Over the past two months, I have developed a sharp pain in my left wrist. I knew it was time to ditch the tiny Apple keyboards and explore split and ergonomic options.
After reading countless reviews on different subreddits and scrolling through all the options on the awesome-split-keyboards list, I was ready to purchase either a Moonlander, Kinesis Advantage360, or a Glove80. I knew I wanted physically split parts with an orthogonal layout and did not have the equipment and skills to build a completely custom one from scratch.
While deciding between the listed commercially available options, I could not shake the feeling that I did not like the look of any of them. Seeing many great custom builds on r/ErgoMechKeyboards, I slowly convinced myself that I probably already had the soldering skills to build one myself. With the weekend and some spare time approaching, I started ordering parts for the keyboard and soldering equipment. I stumbled upon the amazing splitkb.com shop. They sell full kits, offer an online configurator with step-by-step guides, and ship incredibly fast across Europe.
Building the Keyboard
- Aurora Sofle v2 Kit from splitkb.com
- Kailh Pro Burgundy Switches
- Liatris Microcontroller
- 1x tactile rotary encoder
- 1x linear rotary encoder
- Cheap XDA keycaps from Amazon. soy milk themed
- Pine64 PINECIL
- 0.5mm leaded solder
- Desoldering pump, heat resistant tape
The process of building the keyboard was very meditative and relaxing, in total it took about 4 hours for a complete beginner like me.
(This section is for me to remember the steps I took)
Flashing the microcontrollers with pre-compiled firmware was as easy as it gets. I wanted to slightly adjust the position of the modifier keys and turn off the microcontroller LED, so I had to compile the firmware from scratch.
Liatris chips are qmk based, so I used the online configurator to create a fitting layout JSON file.
This file needed to be converted to a .c file to add the code to turn off the LED.
qmk json2c splitkb_aurora_sofle_v2_rev1_layout_mine.json > keymap.c
The .c file can then be modified and placed in the user's custom keyboard layout folder. Finally, compile the firmware and convert it to the correct format:
qmk compile -kb splitkb/aurora/sofle_v2/rev1 -km hartlco -e CONVERT_TO=liatris
Pressing the reset button twice on the microcontroller will put it into firmware word, and the compiled file can be transferred using the Finder.
Learn to type again
The orthogonal split keyboard forced me to re-learn how to type with all my fingers, also the position of the keys changed a bit. keybr.com is a great tool to practice typing and learn a new keyboard.
10 days In
I'm still practicing typing, my current speed is about 10 wpm slower than before, but the pain in my wrist is already getting better. Surprisingly, I have also noticed that my back and posture have improved.