Gaming keypad for left handers

Make gaming more ergonomic with a custom keypad for the right hand.

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As a left-hander, gaming is quite unergonomic. The default keybindings in most games are made for the left hand around the WASD keys. For the right hand (as the left is using the mouse), either the keybindings have to be changed for every game or you have to do some finger acrobatics in order to reach some keys.

For right-handers, plenty of gaming pads are available that are basically half a keyboard for the left hand, improving the gaming experience. However, I could not find any such product for the right hand (and as such for left-handed people), so I am building my own.

The plan is to basically build the right half of an ergodox ( with a custom key layout.

On the default layer, the left half of a qwerty keyboard shall be (mostly) mirrored, so the right hand can reach the keys on stardard key assignments the same way the left hand could on a normal keyboard. The right half of the keyboard shall be on a second layer.

  • (Most of) the Final (?) Keycaps

    AberDerBart02/19/2022 at 21:56 0 comments

    I finally got around to printing proper keycaps, painting the labels with acrylic paint and sanding them down. I am satisfied with the result, but there is still much room for improvement.

    I sanded the caps down to 320 grit sandpaper, especially on the black keys you see, that this is not enough (see the (unsanded) black key left to the ALT key for comparison), but it already has quite a nice feel to it.

    I did not print all keys yet, as I am still tweaking the keymap in some places.

    The acrylic paint worked okay, although not as good as I had hoped. There are PLA particles from the sanding stuck in the paint and when drying, it contracted, so I had to paint over it multiple times and even the the results were suboptimal. Perhaps next time (if/when there is a next time, I got plenty other projects in the pipeline), I will try colored epoxy - but maybe I will go the whole step to make moulds for the caps.

  • Assembly and custom firmware

    AberDerBart02/09/2022 at 15:12 0 comments

    I assembled the keypad and put on a range of keycaps (mostly test prints, but also some off-the-shelf keycaps my roommate had lying around).

    I tested it and it worked, but sometimes key presses were not registered. First I thought it was the switches not being closed, but it turned out to be a firmware problem. I used the ergodox_ez qmk firmware for the keypad, which is configured for a split keyboard. Normally the right side is connected via USB (as it is for the keypad), but it is also connected to the left side via a 4-pole 3.5mm jack, speaking I²C. This normally works great, however, as my keypad has no left side talking back, it waited for a response, which lead to a lower sampling rate and thus key presses not being registered.
    After a lot of procrastination, I finally created a [custom firmware in qmk]( which was no big deal after all and now it works like a charm.

    Next step: print and paint the final keycaps

  • Soldering PCBs

    AberDerBart11/15/2021 at 23:32 0 comments

    After quite a while, my PCBs (I got two, so I have 1 spare) arrived, so I did some soldering this evening (it is quite straightforward (if you know how to solder), the instructions are easy to follow.

    The only fiddly thing is soldering the mini usb cable (I cut one wire by accident when removing the insulation, fortunately it was the ground wire, so I could just solder it to the ground pin of the Teensy).
    This is one thing that always irritates me when using microcontroller dev boards with usb support - why aren't the usb data pins exposed on the PCB? Often there are test points, but a through-hole pin would be so much easier...

    If I do a  second iteration on this, maybe I'll adjust the board for the RP2040 soldered directly onto the PCB - this would be much cheaper (after all, a Teensy 2.0 costs about 20€) and more compact.

    The case did not match perfectly, the recess for the Teensy is a little bit too small. As the upper half of the case will be connected to the PCB by the key switches sitting in it, I am considering to redesign it to be split in two parts, so I can replace the outer part for cosmetic changes.

  • Painting Keycaps

    AberDerBart10/21/2021 at 16:44 0 comments

    I did some experiments with painting keycaps. I painted the letters of the printed caps (which are recessed in the keys) with acrylic color (left), then sanded the cap smooth the  next day (right). The result is not perfect as there are small imperfections in the print where the paint still sticks, but its good enough for now.

  • Case

    AberDerBart10/19/2021 at 07:59 0 comments

    I 3D-printed the case in white PLA. For now, I just used a model from Thingiverse.

  • Keycap 3D generation

    AberDerBart10/17/2021 at 22:55 0 comments

    As I want the two main layers both to be printed on the Keys, I need custom keycaps. So I scripted some OpenSCAD and python based on the awesome KeyV2 project to generate 3D-Models to print.

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