I thought with the looming launch of an exciting new switch, that I would find out a bit more about them. It’s not too long but I think this is a nice read into the upcoming switches. If you don’t know what zealios are, this should be a good introduction.

Photo by Lastpilot

Who is Zeal? For those who don’t know? What are you known for etc?

Hi, I’m Henry, and I run Zeal PC at ZealPC.net. I’ve been known for my custom USB cables, GMK Dolch keycaps, Ducky Dyesub keycaps, Springs, Lube, Green Tea Kit Kats, etc. Basically anything related to keyboards and Kit Kat!

Your recent project is a new switch. This is an ambitious project and I don’t think this has happened before. There was talk of an ergoclear but MOQ was too high. What is this new switch? (just for introduction sake)

Indeed, this is an ambitious project and is probably one of the first community-developed switch! This new “Zealio” switch is what I like to call an “improved” version of the Ergo Clear switch. It’s been built from the ground up with keyboard enthusiasts in mind. I’ve implemented all the pros and omitted all the cons that people have mentioned about the Ergo Clear switch.

Are the LED’s going to be sold with the switches?

The RGB LEDs will be sold once an aftermarket RGB LED PCB has been developed. For now, RGB LEDs will not be bundled with Zealio switches.

Are these automatically colour changing LED’s or do they require a separate controller?

Controllable RGB LEDs have a few controllers on the PCB side to make them work properly. The videos I’ve released so far have simply been an auto-changing RGB LED fit inside the switch, powered off a 3v button cell battery.

What motivated this project?

I was unhappy with the feeling of current generation Cherry switches. They were scratchy, inconsistent, and overall hard to source. The lack of Cherry switches pushed me to look for alternatives, and that’s when I stumbled upon Gateron. That’s when the magic started. :)

Photo by Lastpilot

Is this all you or are there others involved?

Zeal PC is currently a one man show, but depending on how things move forward, I’m sure there will be more people joining the team!

Are they officially named zealios?

I guess you can say that. :)) The name “Zealio” started in one of the keyboard Skype groups I was in, and the name sort of stuck ever since. The switch obviously will have a long and lengthy part number, but for all intents and purposes, “Zealio” or “Purple Gaterons” should get the message across.

Will they be available in PCB and plate mount variations?

At this stage, only PCB mount Zealios will be made. If the user has a PCB that doesn’t support PCB mount supporting pins, they can simply snip them off with a flush cutter. It would be redundant to make a plate mounted bottom mould for the switch.

How long has this project been under way?

I’ve been discussing this project with Gateron since the beginning of 2015. It wasn’t until early March did I start showing little snips of a picture I had taken of the first linear “Zealio” alpha-stage prototype switch. I released a small picture puzzle piece every day until April 1st, where I posted all the pieces to the puzzle. Then updates went silent until the end of July when the Purple Zealio prototype was complete and revealed.

What was the process of talking to Gateron to get these made?

I won’t be disclosing too much information here. Just know that it consisted of multiple emails, phone calls, samples sent back and forth as well as an on-site visit!

Has this been a costly project?

Yes, it’s been costly. But it will be worth it, and I’m sure the community will benefit from it!

Why did you settle on the zealios current specs? Tactile 62g Was this always the choice?

Before I even touched the Zealio switches, my goal was to replicate a smooth, vintage 62g lubed ergo clear. I thought my mind was set on 62g Zealios. However after receiving samples of 62g, 65g and 67g, making the decision has been tough. All three weights have its own unique characteristic. There’s a chance all three weights will make it to the final production, but there’s no guarantees.

Why purple?

Long long time ago, hidden somewhere in Deskthority/GeekHack, there was talk that Cherry would make “Purple” ergo-clear switches if they received a 750k switch order. I’m not sure where that post went, or who provided that figure, but it’s been talked about enough to end up in the DT Cherry MX Ergo Clear wiki. I thought it would be fun to make that legend into a reality, and here we are now with Purple Zealios. There’s also the fact that at the time of designing the switch, no other switch manufacturer has used purple yet for their stem.

Photo by Lastpilot

Is this the first of many? Is there the possibility of more switches coming from zeal and/or Gateron.

The first wave of Project Zealio will come in Linear and tactile variants. There may be a new clicky switch that can be made, but I’ll have to see the response of the current Zealio switches.

When can we expect them to be on sale and for what price?

The projected start date of the GB Pre-order is before the end of August. Price per switch for the GB/Pre-order will be $0.75USD + shipping.

Do you see these switches being around for a long time? Or is this just dependent on demand?

I plan on keeping these switches constantly stocked for a good while. It wouldn’t be wise to invest so much into new moulds, only to do one production run with them!

Are you going to make them available to other vendors such as olkb? This could result in zealplancks and what not.

Vendors are welcome to purchase the switches from the GB Pre-order, or afterwards at a higher retail price. The switches however, will be solely distributed by Zeal PC.

Will you be selling these switches in kits for keyboards and possibly keyboards pre-built with these?

There’s a possibility, but as it stands, these will be switches for the end-user to mod into keyboards. If there’s a new project or keyboard kit that arises, I’ll be sure to let the community know.

Will these be shipping with any new snacks?

It will depend on when Zealios start shipping! Kit Kats are prone to melting under warm weather, so I might have to look into some hard candy. We’ll see…

Do you have any future plans for zealpc.net that you can reveal?

No future plans have been finalized or disclosed yet. Though if Zealios take off, there might be something extra up my sleeves!

Well I can confidently say that I am looking forward to getting some zealios. But I also need a keyboard to put them on. Thanks to Zeal for answering my questions and to Lastpilot for letting me use his photos.


Typed on the Novatouch

Matt3o Designing Next Topre Keyset

I thought this was the biggest news from last week, and definitely one of the more interesting things to happen. With the recent development in Topre keycaps such as JTKeycaps and the pbt spacebar, it was always a possibility that more Topre keysets were on the horizon. What’s interesting about this news, is the fact it is being created in liaison with the community, and it is also going to be made by Topre.

This is interesting as it is a fairly large company that is now working with the community (through matt3o) but also that Topre is willing to make additional keysets again. Topre stopped producing additional keysets due to low demand. Which is why Topre keysets are currently very expensive. The other reason I thought it interesting, was the involvement of matt3o. It seems the popularity of the PBT spacebars must have caught Topre’s attention. This could certainly be a good thing for the future of Topre keysets. Before this announcement, I was sceptical of the future of Topre keycaps. With the novatouch and Topre to MX sliders by JTK, I wasn’t sure whether there was a future for Topre keycaps. If this happens, I expect there are here to stay.

There are currently a couple of drafts being shown, and matt3o is open to community suggestion.
This is my current favourite.

Zealios

Some more photos of the Zealios have been shown. For those not in the loop. Zealios are a new switch by manufactured Gateron but created by Zeal. The switches include 62g gold plated springs with an “MX clear” stem. This switch was created alongside a transparent switch bottom, that is said to help led diffusion.

I think this will be a very interesting switch as I am a huge fan of standard Cherry clears and excited by the prospect of a Clear with Gateron smoothness.

Planck on Massdrop

The Planck is olkb.co’s flagship or most well known ortholinear keyboard. Now on massdrop, it is doing surprisingly well. I had always thought reluctant to get a 40% but it seems that people are warming up to the idea of an even smaller keyboard. Currently at 365 purchases it is available with a huge amount of options, with a base unassembled price of $99 + shipping. Also, note that this is the PCB Planck. It is possible to get it cheaper from olkb.co for a little less if you go for the hand wired version.

1upkeyboards Wrist Rests

These are some very nice hand made wrist wrests made by 1upkeyboards. You will likely have seen their cases before. These are available in limited quantities because of all the work that goes into them. Prices go from $40 to $85 with free shipping in the US. If you are looking for a nice wrist rest I think this is one of the good choices.

Limited Edition POK3R

This is coming from a comment made by corus-kb on reddit. Although the POK3R is thought of as fairly standard, the more options the better. It allows people starting out, to get a better keyboard that they like. That said, this is a limited edition so I’m not sure of the numbers it will be available in.

mechanicalkeyboards.co.id

A new retailer is on the scene with an impressive inventory for something just starting out. They currently have Ducky, KUL, Corsair and Cooler Master keyboards available. The most notable products are of Krytone’s Krap. They have got an exclusive on the red and white colourway, with the promise of more to come. I have to say they do look really good.

Another product of note is the HHKB. There is always a lack of Topre retailers so another one is always welcome. The HHKB price is $248 which is a little more expensive than what it is available for at elitekeyboards.

New Universal Plate Coming to Massdrop

This comes from sentrantpc who I know for creating the bent aluminium switch tester. Supposedly coming to massdrop in the future, this plate is almost universal. It will be available in “plenty” of anodized colours. And will be sold for $21.99 per plate.
My first thought was, is this the same as the Leandren plate? No it is not. However, it is being run with LeandreN’s approval.
My second thought was that this is another massdrop project. Massdrop is continuing to be more prevalent in the mechanical keyboard community.

Massdrop KC60 Update

Not a lot to say. But I think I have bowed out at this point.

K3KC New Product

These are copies of ClickClacks skull design but as fridge magnets. I was surprised when I saw these as they are quite out of the blue. I am not a fan of these as they are far removed from what a keycap is and it removes a bit of the novelty. Then I was mildly surprised when I found out this was not an original idea, but done before by Clack himself.

POKER IV

This is a late addition and it really caught me off guard. I was not expecting to see anything about another poker iteration for a while. From the photos available. It is a staggered split 60% that has keycaps and probably uses Gateron switches. How the two sides connect, and how it connects to the computer is still up for discussion.

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Typed on the Novatouch

This interview was conducted by /u/skiwithpete.

Many of you will have seen /u/margo_baggins name alongside builds of JD40 and other custom boards that occasionally pop up here in /r/mechmarket. His builds, often called “Margo_mods” are widely sought after and if you’re lucky enough to have one – as I am – you’ll know why. I had the chance to chat with /u/margo_baggins and we covered a wide range of topics from his passion, to some insider knowledge on mechanical keyboards. If you’re a regular on mechmarket, there’s a ton of useful knowledge that he shares in this fascinating chat.

margo_baggins: Hello Pete

skiwithpete: Should I call you Margo?

margo_baggins: Haha, my friends genuinely call me Margo haha… I don’t even know why or when that happened…

skiwithpete: Are your friends part of the mechanical keyboard community?

margo_baggins: Nah, keyboard philistines the lot of them.

skiwithpete: Thanks for agreeing to be on r/mechmarket as part of the Artisan Corner a monthly segment on makers/artisans/and big players in the Mechanical Keyboard community. What do you describe yourself as in the community?

margo_baggins: I’m not a big player, I don’t think, I’m not really that in the community, I come and go quite a bit, I just like the electronics and building keyboards. I like groupbuys and I like sorting keysets with [CTRL]ALT - not physically sorting individual keys, but actually sorting out keysets for the community, and organising that with /u/BunnyLake dealing with SP and GMK etc.

skiwithpete: I’ll ask more about your relationship with [CTRL]ALT in a minute - but you do know you have kind of a cult following right? Like seeing your name attached to a build means something to the community…

margo_baggins: hmm I’m not fully convinced that’s the truth… but it’s quite humbling to hear that.

skiwithpete: Let’s talk about keyboards for a second. What’s your keyboard of choice?

margo_baggins: hmm depends really, I’m not in any real camps - I got a whole lot of keyboards here

skiwithpete: Go on…

margo_baggins: in no certain order - things I like -

Monterey blue alps

Topre - any kind, not really fussy, don’t like light one but you don’t see that that much

Black alps - I think they’re awesome, loud, clunky switches, that aren’t clicky

I don’t like cherry clicky switches

I really like vintage brown cherry switches

skiwithpete: I didn’t even know about vintage browns… What’s the difference between that and modern browns?

margo_baggins: hmm, vintage ones are quite pingy I find, and just alright, I didn’t used to like them, I used to be full clears all the time. I like the pingy-ness, reminds you it’s a mechanical switch in there, which is half the fun - but yeah actual keyboards, my rotation at the moment:

The Cheat - I use this almost exclusively at home, don’t know why, I just love it - half plate, vintage browns, but mainly the half plate, I like plateless, maybe it’s a sin but I like it…

skiwithpete: I had to look up “The Cheat” -

margo_baggins: At work I currently have a Realforce, just a stock beige one, 87 key. But, I rotate that board quite a lot and I take a plateless 60% there quite often, which is in a hammer case with a GON 60% PCB, one of the [CTRL]ALT ones. I like this as it supports all layouts and plateless means I can change it around really easily. I also have a 60% alps board that I pop in that case sometimes, which has Monterey blue switches and I’ve finally got a complete cap set for it by getting my hands on 4 SGI Granite boards, only needed 1 for the keyset, but you know this game, it thrives on excess! I also got a whole heap of boards that live about my flat (and annoy my girlfriend) that I rotate with work and home sometimes. I’ve got 5 or 6 cherry boards that I don’t really use but, I just have: off the top of my head a G80-1800 ISO winkeyless, Raptor K1, G80-1000’s, G80-11901 ANSI, G80-11900 ANSI and maybe that’s it… They all have nice cherry doubleshots on them, which is why I pick them up. I also pick up old alps boards and old typewriters that may or may not have mx switches and/or cherry profile caps. At the mo, I’m running about 30/70 success rate with the typewriters and I’ve had to stop for a bit as I get into real trouble for that because some of the things I’ve thought will be great are not great and have cost me more than they are worth :D

Oh, and regardless of what I use, I regard HHKB to be the best keyboard you can get.

skiwithpete: Really?

margo_baggins: I have one, I love it, I used it a stupid amount, and I stopped using it just to use all of my other keyboards. Off the shelf, yeah it’s the best one. My HHKB is kind of working with bluetooth now as I managed to get a custom controller off the awesome Hasu… but, it was a rev.D, so didn’t include bluetooth. The PCB has the landing pads for the bluetooth parts but, they aren’t soldered and it’s a bit wrong, which means it’s on the endless pile of things to get working properly one day.

skiwithpete: I don’t know Hasu

margo_baggins: He’s in Japan, does very cool things…

skiwithpete: I feel like this is a dumb question but, one I feel I have to ask, what’s your WPM? Style?

margo_baggins: Do you know that sometimes I try those online test and if I try really hard I can hit 100 wpm, but probably not consistently. That’s sat in front of a test and trying my hardest to type fast. I don’t know about style, I can touch type completely but, probably not as you are supposed to, since when I use a split board, it takes a while to get used to… as I use the wrong fingers on some letters.

skiwithpete: Tell me about Margo_mods

margo_baggins: Well it’s an umbrella name I put anything I do under. It was just keyboards but, I’ve branched out a bit in the last year or so and now I do some audio bits and pieces, circuit bend toys, and I’ve started building boutique effects units. I’ve built a couple of vapouriser box mods and I have an imgur that I keep fairly up to date, none of my latest bits on there yet. I will start a proper website one day.

skiwithpete: How did you get in with the ctrlalt.io crowd?

margo_baggins: I can’t remember what happened… I think I bought some keycaps off bunny when he was doing some run of bunny caps a good few years back… it was long and convoluted. I had no PayPal, so I bought an amazon voucher and sent him that but, in all that I found out he lived about 1 mile or so from me. We got talking and I had been messing around with my keyboards and he needed a keyboard building so I told him I could do it… So I did it. And, it was ace. I got loads more keyboards off him to do and we thought as we lived close together we should do a groupbuy, so we sorted the miami groupbuy. I say WE but, bunny does pretty much all things. I email suppliers, chat to them, sort out quotes, and do the ordering and keep bunny updated. He sorts out everyone in the world ever, sorts out the money, sorts out the money when we are short, literally, he’s an awesome character. It’s a real privilege that I can call the guy my friend. I’ve never really met someone who is as generous and cool as him. From time to time I get negative press, as I’m pretty awful at doing things in any kind of a normal time frame, and people get annoyed, etc. He takes a lot of that shit, probably doesn’t always pass it on, and I just plod on at my own rate. That’s seemingly my normal state of work, well behind, catching up.

skiwithpete: How many keyboards have you made?

margo_baggins: I don’t know… over 100… less than 120. I think, sort of ball park, but nearly 40 of those are JD40’s.

skiwithpete: I have a JD40 serial number 021 with clear switches. Was that your favoritest ever that you made? - Sorry, this is so obvious you don’t have to answer it.

margo_baggins: Oh, number 21, I remember it well :D I’m glad that means you have yours.

skiwithpete: Do you have any special techniques that maybe are a little different to others?

margo_baggins: I don’t really know what others do. I don’t use switch openers, haha, I do everything long and convoluted. I think I’ve only recently gotten good, actually, at tuning switches. There is something I think I want to do that I haven’t ever seen anyone else do. It should be cool when I’ve done it… maybe it won’t be that impressive haha. I’m not trying to be too cryptic, but I want to do it and take a picture of it because, as I said before, I don’t think I’ve seen it yet.

I do SMD with hot air as I’m lazy, but I know most keyboard guys do that with irons. I mean I can solder it with irons too, but air and paste gets stuff done faster.

skiwithpete: What equipment do you use?

margo_baggins: For soldering, I have a Blackjack BK2000+ digital station (only 35w), Atten 850D (something like that) hot air station, and a Blackjack BK4000 (I think) desoldering station, and that’s my main soldering line up. Oh, and an Edsyn loner static temp iron. I also have a 60w static temp iron for soldering big stuff, but not normally keyboard stuff. I have a Mastech multimeter that is quite nice but, it’s no FLUKE, and I have a trillion hand tools.

skiwithpete: Having worked so closely with mechanical keyboard parts and switches, what do you know about Mechanical Keyboards that the average user might not know?

margo_baggins: Filco’s aren’t that nice on the inside. The only thing I have a really strong feeling about is the price tag on Filcos, it’s like buying New Old Stock. I can’t see a compelling reason to purchase a Filco over something like a KUL or a Ducky, unless you are a die hard fan of Costar.

skiwithpete: What did you mean by that - “New Old Stock”?

margo_baggins: Well, the Filco PCB is dated. You can buy an aftermarket controller, which is a cheap avenue to a programmable board, but that’s not their doing, that’s just a bit of luck :) They haven’t changed it since it came out. It doesn’t do anything special, like you can’t even change the layout at all, etc. etc. They are just ok, I mean, they aren’t bad, don’t get me wrong.

skiwithpete: So, you’re really saying Costar (Filcos, CoolerMaster etc)?

margo_baggins: No, CoolerMaster have some cool products: Trigger Z, MECH… I mean, the MECH is insane, but inside it’s awesome! Same with the Trigger Z - fully programmable boards with 5 programs, so quick swappable layouts… that’s cool!

skiwithpete: But the QFR is a Costar, right?

margo_baggins: Yeah, but that’s also inexpensive. The problem with the Filco is the full package, the price, the age, the tech, etc.

skiwithpete: What about the other end of the market - any high end pieces that are bargains despite their price tag?

margo_baggins: hmm, the high end can be a bit silly. I’ve been fortunate enough to build a lot of nice OTD boards, and they really are nice. The thing is it’s quite contradictory towards my statements about the Filco as OTD boards have no features and most don’t even have a winkey, but are widely regarded as the ultimate in customs and I agree as they really are stunning. But, they don’t give a shit with big ass ATMEL controllers, minimal PCB parts, and even the not programmable firmware, for OTD boards, is some of the hardest stuff to find on the internet. I love this shit. The idea that a product sells for the amount it does and sometimes the person selling it has no clue where one might obtain the firmware. There are very few boards that ship nowadays that you need to flash with firmware to get working. It’s fairly standard for a custom to be preflashed these days - some people struggle to flash them - but I’ve also used an Arduino to do the flashing, not an ISP flasher and I’ve never had any issues.

skiwithpete: I know you’ve built a couple of GON’s boards. Any comments on those?

margo_baggins: GON’s stuff is simply the best tech on the market, his PCBs are stunning, the software and firmware are amazing. The firmware update is easy, layouts programmed easily, macros programmed with ease, AND he now sells populated PCBs; which is cool as GON has so many parts to solder, it was very time consuming. Maybe it’s a bit more expensive than other stuff and maybe people don’t like the cases but, the actual PCBs, software, firmware, and support are second to none. He’s a genius. He’s made some really cool stuff - OTD controllers for the 359, 360, and 456 boards (which remedies some of their faults I pointed out), and he’s built a whole lot of keyboards.

skiwithpete: Who do you look up to in the community? Any other makers that impress you?

margo_baggins: Everyone impresses me - /u/jdcarpe is a very cool guy, /u/photekq is a cool guy, /u/BunnyLake is my bro, and all of ctrlalt.io are great. All the guys making caps in pressure pots are really impressive. Hipster makes nice caps, but I’ve not got my hands on any, which is a real shame. And, I really like these little space dudes that someone has made, though I can’t remember the guys name who does those. I also really like brocaps and clacks :) though I have only one of the latter. See, I genuinely find those guys more impressive as they actually make something. I’ve only ever made 3 actual keyboards in life, as in, that didn’t exist before and are hand wired with Teensy’s. Those are the only ones I think I’ve actually made and everything else is me just putting together someone else’s stuff and really that’s just soldering. I could solder way before I could do electronics and I’m not even that good at electronics still. I’m going on some night classes next month to learn some more about electronics.

skiwithpete: And, Edmund Hillary just climbed a mountain… to us you’re a legend.

margo_baggins: hmm, silly! That’s good, though, the main thing I have always wanted is people just to use my shit.

skiwithpete: There’s a lot of growth in Mechanical Keyboards at the moment… what do you foresee in the future?

margo_baggins: More flashy keyboards and nothing that people really want :) Too many kids buy keyboards, like the i-rapid…what’s that all about? Stick a hugely OTT processor in a keyboard to control the lights? Can’t change where the control key is? It’s like they’ve missed the point. The primary purpose of a keyboard is for data entry, not for playing snake on a poor res screen. Poker gets things pretty nailed…

skiwithpete: I just wish the Poker was fully programmable - like how hard is that?

margo_baggins: Exactly

skiwithpete: Do you have any advice for other makers and artisans in the community?

margo_baggins: Just make nice stuff and try and do a service. No, not that actually. There’s no obligation, just make nice stuff. Keyboards are a really fun gateway and my end goal is to be proficient enough with electronics to rebuild a full valve amp I have here from the 60’s. It has 14 valves in it and I need to rewire most of it and modernise a few things on it and I’m not good enough to do that yet…but, without getting into keyboards I didn’t even know that I wanted to do that. And, people should support one another in the community.

skiwithpete: Do you have a nemesis? Sorry, I just assume that all heroes have a nemesis.

margo_baggins: hahaha, I don’t think so. I’ve always tried to get along with people.

skiwithpete: Do the people at the pub know that you’re kind of a celebrity?

margo_baggins: Nah, but I also don’t go to the pub! I don’t really drink. I’ve always thought it would be funny in life to bump into someone in real life who knew of some of the things I’ve done.

skiwithpete: You said at the start your friends have started calling you Margo. So…

margo_baggins: But then, how in conversation with someone you don’t know would you say, my name’s not Matt, I go by Margo. My friends have called me Margo for as long as I can remember now, which is at least the last 10 years… it’s my close friends rather than it being my actual alias.

skiwithpete: Well, Margo, if I can call you that… It has been an absolute pleasure.

About the interviewer:

/u/skiwithpete is a regular on /r/mechmarket having bought and sold many boards, keysets and artisan products through the forum. He’s also one half of artisan sleeve makers https://1upkeyboards.com with his wife Stephanie.


Mildly Edited on an SSK