So I thought it would be interesting to hear from K3KC, who is not highly thought of in the community. I asked Thong a couple of questions and here they are.
Who is K3?
Could you write a small intro to yourself? Who are you? What you do? Sort of thing, so everyone knows who you are.
Everyone often call me with my nickname k3kc (or k3), and I guess that most of them knew who I am, especially my customers who bought my keycap. In the past, I was a graphic designer, but now I am a photographer. Besides, I make keycaps and sell them on my website k3kc.com
What was your reason for starting to make keycaps? Or what inspired you to start?
4 years ago, I started to know and use the mechanical keyboard. Like the mech player, I also bought keyset and keycap for decorate my keyboard. I really impressed the skull keycap of CC, but it was difficult to own it. After 2 years, I took part in giveaways 5 times and bought a skull keycap from CC, 2 skull keycaps from after-market. All of them were solid color. There was just a few keycaps sold by CC and the after-market price was too high made me wonder that how I could own double-color skull, tri-color skull or translucent color skull. Thus, I started to learn and make keycap.
Do you enjoy making keycaps?
Of course, I desire to own ‘dream color skull’ keycaps.
What kind of tools are you using? How complicated is your setup? e.g. Vacuum chamber, pressure pot
My tools are similar with instructors on youtube, however, I was fortunate to meet an expert who taught me more details than youtube.
Do you have a favourite keycap you have made? Do you favour specific colours?
I have already made a keycap with 4 and 5 color shots. My favourite colours are blue and transparent.
Controversy and Ethics
How do you understand the controversy around your keycaps?
I saw on /r/mk and GH, there was quite a lot of controversy about my keycap. There have not only agreeing but also protest debates. However, it seems that those debates cannot affect the number of keycaps I sold. My clients are large enough for me to continue producing them. As my criteria is to keep confidential customer information, so please allow me not to disclose who my clients are. However, I can reveal something that many people downvoted my keycap on /r/mk or objected it on GH, they still buy my products regularly.
You have produced keycaps that are copies of the infamous ‘Clacks’ as well as brobots V2 do you recognize this as a controversial move?
Of course, I do. Those are too well-known that everyone will know when I cloned them. That’s why its controversial is inevitable Speaking about brobot, he is very active at the leading of my protest. He bought my skull keycap in one session, took pictures and lowered our quality. Fortunately, there are many client also bought in that session, and they do not think so. That brings me to clone Brobot V2. At first, I do not tend to do this because I do not like this design repository. Designed Brobot V2 which is not created by hand generated by CNC and clone all in resin material. And consequently, my paypal account was limited in a while. But I think people should be happy because after I clone brobot keycap that makes their prices now more reasonable. The price of the original keycap fell by the price of clone store. Perhaps he thought that” if the price of clone products and original products are equitable, then people will only purchase the original”: D
Because you have made copies of other makers keycaps many people do not see you as a maker and boycott your keycaps? This can be seen in how your posts on /r/mk often get downvoted. Do you mind this?
If you are in a position to make and sell keycap like me, you will get some interesting values more than a normal keycap player. The keycap I clone of CC, I can confirm that it did not affect the sale of CC. There was evidence that the sale of Clack’s keycaps were still sold out. Let me get this clear, firstly I clone skull keycap for myself because I cannot afford them. I thought to myself I can make it, why do not I make it for myself. Many people would like to have them like me, but they neither afford because of the prices nor make them, so I decided to sell them off. With my ability, I can totally clone exactly keycap of CC even with their logo in the bottom, but I’ve decided to replace the CC keycap’s logo with mine. The obvious reason is that I do not want someone to buy them and resold to people who have never ever own CC keycap.
I know a lot of people that are cloning keycap of CC and retaining the original logo, then sell it after market or at auction. This is those who suffer the most when I make and sell keycap clone, so you should be careful when buying keycap with original logo which is extremely easy to copy. Because the logo is not and will never be a sign to distinguish genuine products and clone products. After I said these thing, if you pay attention you will easily see them.
Do you plan to continue producing copies of other keycaps? Such as sculls?
Maybe no, maybe Wingnut… I am joking :D
Many people have expressed that they see appreciate your ability to make keycaps but want you to make your own designs instead of making clack copies. Do you have any thoughts on this?
In order to make a keycap (or figure), it requires 3 steps: shaping, molding and casting. Just few people can handle all three jobs. As far as I know, there is now only CC can do it.
Each person has his own ability. I confess my ability that can only do a good job from the first mold and molded products in bulk. You cannot ask Valentino Rossi to create a moto gp race car because he drives well does not mean that he can make the car which he used to race.
However, I am also looking for a partner to help me creating a new design and you will be the first one know when I find him.
What do you think about the prices of artisan keycaps? Your caps are moderately priced but on the higher end of the spectrum. Some of your such as the tricolour sculls are quite expensive at $42 Are you planning on keeping this price?
I will try my best to keep the price of keycaps is affordable. As I live in Vietnam, I have to buy almost equipment, materials, tools and resin from US, Germany, France. Consequently, it affects to the price of keycap.
Tri-color sculls keycap has the high price because it takes much time and effort. Each color usually takes 18-24 hours to freeze; thus, it takes 3 days to make a tri-color keycap scull. In the case of one in three colour is damaged, this keycap will be failed.
What do you think of your quality of keycap in comparison to an original clack? Do you see yourself as matching the quality?
Please let my clients evaluate the quality of my keycap, I am not a narcissistic person.
What keyboard do you use as your daily driver?
Do you have any other favourite keycap makers that you like or admire? If so who and what are your favourite of their keycaps?
CC is always the number 1. I like the keycap which form has a similar with the keycap of original keyboard (skull, blank, cannabis) because they will not make much difference to the overall structure while installing it to the keyboard.
Other makers often do giveaways after a sale (such as bro) do you orchestrate giveaways?
I do not want to make someone sad. Please think about it, the giveaways, usually only 2-5 people were glad winners, the majority who “wish you luck next time” were not happy. In the old days, I had joined a few giveaways, and I was never a winner so I understand that feeling. So do not make me do that cruel thing :D
Are you an active geekhack, deskthority or /r/mk member? Maybe under a pseudonym?
Yes, I am. Please let me keep it secret.
Will you be making keycaps for any other stem designs such as buckling spring?
Yes, I will if somebody orders it.
Well I thought it was quite interesting to hear from K3 himself. For me two answers really resonated with me were:
He does not copy clack’s logo. Which is not a great justification but they are not sold as the real deal.
They exist because they sell. But then again, this can be true with anything and doesn’t make it right.
I’m not quite sure how people will react to this interview as I am giving him press. But I found it interesting and it gave me another viewpoint on the situation.
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Typed on HHKB Pro 2