Ghettoboy

Last edited: 3 September 2019, 10:48PM

Info

The Ghettoboy is a handwired keyboard that features Kailh Bronze switches, Teensy, QMK, and my proudest personal favorite, the perfect 60% layout (for me [disclaimer] {in my honest opinion}).

Background

Wow it's been like one and a half years. Can't believe we're back here once agane. It's been a while hasn't it? Sure has. A lot has happened since a year and a half ago. A couple projects have gone by, and a couple of projects are in the works. I'm at a good stopping point to take a small break before jumping (back) into the next thing.

AKA we're just about finished with a final build for THRUSTIN that we're gonna keep running on a server. I probably won't be writing about THRUSTIN for a while. I probably should, since the details of it are still fresh in my mind. But I feel something like there's a chance I'll jump back onto it, so I'm holding off. Anyways, for now, I'm gonna work on this and probably Drain's writeup before hopping back onto hopefully this time for sure absolutely moving onto and finishing DREAM SOLISTER.

Okay so Ghettoboy. Ghettoboy was something I never really planned on making, but due to some circumstances, started to make some kind of sense and then finally I got baited and pulled the trigger to do it. Back a year ago, I would say I was a pretty big keyboard enthusiast, enough to at least browse /r/MechanicalKeyboards frequently. I also bought quite a few keycaps/sets and some artisans in addition to making my Planck.

Initially, I never really thought about buying new keyboards. For me, it was practicality. I was satisfied with having just my 60% Tex Beetle at work and 40% Planck at home. I mean, why do people buy new keyboards? To use different switches? I don't really care about switches at all. Maybe there's something wrong with me, but I can't tell like any tactile difference between my Cherry MX reds and my, like what, 84g Zealios.

Man, did I already talk about this in my Planck writeup? Well whatever. Anyways, it's kind of like my experience with audio. I literally just cannot not hear any difference between cheaper headphones and more expensive ones. I want to know, okay, that there's a difference because I definitely feel more comfortable using my more expensive ones, but I feel like it's almost placebo. Like, I can't put my reasonings into words why I prefer one of my cans over another, so is it really better? If I can't quantify why?

Like audio, like switches, the subtle differences between sound and touch I feel, are stupid to argue about. Everything is so subjective, and damn, at the end of the day human beings were evolved to adapt to anything okay, so using some crap Cherry MX Brown Skull Candy Ear Phone whatever is probably good for you and your moral compass. (That being said I tried out some fake topres at some keyboard meetup and they were kind of interesting... maybe I should try some topres...)

But I like memes. Human beings are irrational creatures anyways, so if it's for a joke, I'm ready to commit myself to possibly anything. I think that's really how Ghettoboy came about. The story, now here we go, starts off with my Tex Beetle. I was starting to build up a pretty large collection of artisans, and I wanted to turn my Tex Beetle into more of a unicorn vomit artisan board. I started adding more and more special keys to the Beetle.

At one point I got a grab bag from Signature Plastic/Pimp My Keyboard and used it to completely destroy the layout, profile, and ordering of everything of my Beetle into a random mess. I loved it. Even with things sticking out everywhere incorrectly, I just continued using it as always, and it was fine, great. I'm pretty confident I guess in my typing and adaptability with weird layouts, and after a few days of getting used to things, I didn't have complaints. Man, maybe I should make a project for this Tex Beetle too.

I wanted to take the Beetle customization a bit further. I bought a new plastic bright pink case (that you may recognize...) from AliExpress and was planning on installing it on my Beetle but... Yeah, issues. Turns out Tex Beetle had a pretty nonstandard layout. The PCB was shaped differently enough so that it would not fit in a standard 60% case. I ended up giving the case to Royce since he was looking for a case for a new board of his.

Things progressed for the Beetle. After seeing some inspiring posts from /r/MechanicalKeyboards, I put on a ton of stickers. Like, a ton. I bought a ton of stickers and stickerbombed the Beetle. Most stickers are anime/game related I like or free stuff given to me by coworkers/friends. After reading up a little bit, I also put on a coating of some Mod Podge to keep it hopefully maintained intact longer. Overall, I think I'm like a 69% satisfied from the end result.

The biggest issue with stickers I had was figuring out how to cover corners correctly, since stickers don't bend properly around corners. You need to cut them correctly and inconspicuously, and I never figured out a great solution for that. So the corners are a little jank. There's also a hump jutting out where the aluminum top meets the plastic bottom of the keyboard, and the stickers didn't really form well over those.

Some stickers have trouble sticking, especially the small ones. Some areas I patched with tape, and those are starting to fray, so I've got some weird loose sticker/tape ends everywhere. Ugh, kind of a pain to deal with now, and I'm not sure of the best solution. Probably best to get some kind of stronger glue/sealant/finisher/I don't know what you macallit to stick things properly. Oh yeah, also there are special key combinations noted on the back of the Beetle to change the keyboard behavior. Since those were covered up... I now google "Tex Beetle back" whenever I accidentally activate something.

I also started adding a lot more artisans were added, and I even added an artisany space bar as well that was a gift from a coworker. Welp, there was an issue. The space bar on the Beetle is non-standard. I think it's like 4 something units. Normal space bars are 6 something if I recall. This meant that the space bar could not fit horizontally, so I fit it on vertically and just used it like that instead.

After some time, I started running into issues trying to use this as a daily driver. The biggest one was that artisans are poorly made. I can't really blame the makers for this one since the keys are probably necessarily delicate due to being handcrafted, but sections of my artisans and stems of the keys started to break off. Really unfortunate as I couldn't use some keys anymore. Then my vertical space bar started having broken stem issues and difficulty pressing, and I had a bit of an existential crisis trying to decide what to do next.

I swapped my keys out for a bit of time, but wanted a solution that would let me keep the keys. That's about when Royce came around one day and decided to give back my case. Apparently, he ended up buying his own keyboard case since he preferred something non-plastic and didn't have a need for my pink case anymore. That's really I think the impetus of everything. Welp, I got my case back now, guess I should try and think about making a keyboard with it.

I mulled about it for a while, and then randomly out of the blue, I came across some post about Kailh Bronze switches. Okay, these are some weird, meme, hipster linear clicky switches. I guess I pulled the trigger then and there cause 5 minutes later I ordered like 100 switches. Everything really came quickly after that. Pretty much immediately I started pooling over snippets of DIY guides I previously found and newly found online and started gathering parts. I'm lazy so I'm not going to dig these guides up.

I had an aesthetic I wanted for this keyboard. I wanted this keyboard to be simple, usable, and durable. Leave the artisan unicorn vomit to my Beetle. Use the kind of janky 40% layout to the Planck. I'm going to make a normal handwired SA (my favorite, cause they kind of look like candy lol) 60% keyboard. And that's pretty much what I ended up with, minus, as I'll talk about, the durable part.

I wanted simple, so no LEDs or anything extra, just keys and a workable keyboard please. Following some guides, I bought some stabilizers. These ended up being kind of not so great to work with. Maybe I set them up incorrectly, but I did try reassembling and setting up different stabilizers. Most were fine, but some areas, specifically like my backspace key, got stuck quite often, so for those areas with problems, I just straight up removed the stabilizers and left the keys on top unstabilized. I don't really feel a difference to be honest. In fact, I probably prefer unstabilized.

My plate fit pretty perfectly into the case. It's a pretty standard 60% plate so no surprises there. I was a little paranoid though since I had problems with my Tex Beetle, but luckily ran into no issues. Except I did. Later, as I finally got everything together and was assembling things together, I realized I had quite a problem on my hands, which was the inability to screw down my plate correctly.

Now, I don't know if this is just inexperience or something on my end, but I had a boatload of issues with screws and washers and making my plate stick to the case. The main issue is that the holes in the plate were slightly larger than the holes in the case. In addition, the screws, A2? I think? were smaller than the plate. This meant that I needed to have washers on both the top and the bottom of the plate for each screw. If I only had 1, then the plate could dip up or down depending on which area of the keyboard was pressed down.

Okay, that's fine. Actually, no it's not. Logistically, you have to put the washers under the plate, put the plate on top, put washers on top of the plate, then screw the washers all in. Except you have a pretty big issue where you can accidentally shift the keyboard and drop the washers underneath into the case, causing you to have to restart all over.