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by Den-Fi

My Mechanical Maturation - A Keeb Story [Part 4]

It’s me again! Remember how I said I was going to fall down the ergo rabbit hole? Well… that didn’t happen. Why? No idea… The MAJA has been a relative mainstay on my desk since Part 3 of my journey. Occasionally, I will build something else and test it for a few days, but I always come back to the MAJA. This past year has been about refinements.

Sound, switch feel, plate material, keycap profiles, and simple mods have been the name of the game. I find it funny that it so closely parallels my audiophile journey. Especially the sound. When I first got into the hobby, sure I could kind of tell what a scratchy switch felt like, but things like stabilizer tuning and lubing were admittedly lost on me. I lubed the stabilizers when I first built the MAJA, but that’s because everyone told me to. I was sure there was some benefit. I just didn't have a grasp on how much.

Then I Dropped the ball…

A while back (before the MAJA build) I ordered the Drop Shift. I bought it without really thinking, and it was 3-pin… I put it back in the box and left it there. Fast-forward a bit and I need a board with a numpad for a new desk I'm setting up. I clip the legs on some switches I don’t mind modding and go on getting it up and running. That’s when I realize I can’t go backwards. As I chip away, writing a proposal for work, something is driving me increasingly mad. I think "oh, it's the never-ending pile of work. I figure it will go away. It doesn’t, but I finish my work and return to my normal desk. I start typing on the MAJA and boom.

Like entering outer-space, I realize there is something alien about the Drop SHIFT. I repeatedly tap the enter key. Then the space bar. I begin to realize the instability I felt in wasn’t my work. It's the stabilizers. The combination of rattle, tick, and lack of lubrication makes it feel like typing atop broken glass. From this point on, every prebuilt board under my domain will be disassembled and the stabilizers lubricated at a minimum.

There are bells you can’t unring, and springs you can’t unping

Now that stabilizer sound and feel are easily identifiable, I can start to pick up on other sounds. With YouTube around, doing a quick search for “Help! It sounds like Godzilla running across broken glass when I type” brought up surprisingly useful remedies. I learned to identify spring ping, stabilizer ticking, and other things I hadn’t realized annoyed me.

In the switch department, I’ve come a long way since owning about 300 Box Jade and Navy switches. In the past, I thought clicky was as good as it gets, then it was Topre. I’ve since learned there is no answer. MX switches continue to evolve at break-neck speeds since the design was unshackled from patent law.

So, the T1s are out…

I ran them after discovering linear wasn’t for me. They introduced me to my ideal amount of tactility. I did feel there was room for refinement, so I kept experimenting. Of all places, someone in an audio Discord mentioned they had a friend testing out exciting new switches. These switches ended up being the Gazzew Boba U4t. I am not great with explaining switch feel even now, but there is a refinement in feel with the U4t. The tactility is refreshingly assertive.

Having dabbled in getting various hand-lubed switches from r/mm, I knew I was going to want the Boba U4Ts as perfect as I could get them. Repetitive fine-motor tasks like lubing are not my strong suit though, so I needed to find a way around that.  I have followed Dave from Switchbox Studio for a long time on the KeebTalk forum. His wealth of information on switch anatomy is invaluable, so I hit him up.

He agrees to see what he can do to make my U4Ts perfect. I send over a big ole bag, making sure he has plenty to experiment with. Within a few feeler questions, Dave was able to gauge what I liked about the switch and knew what he needed to do to accentuate the Boba U4Ts best qualities.  He narrowed it down to 205g0 grease and 106 oil. He also broke down what each did and provided sound tests between the two.

106: with this middle-viscosity oil, the difference is a bit more obvious than with the 205. Again, no spring ping. The plastic sounds are cleaned-up a bit more, and the edge of any harshness is taken off quite a bit - this may or may not be desirable depending on what you want out of your U4T’s.
—Dave, Switchbox.Studio

We end up going with 106. It sounds the best to my ear, and Dave’s thorough breakdown confirmed it. I received the switches in short order, then set aside some time to get them installed. I'm overdue for cleaning and relubrication of the stabilizers, so the timing is perfect. This is it. This is peak keyboard. In the moment, you cannot convince me it gets better than this. Typing went from a mundane activity to a choreographed dance. Fond muscle memories. Typing is so instinctual that you never attach a feeling to it, but that all changed when my fingers experienced this level of tactility.

A-Tisket, A-Tasket, a gaming tablet, and a gasket

When something is great, you tend to savor it for as long as possible. This rang true for quite some time. The world changed forever in a year, then we had to learn our way back. That journey consumed all my idle time and the keyboard world advanced behind my back.

Soft. Flexible. Bouncy. What?! Foam came into play with the MAJA, and gasket mounts were also popping up in interest checks. I just finished figuring out how to tell if a switch was lubed, so I ducked right under the initial wave. Life was getting crazy, and I had to get back to it. My portable needs began to change, and I no longer want a thin and light and a separate powerhouse.

Initially, the ROG Glow Z13 seemed silly to me. A gaming tablet? They’ve gotten desperate. Never in a million years would I consider it… until I did. I started thinking to myself “what has been my biggest challenge when it comes to working on the go? The keyboard. It's always the keyboard, and it will always be the keyboard. That one thought changed everything. What if I could use my own?! I saw the 12900H and I knew from experience that the 3050 Ti was all I needed after having the X13 for almost a year.

My considerations for this new portable board are 65%, battery powered, light weight, and hot swappable. The non-group buy landscape back when I paid attention was full of GK61 and 64 layouts that were all the same amount of meh. I'm pleasantly surprised this time around. The GMMK Pro seems to have caused a revolution in the affordable space. I heard a lot of mixed reactions in various places, but I was not paying much attention in the last year. One unmistakable trait making the rounds is the rotary encoder. No matter what comes up, you cannot avoid it. It is the same story with gaskets.

I settled on the GamaKay LK67 barebones kit in clear black. There are a few others that have different names slapped on them, but this one was on sale. For switches, I order some Mechs on Deck Anubis they go right to Dave from Switchbox Studio for tuning. He lubed them and swapped in some panda springs. I heard meh things about the stock springs, so I Dave had some options. Keycaps are easy since I already had GMK Modern Dolch™ 2 Mist. I cannot tell you when I got them, but that’s the keeb drawer for you. I build it, the power switch sucks, and I need something else.

Wait, Den… you can’t just yada yada through that with an H1 heading.

Yes, I can… this is my story. The power switch was loose, wobbly, and kept turning on in my bag and the LK67 is dead to me now. I came across the Feker IK75 the same day I found the LK67 but went with the smaller board. Remedying that mistake is matter of a day. Thanks Prime. The IK75 is larger, but flatter since it has adjustable feet. It takes about the same amount of space in my bag given the decreased thickness.

One of the things I notice about the Feker IK75 is that it comes with a polycarbonate plate. I promptly discard this information. The second thing I notice is that the stabs are too small for the Modern Dolch 2 keycaps. An annoying setback, off to Amazon again. A few searches later and I settle on the New Fashion Kingdom Snapin Stabilizers. Yes, it is definitely because the name is hilarious.

While I wait for the stabilizers to arrive, I watch a few videos about the IK75 on YouTube. We all know your purchase isn’t valid until someone on YouTube says it is. The first thing I see people do is swapping in the polycarbonate plate. The second is finding ways to turn it into a “real” gasket mount keyboard. This is where bouncy, pillowy, and soft kept throwing me off. Didn’t we spend all this time coming up with stiff metal plates and chassis? Why are we going backwards?! I was confused. Very confused. 3,673 minutes of YouTubing later, I still don’t get it, but I'll at least try the PC plate.

The new stabilizers arrive. They fit tightly and after the usual tuning and lubing, they feel great. I swap in the PC plate and try a few of the gasket related mods I picked up. I'm not sold on maximum flex mode, but I settle on something in the middle. The IK75 looks good, sounds good, and feels good. Great! Wait… I love this and now my other boards feel weird. Great. Sigh.

Sound demos are recorded with my iPhone 13 Pro Max at ear level. They are close to what I actually hear, but should be taken with a grain of salt, like all sound demos.

After processing it a bit, I realize I've liked softer plate materials for a while and just did not know enough to know that. I do have another board with a carbon fiber plate, and I could not figure out what I loved about it. I thought it had something to do with the Alpaca V2s. I now know it was the plate.

Hi, I’m Den and I don’t know when to quit

I bought 3 more boards. I wanted to see what I missed out on with the GMMK Pro and why everyone was copying aspects of it. I bought a Royal Kludge RK68 because I wanted a new “switch tester” and the name is hilarious. Yes, that’s a theme and probably a problem, but I’ll evaluate that another day. Lastly, I wanted to switch up my office board. The Leopold FC980C is awesome, but a change of pace is nice in this hobby. I plan to rebuild this board in a few months, finally putting the Des-Domes I ordered a year or two? ago to use.

For my office, I need a numpad. I work with numbers all day and that is non-negotiable. Muscle memory saves me so much time. I need to get as close to 1800 as possible. I know this road leads only to pain, but I have to try. I run a few searches for “1800 hotswap keyboard kit” and there are nice things, but nothing truly stands out. I scroll past the Keynovo IF98 a few times. The name is funny, but not that funny. I see an interesting badge, so I click into the listing to zoom in on it out of curiosity. That’s when I saw the alternate colors.

I click on black and am immediately stunned. My absolute favorite color scheme is black and gold. Specifically, more black than gold. I am not terribly picky about how close to gold it is. I have ideas to tie it together well. Earthy yellows or even tan can work. I figure I can accomplish this with a black and gold Cablemod Pro cable. Alright, that's the plan. Let's get it ordred.

I’ve got a golden ticket!

I cannot wait to get this board. The genuine excitement of finally sculpting something in my aesthetic. Right there. A few layers of cardboard away. I open it. Perfection. One of those moments where warm, glowing fantasy rays bounce everywhere. I quickly close it. I’m an adult and I have work to do.

I get home. I sit at my desk. I slowly open the box again. The rays of hope are still there. Beautiful. Taking the board out to inspect it, I find extra caps, a switch/keycap puller combo, a decent braided cable, and the main event. I peck at it to get a feel for it stock. I like the OEM caps. They have a matte gloss finish that translates well texture wise. The stabilizers are… good! No ticking, no rattling, well lubed from the factory. I don’t even mind the Gateron Yellows. They are light and airy. I can see why people like this. I rip them right out.

As I pull this thing apart, the attention to detail shocks me on the relatively inexpensive board. The plastics feel nice and the 4 tones from the keycaps are mirrored throughout. Cracking it open reveals lots of gaskets. Everything touches a gasket. The switches are gently cradled by gasket material as well. The plate is steel. I suspect this is disappointing to team pillowy bouncy, but the gaskety goodness felt nice for me. Some Boba U4Ts later and I like where this is going. I re-lubed the stabs, Krytox 205g0 on the housing, dielectric grease on the wires.

While I was catching up on all the new, fresh keeb things I saw the tape mod. It’s quick and cheap, so I went ahead with it. Some A/Bing later and it is better to have than not on this board. I’m still not great at “feel” descriptions, but it cleans up the PCB impact, elevating on good sounds. Feels good. Sounds good. Now I need to tie it all together.

Artisans and I have a complicated relationship. I don’t like it when they aren’t the exact profile I need, and I don’t like when they are weird shapes. This limits my options, but that isn’t a bad thing considering how painful artisan shopping can be. I hop onto Amazon and search for “OEM profile gold artisan.” There it is. The first result. "Black & Gold Artisan Keycap 1u R4." It could not get more perfect. I don’t look at the price. I don't care. I just zoom through the checkout.

Not even 24 hours later and I have it. It’s gorgeous. Not a single flaw. I’ll never need more than this. So, I immediately reached out to GemKeyCaps and order a space bar. Wait… what?! Yeah, I don’t know either. The maker is super cool, and I just wanted to support good work. But that’s the last one. I promise. After getting 4 more R4s, I promise not to get anymore. Did I mention I don’t know when to quit?

Sound demos are recorded with my iPhone 13 Pro Max at ear level. They are close to what I actually hear, but should be taken with a grain of salt, like all sound demos.

Oh wait! I remember now. I didn’t like the sound of the stock OEM space bar. The R4 artisan was such a satisfying deep sound, that I wanted to see what it would do in space bar form. I was right. It sounds amazing. Just deep, authoritative keypresses. Words move out of respect, not just because I'm pressing the space bar. I'm not even exaggerating. Ok, I'm literally exaggerating.

Right, so what do we do about the MAJA?

I’m very happy with my IK75, and I love my IF98, but the MAJA hits differently now. It must be the plate. The common denominator between my new boards is an overall softer typing experience. That isn’t meant to mean mushy. Everything is firm, but the tone is deeper, and the feeling of bottoming out each keypress is more haptic.

I start looking for polycarbonate plates since that worked well for the IK75. In searching, I only come up with results for POM plates from Green Door Geeks. I thought POM had something to do with the brand that produces all the pomegranate stuff. Like they somehow managed to turn the rind into some space age material that made keyboards wonderful.

Green Door Geeks has the MAJA plate in stock, but if you have something else you don't see, they offer a custom cutting service if you have the plate files.

It turns out that I have heard of POM in other hobbies. I’ve owned Delrin® knife lanyard beads and acetal water blocks. I research a few other materials including FR4, but settle on POM since the explanations of the process were so nicely laid out by Green Door Geeks. They arrive in two weeks, but they’ve added a new laser, so new orders will go faster.

Is this peak keyboard?

These plates are awesome. POM is delightfully springy and surprisingly strong. For warranty purposes, I will leave out how much I torqued the plate. Breaking down the MAJA, I cannot help but feel how much I’ve grown in the hobby. All the nerves from when I first built it are gone and breaking down the stabs for cleaning and fresh lube feels as natural as breathing. All the inefficiencies and blunders installing the plate and switches fade away to the point where it relaxing.

The white plate looks amazing. I really loved the odd contrast of the brass, but the white POM plate gives the keys a floating effect. Floating I felt once the board was fully re-assembled and I got typing. The elasticity I felt while twisting the plate manifests itself here as pure energy reflecting back at my fingertips. Purified and refined tactility.

I don't think I need to touch this board ever again. No, really. I'm not lying. I'm definitely lying.

Sound demos are recorded with my iPhone 13 Pro Max at ear level. They are close to what I actually hear, but should be taken with a grain of salt, like all sound demos.

Oh right, that GMMK Pro

The GMMK Pro is alright. I bought it to practice modding, and whew! It needs it. The "GOAT" stabilizers in mine are rattly and do not feel great. I ditch them for recently acquired TX stabilizers since I'm swapping to the SMRT POM plate. I also omit a lot of screws, using only what is necessary structurally. These two changes bring the board from alright to good! The softer plate and all-around better stabilizers bring the experience a lot closer to my MAJA. The difference in feel likely boils down to the aluminum case and gasket mounting.

Sound demos are recorded with my iPhone 13 Pro Max at ear level. They are close to what I actually hear, but should be taken with a grain of salt, like all sound demos.

Is it The End yet?

As with any game, even endings are just the start of another playthrough. We pour hours and hours into this hobby, no return too diminishing. When you think of all the mods that exist… that someone found multiple uses for simple items like band-aids and masking tape. We are so far from done here.  Fun exists at every experience level and price range. From complex CNC machines to a few dabs of Krytox, the possibilities are endless.

My appetite for diminishing returns is boundless.

So the other day, I got my very first fisheye lens. Hurray! Every IG photographer's favorite gimmick tool, right? Naw, not even close. The fisheye is a legitimate and useful tool, and I love the perspective it forces the viewer into. Originally bought just for car interiors, this little 16mm


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