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    Colemak and an ergonomic keyboard

    • Started by kie
    • 12 Replies:
    • Reputation: 1
    • Registered: 29-May-2018
    • Posts: 8

    I type a fair amount and decided that I should learn to touch type properly.
    I decided that if I was going to learn to type properly then it was also a good opportunity to switch to a more efficient keyboard layout and so I decided after some deliberation to try Colemak.

    I used one of the free typing tutors on linux and after some practise sessions found it painful for my hands.
    I worried that if I continued typing 'properly' in this way there was a good chance I might get RSI.
    So I did some investigation into ergonomic keyboards and ended up building and programming a dactyl keyboard.

    20180529_225600.jpg

    This new keyboard was much more comfortable to use.
    I used gateron brown switches which give good tactile feedback and are not too noisy.
    I continued practising colemak and built a second ergonomic keyboard in the same style for the workplace.

    It has now been almost 6 months since I started learning Colemak and made my keyboards.
    My typing speed is only around 50 wpm at the moment and about 97% accurate.
    However typing is comfortable and I am typing faster and more accurately than I did with the qwerty layout and the old standard keyboards.
    I continue to practise regularly on typeracer and 10fastfingers and am steadily improving.

    I hope that in the coming 12 months I can reach 75 wpm which would be a 50% increase over my current speed,
    While this is quite a bit slower than some of the speedy typists on this forum it would be a happy milestone for me.
    I am already more efficient than I was before starting the whole process and typing is a much more pleasant experience.
    I do not foresee myself ever changing back to qwerty or standard keyboards and the initial struggle was definitely worth the reward.

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    • From: Oslo, Norway
    • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
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    Grats on your choices and thanks for the writeup.

    She's a beauty for sure! :-)

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

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    • Registered: 08-Oct-2017
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    Wow that keyboard looks really sweet! Great job, thanks for the writeup :)

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    • Registered: 06-Jun-2013
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    would i be right in thinking you need a degree in electronic engineering to build that?

    it does look pretty amazing

    i imagine you can't get one ready built too easily?

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    • Registered: 29-May-2018
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    Actually it is not all that difficult to build the keyboard but it is a lot of work.
    You can make it in 4 days if you have the parts, and some soldering and programming experience.

    I made a terrible video that explains the whole process with links to all the resources you need.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nwnnMoudu0

    I don't know of anybody selling them, but I think the closest commercial version would be the kinesis advantage 2.

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    This one also looks snazzy - I'm not sure I'm up to building one though? You have to 3D print the bases right? Then get someone to make you a flexible PCB? Its pretty extreme end of the hobby market? I'm not sure I could buy a kinesis after seeing how cool this one looks..

    zzekjmukfruy.jpg

    Last edited by bph (01-Jun-2018 10:32:06)
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    bph said:

    This one also looks snazzy - I'm not sure I'm up to building one though? You have to 3D print the bases right? Then get someone to make you a flexible PCB? Its pretty extreme end of the hobby market?

    Well, its designer recommends a flexible PCB and makes his himself, though that can be a very frustrating process. Hand-wiring is also an option, but is bulkier. There is very little room to work compared to most hand-wiring projects. My hand-wired keyboard was pretty forgiving in this respect, but it still wasn't the smoothest process.

    Add that to the cost-prohibitive nature of the project (it's been more expensive than a Kinesis in the past), and 3D printing aluminum as was done in that picture (which would put the price right through the roof!), and you've got a keyboard that ain't for sissies and certainly isn't for beginners to the mechanical keyboard-making world. You have to know what you're getting yourself into. But that doesn't diminish the awesome factor one bit. ;)

    Last edited by azuvix (01-Jun-2018 13:41:17)
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    If you print the frame in pla and order your parts from aliexpress or similar you can make the keyboard for under USD150, (if you don't factor the cost of your time), which is a lot cheaper than an ergodox or a kinesis.

    It was actually the first keyboard that I made (although I have made 3 of them now), so if you are motivated and have some soldering experience I would still say go for it.  Although there are no guarantees that you will get it to work, all 3 of mine worked without too much hair pulling so it's certainly possible.

    If you decide to print the frame using any type of metal then as you point out the cost will be enormous, but it will also be extremely cool.  And it's hard to be any cooler than using a mechanical keyboard that you made yourself with a Colemak layout ;) (at least that's what I tell myself at night, lol)

    Last edited by kie (01-Jun-2018 19:56:09)
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    Well, I'm very glad to be wrong about the PLA printing cost! Last I saw it was like $300 all by itself.

    And I share in that sentiment about having a self-made keyboard with a layout that is exactly what you want. I went for extra credit and designed mine from scratch, from drawings to programming. Sure, it's not the most original design on earth and it draws inspiration from all kinds of sources... but it's also the only one of its kind that physically exists. :)

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    It is almost a year since my initial post.  I enjoy reading about other people's progress with Colemak, so here is my update.

    Speed : I have put in some effort and the reward is an increase in the ease and speed of typing.
    My top speeds are: 82wpm on keybr.com and 74wpm on 10fastfingers.com
    My average speed is around 65wpm on 10fastfingers.com and higher still on keybr.com

    Keyboard(s) : I continue to use my dactyl keyboards and am very happy with them.
    2 continue to work reliably but 1 has developed an intermittent fault and occasionally needs to be unplugged and plugged back in again.
    I also assembled an atreus keyboard for when I need a portable keyboard - while it is not as comfortable as my dactyl, I can give it a thumbs up.
    Good quality and reasonably priced, (I have no affiliation with atreus).

    Future Goals : None. I have achieved my keyboard / typing goals - reasonable typing speed and comfort.
    I expect to maintain my current speed without much effort, but I don't expect to get very much faster.
    There may be a slight increase from year to year in the future, but I won't be putting time and effort in this direction.

    Promoting Colemak : It would be good to see more people using the Colemak layout and ergonomic keyboards.
    I try to help spread the word as my keyboard tends to invite questions, but most people are not interested in alternative layouts (at least until they get RSI).

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    • From: Oslo, Norway
    • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
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    Maybe more people would be interested in Extend once they hear about it? It's easier to learn than Colemak and gives a huge benefit. So in terms of cost-benefit it actually beats Colemak by a wide margin in my opinion.

    I think that any kind of beneficial keyboard mod can be a "gateway drug" to Colemak. ;-) This includes your wonderful keyboard, of course.

    Last edited by DreymaR (23-Apr-2019 08:50:57)

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

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    Impressive feat to build a keyboard like that. More power to you my friend. How long did it take you to reach the 50 wpm mark?

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    DreymaR said:

    Maybe more people would be interested in Extend once they hear about it?

    Yes, I'm convinced this would be the case. It would easily become more popular than alternative layouts even, as the barrier to entry is a lot lower. I'm a bit surprised it's not more popular among keyboard fans who use Qwerty even.

    But it's still quite hard a hard sell to ordinary people -- most just want their keyboard to be "as it comes" and don't want anything weird or non-standard.

    Last edited by stevep99 (02-May-2019 14:46:25)

    Using Colemak Mod-DH with some additional ergonomic keyboard mods.

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