Customized Keychron K1
I use a keyboard for 8+ hours every day, so I need mine to be a help to my hands and not a hindrance. I’ve been building on a Keychron K1 base for a few months now and here’s how I got there.
I actually like apple keyboards and used those for a long time. Like 8 years. Then I got a Microsoft Sculpt and loved that until it wore out. I liked how the Sculpt made my hands at ease but I didn’t love how much space it took up on my desk and I didn’t like how grimy the wrist-rests got. And it died, so it obviously wasn’t that well-made.
Then I got a Moonlander with an ortholinear layout and didn’t like how different it was from my laptop’s keyboard (I work a decent amount from my laptop at the couch or cafe), so I sold it to a coworker.
Then I got the Leopold and tried using it, but the profile (how high it sticks up off the table) was too high and the keys had too far to travel so I kept getting wrist pain whenever I used it. I gave it to a friend last year.
But I was still lured by the community of mechanical keyboards. And my laptop was awkward to type on (with its screen always in the way and trackpad cramping my fingers) while standing at my desk.
I got the Keychron K1 ~1y ago. I really like low-profile keyboards and this one seemed nice and low but still mechanical. Low-profile means I don’t have to press hard on the keys and my wrists don’t have to move much across the board.
I decided on the K1 because it was low-profile, everything was swappable (I could change it later), it was made of metal (so it would last longer and make less noise), it had a wired option (I cannot stand any latency with my keyboard so I try to use them wired), it has a full-size directional pad that is off to the side (I hate mis-typing arrow keys on those tiny pads), and it was under $100.
I got it with the low-profile, swappable, optical switches because I figured I might want to switch them later. I got it with blue switches because people online said it was ‘for typists’ and pleasant to type on (blue are tactile - meaning they have a bump halfway through). When I started using the keyboard, I didn’t like the blue switches. They have a kind of half-way point after which they ‘click’ and then collapse/depress to type the keystroke. I didn’t like how much more pressure it took to push them in. The clicky noise didn’t bother me but didn’t make me swoon either. I realized I like typing as quickly as possible (over fancy-feeling, tactile switches). I want the keyboard to get out of my way, rather than remind me of how unique it is. I didn’t use the keyboard for months. I put it back in the box, up on a shelf.
One day, I realized that I had bought the hot-swappable version for a reason and ordered new red switches (like $20). The red ones are linear and take much less pressure to depress (so it said online). I swapped out most of the switches in the board, replacing the blue with the red. I kept the macro and media keys in blue, like the function keys and such, because it’s fun for them to feel different upon press and I don’t need to type on them quickly. I kind of want them to feel like they’re extensions of a different keyboard. I love typing on this customized K1 now. The red switches made it fast and comfortable.
After I swapped the switches, I could type a lot faster, but I would lose my place on the board and in the macro keypad especially. Lots of online stores will sell you custom keycaps to put on your keyboard (to differentiate keys), but they cost money and take time to arrive. And it’s yet another rabbit hole of gear administration.
So, I’ve been painting and taping and labelling my keycaps on my own. It’s fantastic! They don’t look pretty, but I can make them feel exactly how I want and I don’t want to be staring at my keyboard anyway - I use it to type. I use the labels and cloth tape to make low-accuracy keys feel different from each other and it’s been working. And I use the paint to differentiate macros/hotkeys from each other. This, along with the old blue switches, have made macros fun.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned here: Customize your keyboard! Personalize your tools to your own uses - personalize your world. They tools you buy at the store are a starting point - not the perfect fit for your body or your work. Shape them or be shaped.
Are you doing stuff like this already? Send me what you got! I’d love some more inspiration.Josh Beckman