Assembling My Ergodox

on Keyboard

I got my Ergodox Infinity set from the November 2016 Massdrop. I’ve wanted split keyboards that allows more access with thumb clusters. The resemblance to stenotypes also mean that I could try out some keyboard chords.

It was hard to decide between the Ergodox and the Kinesis Advantage 2. I went with the former as the split distance is adjustable, which allows more arrangements. This further reduces risk of getting protracted shoulders over extended use.

Anyway, I received the shipment finally and assembly took about six hours. I was paranoid and took few risks, although I certainly made some mistakes. Some of my notes may be useful to fellow assemblers.

Like me, I think most other persons building an Ergodox might not be in a position to comfortably screw up, yet have to compromise on equipment. For instance, good soldering stations like the recommended Hakko-888D soldering stations have large price premiums here, and importing makes it not value-for-money anymore. I had to do my best with what I have.

I got a cheap soldering iron because I won’t do much more soldering after this project. It’s barely acceptable because most of the SMD chips are soldered already, but it’s really not enough if I want to add LEDs later on - the holes are much smaller.

These were the options I went for my Massdrop order:

  1. Switch Type Option: Zealios 65g Tactile (Purple) (+$14.50)
  2. Keycaps Option: Blank, Black DCS Keycaps (Cherry Stem) (+$49.99)
  3. Keycap Puller Option: Don’t add a Keycap Puller
  4. Full Hand Add-on Option: No

Preparation

Before I began, I read up as much as I could:

Watched many videos too, these were indispensable:

General

Because keyboards just have so of the same parts, the process is quite tedious.

The order for assembly that I recommend are:

1 Check parts inventory 2 Test working PCB, LCD 3 Setup stabilisers and corner switches 4 Solder stabiliser and corners switches, then check that PCB fits in enclosure (you don’t have to peel the kraft paper to do this!) 5 Add and solder the rest of the switches 6 Sort and place keycaps 7 Flash and test 8 Peel and finally assemble acrylic layers 9 Repeat for other hand 10 Debug for daisy chaining

  • Do the acrylic layers last! Less exposure means less time to accumulate dust, and less opportunity to scratch against all the metal and other acrylic layers. Also frees up space otherwise occupied by the unwrapped layers.

  • You want to be careful with removing the kraft paper from the acrylic. If it tears, then alcohol works to remove the paper with some rubbing.

  • Complete one side first! It let’s you review if you’ve soldered everything correctly and that the spacings and margins fit well. It’s really quite hard to test all the keys until the firmware is flashed.

  • There is a required firmware flash from input club to fix daisy-chain issues. It’s also much easier to test the keys when the firmware is flashed.

Soldering

Soldering is arguably the riskiest part of the build for most people. My solder joints in the beginning were really ugly, but all the joints worked right the first time round. I also had experience soldering before this, but I’m not an expert, so YMMV.

  • Practice on junk electronics before starting. I had misplaced my stripboard and have to live with the consequences. It’s more dispensable than screwing up the PCB solders. A cheap electronics project kit for a few dollars is worth it just for the practice.

  • There are 152 joints to solder on the Ergodox Infinity.

  • You’re going to want to push the switches into the pcb, deeper than this guy’s, the zealios switches are probably fatter than expected.

  • The official build guide shows not to overfill the longer holes for the switches. I’ve had some overfilled holes boiling flux and spattering small amounts of solder all over.

Here’s mine if you want to compare:

Keycaps placement and orientation

The stabiliser orientation is a little ambiguous. Here’s what it should look like.

The DCS blank keycaps I got had no row numbers underneath, and no instructions came with it.

  • Rows 1, 4 are easy because you can check if the top looks like a cliff/ the keys are extremely angled, respectively.

  • Rows 2 & 3 were impossible to tell. This picture shows the extremely small difference side-by-side.

  • This thread from the Input Club forum matches the distribution of DCS keys that I got. (input.club/forums/)

  • This Ergodox EZ bundle gallery shows blank DCS keycaps and has rows 1 and 2 flipped so that keys are grouped together. (ergodox-ez.com)

  • One post suggested replacing and reversing rows 2 and 4 so that it’s easier to press two buttons at once when using Plover.

Keyboard Layout

Arrangement of the keycaps are very similar to the layouts for the Advantage or Maltron keyboards. One could certainly reference these other models for alternative keyboard layouts. In fact, Maltron has it’s own special layout for their ergonomic keyboards.

It’s cool to be on the DVORAK or Colemak team, but I would recommend keeping a QWERTY layer, so that it’s easy to compare between split keyboards when you encounter them in the wild.

Lesser-known features

  • You still need to connect to a USB3.0 port to support daisy-chaining.

  • Layer changes will propagate across the halves only if you use the interconnect.

  • The reset button behind now has a hole through the acrylic so you can use a pin.

Build Pictures

Here’s the rest of the pictures I got. I’m now a happy owner of the Ergodox Infinity. There are some adjusting pains, but it feels great and definitely worth the effort over!