Track Beast build log: a trackball Dactyl-manuform

Dave Kincade
19 min readMay 26, 2020

Here’s my build log for a 4x6 Dactyl-manuform with an integrated trackball, which I’ve named the Track Beast (since everything has to have a name, and this is sort of a beast of a device).

Why do this?

As a long-time Kinesis Advantage user, I’ve been quite happy with the ergonomics of a split keyboard, but I’ve been envious of the features in QMK, the versatility of different key switches, and the more optimized key layouts in the DM and broader Dactyl family. Finally, I broke down and bought a 3D printer and built my first DM mini, a gift for my partner for her birthday (and partly a gift for me, to lure her away from her gaming keyboard with unholy MX blues….) It came out quite well for a first attempt.

A 5x6 / 5x7 Dactyl-manuform mini (almost like an Ergodox) with V2 Zilents and DSA keycaps

I started planning one for myself almost immediately — identical, but perhaps as a 4x6 so I could really lean into the ergonomics of not moving my wrists, . Then my mind was blown when I saw two recent keyboards on r/ErgoMechKeyboards: the Split Arcade by u/sbabborello and Dactyl-Manuform-R-Track by u/qqurn. The efficiency gain from the thumb cluster on a DM was great, but this pales in comparison to the ability to interact with a computer without moving my wrists at all. I messaged both of them to learn more. Ultimately I drew more inspiration from Qurn, and in fact my finished product looks closer than I would have expected (in the color, trackball placement, the QMK code, colemak, and even the trackball itself [which I already had]). Qurn’s gitlab fork of QMK is a huge asset to the community, since it supports multiple operational modes for the trackball and has fairly tight integration back to the keyboard… it saved me weeks over implementing this sort of thing myself.

Here’s a summary of what I built:

  • 4x6 Dactyl-manuform mini with 5 thumb keys on the left and 3 on the right
  • Outemu Sky Silent switches sold by u/hbheroinbob with DSA Skeletor keycaps
  • 34mm trackball on a mount pulled from Qurn’s dm-r-track STLs (which itself I believe came from Ploopy models)
  • Acrylic plates and LED…
Dave Kincade

Engineer at Oliver Space. I like puppies and mcnuggets.