Keyboard Build Log

2022-01-03 | 5 min | 862 words
in hardware | tagged keyboard mk
Contents [[object], [object], [object]]

The Planck

Due to the unfortunate accident of having a bit too much pocket money, I decided to embark on the journey of building a keyboard. And I didn't want to build just any keyboard, I wanted something specifically able to be used for Stenotype with Plover.

So off I went down the rabbit hole of ortholinear keyboards. Eventually I settled on getting a Planck. The small size seemed fun, it's hotswap which I wanted since I can't solder and I wasn't in the mood to make horrible mistakes learn, and the price seemed good. I picked one up from (I wish they'd kept the name "Massdrop") with a red HiPro case since that's what was in stock and I liked the red. It arrived about 10 days later. I can only assume this was just holiday shipping backups, since it came from only about 2 hours away.

Switches and Caps

So on to the next problem: It doesn't come with Switches. Meaning I need to decide on switches.

***Cue the crippling indecision.***

As any keyboard fan knows, choosing switches isn't a simple matter. It's basically a lifestyle choice. So to aid in this I decided to pick up the 21 switch sampler pack from as well. Because I was dumb I didn't order this at the same time as my Planck, so it came a couple of days later. After trying them all I came to really like the Kailh Box switches. They're really nice and clicky, and very stable. Up until now I thought that I didn't like clicky switches, but I now realize that I don't really like Cherry Blues.

Assembled Planck with 21 sampler Switches

Following much waffling I eventually settled on [Kailh Box White switches from],(, since I loved the Box Jade and Navys that came in the sampler pack that I got, but I wanted something a little bit lighter. Hopefully they live up to my expectations, it was quite harrowing to order a switch I hadn't specifically tried. For a while I was also highly interested in the Kailh Choc lineup of switches but unanswered questions about low-profile switches and the discovery of compatibility issues with my Planck rendered those a no-go. My Box Whites only took 3 days to arrive, so were quite quick.

In addition to deciding on switches, I also had to pick out keycaps to go over those switches. This was of course another point of crippling indecision that happened in parallel to the switches. Together deciding on both took me over a week. I ended up going with PimpMyKeyboard F10 keycaps
because I liked the flat square shape, and they seemed like they would go very well with an ortho-linear keyboard and seemed reasonably comfortable for Stenotype, where you have to press multiple keys with one finger at the same time. I ordered 30 white caps and 20 red ones, with plans for a neat pattern. It took a bit over a week for them to arrive, and spent most of that lost by USPS. But they did eventually find it, just when I was starting to get annoyed too.

And so now, without further ado, the grand finale...

The finished keyboard with keycaps

QMK Firmware

The Planck uses the popular QMK Firmware, and is actually one of the keyboards that QMK was originally made for. QMK is intended to be extremely customizable and extensible in C. It took me a little while to get all setup and figured out with QMK, mostly my own fault for trying to do it in a container but once I figured out the right udev rules I was off! You can see my custom firmware here in the repo. I expect to iterate on this for a while until I'm completely happy with it.

Now that everything is done, and my keyboard is all set and ready for Stenography, it's time to start the long process of learning to use it!