Possible 40% w/Numpad Project

Yesterday, Hisfanator on Reddit posted this idea of a 40% keyboard with numpad. Not all that dissimilar to a RedScarf or a Monarch, just reduced to 40%.

I’ve had a Zenith Data Systems keyboard with glorious Alps SKCL Greens for a while, and I’ve been trying to think of a project for it. I’m over 60% boards for now - I love using them, but I don’t need to make another at this point. I’d considered just modifying the existing board and modernizing it. I’d also considered just harvesting the switches and using them in BlueNalgene’s upcoming Alps TKL.

What I really quite like about the Zenith (other than its switches) is the layout. It’s a QWERTY layout, but not standard ANSI. Even the bigass Enter isn’t standard.

No matter what type of board I make out of this, whether it’s a 60% or a TKL, I wouldn’t be able to reuse the Zenith’s original high quality keycaps as the layout isn’t standard. Alps keycaps are of course very very hard to come by. One either needs vintage keycaps, or inevitably lower quality modern-day ABS keycaps. Typically the modern day Alps keycaps only ever come in ANSI layout, so nothing truly innovative is possible with them.

Thus we get to this 40% concept. The notion I’ve had is to get a set of plates cut, then harvest the green switches and build a board around that. I quite like this idea as it would be a custom board from the ground up, but I could maintain the cool Zenith layout and keycaps. Essentially I would just be removing the F keys and the number row.

I’ve mocked up a version of this on Keyboard Layout Editor and then subsequently fed it through Swill’s plate building tool and generated this.

My thought is that I would do a simple sandwich design. Probably aluminum top and bottom plates with an acrylic middle plate. Nothing too complicated, but still high quality.

Obviously this is simply a concept at this time. I imagine that if I go into production with this that I’ll need to make significant changes to the plate and board design to make it fully compatible with the Zenith’s keycaps, but it’s an interesting start. I’ve slowly learned to like my Golbat and its 40% layout, so I think I could really like this. A 40% with numpad and green alps could be a hell of a combination.

With all the projects I’m working on currently, I won’t even be able to think about this seriously until next year, but I always like to keep my projects planned out months ahead of time. Maybe this one will come to fruition.

Typed on ErgoDox Test Board

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