably be able to sell me T and N key caps with anchor bumps on them (and, conversely, F and J key caps without bumps)! How nice.

People of Colemak, it is time to do go out and support the makers of fine and customizeable keyboards. Poor Unicomp, apparently, make wonderful keyboards and give wonderful support but advertise their wonders less-than-wonderfully; and now they're struggling financially. I'll really consider buying a board from them now! I'm sure they're worth every penny.

Preferably, I'd like to get a set of ÆØÅ key caps as well then. Maybe that is asking too much though...

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jseliger, can I get a unicomp keyboard with a split spacebar?  I don't like completely wasting one out of only ten fingers.

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Right now my left thumb does absolutely nothing as I type, I want to be able to shift with it and space with my right thumb (like I do now).
I'd really prefer it if each thumb could easily reach two keys.  I don't know WHAT those other keys down there are for.  I just never use them.

uuuusssseelleeeesssssssss
tab q w f p g j l u y ' ( ) /
bksp a r s t d h n e i o enter ctrl
shift z x c v b k m , . ? shift
useless space space altgr useless arrow-keys

Gotta give me some time to finalize my Andermak layout though.  If I'm going to have a custom keyboard, it's going to be _perfect_.

Actually, I'm going to want two sets of bumps-- one on the home row, one on the number row.  Beats throwing altgr at it instead.

While I'm at it, I'd like a key press travel of no more than 1 mm, minimal keypress force, and 2cm wide hexagonal caps..

Last edited by ethana2 (30-May-2009 03:15:20)
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Let's discuss layouts somewhere else. Your spacebar question is really interesting though. I'd love such a bar myself, but so far I haven't found any candidates. Unicomp don't have anything like that but maybe you'd like to contact them and ask if they would consider it? Not quite likely as it'd take a reworking of the board hardware itself and not just detachable caps... but the benefits would be massive so I suggest you ask nevertheless!

It depends on how it's wired, but maybe that Belkin board above in the thread could fit the bill? It might take some microcontroller mojo, but that's doable... if scary and unknown territory for most of us.

Two bumps would be easy on a Customizer though. Depends on how willing Unicomp are to print new bump caps of course, but if they won't do that then you can get clear caps with bumps on them and use stickers instead - or go unmarked of course. The number row is kinda tricky so it'd be a good idea if every keyboard had bumps there I think, but I guess that won't happen.

2 cm hexes sounds wide, but maybe it wouldn't be. Finally a useful form of row stagger... if it works ergonomically. Not sure how it'd pan out, but it sounds fun. As a fledgling springbuckler though, I feel that your travel/force ideals are strange since you'd bottom out so much that way. The jolt of your finger hitting the bottom of the keyboard is the most tiresome factor of typing next to awkward stretches, isn't it? But maybe it'd be okay: I'm on my Benq scaffold-membrane board right now and it's okay to type on even with low travel.

Last edited by DreymaR (30-May-2009 13:26:27)

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