GOLEM keyboard project

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Tools and skills needed to keyboard building

Skills needed

Basic electronics and soldering

Honestly, a keyboard is a very simple thing. By basic electronics I mean knowing what a switch, a diode and a controller (development board) does and how to wire them. That are all the components required to build a keyboard.

Here is my basic electronics guide (in progress) for more info.

People new to keyboard building are usually freaked out by soldering. Well, you shouldn't.

Soldering (I'm talking about handwiring) is easy and very useful not just for keyboard making but to fix all kind of stuff at home.

You can watch hour long videos on this topic, but you better grab your iron and try to solder instead. Here are my tips on soldering.

I spent a lot of time with research, looking for the perfect soldering iron, materials and accessories, but looking back, I overcomplicated things. With buying the first and cheapest iron I would be probably at the exact same stage of keyboard building I'm now.

Minimal set of tools needed

You should manage to do everything with a:

  • soldering iron (+solder wire),
  • wire cutter (+wires),
  • tweezer and
  • exacto knife
(Plus some stuff you have at home anyway like a screwdriver, a sheet of cardboard (soldering mat), needle (mark tool), ruler, marker etc.) Pic: Tools to use

Tools on the picture and where I bought them:

ToolsPrice [USD]Tips
Soldering iron (with a pointy tip)150You don't need this expensive model, I wouldn't buy this again either. I saw irons starting from 4$ on aliexpress.
Wire cutter6A set of 4 different pliers from a nearby supermarket.
Tweezer5A set of 3 tweezers from aliexpress. Plastic tweezers will melt, you need something more durable.
Exacto knife1Well, a sharp little knife will do it too, but this one is great and cheap.
Screwdriver?I'm pretty sure you have something like this laying around at home.

Good to have tools

This is a shot with all the tools I used during the S.Torm build. Pic: Tools used

ToolsPrice [USD]Tips
Soldering iron150You don't need this expensive model, I wouldn't buy this again either. I saw irons starting from 4$ on aliexpress.
Wire cutter6This was a set of 4 different pliers in a nearby supermarket.
Tweezer6Again, a set of four tweezers from aliexpress. Plastic tweezers will melt, you need something more durable.
exacto knife1A sharp little knife is perfect too, but this one is great and cheap.
Screwdriver?I'm pretty sure you have something like this laying around at home.
Multimeter18For checking continuity, switches, diodes, controller pins, troubleshooting etc.
Wire stripper?Not necessary, but sometimes useful.
Third hand?Not necessary, used once or twice only.
Steel rulerThis is useful combined with the exacto knife when cutting things.
Solder suckerI'm not a big fan of this. Maybe a more expensive model would make a difference.
ScissorsMainly for cutting cardboard. Both for cardboard prototying and little cardboard pieces protecting plastic parts while soldering.
Keycap/switch pullerComes with some keysets or you can buy one separately.
Carpenters squareTo bend diode legs. Not necessary, find something at home which is the perfect shape and size to bend diodes.
Soldering matI don't like this and tend to lay a sheet of paper/cardboard on it while soldering. That said, a sheet of paper is all you need.

And pretty much that's everything you'll need to build your first macropad or custom keyboard.