A Keyboard Story – Part I – Of Luck and Lead Times


Well heck, that didn’t last long did it? 2021 decided it was going to begin by asking 2020 to hold its beer and then kicking it square in the nuts after the hand-off. Unfortunately it does not appear to be over even after its over. So far the prevailing mood has been, “AAaarrrrgggghhhhh”.

But that isn’t why you’re here, is it? Or maybe it is. I have no idea. The most difficult thing about producing content is producing content, and the hardest thing about consistently producing content it being consistent about it. I any case, I sincerely apricate all the people who read and engage with my posts, so thanks goes to both of you.

Let me place a big astirick next to everythng that I’m writing below. This is topic is entirely new to me, and I’m basing everything on what limited research I’ve done and my experiences as I dabble in the hobby. Im not an expert, and depending on who you ask, I’m a complete idiot. This is all perfunctory. I am prefunct.

In my last entry I mentioned the niche world of custom built keyboards. Because it is relatively obscure activity, issues include scarcity, cost, and extended lead times. From what I can gather the situation is much better than it used to be insofar as now there are items that actually being produced whereas previously, there weren’t. The advances in boutique manufacturing have been amazing. Hell, the advances in 3D printing have been staggering. When you realize the number of things you can produce at home, the mind truly boggles. I digress…

Just before the New Year I started down the path of “building” my own keyboard. It feels a bit disingenuous to say that, as it is more assembly than actually building. I’m not laying out a PCB, working out the circuit for a keyboard matrix or soldering any components to anything. In truth all the hard work has really been done, I won’t turn a single screw for my first build. What I will be doing is making something at least a bit unique, tailored more to my own preferences than I would be able to buy “off the shelf”.

I mentioned some of the pitfalls. The first is the cost. This goes hand in hand with the second pitfall I mentioned, which is scarcity. Most of the people/companies that produce the components (cases, keycaps, switches, etc), are on the smaller side and don’t maintain large inventories. From what I can gather, items are made in limited quantity, and most in batches done on a pre-order basis. You can find some things on major sites like Amazon, but you’ll find a more interesting assortment of offerings on smaller sites such as KBDFans and NovelKeys. How likely something will be available is a different story. If you are fortunate to find something that strikes your fancy, such as a case with a distinctive style for example, there is a real possibility you will wait months for it to ship. Just as likely you may find the pre-order has closed and you missed your opportunity. This is an endeavor of luck and lead times so if instant gratification is your thing, you may wish to look elsewhere.

As it stands, I’ve been fortunate that everything that I’ve ordered has had quick turnarounds. Ironically the one thing that I’ve had to wait an extended amount of time for is from Amazon, some Kailh Creme switches which despite being listed as available, aren’t scheduled to ship for another month. Throwing caution to the wind, and knowing I’d need more of them anyway, I went to NovelKeys a few days later, ordered a batch of 110 and and they should have arrived by the time this is posted.

I’m planning on doing a more thorough post on the build process, so stay tuned for that. Thanks for stopping by and I’ll catch ya later.


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