Home-made Planck Keyboard with Laser Cut Case

Jacob Crouse
5 min readAug 7, 2019

This post was originally written on Imgur in May 2018, but I’m moving it here to Medium (which I like better).

Completed build

Finished picture first. I have been interested in the 40% ortholinear layout for some time, so I was finally able to hop in on the Massdrop for the Planck in February. I then saw that it wasn’t going to ship until May, which would be after the semester ended and, well, I really wanted to try a Planck out! So, I decided to try and make my own.

Finished Fusion 360 design file

I started with trying to design the case in Fusion 360. I was familiar with AutoCAD, but Fusion 360 was pretty different from my workflow in AutoCAD, so there was definitely a lot of Googling going on here. I also drew heavily on the design of Jack Humbert, since I wanted to be ready for the real thing coming in May.

Kicad schematic

After the case was designed, I really wanted to try and learn how keyboards actually worked. So, I read up as much as I could on the internet about the theory behind keyboards, and attempted to make my own schematic in KiCad. I’m still not sure if this is totally correct, but I did the best I could with what I read on the internet.

Cardboard test cut of the final keyboard

Not that all of the main design was finished, I wanted to get a sense of scale with the design. My University has a few laser cutters available for the students to use, so I took advantage of those and cut my designs out of cardboard and glued it together. I thought it looked pretty sweet, so I moved on to actually ordering all the parts I would need.

The price list for all purchases in this build

This is the list of all the things I ordered to use for the project. I decided to go with an all acrylic case (since I could cut this on the laser cutter), 67g Zilent switches, and SA Ice Caps from PMK. Yes, this turned out to be more expensive than the one off of Massdrop. Mistakes were made.

Testing the switch fit in the final laser cut case

So once the acrylic came in, I went and laser cut the case the same day. This is me test-fitting the switches to make sure they fit properly. The plate is thicccc at 5mm, which turns out to be flush with the bottom of the switches once they’re in place.

Testing the feeling of the caps before the build is complete

I was really anxious to try it all out, so I popped in some of the switches to see what the switches felt like. It was awesome, but I was trying to go for a silent mechanical keyboard (hence the Zilents) so I decided to lube all the switches. Man, was that tedious, but It was worth it because this keyboard almost sounds like Topre; it has a nice, deep *thock* when typing.

Hot gluing gets the job done

Because my plate was 5mm thick, the switches didn’t just snap into place. So, I had to hot glue them all in place. So far, this solution has worked out pretty well.

Hot glue close up

Close-up view of the switches after being hot-glued in place.

Soldered on diodes

Then came the diodes for that sweet N-key rollover — one diode per switch.

Soldering rows and columns for the keyboard matrix

Then the rows and columns for the keyboard matrix. This took a lot longer than I expected, with the stripping of the insulation being more difficult than I thought.

Connecting the rows and columns to a Teensy 2.0

Finally, adding the brains to the keyboard. I connected the matrix to the Teensy and flashed this baby with my own modified layout using qmk. Wow, is this software amazing. I should mention that part of the reason I wanted a Planck was for me to have a portable keyboard running Dvorak, which is my standard keyboard layout. I ran in to problems trying to use other people’s QWERTY keyboards, so now I have a solution to that problem.

After adding the keycaps and screwing the board together with the standoffs in the center, my very own Planck was complete. This baby is sweet, and I’m so glad I chose to make it. I’d like to thank Jack Humbert one more time for putting his Planck design on GitHub (this helped a great deal with the dimensions of my case design) and for making such a great keyboard software (qmk).

Are you interested in the model and laser cutting files used in this build? If so, I host them on my GitHub.

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