A tale of two keyboards

During the pandemic I started diving deeper and deeper into embedded devices. I mucked around a bit with getting core boot installed onto a lenovo laptop, which ultimately didn’t pan out for me and resulted in bricking of said laptop, but inevitably found my way into the world of building custom keyboards. My fascination with keyboards all started some time ago, when a friend introduced me to the ergodox boards. This, at the time, seemed way too steep of a learning curve for me, but it did get me excited enough about the concept of custom boards, that I put together my very first custom keyboard, a kbd65 dubbed “rascal” by my daughter.

Rascal 1

Rascal 2

After this board, hooked doesn’t come close to describing my feelings, I was flat out addicted to this hobby.

I spent a bit of time using the Ergodox EZ as my daily driver, getting used to the concept of ortho-linear as well as a split keyboard. After about a week of pain it was my new keyboard preference, and I thought I was set for life with my trusty ergodox. However, I started noticing various frustrations with the board, the biggest of which was the lack of USB-C support (I’m aware they have re-released the board with USB-C, but this added to my rage as opposed to reduced it). I had picked up a pretty sick custom cable some time ago, but wanted a cable that I could use on multiple keebs, i.e. rascal, as opposed to just my ergodox, so got a USB-C cable and then picked up some extremely shitty adapters on amazon. These have all since broken, and put me in something of a decision point. Do I A.) spend another $10 on amazon and buy more adapters, or… Do I drop hundreds of dollars into building out a new split keyboard that comes somewhat close to resembling the Ergodox EZ.

Enter the Sofle

It didn’t take me too long to find the Sofle keyboard, which comes pretty close to the ergodox key layout, and it seemed to be a board somewhat in my skillset, so I picked up a Sofle 2.1 RGB off of customkbd (can’t recommend that site enough, it’s friggin’ dope.) as I’m a fan of blinky rainbow lights. A month or so later I was sitting with a newly assembled keyboard, sans RGB lights as I had no idea how to approach surface mount LEDs yet, but came to a stark realization of one of my most favored aspects of the Ergodox - the tilt kit. Turns out I need this tenting or my wrists start aching. I quickly searched around for a case that was glam AF (Thanks Ana Delvy, for learning my ass that VIP is always better), but also provided support for tenting, preferably the ergodox tent kit so I could just re-use parts I have laying around. This lead to ergomechs beautiful case line-up, where I found a brass case for a Sofle v2, which I quickly pounced on. I didn’t take another second to double check version numbers, as the astute reader may have spotted, for if I did I would’ve noticed that the case was for a v2, not v2.1. I had I noticed this crucial detail, I’d not be writing this post :)

Fast forward to me sitting with this gorgeous, custom milled brass case, and realizing that my sofle 2.1 wont fit. FML. Fortunately I had just received a 3d printer over the holidays, and there’s a wealth of 3d printed schematics for a 2.1 case. This was at least sufficient for me to get some screws and get a tilt kit up and running. I also learned my ass on surface mount soldering LEDs after numerous fried LEDs and completely botching one half of the board. You’ll notice in the picture that the left-hand side doesn’t have nearly as much underglow as the right (whoops!).

Sofle 2.1 1

Sofle 2.1 2

Sofle 2.1 3

But about the case

I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with this gorgeous paper-weight that I’ve had sitting on my desk for months. I had attempted selling just the case, but to no avail, and I finally relented to buying a Sofle v2 off of customkbd and building out yet another keyboard, which I’m extremely happy with, and really on the fence about selling:

Sofle 2 with brass case

Written on July 8, 2022