I have wanted to talk to BunnyLake for a while since the announcement of the JT Keycaps GB. I have always found [CTRL]ALT to be one of the more reliable stable platforms in the community. So it’s no secret I’m kind of a fan of their entire ethos. You will probably be able to tell by some questions I asked. But the main reason for this interview was the JT Keycaps announcement. It a new step in the community as this is a community group, who have managed to get some form of keycap production service that it suited to how the community consumes these types of keycaps.
I did not get to talk to Bunny in the end so this was all done through text. Hopefully in the future I will be able to do a voice interview but he is very busy.
If you were unaware of what is going on, BunnyLake is a member of [CTRL]ALT who have recently announced they are getting keycaps made with JT Keycaps. I wrote a little about the announcement nearer the time of release. [CTRL]ALT have been responsible for a couple of successful groupbuys in the past and have made this interesting move to become more involved in the production process.
Relating to JT Keycaps:
What is the relationship between [CTRL]ALT and JT Keycaps? By this I mean who initiated the ‘partnership’ and what kind of relationship do you have. Who approached who?
JT Keycaps is a good friend of mine who I have worked with on several keyboard and ctrl alt related projects in the past, as we already had an established relationship, it was less about who approached who, and more a natural evolution to work on this together
Did you propose the idea of making keycaps, and were you instrumental in the inception of JT Keycaps?
I was around for its inception, but can’t take any credit, it was a passion project for JT that I worked on in an advisory capacity along the way
How long has this been in the works?
As for how long its been in the works, I guess its been an idea for 2 or 3 years, and a physical working reality for 12 – 18 months in the prototyping and testing stage
Is [CTRL]ALT the storefront for JT Keycaps? Will others be able to initiate group buys or will this have to go through you first? Or are you simple starting things off? If others are allowed to submit designs in any way, is there a MOQ?
Anything is possible in the future, right now, it’s a semi closed environment, whilst more research and development occurs, however once the range of keys and materials builds up, and the mass production process is refined, those are certainly options for the future
What colour options do you have available?
Anything and everything
Are there any plans to use different materials, such as PBT or POM?
We have already used such materials, and certainly have plans to work with them in the future
Already you have started off with something quite ambitious. The announcement of Topre to MX sliders is quite an interesting one. In the past this has been thought of but no one has been able to make it happen due to the costs. How have you done things differently? Due to the fast turnover time does this mean you are able to support some more unusual layouts in kits? Do you have the means to make custom doubleshot keycaps? Would this just mean a price increase?
We can indeed make custom doubleshot caps, and in a way every cap in the set is a custom doubleshot, but in the sense you mean, yes we can do custom keys, there obviously is a cost to this, but not an unmanageable one. As for the more unusual layouts, the short lead time works against us in a way on this, each key takes time, and lots of testing, but over time the range of keys and options will grow
Do you see yourself doing other products like Topre to MX sliders in the future? Or will it be mainly keycaps?
No idea, we shall see where these things take us
Do you see yourself and JT Keycaps as a rival to the other big companies, namely Signature Plastics and GMK?
Not a rival, but an alternative, I think there is a big gap in the market for what we are offering, the goal really being GMK quality with signature plastics flexibility
What are you doing or going to do differently to those other companies? Are there any particular mistakes they make that you see yourself avoiding?
I think really this is a question for the future more so than now, these are big established companies with a lot of money behind them, there are of course things I can see other companies do that I don’t agree with, or things I would like to see that I’m not seeing with other companies, but this really is a start-up, and right now we are just concentrating of making the best product we can
What do you think the reaction will be to you or JT Keycaps as a new entry into the market? Do you see this pushing other companies to lower prices and maybe innovate a bit more?
I think it would be naïve to think we would have much of an impact right now, realistically I don’t think even the buying power of our enthusiast communities have much of an impact on these companies, I think they make the majority of their money through more commercial sources. The way I think of what we are doing is this, trying to offer something to the community, from within the community, I’m not focused on the other companies so much as I am on helping get a service out there more catered to our enthusiast needs (more flexibility, lower costs, shorter lead times)
From the currently available information you seem to be a cut above the rest, do you already see yourself as outperforming the competition? What times can be expected for groupbuys to complete?
This first buy will have a slightly longer lead time that future ones, most like about 3 – 4 weeks, with it being a first run, we expect some issues we will have to overcome in the process, and will have very strict quality control, but once we have production dialed in, the lead times will be considerable reduced from that
Earlier on in the announcement you suggested it might be possible to create Topre keycaps. Does the announcement of Topre to MX sliders mean this is no longer necessary? Would you produce Alps keycaps? Or is this just down to the demand?
Its down to a few things, cost, time and demand, but anything is possible, right now we are concentrating on getting this first set right, but we will have some big announcements regarding Topre shortly
Could you possible create something a bit more complicated such as buckling spring keycaps (one piece or two piece construction)?
The answer is the same as above, however we don’t have any plans in that regard right now
Have you collaborated with Matt3o with their recent Topre spacebar GB? It seems they have found a manufacturer for Topre keycaps. Is this related to JT Keycaps?
It isn’t, we did discuss this and I am currently working with matteo on both current and future projects, but they had found a manufacturer for that before we had made any announcements
The introduction GB is for cherry profile keycaps, are you going to offer other profiles in the future?
Highly possible but nothing confirmed as of yet, as with many of the above questions, it really comes down to how successful this becomes
Do you have anything else planned for the future which you might be able to tease?
Has this signalled a change in how [CTRL]ALT is perceived? By this I mean do you think you will be seen as more of a company or corporation in the community?
We are not a company or a business, just a bunch of community members who want to see new things
More General on [CTRL]ALT:
We have tons plans, and some big announcements coming soon, I’m going to be a bit MIA around September and October, with my baby being born, so right now it’s planning what can be started and completed before then, and what should wait until after then when ill have the time to commit to it 100%
Not necessarily with its own community, but we are certainly working on the site right now to make it a more standalone effort, right now its so intrinsically linked with gh, that is how we announce everything and provide updates, and as ctrl alt has grown, so to does the way we both promote and communicate, we are working on ctrl alt v2 right now, and it’ll be both more user friendly, and able to stand on its own 2 feet than it is in its current state
Really we are just a group of friends, I don’t know where it’ll go, but I’ve had problems before with letting people in and being let down, whereas now its really just a group of people I consider friends, and trust completely, who are as passionate about what we are doing as I am, so we may expand, but it would be a very organic thing
[CTRL]ALT is a platform for Brocaps sales, would you be open to allowing other artisans to sell their caps through [CTRL]ALT. If so this would have to be curated carefully to ensure it is just not another marketplace, but [CTRL]ALT is in a position to give a boost to some artisans. Has this been considered, or is there just not a call for it?
I would not be against the idea, but I am very picky who I work with, bro is a long time friend of mine, and it was a relationship that happened naturally, the only other artisan right now I would go out of my way to work with is kult worship kaps, and that is because I’m both friends with him, and stand behind the aesthetic and quality of what he is producing, that isn’t a knock against other cap makers at all, there are others I respect, but they have their own outlets, as well as some I just wouldn’t want to have anything to do with
Are you proud and impressed with what you have created with [CTRL]ALT? From my point of view it seems like one of the best sites in terms of design and products.
I am very proud of what we have achieved in the time period we have, there are certainly things I wish went down differently, but as an overall body of work, I’m very happy, I just wish I had more time
Are there any more planned ‘podcasts’ for the [CTRL]ALT blog? Although, I am not sure if this is your area.
There are indeed, I worked very closely with sent on that side of the site, however due to some personal reasons he has had to step back for a bit, so it’ll either return when he does, or if he is not in a position to continue, we will certainly find someone or several people to continue it
Although this was a short interview, I did find it maintained my excitement for JT Keycaps and the future. From what I heard it does seem like this is going to be an exciting thing for the community. If you own a Topre board and haven’t already participated I highly recommend it. The Sliders by themselves are worth the price.
Join the GB Here https://ctrlalt.io/buys/jtk-debut
This is all through Bunny. He has kindly said I can do a small gift bag giveaway. It will most likely include a [CTRL]ALT T-Shirt and a keyring. But you are at the mercy of Bunny. All you have to do is follow my twitter. I haven’t done anything with it yet but I am hoping to in the future. I’ll pick a random winner on Friday.