I have a major Friday dilemma to solve. This evening, should I...

Thanks everyone for your insight! Let's build this Plaid then... I'll keep beer brewing for another weekend.

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Okay, it’s time. I‘ll try to not set the house on fire. Main tools and components are ready, nothing seems to be missing, the assembly guide is open, soma.fm is playing in the background... Let’s see where the night takes us.

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Zener diodes and resistors are in place. It took me ages to properly bend the legs of the first couple of components, not to mention I managed to lose a diode twice. But now I feel in the flow. Which is good, because I have 48 diodes left to solder.

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All 48 diodes are soldered. Maybe it was the ambient music in the background, or the beauty of this PCB, or the quiet, mesmerizing loop when installing one component after the other, but I haven’t felt this relaxed in a long time. Time to hit the sack, I’ll carry on tomorrow.

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So, back to building that keyboard. The thing I dreaded the most was the USB port, for several reasons:
- My previous keyboard’s USB port just fell off after a while (I’ll have to post the cursed pictures of my repair attempts, BTW.)
- The Plaid is USB mini. Yes, that’s a bit old school (you can find an updated USB-C version now.)
- Pins are awfully close and tiny. High dexterity and good eyesight seem mandatory. Not to mention a bit of luck.

I mean, look at it:

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Surprisingly, after a deep breath, I managed to solder it quite easily. It looked ugly, and so did the rest of my soldered components on the back side of the PCB (but everything looks ugly through a 3x magnifier.) Yet it seemed okay. Of course, I’ve got a bit more experience since the last time, but I think practicing finger drumming daily for more than one year also helped.

At least, this one shouldn’t fell off.

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Turns out soldering the rest required pretty much the same level of concentration. The designer of the keyboard clearly wrote his guide with a S-shaped difficulty curve in mind.

In a way, that damn electrolytic capacitor was harder to solder than the USB port. Soldering the IC socket was quick... but it took me ages to install the ATMEGA328p. This thing has too many legs to align.

Then came the moment of truth: power it on and see what happens.

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My new is aliiiiiiive!

It took me a while to figure out how to connect it and flash it with the default keymap. I had to install drivers and try random stuff involving a command line interface. Then I emulated a few keystrokes with a wire on the switch pads. It can type!

But yeah, adding switches and keycaps would make it a bit more useful as a keyboard. 48 switches left to solder!

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Solder time!

Yes, switch 43 is turned at 180 degrees. This is because the PCB allows to use a single switch with a 2 u long spacebar, or two switches. There are too many holes to make them fit all without using this trick.

Since I use non-latin characters, one more key is definitely useful for more combos, so I prefer to maximize the layout.

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Here’s my new Plaid . Pretty happy with it, though I miss my Levinson’s split layout. Keycaps are temporary, but fit well enough.

Compared to my previous blinkfest, it has only two LEDs, and I can’t figure out how to change their color. I also need to tweak the layout, since I’m using my old split keymap, some combos don’t make sense anymore. And maybe a 2U spacebar would be better. We’ll see if I find the energy to desolder two switches and replace them with a single one...

@whtrbt Haha yeah, they're great. I'm waiting for blank translucent keycaps from Rama, since my switches glow in the dark (I know, that's utterly silly but I like the idea of low-tech solar-powered keyboard bling instead of power-hungry LEDs...)

I'm not even sure I'll be able to type on a legendless keyboard but I have to try (not to mention I want to repair the keyboard these caps initially belonged to.)

@ice @ice I use a blank 60% keyboard every day for work... love it. I’m going to assemble a split corne keyboard once I can get some bloody solder.

@whtrbt Nice! I've always felt that blank keycaps may be hard to get used to, but at this point I'm probably ready. And the Corne looks great, I was close to get one (or a Kyria) before deciding to try the Plaid, since I've been curious about the Planck layout for a long time.

@ice looks lovely! I've heard good things about having a single key spacebar, maybe you'll get used to it?

@yoshiki Thanks :) Having one single-key spacebar on each half on my split keyboard worked great, but here, for the same layout, I end up with two keys doing the same thing next to each other, it feels a bit strange. Of course, I can map them to do different things, but I have enough function keys for the various layers I'm using. And a bigger spacebar could help for touch typing. So I don't know, haha.

@neauoire Haha, thanks, I'm glad I didn't botch the soldering :)

@ice now that right there is one lovely keyboard mate ^_^

@yojimbo Thanks, but I’ve just chosen the parts and assembled it, the guy who designed the board is the one who should get the praise :)

@ice That's true, but still, you had a fair bit of constructive input :-)

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Merveilles is a community project aimed at the establishment of new ways of speaking, seeing and organizing information — A culture that seeks augmentation through the arts of engineering and design. A warm welcome to any like-minded people who feel these ideals resonate with them.