I’ve been (slowly) working on building my own dream keyboard, but in the meantime I make the occasional ridiculous tweak to my Kinesis. This weekend I got 3 lbs. of reject keys from Signature Plastics and I was fortunate enough to get enough keycaps to try something that I’ve been wanting to test for a while.
Kinesis Advantage with DSA keycaps
Source: Lesse Hallett’s Blog
DSA keycaps are low and uniform, with spherical tops:
Source: Signature Plastics
They are particularly well suited for non-standard keyboard layouts, like the ErgoDox or Kinesis Advantage, because most other keycaps have variable heights and angles that were designed for traditional staggered layouts on a plane.
Personally, I’m a big fan of the SA profile:
They’re super tall and are usually manufactured with thick ABS plastic and given a smooth, high-gloss finish. I’m a bit of a retro-fetishist and these hit all the right spots. It’s no surprise that projects and group buys that use SA profile often have a retro theme:
- HONEY, seeking to recreate a classic Honeywell keyboard
- Symbiosis, seeking to recreate the Symbolics Space-cadet keyboard
- 1976, inspired by the colors of the 70’s
For this project I decided to go with all Row 3 profile SA keys in the two main key wells. Row 3 is the home row on traditional layouts and the keycaps are completely symmetric, just like the DSA profile keys. I was concerned about two main things:
- The curvature of the key well combined with the height might mean that the keys hit each other towards the top.
- Jesse ran into one spot in the corner of the keywell closest to the thumb clusters where the keycap hit the plastic. This would almost certainly be a problem with the much larger SA keys.
The easiest way to find out was to pop off all the keycaps:
…and to see what fit:
Fortunately, the height was not an issue. The angles are all perfect and the top of the keys form a relatively tight surface. The smaller gaps between the tops combined with the extreme smoothness of the SA keycaps results in a nice effect where I’m able to just glide my fingers across them without having to lift, similar to the feel of the modern Apple keyboards.
Unfortunately, 3 keys at the bottom of each keywell wouldn’t fit. I busted out the Dremel and carved out a little from the bottom, making room for those beautiful fat caps:
I used Row 1 keycaps for the 1x keys in the thumb clusters. The extra height makes them not quite as difficult to reach:
Overall, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out:
It’s a pleasure to type on and I’m convinced that SA profile keys are going to be what I use when I eventually reach my final form.
If you’re interested in doing this yourself, you should know that it’ll be difficult to source the 1.25x keys that are used on the sides of the Kinesis Advantage. A lot of the keysets that are being sold for split layouts are targeting the Ergodox, which uses 1.5x keys on the side. It does look like the Symbiosis group buy includes enough 1.25x’s in the main deal, but you’d need to also buy the price Ergodox kit just to get those 4 2x’s. If you don’t mind waiting an indefinite length of time, the Round 5a group buy on Deskthority is probably your best bet for getting exactly what you want.