It all began when our co-founder Ken noticed cool keyboards on customers’ desk setups. The more he researched, the more it drew him in. Then through a series of fortunate events involving the owner of a keyboard company and an enthusiastic customer, Ken found himself with a fresh machined-aluminum keyboard case and a sudden need to build a keyboard.
He ordered parts, Christopher jumped in to help construct it, and many mistakes later they had their final product.
Ken, why did you decide to make a mechanical keyboard?
And, Chris, why were you down to join in and take part with Ken?
Ken was passing around the keyboard case that he got from Keycult. It was amazing just to see. I wanted to take part in building it so I could see how everything was put together. Then we started to learn about the community side of it, and all of that was really interesting to me too.
Could each of you describe the emotional arc of your experience of making the keyboard?
Zac said he'd send me one of his keyboard cases. So the first step was actually receiving that, and it was amazing.
We’d had no exposure to keyboard components of this caliber. It’s pure machined aluminum. It weighs, like, 10 pounds probably. Super heavy. What, Christopher, like 10 times as heavy as a normal keyboard?
Oh, for sure.
Could you tell me about some of them, and then what you did to fix them?
I think the first mistake that we ran into was figuring out the stabilizers for the keys. We didn't know how to put them together, how to actually make them work properly, and how to put them in order when building it. So figuring that out was...pretty interesting. We were trying to find YouTube videos on how to do it, but we eventually just messed around with it and figured it out.
Yeah, those stabilizers were killing us! But that was the least intuitive part of the process. And some of the switches we had to unsolder and re-do.
I think that, yes. Zac and Keycult had a really good, detailed tutorial video about assembling their case. But as far as putting all the individual parts together, you’re left with amateur YouTube videos because all the parts are made by different brands. One person’s video might use the same switches but not the exact same stabilizers we had, for example. So we had to make the connections ourselves.
But it was fun! It was partly frustrating, but really it was fun. We were snooping, like detectives trying to figure out this puzzle.
Yeah, because it was such a new thing to us, it was an interesting journey to try to put it together.
At any point did you want to give up?
"It was partly frustrating, but really it was fun. We were snooping, like detectives trying to figure out this puzzle."
I don't think we ever wanted to give up on it. It was definitely something that was so high quality, we wanted to get it done and see the result.
You said Zac and Cory helped you a lot with choosing those parts, but what else went into your decision? How did you choose?
Yeah, I relied a lot on Zac and Cory's advice. Like what kind of switches I should look into, where to look for key caps and stabilizers. They were both very helpful, but it was still a paradox of choice, where there were so many good options, and I didn’t know what to do from lack of experience.
Our engineer’s (Ben) brother Joel is a programmer and keyboard guy. He sent me this testing pad with nine switches on it, with keys, so you can feel out the different switches and see which one you like.
If each of you graded yourself on your project, what grade would you get?
I mean... it's pretty solid. I feel like we did a great job. I think the soldering was a little iffy at first, when we were learning how to do it. But I would say probably a B+.
I think we really struggled on this one, and the next one is going to be so much easier. That's kind of the way it works. Once you see how it works, it's pretty intuitive. You know?
The first one is 10 times as hard, 20 times as hard. So I'm actually looking forward to another keyboard build. I think it will be a lot more fun. The first one was hard.
Did you feel accomplished after doing it?
Oh yeah, for sure. Mostly because it was so hard to do. We struggled with it over multiple days. How many days do you think we worked on this, Christopher?
Probably three or four.
Yeah. We’d have a setback, so once we finally got it to work it was major high-five time!
Especially when we actually plugged it in to see if it would work.
Yeah. And it worked!
The soldering is one of the last steps. You push the switches in, and they kind of click in. A satisfying CLICK. After all that work, to end with that click, is really satisfying.
Dixie was there on the last day with us, and we were basically fighting over who gets to solder the most. We were supposed to be taking turns, but one of us would just keep going. And we'd be like, "Hey, hey, can I solder?"
All in all, it’s a lot of waiting and a lot of hard work. What would you say the point of constructing your own mechanical keyboard is?
I think it's to get exactly what you want, something that's unique to you. Most electronics are not fully customized like that. So, you know, for the right person that's exciting.
That’s compelling! Oh, Ken, I'd asked if you could give yourself a grade on the project. Do you not want to give yourself—
Because it's so bad! I'd give myself a C.
Well, it depends on your reference point. We didn't know what we were doing, and we delivered. So...
Maybe that's a "B."
Okay. I would give you guys a really great grade, but I must measure things a little differently. Anyway, now that you’ve done it, let’s talk about favorites.
Now they can say they’ve done it. They have the keyboard to prove it, and the sense of accomplishment. Accomplished, yes. Satisfied? No. Ken and Chris had their first taste and they’re ready for more. So, until next time, we’re clicking out!