Speaking about the Canvas XDA keyset group buy, on my last update I mentioned that I wasn’t happy with the grey/beige combo we had while the colored (Bauhaus) colors were spot on. This morning I received many different samples and shades of beige/grey from the manufacturer and I chose the tones that truly represent our project and are true to the concept. Photos aren’t great but I experimented looking at the keycaps in various lighting environments and I came to the conclusion that the combination below, out of everything we possibly have as an option, is perfect.
I also noticed that the color samples are very close to the Godspeed SA keycap set that we created last year – shipping should begin in just a couple weeks, hopefully you’ll be receiving the set soon! Due to some similarities between Godspeed and the samples I’ve got for PBT, I’d like to research if there’s any interest for a PBT/XDA version of Godspeed. Some people missed the keycap set group buy, others aren’t too fond of ABS so I think that it could be a good combination. Let me know what you guys think, if there’s enough interest I’ll go ahead and start a regular interest check in the platforms you’re already used to. Leave a comment below telling me what you think about it! I mocked it up using the Klown Keeb layout, hope you enjoy it.
I’m also going to be hosting a small keyboard giveaway next week, bundled with a couple items that I believe starters in this hobby would love to own! I love the mechanical keyboard community and I’d like to giveback with this small giveaway. I’ll share the specific rules when I announce it in a couple days, but for now I’d like to invite you to sign up to my newsletter so you won’t miss a thing.
After a little over two years gathering parts, consulting community friends and planning what I wanted, earlier this month I finally managed to put together my ultimate build. I wanted to build something that would help me in my everyday tasks and it had to be beautiful! Interacting with all of the guys who assisted me in the process was a great journey and I enjoyed it a lot.
During these years, multiple times I purchased parts that would either get lost in transit (due to my horrible local customs) and receive replacements that didn’t quite work together. Cases that didn’t work with the PCB, plates that got bent or didn’t work with either the case and/or PCB, etc. I had a couple problems but I slowly managed to gather everything and conclude the project! The final result is exactly what I had in my mind.
I requested Hojin to pre-assemble it (there’s an option in the checkout), so all of the diodes, RGB underglow pads (it has 16), resistors and the controller as well were soldered by him. My soldering equipment isn’t very accurate and my lack of skills wouldn’t be enough for such small components. All I had to do was solder the switches of my preference and install the stabilizers (which are required for long keycaps such as the space bar, enter and others). If you’re looking to solder, I recommend getting a soldering iron 25W – 30W since they work in the 360 °C – 375 °C range, which I find to be the optimal temperatures for 63/37 fluxed solder. Getting a soldering sucker is also recommended in case you want to desolder things later down the road.
Space bar switch: Gateron Yellow (lubed 62g gold spring) in Zeal housing
In my experience, swapping stems into Zeal housings is great way to improve the smoothness and downstroke of the switches. The clicky sound generated by the Blue stems also became crispier and less high-pitched, which is a feature that I love. I used to have Gateron Yellows on my previous board and they were fantastic, but I wanted to experience clicky switches and I instantly fell in love with them. I decided to have a Gateron Yellow for the spacebar and fine tuned it to avoid fatigue and improve it’s sound – it’s amazing. I don’t enjoy tactile switches and I like to think that Blues are clicky linears, since their tactility is so subtle. Much less pronounced than Browns and Zealios (all variations) as far as I can tell. The swap for Zeal housings is also something that I was really looking forward, because it allows the light from the underglow effect to come all the way up through the plate. So the underglow shine also acts as a backlighting (which is further improved by the mirror finish of the plate). Couldn’t be happier with the outcome.
Plate: Local sourced mirrored 1.5 mm thick stainless steel
Because I use the ANSI layout I didn’t want my plate to have that huge ISO enter gap. But I wanted to have some universal features implemented in the design. That’s exactly what me and Brian achieved. First of all all of the cuts allow for easy switch top opening, in case I wanna swap stems or mod the switches. Then we came up with a standard bottom-row and an option for either 1.75u right shift + Fn or 2.75u right shift. It also has a universal cut for caps lock, so I could pick between stepped or non-stepped (I decided to go stepped) when soldering that switch. Finally, this amazing plate provides me with the option for either 2 x 1u or the regular 2u backspace at the top left corner. The mirror finish is beautiful and shines like a beauty.
The opinion on these are vastly different, but speaking from my experience I think they are amazing. I wanted transparent stabs in order to have the underglow to backlighting effect (provided by the transparent switches’ housings, as I previously explained) on my stabilizers as well, and they do exactly what they are supposed to in this regard. I also lubed the stems, housings and the gold plated wires and I definitely recommend doing so. After using the keyboard for this past couple of weeks I can tell that they are much superior to my old KBP V60 stabs and the regular Costar stabs. The Zeal stabs feel very smooth up and down, and I’m not being able to notice any rattle. Despite it’s price tag, which is a bit of a turn down, I think it’s fair to say that they are not even comparable to normal stabs and worth the upgrade.
Case: Clear Zhao case
I acquired this case from brand new from a friend that I met along my journey but it required a bit of modding, in order to properly flush with the B.Face X2 PCB. The case seems to be an injection clear version of the Poker II case so it has some structural horizontal bars that had to be removed – as they were colliding with the underglow pads. I carefully removed each one of them using a cutting blade and pliers, it took me quite a while to get it done. I wanted to go slow in order to prevent scratching the case, so if you happen to go through the same process I recommend that you take your time and go slow. During the planning phase of the build I considered purchasing a Rust Oleum Frost Glass spray can in order to apply the frost finish to the inside of the case, in order for it to diffuse the RGB better. But to be entirely honest I don’t think it’s worth it, because the case already diffuses light pretty well. Much better than I thought it would be.
Cable: Hand made
Braided coiled paracord with gold plated connectors and clear heatshrink, by Sam. A great friend who is in charge of MechCables also known as /u/90N1NE from Reddit. His work is just incredible and the coil looks super. The paracord has an amazing texture and the coil feature is very robust. I can tell it’s gonna last for very long, possibly a lifetime. His customer support is fantastic and turnaround time for orders is always blazing fast from what I’ve seen. I have no clue how this cable managed to travel all the way to Brazil in only 8 days, untaxed, via regular USPS. Pure wizardry.
Keycaps: Cherry White Blanks 1.5mm thick PBT from Feng
I was looking for a complete keycap set that would cover both ANSI and the fancy HHKB variants. Feng’s version of this keyset was exactly what I needed. Spongy bright white, directly delivered to Clay also known as /u/CRJ3012 in the USA so he could hand dye. We went with purple for the alphas and candy pink for the modifiers. By the time this was ordered, Clay couldn’t achieve the cyan tone I was after which was unfortunate. I was ready to get some GMK blanks to highlight the keys I wanted but a couple months later he informed me he had cracked the tone. Fortunately at the time, he had extra blanks – including short right shifts, R4 Fns, bottom row modifiers, a couple R2 1.5us and a ton of R1 1us – exactly the highlights I needed. This extra order was quite the steal and I’m super happy with how it turned out.
Keymap: 60% with dedicated arrow keys and numpad
There’s a myth in the mechanical keyboard communities that the endgame keyboard does not exist. But after interacting with all these guys, meeting incredible people and building this project, I believe that endgame is a journey, rather than a destination. In other words, I don’t think I’ll be building another keyboard anytime soon!
Today I’m happy to officially announce the release of an all new keycap set project that I’ve been working on recently, conceived to rethink some rules and expand new routes that I felt were unexplored in our community. For the past couple of years I’ve been experimenting with theme implementation – like Godspeed and optimization for customization possibilities using logic – as seen on Overcast. The result of this work is Canvas – a XDA profile keycap set for MX stem mechanical keyboards.
I decided to go further and step beyond some boundaries and limits that I had, for some reason, previously established in my head. This time I attempted to dive deep into the brain work of designing, implementing a meaningful theme while rethinking the standards for this niche – Why are the legends always like this and why are the icons always like that? I’ve kept asking myself, while questioning how could I create something classy and at the same time, innovative.
So I studied, watched and read. Canvas is the result of weeks of a work strongly influenced by Braun aesthetics, the work of Dieter Rams and the iconic Apple mechanical keyboard from the 90’s – AEK.
From the beginning it was hating the sixties American way of styling. Especially the cars. They changed their cars every two years to sell new ones. Which has nothing to do with good design. – Dieter Rams
The font – Readability, elegance and aesthetics
A balance between lower case and upper case characters is not a feature exactly present in the keycap sets available in the market. The AEK made such a good use of it, but ultimately it’s a style that disappeared. I’m bringing it back. The stroke, radius, scale and spacing of every character was carefully developed and created by hand as a result of strong typography influences such as Univers from Apple, Kostić’s Mongoose, Mariya’s Kizo and others.
The proportions between alphanumeric characters & modifier legends were mathematically conceived, and precisely adjusted, to the factor of 1.35 in height. The kerning was adjusted to 1.61. Tall characters like f, g, t, etc. were calibrated accordingly – stroke first & then height (for proper alignment), while all of the legends were positioned to the visual center of the top left surface position of each keycap.
Iconography and kits – Recreating the convention
Dieter Rams’ 10 Principle of Good Designs is the cornerstone of Braun, and I wanted to apply its concepts on Canvas. The icon convention implemented had to be aesthetic, innovative and honest –no more valuable than it really is. The language created was thorough down to the last detail and no aspect of it was arbitrary or left to chance. To make this tangible, unobtrusive and understandable symbols were hand drawn, using either two or three geometric elements – as little design as possible.
An example of the thought process behind the Control icon. Every symbol was developed after the same concept – immediate correspondence to an object that relates to the original legends.
The kits offered provide useful keycaps and the balance between affordability and customization was again preserved. Good design is environmentally friendly and a palette with pastels & colorful strikes was conceived – so the spectrum ranging from office cubicles to gaming rigs could be properly covered. The long lasting PBT material was selected for this project and its ever lasting polymer characteristics were combined with the never fading dye sublimation process for the legends.
Coming next there will be a post detailing the child kits that will be offered in the group buy – which is going live 19th, January 2017 at Massdrop. I hope you are excited about this project because we have a wonderful drop in the works, so feel invited to visit the drop discussion page and contribute with your criticism! I appreciate your visit once again, let me know what you think about my work! You know where to find me.
Special thanks to Wu, Spinelli, Almuiña, Tobias, Cook, Liu, RMK, GH, MD and Slack.
This is the little corner of the internet where you’ll be able to periodically find first hand updates, brief insights, news and announcements about my mechanical keyboard projects & keycap set adventures.
I’m MiTo, a brazilian keycap set designer. Since 2013 the international mechanical keyboard community and I developed some fantastic projects together, and this year I finally decided to start a log of our journey. There are great things coming next! From all new keycap set projects to collaborations with artisans and other designers – we have a great year ahead of us.
I appreciate your visit so make sure to come back later!