I haven’t tried an ortholinear layout yet, and it seemed interesting. A couple of weeks ago, CandyKeys received some new stock from keeb.io, among them the Nyquist kit. I like split keyboards, and so I ordered a kit and a set of plates.
Keeb.io offers a build guide: the Iris Build Guide applies not only to the Iris, but also to the Levinson and Nyquist Rev. 2. In this post, I’m documenting my Nyquist build process so you’ll have pictures of the actual Nyquist.
The kits contain most parts you need to get your build started. You’ll still need two microcontrollers that are Pro Micro compatible, such as the Pro Micro itself or an Elite C. You’ll also need cables to connect both split keyboards to eachother and to a computer, and you’ll need keyboard switches and keycaps.
I designed and printed the case myself. To see how I did that, check out Creating a custom Nyquist case with Fusion 360.
Below is a summary of all the parts I ordered for this build. The build can be done significantly cheaper by using standard instead of custom cables and reusing keycaps from an existing keyboard or secondhand typewriter.
A build with the minimum parts required would cost around €100 depending on where you source your switches, keycaps and cables.
I opted to print my own middle layer so I could tent the keyboard, adding about €20 in costs.
|1 × Nyquist PCB kit by keeb.io
|1 × Nyquist Black Aluminium PCB Plates by keeb.io
|2 × Pro Micro ATmega32U4 5V 16MHz microcontroller
|60 × Gateron Clear Switches (50% off)
|1 × KAT Alpha Keycap Set
|1 × Split keyboard cables
|2 × Original Cherry 2U PCB Stabilizer
|60 × 1.8mm white LEDs
|60 × 470Ω resistor
|2 × SOT-23 AO3416 MOSFET
|100g FormFutura Galaxy PLA Orion Blue filament
|8 × M6 nuts
8 × M6 wing nuts
8 × M6 caps
4 × 80mm M6 bolts
4 × 40mm M6 bolts
The costs are what I paid for it, converted to Euro where necessary. When buying in the US, most items will likely be cheaper.
The PCB kit includes:
- 2 × Nyquist PCB, available in white.
- 2 × TRRS jack.
- 2 × Reset button.
- 60 × 1N4148 diodes.
- 2 × 4.7kΩ resistors.
The plate kit includes:
- 2 × Top plate, one for each half.
- 2 × Bottom plate, one for each half.
- 32 × M2 6mm screws.
- 16 × M2 12mm standoffs.
- 60 × Keyswitches, MX or Alps compatible.
- 60 × 1u Keycaps. Larger 2u keycaps fit as well in two designated spots on the keyboard, often used for the thumb keys.
When you choose to use 2u keycaps for the thumb keys, you might want to add some 2u PCB mount stabilizers.
You may choose to enable LED backlighting behind each key. To do that, you’ll need the LED support kit (or its components if you source them yourself):
- 2 × 2 N-channel AO3416 MOSFETs (SOT-23 package), 1 for each half.
- 2 × 4.7kΩ resistors for the MOSFETs – 1 for each half.
You’ll also need LEDs that fit through an MX-style switch. I got these 1.8mm white LEDs through AliExpress, but there are many alternatives. And you’ll need 60 × 470Ω resistors, one for each LED.
You may also choose to enable LED underglow. For that you can use a WS2812B compatible LED strip, such as these sold on keeb.io or these sold on AliExpress. Be sure to get the non-water resistant strips, otherwise it’s a hassle getting to the solder points.
Decide which way is facing up. I chose to have the TRRS jacks sit on the insides facing eachother, so the USB cable doesn’t cross the TRRS cable when the keyboard is assembled. You can mark it with a piece of tape if you want to, just don’t make two left sides by accident!
Start by bending the diode legs inward. I use a lead forming tool for this, but the edge of a case or a piece of cardboard works as well.
Next, insert the diodes into the PCB. Install them at the back so you can easily replace them if they happen to break.
The diode orientation matters: the black line on the diode should face the square pad on the PCB. All of the diodes are oriented vertically, making it easy to find where they should go.
When you insert the diodes, you can bend the legs outward to make them stay in place. Then, with all diodes inserted, you can solder them: do so from the front side where the legs are.
Clip the legs off the diodes with a flush cutter. If you want to socket the Pro Micro, be sure to save these legs—you’ll need them later on.
The reset button should click into the PCB. You might need to bend the legs back a little bit if they got bent during transport. The button keeps itself in place while soldering. Both sides get a reset button, since both sides have their own Pro Micro.
You can use tape to secure the TRRS jack in place while soldering. I used electrical tape, but other kinds of tape should also work as long as they’re easily removable.
The keyboard uses serial communication by default. In the future, you may want to use I2C instead, which is a protocol that is able to support more devices like a numpad or an OLED screen.
The kit already includes everything you need to add support for I2C: two 4.7kΩ resistors. Add them to one side of the keyboard; the other half does not need them. They’re installed just below the reset jack.
Unlike diodes, resistors do not have a polarity. It does not matter in which way you install them, they’ll work regardless.
You’ll only need to do this step if you’re adding LED backlight.
Solder a 4.7kΩ resistor. The slot is below the reset button and is below the spots where you could add one of the I2C resistors.
You’ll need to solder a 470Ω resistor for each LED. They’re all oriented horizontally on the board, and will be near where each switch will be installed.
You can bend the resistors in the same way as you bent the diodes in the beginning of this guide, it’ll help you insert the resistors more easily. You can then bend the legs outward to help them stay in place until you’ve soldered them.
In the revision of the Nyquist that I had, the resistor that belongs to the switch above the Pro Micro has been moved to the side, so it won’t interfere with the Pro Micro. If yours is installed in the same spot as the Pro Micro, be sure to install that single one on the other side of the board.
A MOSFET is a tiny component that provides the necessary voltage to the LEDs.
Apply just solder to one pad first, without installing the MOSFET just yet. Then, grabbing the MOSFET with a pair of tweezers with one hand, align it to the pad and heat the solder with a soldering iron.
After you’re happy with the alignment, lift the soldering iron up and let the solder cool down. Shortly after, you can then let go of the MOSFET and solder the other pads – the first pad will keep the MOSFET in place.
Both sides need a MOSFET and a resistor, so be sure to do these steps for both sides.
An important note on header pins and sockets: I used the header pins that came with my Pro Micro. While this is easy and cheap, it poses a problem: the Pro Micro is installed over two switches and one LED. If anything is to break, replacing the Pro Micro makes for a bad time. For this reason, keeb.io sells Peel-A-Way Sockets, making it easier to replace a Pro Micro when something goes wrong. If you have the chance, use those instead of header pins!
The Micro USB port of a Pro Micro is known to be prone to breaking. One way to mitigate this breaking is to install the Pro Micro as flush as possible with the PCB, making the USB port sit tight between the two parts.
Installing the Pro Micro as flush as possible is optional and requires some extra work. If you want to skip these steps, just solder the header pins on directly without removing the plastic later on.
I broke the header pins in three parts, which makes the plastic pieces easier to break away later.
To make it easier to align the header pins, I slid the Pro Micro on top of them.
You can use some tape to hold the headers and the Pro Micro in place while you solder the header pins.
After soldering the headers on, remove the Pro Micro and start removing the plastic parts of the headers. Don’t bend the pins too much, though you can bend them back in place. Using a pair of tweezers, a flush cutter and your fingers you can slowly but surely wiggle the plastic pieces off of the header pins, leaving you with just the pins.
Be sure not to cut the header pins off with the flush cutters!
If you want to use a 2U key as a thumb key, you can optionally add a stabilizer. Do this before you install the switch plate and switches.
Sink the hooks near the metal bar into the PCB first, then click in the other side.
When you installed the resistors for background LEDs, you may find that your stabilizers won’t sit flush with the PCB. Cutting away the plastic support piece at the inner corners may help, as you’ll see in the image below.
A note on box switches and backlight LEDs: If you use Box-style switches and you’re planning on adding backlight LEDs, you’ll need to check if you need to insert the LEDs from the top, or if they should be installed from the bottom. If they should be installed from the bottom, be sure to do that before installing the switches, as you can’t get to the bottom after soldering the switches on.
Add a switch to each corner first, then insert the switches one by one into the plate, making sure it and its pins are aligned with the holes in the PCB.
Check that each switch is correctly seated before soldering it. There should not be any space between the switch and the plate on the top side—it should sit completely flush. Take the time to do this, as adjusting the seating later on requires desoldering the switch.
The longer leg is the anode goes into the round hole that says
+, the shorter leg is the cathode and goes into the square hole that says
We can use the same technique yet again as with the diodes and resistors: insert the LEDs into place, taking care that the longer leg went into the round
+ hole, and bend the legs outward so the LEDs stays in place.
Then, with all LEDs inserted, solder the legs to the PCB. Clip off the legs, taking care not to remove too much of the solder joint.
Before installing the Pro Micros, make sure they work by flashing them. You can flash a Pro Micro using the QMK Toolbox or by using a command prompt.
To flash a Pro Micro, you’ll need a firmware image. To get one, you can use the configurator or build one from source. How to do that is explained in QMK’s Complete Newbs Guide. For reference, the command I used to make the default firmware is
If flashing the Pro Micro went succesfully, continue with the next steps.
USB jacks on the Pro Micros are known to be prone to breaking. You could use either side as master, so if one port breaks all is not yet lost, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Installing the Pro Micro flush with the PCB as I’ve shown before helps. What also helps is to apply a dot of hot glue to the sides of the USB jack. Any kind of glue will help, just be careful not to get glue in the inside of the USB jack.
It’s a good idea to add some tape beneath the Pro Micro to help insulate it against the switches and LEDs. If you use a plate that conducts electricity, you can add some tape on top of the TRRS jacks and reset buttons as well.
Each half is different. Be sure to align the Pro Micro correctly with the markings on the PCB. In my case the left side was soldered with the USB jack aligned towards the Nyquist, and the right side was the other way around.
With the Pro Micro installed, you can now attach it to a computer and see if it works! You can use a tool like Keyboard Checker to test each key. Check the keymap you flashed to the Pro Micro earlier and turn on the backlight if you installed that to see if each LED works correctly. If not, replace any faulty LEDs.
I have not installed an RGB strip to my Nyquist since it wouldn’t show with my case. Thankfully, keeb.io has made a guide on how to add RGB underglow to your keyboard.
You can use the supplied spacers and screws to attach the back plate to the front plate, completing the case.
I’m quite happy with how this build turned out. The Gateron Clear switches take some getting used to, being linear and very light (35g actuation).