Journey of the Norseman Keyboard

Completed Custom Keyboard

Communities are places where people can meet like-minded people, share ideas, projects, and offer advice. They are also part of the core of DIYElectronics. This is why we spent a couple of months in 2021 setting up a DIY Community Forum and Discord. Through those platforms, we met Riaan Roos and discovered a story that showcases the amazing potential of 3D Printing, electronics, and the open-source community. We contacted Riaan who was eager to share his story. So let’s find out how being a Maker has made a difference for Riaan.

This is a story of discovery, tied back in history to a time when ordinary men and women did extraordinary things on a daily basis.

I am a software architect and developer that, like the explorers of yester-year, rely on just my hands, wits, and curiosity to make a living.

A couple of years ago, I noticed strange “calluses” forming on the inside of my hands but it didn’t bother me, so I ignored it. Over time, I started to notice that it was uncomfortable to stretch some of my fingers. This got bad enough that I couldn’t reach some of the keys on my keyboard without effort and discomfort.

I started to try and identify the cause and found that I suffer from a hereditary condition called Dupuytren’s (du-pwe-TRANZ) Contracture, also known as Viking’s Disease.

I realised that if I want to continue to ply my trade, I will have to find a solution to my dilemma. This led me into the vast ocean of ergonomics and the efforts of other brave explorers to change the century’s old way we interact with our computers and thereby reducing the possible injuries we could suffer.

I learned that our keyboards are extraordinarily poorly designed and that I am lucky to have not suffered more severely, given the time I spend using this tool. That I use less than half my keyboard, most of the time, and that there are better alternatives to the standard 104 key QWERTY keyboard.

One of these is a keyboard where the columns are not staggered and with less keys, normally about 70. After months of searching for an affordable 70% ortholinear keyboard, it slowly dawned on me that if I want a keyboard like this, I am going to have to build my own.

Example of Ortholinear keyboard
Example of Ortholinear keyboard (Image by Tom’sHardware – Source)

I am not sure if it is the spirit of adventure of the people that left me with the problem in the first place or a moment of pure insanity but once I made the decision to embark on this journey, I quickly started sailing away from the relative safety of land and over the horizon into the unknown vastness of split 40% ergonomic keyboards.

Once far enough away from the frequently traveled path; I happened on a fellow traveler that, like so many that often attempt the impossible, freely share their experience. This talented Maker, Quentin Lebastard from Bastard Keyboards, makes all his work available on Github and his Skeletyl keyboard just called out to me!

Assembling The Keyboard

It was settled, I started ordering all the bits and bob’s that would be required to build my first custom keyboard.

The body was printed in eSun PLA+ from my local supplier DIYElectronics on my Creality Ender 3 from the same supplier.

The Arduino Pro Micro control boards arrived in the same order as the filament. The Cherry MX Brown mechanical switches and hot-swap connectors imported from the candy mountain in the Far East with a set of cheap key-caps.

Gathering the components

I used online resources to get enough information to hand wire all the parts together.

The hot-swap sockets were positioned using custom fittings printed on my Creality LD-002 printer with 3D Rapid resin from my favorite supplier.

Wiring the keys

Once everything was assembled, I flashed the controllers with the QMK open-source keyboard software and started figuring the key-maps out.

This custom keyboard has been my daily driver for a couple of weeks now and although I am not typing as fast as I can on a regular keyboard, the strain on my hands has been reduced considerably and I am improving in speed and accuracy daily.

Keyboard assembly and software install

Lesson Learned

The first step of a new journey is the scariest part! Take this step and you might find yourself over the horizon before you know it and you never know what exciting new worlds you might discover.

This story is not just about an awesome print or some cool electronics but rather about the possibilities that 3D Printing, Electronics, and the open-source movement provide. We hope you enjoyed this post from Riaan and we hope the custom keyboard continues to bring much-needed relief. Read Riaan’s blog here.

If you have a project or story that you would like to share then join the DIY Community Forum or Discord. We are always looking for more Makers to feature on our blog.

Check out the rest of our blog for other interesting topics and posts. Keep up to date with all things DIYElectronics by checking out our social media, FacebookInstagramTikTok, and Twitter. If you want to check out our store, click this link.

2 thoughts on “Journey of the Norseman Keyboard”

  1. This is a Beautiful and Inspiring story.

    I can relate to it, Although our circumstances are a bit different. I have been trying to build a tension glove for my right hand, after I had been badly bitten by a dog. This resulted in all my extensor muscles being lost on my forearm. Your post has inspired me to once again attempt to make my predicament a bit easier.

    Many Thanks!

    1. Hi Dean.

      Thank you for your comment. We are glad to hear that Riaan’s story has inspired you. We wish you all the best and hope that you are able to find relief from your injury.

      DIY Team.

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