Brand New Model F April Update – printed key sets and keyboards continue shipping, second container shipment, major project milestones, new firmware options, and more!

Project status summary – what has been going on lately, when is my keyboard shipping, etc.:

This section is nearly the same as other recent updates: For those who have not been following recent updates and frequent postings over on the Deskthority and geekhack project threads, I will note that there is still time to customize and order your Brand New Model F Keyboard and/or any accessories like the First Aid Kit for future repairs, extra key sets, inner foam, extra flippers/springs, Model F key pullers, custom made 3 meter USB cables compatible with these keyboards, and other parts. Also I will note that the keyboards have started shipping – it does not mean that your keyboard will be shipping right away! There is still a ways to go to get everyone’s keyboard out.

If you have a new shipping address please do email me to let me know your order numbers and the new address. Check your order email and our email communications (if applicable) to make sure the latest address I have on file for you is the correct one.

The major news is that I’ve QC’d and shipped out 1000+ keyboards so far and am continuing to send out keyboards. Now that the shipping is going into full speed mode, split shipping is no longer available; please hold off on split shipping requests which were designed to fill in the down time and reduce the backlog before the printed keys arrived.

Important note: please do not ask when your keyboard is going out or about separate shipping. Hoping to continue shipping out everyone’s orders over the coming months. Sorry I can’t be more specific just yet or let anyone know exactly where they are in the queue. So far more than 1000 Brand New Model F Keyboards have shipped.

Major project milestone – $1.5 million in Brand New Model F orders!

It is a great honor to announce that this month the project reached the $1.5 million milestone for total orders so far! (This figure includes shipping costs.) With every order received I am glad to know that another Brand New Model F Keyboard will be out there in the world being put to good use.

Dye sublimation and shipping updates: printed key sets and keyboards continue to ship out

I continue to QC and mail out the Brand New Model F keyboards.

As noted above, there is still a ways to go to get everyone’s keyboard out and I cannot estimate when any specific keyboard is expected to ship or where someone is in line. I spend a lot of time with each keyboard (about 20-30 minutes to process each shipment) and personally take care of an extensive quality control checklist for each and every keyboard. I am not willing to rush this process or skip steps in order to get all the keyboards out earlier.

The factory has been very busy with the sublimation over the past couple months. As noted in the prior updates, the factory succeeded with the IBM Model F XT quality dye sublimation just before their CNY break started in late January and have been busy getting all these key sets sublimated. While the factory was training the new workers last month, production was of course not full speed, and they were also keeping a closer eye to make sure that the dye sublimation quality standards were being met. So far the sublimation quality has been outstanding, either meeting or beating the 90th percentile original IBM Model F samples in my opinion. I have posted some of these scans in prior blog updates. The quality of these key sets made the whole extended process well worth the wait!

In early March, the factory received additional sublimation equipment and custom manufactured more jigs in order to sublimate with three machines at one time. Their goal is to have daily production capacity of about 180 jigs’ worth of keys in total. The sublimation process is extremely temperamental to get the results up to the original IBM standards – even small changes in sublimation time, machine temperature, room temperature, and humidity can cause trouble.

The factory reports that so far about 1,900 US regular pearl/pebble key sets, 50 UK sets, over 275 blue printed US key sets, and over 225 dark gray sets have been produced, as well as hundreds of the Mac sets and over 1,300 HHKB 6 key sets. The factory is on schedule to finish up the sublimation in the next month or so.

Most of the international artwork has been completed and submitted to the factory. They are preparing to start sublimating these sets upon returning from the holiday in early May. A big thanks to Deskthority.net forum member Zed as always for taking on the key artwork.

Many key sets are expected to arrive by air at some point next week, including a whole bunch of regular pearl/pebble sublimated sets, blue printed US, dark gray printed US, pearl/pebble UK, and regular pearl/pebble US sets (and associated HHKB 6 key sets for each option). I will be posting photos soon after!

Once this batch arrives I will have enough keys to start mailing out the key sets for the folks who chose the separate shipping option, alongside my mailings of the full keyboards and key sets for those who have been waiting for everything to ship all at once.

This means that orders containing these key sets will be eligible to get into the queue for shipping assuming everything is in stock (the split shipping option is not available any more) – we are still going in the original shipping order where possible so shipping is still going to be months away for most orders as I am the final bottleneck of the project, inspecting each keyboard and putting each order together one at a time. As noted earlier I am unable to estimate where any one particular order is in the queue but I send out a tracking number by email as soon as each order ships.

Only the “all in stock” shipping and all in stock separate shipping will go out – the factory is doing all the front printing stuff and extra keys last, expected towards the end of May (so those who have ordered F1-F12, Industrial SSK, and extra keys will get everything starting after I receive those keys – there is no “separate separate” shipping option to get your main key set a little earlier and the standard separate shipping option is no longer available).

Additional dye sublimated key set options now available:

Check the “full key set” product page to check out the additional key sets that can now be ordered. In the near future (not at the moment), I hope to offer the beam spring type and beam spring APL type layouts for the new Model F keys, as well as regular APL (both light orange and red variations) and JIS. Check out the Deskthority.net project thread for recent discussion on the key sets and renderings of the proposed legends to be included in each key set (renderings are also below, at the bottom of this post – click on a layout to enlarge the image). As a note, nothing is finalized or guaranteed to be as represented. The keys in the front print, Apple, HHKB, etc. sections are not included in any of the main sets (approximately the top half of each image). These images are drafts and you will not receive all of the keys below in any set. Each language file contains multiple sets that can be ordered separately (front print, base key set, etc.). The Apple specific keys in the below proposed artwork would be for new orders only. I will not be changing any prior front print orders for the new apple front print.

Also added are text color options for the keys (see the extra keys page on the project web site for the new graphics) – green Alt keys, gray SSK front print keys, and green SysRq front print. No other colors or other options are currently available until I see how the green sublimation turns out.

If interested in any of these sets or color keys please message me or email me so I can let you know when they are ready to order (let me know which you are interested in). First I’m going to make sure one of each comes out nice from the factory.

Second container shipment update:

The second container shipment finally arrived! Container shipping demand has skyrocketed in recent months, along with delays. Normally shipping is about 45-55 days but it’s much longer nowadays – for this shipment it took a little over three months including shipping and processing time, making arrangements, etc.

The separate shipping option is no longer available as there is no more down time waiting for the keys.

After the shipment arrived last month, I had to spend quite a bit of time checking and organizing the inventory. First up, getting out of the way quickly a few dozen orders for people not ordering keys or keyboards and who just ordered solenoids, solenoid drivers, beamspring controllers, and F122/F107/PC AT foam. After that I proceeded mailing out the “all in stock” low serials and the rest of the queue generally in order of when the order was placed, oldest going out first.

For most orders of keyboards with unprinted keys installed, the factory installed the unprinted keys to the keyboards and currently there are extras of the keyboards with installed unprinted black and pearl/pebble keys if anyone’s interested in switching to unprinted or adding an unprinted key set to their order, with the unprinted keys installed to the keyboard.

The below photos show all new keyboards that arrived in the current container shipment (none from the last batch in these photos) and show a peek inside lots of the compact case boxes. The bottom photo shows one of the boxes of solenoids and solenoid drivers packed and ready to go.

This time I asked the factory to label each box with the variation number (100+ variations in total!) so that will save me a couple weeks of opening up each box to determine the variation as I needed to do last time. You can see these on the little sticky post it notes on each box. All the keyboards were initially, jumbled so I needed to organize and index their locations so I know where to find each variation (this work has been completed).

Also arriving in this batch are unprinted blue and dark gray key sets.

Professional key storage solution idea

If you want a step up from the buckling spring key set holders I have custom made and have just added to the store, Deskthority.net forum member darkcruix has produced a very professional key storage solution for spare key sets. Check it out over on the Deskthority thread: https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=483790#p483790

Firmware update for all Model F keyboards / introduction of Via offline GUI configuration support:

I have updated all of the firmware with the below changes and have also added Via support. For more details, check out the firmware section in the project manual, available at www.ModelFKeyboards.com/manual

The zip file in the above manual includes the layout files and hex files for Via QMK and for non-Via QMK – these files have the latest firmware updates. The new firmware fixes include an update the factory default solenoid dwell times (the new Model F solenoids won’t work properly and a full force without this fix), darkcruix’s QMK patch for excluding certain keys for the solenoid, a change in the factory default setting to allow NKRO but disable it by default (for maximum compatibility), etc.

I want to thank pandrew and darkcruix for their great work on QMK and Via for the Model F! I was surprised that Model F QMK compatibility could be added so quickly to Via. I have tested out Via and so far it is working well and it is pretty easy even for me to use!

The background is that Clint from Lazy Game Reviews reviewed the Brand New Model F last month. I also provided feedback on what was brought up in the video through a YouTube comment which was pinned to the top of the comments section for the video. The consensus from Clint and from many of those posting in the YouTube comments was that Via support would be a great addition to the project.

Via is a great way of configuring your keyboard with an offline, standalone software GUI program that does not require updating the firmware every time you want to change something or going to a web site every time you want to reconfigure your layout. For more details, check out the manual.

Right now the pandrew utility is not yet up and running with the Via firmware but other than that I believe everything else is working.

I have also updated the manual’s firmware section to make it more organized and a bit easier to follow. It now includes a beginner’s guide to full configuration of QMK/Via (this is completely unnecessary to do unless you want to change options that cannot be changed in the QMK GUI / Via GUI, such as the options I mentioned above. It is a local way of compiling the firmware through the command line).

Additional commands in the current firmware:

Hold down the keys Fn+Spacebar+
T–>Toggle the Solenoid On/Off Any key HPT_TOG
+= Increase Solenoid dwell time HPT_DWLI
-_ Decrease Solenoid dwell time HPT_DWLD
E–>EEPROM Reset (erases all settings like if you adjusted a dwell time for solenoid)
R–>Reset (enter bootloader)
D–>Debug

Command keys: hold Left Shift + Right Shift +
B–>Enter Bootloader
N–>Toggle N-Key Rollover (NKRO) (off by default to maximize compatibility)
Others: https://beta.docs.qmk.fm/using-qmk/adva … re_command

NKRO note as relayed to me:
Why there is not NKRO by default: When the USB Human Interface Device protocol was designed, they had a limit of 6 keys in there. This is the minimum all systems agree on (including BIOS etc.). NKRO is not standardized and there is a good chance, the keyboard doesn’t work in certain circumstances. In fact, on a Mac you can’t get into the recovery mode or NVRAM. On a PC, it depends on the UEFI designer, but I have seen problems with HP laptops.

Update on the solenoids:

As part of the second container shipment, all the solenoids and solenoid drivers were delivered to me and I have been mailing them out, along with beam spring controllers and the new Model F keyboards. These new solenoids, at more than double the weight of the IBM originals, are great for adding some extra beefiness to your IBM beam spring keyboard or to your new Model F keyboard. Check out the solenoid product page for more details.

Below are photos of the mounting hardware for the solenoids, along with photos showing the process to adjust the solenoid throw distance and securely mount the solenoid in any classic case (F62 or F77). These are included for free by default with all orders of solenoids – no need to request it.

Also included are two nylon washers so as to protect the case finish from the mounting screw. One washer goes between the top of the screw and the bottom of the case, and the other washer goes inside the case, between the case and the solenoid.

The L bracket case hole is 6-32 thread so you can actually use the L bracket as the nut for any bumpers with 6-32 threads or with a 6-32 screw that you can order elsewhere. For example, the 1 inch tall bumpers on the project web site include a 6-32 thread screw. No need to drill another hole in the case if you want both a screw on bumper as well as a solenoid! Unfortunately the 1/2 inch bumpers known as “medium with the threaded stud” are 8-32 thread I believe so you’d have to buy a stick on bumper or drill another hole, or mount the solenoid internally with something like 3M VHB tape. Might be better to purchase a set of 1/2 inch bumpers with a hole in the middle, instead of with an included screw, so that you can use a 6-32 screw of your own.

Some helpful advice from pandrew.

There were some reports of the new solenoids not operating under full power – this is due to the default QMK settings that require adjustment.

For the new solenoids, since they are far beefier than the originals, they need a little more dwell time to actuate to the full force and full volume. Examples of different dwell settings and the sounds for each can be found in my YouTube video below.

My recommendation is to set the dwell time to 20 ms to 30 ms. This is what I have done as the default setting in the latest firmware noted above – all you have to do is load the latest firmware – no adjustments required.

To do this with the old firmware if you don’t want to upgrade, go into Via or the QMK configurator and per pandrew: “map the HPT_DWLI (and HPT_DWLD) keycodes into their keymap, and press HPT_DWLI 16 times, to get it to 20 ms.” (the default setting is 4ms). This isn’t needed to be done if you load the latest firmware.

There is a retract setting for xwhatsit firmware that does not exist in QMK – for xwhatsit firmware the important thing is to set the retract to longer than the extend time, say 30ms to 40ms. If you do not do this, the solenoid may not function properly. Per pandrew: “The current QMK implementation doesn’t have a retract time (it’s effectively zero), and can’t currently be adjusted.”

I have posted a 30 second video on adjusting the solenoid settings. Some solenoid settings may result in a lower sound, or no sound coming from your solenoid. This video compares the sound with two different solenoid settings. With maximum throw, extend 20ms, retract 30ms, you get a full volume solenoid click sound. With extend reduced to 15ms, retract 30ms, you get a reduced volume solenoid sound. You can also adjust the physical solenoid settings with the two screws found on the solenoid – another solenoid video in this channel discusses how to physically install and adjust the solenoid in your keyboard.

IBM Key legends and key descriptions – what do all of those funny old symbol keys mean?

Last month I tallied the extra keys and submitted these keys to the factory, along with the finalized legend designs from forum member Zed. During this process I came across some old files describing some of the IBM Key legends and key descriptions for the key functions on their keyboards – hope it might be of interest. I had no idea what many of these keys actually did on the old terminals!

Copied below are pages from the IBM 3179 (F122 keyboard)

IBM 3270 Operations Guide 1972, pages 31-47 – see this link for details of the following keys and more
http://bitsavers.trailing-edge.com/pdf/ibm/3270/GA27-2742-1_Operators_Guide_for_IBM_3270_Information_DIsplay_Systems_Jul72.pdf
|← Back Tab
CLEAR
ERASE INPUT
ERASE EOF (End of Field)
TEST REQ
RESET
DUP
FIELD MARK
PA1 and PA2
INS MODE
DEL
PF1-PF12
NUMERIC (Shift)
ALPHA

IBM 3270 Oct 1988 revision (incl Unsaver 3290 Keyboard), starting with page 5-3 – see this link for details of the following keys and more
http://bitsavers.trailing-edge.com/pdf/ibm/3270/GA27-2739-22_3270_Information_Display_System_Introduction_Oct88.pdf
“General Controls” (Left side of keyboard)
Attention key
Copy key
Cursor Select key
Doc On/Off
Enlarge
Erasing controls-Clear, Erase Input, and Erase to End of Field keys
Extended Select Shift
Print key
Record and Play keys
Rule key
Setup Mode
System Request key
Work Station Control Mode
o<->O Zoom

Screen Management, Program Access, and Editing Controls
Note: The following functions are not available on all keyboards.
Backspace erase
Change Screen key
Cursor Home key
Delete Word key
Double-Speed Cursor, Left and Right keys
Duplicate key
Field Mark key
Insert and Delete keys
Jump Partition (3290)
Jump Screen
Left and Right Cursor keys
Next Word key
Previous Word key
Program Access keys (PA1, PA2, PA3)
Selectable Field Tab key
Up and Down Cursor keys
3174 Entry Assist

Program Function and Attribute Selection Controls
Note: The following functions are not available on all keyboards.
Attribute Select keys
Cursor Appearance keys, Alternate Cursor and Cursor Blink
Graphic Cursor ( + Cr) keys
Program Function keys, PF1 through PF24

IBM 3179 (one terminal used with F122 keyboards), page 6 onwards
http://bitsavers.org/pdf/ibm/3179/GA18-2180-1_3179_Color_Display_Station_Operator_Reference_and_Problem_Solving_Guide_Sep84.pdf
(relevant pages are copied above)

Custom Model F foot design:

Someone sent me a great custom foot design on Thingiverse for both the new Model F keyboards and original F77 keyboards that can be 3d printed with rubber. Here’s the link:

https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4786112

Someone else was talking about designing a 3D printed plug (and maybe putting in the Shapeways marketplace) where you remove the barrel and snap in the plug, or you put the plug on top of a barrel with no key so as not to require opening up the keyboard. I can’t seem to find my old discussion on this with the person.

Model F vs. Model M keyboard:

There was some discussion on the forums on comparing the IBM Model F keyboard to its successor, the IBM Model M keyboard. Here were some thoughts I posted:

The Model M was actually IBM’s effort to cut two-thirds of the cost out of their Model F which originally went for $600 or more in the early 80s, adjusted for inflation. The Model F produces a much crisper sound with each key press. Over time the Model M inner plastic top plate begins to separate from the metal bottom plate as the brittle plastic rivets break off one by one, and that further dulls the sound of the keyboard. Once those Model M rivets fall out they can’t be put back! The “bolt mod” is an option but it irrevocably changes the original sound of the Model M in my experience and is often a last resort to keep the keyboard going. The brand new Model F keyboards are also native USB with NKRO and are fully customizable with function layers, macros, and the option to customize each key and layout. They work with beta QMK firmware and xwhatsit firmware.

Draft key set renderings for the additional key sets:

Brand New Model F March Update – printed key sets start shipping, second container shipment, and more!

Project status summary – what has been going on lately:

This section is nearly the same as other recent updates: For those who have not been following recent updates and frequent postings over on the Deskthority and geekhack project threads, I will note that there is still time to customize and order your Brand New Model F Keyboard and/or any accessories like the First Aid Kit for future repairs, extra key sets, inner foam, extra flippers/springs, Model F key pullers, custom made 3 meter USB cables compatible with these keyboards, and other parts. Also I will note that the keyboards have started shipping – it does not mean that your keyboard will be shipping right away! There is still a ways to go to get everyone’s keyboard out.

The major news is that I’ve QC’d and shipped out 700+ keyboards so far and am continuing to send out keyboards. Now that the shipping is going into full speed mode, please hold off on split shipping requests which were designed to fill in the down time and reduce the backlog before the printed keys arrived.

The key sets came out even better than expected! So good that I have decided to sell off two spare original IBM F107 key sets on eBay in the coming weeks because I believe the new sets are of better quality.

The very first batch of new Model F dye sublimated key sets arrived on 2/9 and they look great! It is great to say that finally, printed XT quality new Model F key sets are shipping out!

In early February the factory sent approximately 200 XT-quality production sets of each type (~200 ANSI US, ~200 HHKB, ~200 Mac). This was far more than expected (the expectation was ~50). This means that an even larger number of “all in stock” single digit and low serials were able to start going out, so long as there were no other printed keys besides those three types of sets in the order. In the interest of honoring the original priority from the beginning of the project (where feasible: single digit, then low serial, then all remaining keyboards), no one can order now any of the first batch of printed sets that are shipping. Everyone who’s joining the project has to wait in line like everyone else!

Last month all of the “all in stock” single digit and custom/low serial keyboards shipped with the new dye sublimated keys, including the new Model F Keyboard ordered by Lazy Game Reviews!

To finish out the first batch of keys, the earliest non-custom/low serial orders should now go out starting this week. Not to worry, the factory resumed production after returning Chinese New Year break late last month, and another batch of keys will arrive in 1-2 weeks!

B Stock Sets – most sets are gone but some sets are still available to order! See the previous update for more details. Link to order

Some more details on the sublimation of keys:
A whole team at the factory is required to run the sublimation process including inspection and quality control. Each key set is inspected by more than one person as an extra precaution.

It may take several months more to get out the rest of the orders. The priority is the standard color pearl/pebble full sets first, and then the other sets (this was noted at the start of offering the additional colors). They have figured out how to ramp up production efficiently and expect production up to about ~180 jigs’ worth of sets per day (main set + two accessory sets for example), so it will take several months to finish sublimation of the thousands of key sets and keys ordered so far.

As noted before, the fastest way to get your keyboard is to request the separate shipping option detailed on the project web site blog, and have other keys or order blank keys to use in the mean time. This option will be dropped in the near future in order to fully focus on getting out the remaining keyboards in the originally noted sequence of priority (custom/low serials first, then the remaining orders, oldest first).

At the end of this update post are photos of the very first keyboards with the sublimated new Model F key sets to go out, along with the inner assemblies moved to other case colors for the purposes of photographing additional keyboard variations.

All this week’s photos are available in the continually updated imgur album of keyboard variations – a selection of these photos is below. The imgur album has the full res photos: https://imgur.com/a/gw8FOl0

The layouts in the photos include F62 Split Right Shift and Split Backspace, F77 ANSI with 0-9 and Cursor keys, and F77 ANSI with Ins/Del/etc. keys and cursor keys. Case colors shown include Off-White/Beige, Industrial Gray, Black, and Silver/Blue Gray.

Also below are photos of the standard US ANSI layout, and the Apple/Mac Command/Option 6 key sets (the factory sent the US, Mac 6 key, and HHKB 6 key sets as part of the first small batch).

These are the first photos of all these variations with the new Model F caps installed.

Below is a high resolution scan of the new Model F sublimated keys on my Epson V700, along with a detailed crop of the same image to show the quality.

For the printed key sets, a batch of orders went out for all of the “all in stock” custom/low serials with the separate shipping option (keyboard shipped previously)!

Later last month, the remaining “all in stock” custom/low serials that did not choose separate shipping (I’ll be shipping keyboard+keys etc.) went out. As noted before, these will go out in sequence of the date that someone’s earliest keyboard was ordered.

After that the B stock orders ordered so far went out (there are still some B stock key sets remaining if anyone’s interested in helping cover the dye sub cost overruns – see the “extra set of keys” store item for details).

A reminder for those wondering why some sets can ship before others: I am first shipping orders that are 100% in stock for what someone ordered. To keep things simple I am not doing any “split split” shipping, where some printed keys ship and other printed keys ship later. To maximize the number of sets completed before CNY, the factory printed only one group of keys in the few days remaining before Chinese New Year break. Upon their return, sublimation of all the various key sets and colors will ramp up. Not to worry, it won’t make much difference in the wait times because it looks like every single key set ordered will be able to be completed in about two months of production time once they are fully ramped up, beginning around mid-March (they estimate production capacity of about 180 jigs’ worth of key sets per day, with each jig being a full key set and a couple extra sets).

On an unrelated note, below is a report of the number of keyboards each person has ordered, as of a few weeks ago. For privacy reasons I have hidden the numbers for a number of those who have purchased more than 5 keyboards. It is interesting that quite a few people have ordered 3, 4, 5, and more than 5 keyboards. Some people have told me they purchased the keyboards specifically to keep new in box and to sell down the line, or to resell an “in stock” keyboard locally in another country, in their company’s online store.

# KB’s—–# People ordering that quantity of keyboard
>5———-#
5————3
4————15
3————27
2————222
1————2107

Second container ship update:

The second container ship arrived at port and delivery is being arranged for some point in the next week or so. Container shipping demand has skyrocketed in recent months, along with delays. Normally shipping is about 45-55 days but it’s much longer nowadays – a little over three months including shipping and processing time, making arrangements, etc.

I have been preparing to send out all of the “all in stock” keyboards from the second container shipment (first the custom/low serials and then the remaining all in stock orders).

Separate shipping requests are not available for the second container shipments just yet as those were designed to help fill in the down time and reduce the number of keyboards I have to ship after the key sets arrive. I will post an update if and when the separate shipping requests are available again.

Can you help – Linus Tech Tips:

I’ve gotten a few recommendations to find someone who was in touch with the team over at Linus Tech Tips?  Hopefully they might want to maybe make a new Model F video like their Model M reborn video.  

If anyone can help with this please do let me know over PM.

Or maybe one of you tweeting at LTT might do the trick! If I remember correctly, Notch is a fan of the Model M’s and found out about the project through a DT forum member’s tweet!

Can you help? Official naming of IBM terminal keys:

I am trying to determine the “official” naming of the keys especially for the terminal / symbol keys, most of which are being made available to get through the below link.

Not sure if IBM had a reference document on this or if there is another source. Any ideas?

https://www.modelfkeyboards.com/product … d-keycaps/

A reminder about the product manual:

A brief manual covering almost all of the troubleshooting steps and installation setup instructions is available by clicking the “Manual” page on this project web site. An excellent, comprehensive manual is being created by forum member darkcruix; the latest draft is available at https://www.bucklingspring.com/

Recent updates to the manual: I have updated the project web site manual with an additional way to reduce key binding (some 2.25U and larger keys requiring a little extra pressure if you press at the edges): Troubleshooting, section J

“Gently wiggle the key post (the part that goes into the stabilizer insert) a few times in the direction of the left and right sides of the key if you were to look at the key as oriented on a keyboard – seems to eliminate binding when the extreme edges of a key are pressed.  Be very gentle as this is the easiest part to break on a key!”

This is in addition to the other methods described on this thread and in the manual, including the method to squeeze the key stem and hold for 30 seconds, and wiggle it a bit while holding – it sounds odd but these two methods have fixed the keys 100% of the time so far in my experience!

Another interesting addition – “Another way of reducing the space bar force slightly is to squeeze the stems of the key as described in the Troubleshooting section, point J, but please be careful as you could break the space bar.”

Confusion over keyboard firmware:

The keyboards that have gone out since last summer have all been preloaded with QMK, so you would not need to do anything with the firmware unless you want to modify the default layout noted on the product pages. The process of switching to QMK is the same as loading a new layout – with QMK you have to flash the firmware new each time you want to update the layout, or each time you switch from another firmware to QMK.

If you try to load the old xwhatsit ibm_capsense_usb_util program, it will not load and it will show an error because there is no xwhatsit firmware running on the keyboard.

New Model F Keyboards traveling all over the world!

The new Model F project keyboards are going out to 51 countries so far (including the US)! Here are the international orders by country code per ISO 3166, ranked by order value:

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the)
Canada
Germany
Australia
Sweden
Netherlands (the)
Japan
Norway
Switzerland
Hong Kong
Finland
France
Singapore
Malaysia
Austria
Korea (the Republic of)
Poland
Czechia
New Zealand
China
Denmark
Spain
Italy
Ireland
Thailand
Romania
Russian Federation (the)
Brazil
Belgium
Taiwan (Province of China)
Saudi Arabia
Slovenia
Bulgaria
Philippines (the)
Luxembourg
Israel
Mexico
Chile
Argentina
Estonia
Viet Nam
Hungary
Croatia
Oman
Serbia
Peru
India
Turkey
South Africa
Iceland

Ingenious layout mod – thinking outside the box spring (!):

Someone sent me an ingenious layout modification with the HHKB style split right shift – did not think this was possible! Using the full 2.75U right shift key on the HHKB style split right shift board, with one key to the right of the shift key. Posting their photos with their permission:

And below are the photos of the new Model F XT-quality dye sublimated key sets that went out last month:

Dye sublimation update; availability of B stock printed key sets for shipment this month

Dye sub update: the very first production sublimated key sets have shipped! Here’s the factory report on the current shipment:

Approved production sets:
Regular printed ANSI US base key sets: 201
HKKB 6 key sets: 202
MAC 6 key text (non-icon) sets: 203
0 Ins 1U key (included on F77 keyboards configured with a printed new Model F key set): 225 keys

B STOCK – Old artwork/non-approved alignment:
Base sets: 50
HKKB and MAC sets: 25 each

UPDATE: B Stock sets now available to order at this link! First come, first served. There was an unexpected response to these extra sets and I don’t have many left but they can still be ordered for quick shipment; details below (this post will be updated as soon as the B sets run out, so if you see this text, B stock is still available!)

By ordering one of these “B stock” sets you will be one of the first to receive a printed key set, and is a good option to consider if you are not 100% picky on achieving IBM Model F standards of alignment as I am and would prefer to start using a printed key set as soon as possible.

The purpose of selling the B Stock is to cover the thousands of dollars in additional costs related to dye sub and express shipping of sublimated keys, so it will be sold at higher cost than a good quality set. The benefit is that you get a shipping priority (get your B Stock key set/sets months earlier) and you help support the project a little more through helping to cover the cost overruns.

After these sets I won’t be offering B stock at all. The factory will just replace any keys in a key set based on my tolerance specifications so that they won’t have to discard an entire key set.

I think allowing some people the option to help the project a little more helps avoid having to pass along price increases across the board (pun intended!). Same thing with pricing accessories and extra key sets higher to keep the base keyboard price as close to the original price as possible.

B Stock keys are all sold as is, with sublimation defects (non-approved, noticeably off alignment for some keys, slightly thicker/bolder artwork).

Pricing for the regular ANSI US key set will be a $30 premium per set to the regular $69 price ($99 total per set). Shipping costs just for keys and any other small in stock accessories will be free in the US, $16 in Canada and $20 worldwide. The HHKB and Mac sets will have an $11 premium ($35 total) and have the same shipping costs. And as noted before, no one can order any of the production sets in this batch for immediate shipment – they are all going to those who have been waiting.

After the keys are in hand I can start taking orders for the B stock.

To keep things (relatively!) simple, upgrades of previous key set orders are not available – has to be a new order.

The factory expects to send approximately 200 sets of each type (~200 ANSI US, ~200 HHKB, ~200 Mac) this week! This is far more than expected (the expectation was ~50). This means that an even larger number of single digit and low serials can start going out, so long as there are no other printed keys besides those three types of sets in the order. Here are the approximate number of low/custom serial keyboards by year, some of which do not have pearl/pebble printed ANSI sets.  Just the HHKB 6 key set, the Mac 6 key standard set (with the words printed, not with icons), and the regular US ANSI set are in the first batch. After CNY there will be more batches sent with the various other keys.

2016 63
2017 104
2018 106
2019 146
2020 135
2021 18
Total 572

To avoid further complications I will not accept “split split shipping” requests – all the printed keys someone ordered will ship in the same shipment.

I also asked them to include in the express mail shipment about 50 “B stock” non-approved key sets made during their testing – not up to my standards but not unusable. These sets are among the very first new Model F sets and have the slightly thicker artwork in the below link, and definitely a number of keys with less precise alignment, possibly worse or possibly better than what was in this photo: viewtopic.php?p=477782#p477782

In the interest of getting out as many printed key sets as possible, these “B stock” key sets are going to be made available for fast shipment (within several weeks) at a higher price to help cover the thousands of dollars in project cost overruns incurred just on items related to the dye sublimation, as well as help cover the significant express mail fees of shipping lots of keys by air mail.

In the interest of honoring the original priority from the beginning of the project (where feasible: single digit, then low serial, then all remaining keyboards), no one can order now any of the first batch of printed sets that are shipping.

Brand New Model F January Update – mass dye sublimation of keys starts, second container shipment, and more!

Project status summary – what has been going on lately:

This section is nearly the same as other recent updates: For those who have not been following recent updates and frequent postings over on the Deskthority and geekhack project threads, I will note that there is still time to customize and order your Brand New Model F Keyboard and/or any accessories like the First Aid Kit for future repairs, extra key sets, inner foam, extra flippers/springs, Model F key pullers, custom made 3 meter USB cables compatible with these keyboards, and other parts. Also I will note that the keyboards have started shipping – it does not mean that your keyboard will be shipping right away! There is still a ways to go to get everyone’s keyboard out.

The major news from the prior update is that I’ve QC’d and shipped out 600+ keyboards so far and am continuing to send out shipments without printed keys to those who want early delivery, with printed items to ship later. 

For those not aware – the “separate shipping” option is still available for you to request – more details in point 3 of the June update below.  I continue to mail out keyboards, First Aid Kits, and anything else in stock to those who request it, with printed keys to ship later.  Most classic case keyboards can ship in the next month or so upon request, except some black and True Red cases.  Many keyboards are arriving in the second of two container shipments for the early bird round (details below).  Black, Industrial SSK Blue, and Dark Gray unprinted key sets will arrive in 2021 as well.  Pearl/pebble unprinted key sets are in stock and can ship with your keyboard if you have ordered it (you can still place a new order for one of these key sets as well, so you have keys to use now as well as having printed keys that will arrive later).

Outside of certain keyboards and keyboard cases, key sets besides pearl/pebble unprinted, beam spring controllers, and the solenoids themselves, most accessories have also been shipping out like the First Aid Kits (over 950 have been ordered so far), as well as extra barrels/flippers/metal tabs/custom made USB cables.

The only keyboards that are not going out are those who prefer delivery all at once (e.g. if they do not have extra Model M / Model F / Unicomp keyboards to borrow keys from) and those whose keyboards are in the second of two container shipments of the early bird round (mostly the remaining keyboards with installed, unprinted keys as well as the compact case keyboards). If you preferred to wait before and recently changed your mind, it is OK to email me with your separate shipping request!

This may change in the future but all classic case keyboards, except True Red (F62/77), Silver Gray (F62), and Black (F62), are in stock and can ship whether you have already ordered or you are planning on ordering soon. Same for black case ultra compact F77, ANSI layout only, and regular gray case ultra compact F62, ANSI enter. Unprinted pearl/pebble keys are also in stock, though all other unprinted keys and printed keys will be shipping separately, expected later this year.

For all other options, the second container shipment is expected to arrive in February (more details below).

Dye sublimation update – production started this week!

Thanks to Deskthority forum member Zed creating and updating the sublimation artwork, the factory received the approved artwork for production and started production this week! We only have a few days left before Chinese New Year but if all goes well the factory is going to try to make a small number of sets of US ANSI, Apple/Mac, and HHKB 6 key and send them to me before Chinese New Year break. That way I can start getting orders with printed key sets out.

Below are examples of some of the production Brand New Model F key sets bagged up and ready to be express mailed to me:

And here are two Enter keys hanging out together (this is from finalized dye sublimation artwork). The texture is so fresh on the new key molds that the legends seem to glisten if the key is positioned just at the right angle to a light source. Of course there’s no glistening, just deep black when viewing the keys as you are typing on the keyboard as opposed to viewing straight down with a strong light source.

As seen in the prior samples, the draft artwork (photo below) was a little thicker than the IBM originals (I guess because of a bit of bleed/dye migration in the sublimation process) so now the legends have been adjusted and are just about the same thickness as the Model F originals. The factory did some testing and then finally started production this week, in the final days before CNY break! Below is a photo of one of the earliest draft key sets – thicker legends than what the production sets are looking like.

Please note some keys have been slightly cut off in the photo. And the photo was taken with a camera, not a scanner, so there may be some distortion.

I hope the key set will be representative of the new Model F sets going out to everyone. The alignment is within the original IBM Model F tolerances I have personally seen from dozens of originals I have collected / restored over the years. The most salient note to the factory is the Print Screen type keys which are a little too close for comfort to the edge but I would not be exchanging someone’s keys or key sets if in general they match what IBM deemed acceptable on a sold product; see my 11/10/20 Deskthority post for more details – one paragraph copied below:

“Some keys will always be slightly out of alignment tolerance – even so with IBM – so the goal is not perfection. According to my digital caliper measurements of an excellent, probably 90th+ percentile IBM XT keyboard example with outstanding sublimation quality, 24% of its keys aligned out of the bounds of the standard deviation (an amazingly tiny 0.15mm!). IBM’s out of bounds on this set ranged up from 0.18mm to 0.46mm variance from the average alignment of the key set (still excellent results). As I’ve seen having owned and refurbed dozens of F’s over the years, the standard deviation was far larger / looser on many of the other, later production units.”

The key sets were the last aspect of production for bringing the Model F back to life and it is great that production is starting, though only a small number of sets can possibly be completed and mailed to me in the remaining days before their time off. When they return their focus will be on ramping up sublimation. I ended up spending significantly more than expected on several units of customized equipment and additional costs for dye sublimation – all new! Since we are making thousands of key sets (plus thousands of individual extra keys) it will take months to complete. I expect them to send sets as they go as opposed to everything only when everything is done but this is not finalized.

The keys proved to be the most difficult part of the project

As noted on the project web site blog, production of the first key molds begin in early 2017 and failed to achieve IBM’s tolerances that I had required, costing 5 figures in losses that were not recovered. Then production of the key molds started with another factory in late 2017 and succeeded, but it took over one year to create the molds and finish the first order of keys (a typical injection mold can be completed in 30-60 days or less, like for the barrels and flippers). (However as detailed throughout the earlier blog posts, there were many other challenges along the way and the timing was such that the keys were not a bottleneck to finishing production and assembly of the early bird keyboards’ first batch received in late 2019 – had we not ordered brand new keys the keyboards would still have been shipped around the same time). After years of my own sublimation R&D (overlapping with the key production timeline) and R&D over in China starting in May 2020 we are finally at the production stage of what I believe are IBM XT quality one piece Model F keys!

To keep things simple I am not going to accept shipping requests for the keys and cannot answer questions of “is my keyboard in this key set batch” (please don’t ask!), though everyone can still continue to request separate shipping without keys. Everything will go out in priority order, putting at top of the list the single digit serials, early bird tooling volunteers, and custom/low serial orders in order of the date of your first keyboard ordered. With current production estimates there will be no remaining sets in the first batch for other keyboards. In keeping with policies over the past year, your order cannot go out if even one item cannot ship.

New method to remove stabilizer inserts!

Check out this great method to safely remove horizontal and vertical stabilizer inserts without having to open up your new Model F keyboard to push out the insert!

https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=477651#p477651

LED Mod – adding LEDs to your Brand New Model F

Please see darkcruix’s posts over on Deskthority if interested – they came out looking great! A bright addition to the keyboards!

https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=477335#p477335

https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=477571#p477571

Second container shipment

Now that the second container shipment is at sea and on its way, beginning in March (not before March) you can start to request separate shipment for a wider variety of keyboards. 

If your order is in the second container shipment, please do not email me before March!

The shipment is expected to arrive by the end of February.

Also as a general note, in addition to the listed keyboards, thousands of other accessory parts including extra unprinted keys are also shipping in the current container shipment – including beam controllers, solenoids, solenoid drivers, extra keyboard cases and packaging, blue keys, and dark gray keys.

Due to the significant increase in container shipping volume in recent months, this shipment is expected to take longer than the first one. It’s expected to arrive and be delivered in late February. The goods left the factory around the end of December.

Here are photos of the goods ready to be picked up and the truck being loaded. Unfortunately there is no photo of everything loaded up, just the “in progress” photos were taken.

Below is a list of the keyboards expected to be received as part of the second container shipment, arriving around the end of February:

Product Name / Case Color / Installed Keys (if applicable)
Compact F62 Black ANSI Enter Black unprinted keys
Compact F62 Black ANSI Enter
Compact F62 Black ANSI Enter Pearl+pebble blank keys
Compact F62 Black ISO Enter Black unprinted keys
Compact F62 Black ISO Enter
Compact F62 Black Split Right Shift and Split Backspace Black unprinted keys
Compact F62 Black Split Right Shift and Split Backspace
Compact F62 Black Split Right Shift and Split Backspace Pearl+pebble blank keys
Compact F62 Black Split Right Shift and 2U backspace Black unprinted keys
Compact F62 Black Split Right Shift and 2U backspace Pearl+pebble blank keys
Compact F62 Black Split Right Shift and 2U backspace and short spacBlack unprinted keys
Compact F62 Carolina Blue Split Right Shift and Split Backspace Pearl+pebble blank keys
Compact F62 Standard Gray ANSI Enter Black unprinted keys
Compact F62 Standard Gray ANSI Enter Pearl+pebble blank keys
Compact F62 Standard Gray ISO Enter
Compact F62 Standard Gray Split Right Shift and Split Backspace Black unprinted keys
Compact F62 Standard Gray Split Right Shift and Split Backspace
Compact F62 Standard Gray Split Right Shift and Split Backspace Pearl+pebble blank keys
Compact F62 Standard Gray Split Right Shift and 2U backspace
Compact F62 Standard Gray Split Right Shift and 2U backspace Pearl+pebble blank keys
Compact F77 Black ANSI Enter Black unprinted keys
Compact F77 Black ANSI Enter
Compact F77 Black ANSI Enter Pearl+pebble blank keys
Compact F77 Black ISO Enter Black unprinted keys
Compact F77 Black ISO Enter
Compact F77 Black ISO Enter Pearl+pebble blank keys
Compact F77 Black Split Right Shift and Split Backspace Black unprinted keys
Compact F77 Black Split Right Shift and Split Backspace
Compact F77 Black Split Right Shift and 2U backspace Black unprinted keys
Compact F77 Black Split Right Shift and 2U backspace
Compact F77 Black Split Right Shift and 2U backspace Pearl+pebble blank keys
Compact F77 Carolina Blue ANSI Enter
Compact F77 Carolina Blue Split Right Shift and Split Backspace
Compact F77 Carolina Blue Split Right Shift and 2U backspace Black unprinted keys
Compact F77 Carolina Blue Split Right Shift and 2U backspace
Compact F77 Dark Blue ANSI Enter
Compact F77 Dark Blue ISO Enter
Compact F77 Dark Blue Split Right Shift and 2U backspace
Compact F77 Regular Gray ANSI Enter Black unprinted keys
Compact F77 Regular Gray ANSI Enter
Compact F77 Regular Gray ANSI Enter Pearl+pebble blank keys
Compact F77 Regular Gray ISO Enter
Compact F77 Regular Gray Split Right Shift and Split Backspace Black unprinted keys
Compact F77 Regular Gray Split Right Shift and Split Backspace
Compact F77 Regular Gray Split Right Shift and Split Backspace Pearl+pebble blank keys
Compact F77 Regular Gray Split Right Shift and 2U backspace Black unprinted keys
Compact F77 Regular Gray Split Right Shift and 2U backspace
F62 Black ANSI Enter Black unprinted keys
F62 Black ANSI Enter
F62 Black ANSI Enter and Split Backspace Black unprinted keys
F62 Black ANSI Enter and Split Backspace
F62 Black ISO Enter
F62 Black ISO Enter Pearl+pebble blank keys
F62 Black Split Right Shift and Split Backspace and short lBlack unprinted keys
F62 Black Split Right Shift and 2U backspace Black unprinted keys
F62 Black Split Right Shift and 2U backspace
F62 Black Split Right Shift and 2U backspace Pearl+pebble blank keys
F62 Industrial Gray ANSI Enter Pearl+pebble blank keys
F62 Industrial Gray F62 scumnc ANSI Enter
F62 Industrial Gray ISO Enter Pearl+pebble blank keys
F62 Industrial Gray Split Right Shift and 2U backspace
F62 Industrial Gray Split Right Shift and 2U backspace Pearl+pebble blank keys
F62 Off-White/Beige F62 scumnc ANSI Enter
F62 Off-White/Beige ISO Enter
F62 Off-White/Beige ISO Enter Pearl+pebble blank keys
F62 Off-White/Beige ISO Enter and Split Right Shift, 2U backspace Pearl+pebble blank keys
F62 True Red ANSI Enter Black unprinted keys
F62 True Red ANSI Enter
F62 True Red Split Right Shift and 2U backspace
F77 Black ANSI Enter Black unprinted keys
F77 Black ANSI Enter Pearl+pebble blank keys
F77 Black ISO Enter Black unprinted keys
F77 Black ISO Enter Pearl+pebble blank keys
F77 Black Split Right Shift and Split Backspace Black unprinted keys
F77 Black Split Right Shift and Split Backspace and short lBlack unprinted keys
F77 Black Split Right Shift and 2U backspace Black unprinted keys
F77 Black Split Right Shift and 2U backspace Pearl+pebble blank keys
F77 Industrial Gray ANSI Enter Black unprinted keys
F77 Industrial Gray ANSI Enter
F77 Industrial Gray ANSI Enter Pearl+pebble blank keys
F77 Industrial Gray ISO Enter Pearl+pebble blank keys
F77 Industrial Gray Split Right Shift and Split Backspace Black unprinted keys
F77 Industrial Gray Split Right Shift and Split Backspace
F77 Industrial Gray Split Right Shift and Split Backspace Pearl+pebble blank keys
F77 Off-White/Beige ISO Enter Pearl+pebble blank keys
F77 True Red ANSI Enter Black unprinted keys

Low Serial Upgrade Option Now Available – Upgrade to get your keyboard months sooner

Thank you to those who have supported the project a little extra by considering a low serial addon – it is much appreciated to help cover the tens of thousands of dollars of project cost overruns and get your keyboard far faster. Feel free to add this on to a previous order to upgrade it to low serial (you can choose free shipping on this order if it’s just for the serial number upgrade).

There are different levels of low serial, ranging from single digit serials, to 10-50 range of serials, to other low serials 51 and higher.  The standard $39 option (the same as the option to have a low serial when configuring the keyboards) allows for requests 51 and higher.  Other options can be selected by picking the single digit serial or 10-50 serial.  It is ok to upgrade from the $39 option you chose to the $99 option using the store item $1 increments to make up the difference.

All low/custom serial options allow the option to request a custom date / year that will go on the product label.  A birthday, birthdate (with birth year!), or anniversary are all possibilities to consider.  You can send a list of preferred serials in priority order, up to 7 digits.

The below list is of available serials as of today.  The list is not updated constantly and if you order any low serial option I cannot guarantee you will receive your requested serial; you may be assigned an available serial.

Remaining single digit serial numbers:

  • Classic Case F77 – SOLD OUT
  • Classic Case F62 – SOLD OUT
  • Compact F77 – 1
  • Compact F62 – 9

Classic Case F77
10
17
19

Classic Case F62
14
40
41

Compact Case F77
1
10
11
12
13
14
15
17
18
20
21
43

Compact Case F62
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
27
43
44
45
46
47
48
50

Notes on the final production round

Orders are still being accepted for the current round, the early bird round. Everyone please message me if you are interested in the down payment / payment over time option which is also still available. This option has no additional costs, no interest, etc.

The current orders are for the early bird round. The final round is expected to be later this year.

It is safe to assume that the final round may cost more across the board (pun intended). I have managed to keep keyboard costs in line by increasing the pricing of all the accessories instead of increasing the pricing of the keyboards themselves. This allows the keyboards to be priced as low as possible and allows as many people as possible to be able to use these great keyboards.

Before the final round I will have to check the 2021 costs of all components and factory labor and do some analysis on what pricing is feasible. I am thankful for everyone who has participated in the project and for those who have supported the project in an extra way through ordering the custom/low serial upgrades, First Aid Kits, and other extras. Raw material and labor costs have skyrocketed in China; hopefully costs will get a little better later this year.

Update on additional components – solenoid drivers, beam spring controllers, etc.

As an update the remaining solenoid drivers, non-displaywriter beamspring controllers, and displaywriter beamspring controllers are on the second container shipment that left the factory last week and will be arriving to me in late February. The main reason for the delay was due to delays finishing up the second container shipment’s other items (mainly the keyboards) – full details are available on the project web site updates page.

Quantities ordered as of earlier this month:
Solenoid 193
xwhatsit solenoid driver 214
non-displaywriter beamspring controllers 17
displaywriter beamspring controllers 5

All these items are still available to order on the project web site.

Brand New Model F December Update – dye sublimation, second container shipment, reviews, and more!

Project status summary – what has been going on lately:

This section is nearly the same as other recent updates: For those who have not been following recent updates and frequent postings over on the Deskthority and geekhack project threads, I will note that there is still time to customize and order your Brand New Model F Keyboard and/or any accessories like the First Aid Kit for future repairs, extra key sets, inner foam, extra flippers/springs, Model F key pullers, custom made 3 meter USB cables compatible with these keyboards, and other parts. Also I will note that the keyboards have started shipping – it does not mean that your keyboard will be shipping right away! There is still a ways to go to get everyone’s keyboard out.

The major news from the prior update is that I’ve QC’d and shipped out 600+ keyboards so far and am continuing to send out shipments without printed keys to those who want early delivery, with printed items to ship later. The 600th keyboard shipped earlier this month (December).

For those not aware – the “separate shipping” option is still available for you to request – more details in point 3 of the June update below.  I continue to mail out keyboards, First Aid Kits, and anything else in stock to those who request it, with printed keys to ship later.  Most classic case keyboards can ship in the next month or so upon request, except some black and True Red cases.  Many keyboards are arriving in the second of two container shipments for the early bird round (details below).  Black, Industrial SSK Blue, and Dark Gray unprinted key sets will arrive in 2021 as well.  Pearl/pebble unprinted key sets are in stock and can ship with your keyboard if you have ordered it (you can still place a new order for one of these key sets as well, so you have keys to use now as well as having printed keys that will arrive later).

Outside of certain keyboards and keyboard cases, key sets besides pearl/pebble unprinted, beam spring controllers, and the solenoids themselves, most accessories have also been shipping out like the First Aid Kits (over 950 have been ordered so far), as well as extra barrels/flippers/metal tabs/custom made USB cables.

The only keyboards that are not going out are those who prefer delivery all at once (e.g. if they do not have extra Model M / Model F / Unicomp keyboards to borrow keys from) and those whose keyboards are in the second of two container shipments of the early bird round (mostly the remaining keyboards with installed, unprinted keys as well as the compact case keyboards). If you preferred to wait before and recently changed your mind, it is OK to email me with your separate shipping request!

This may change in the future but all classic case keyboards, except True Red (F62/77), Silver Gray (F62), and Black (F62), are in stock and can ship whether you have already ordered or you are planning on ordering soon. Same for black case ultra compact F77, ANSI layout only, and regular gray case ultra compact F62, ANSI enter. Unprinted pearl/pebble keys are also in stock, though all other unprinted keys and printed keys will be shipping separately, expected early next year.

For all other options, the second container shipment is expected to arrive in February (more details below).

The last step is the dye sublimation which they are working on setting up and still needs more time to complete (more details also below).

Update on keyboard reviews:

Nervous and waiting for feedback and reviews before customizing your Brand New Model F Keyboard? Over the past year, dozens of Brand New Model F Keyboard reviews, photos, and videos have been posted by both professional reviewers and many other Model F fans across YouTube, Deskthority, geekhack, reddit, and on various blogs. I have attempted to gather links to all these reviews into one place and to continually update the list as I discover them. If I missed any or if you have noticed one recently that is not included, please let me know! They are all linked to in the May 2020 update post here: https://www.modelfkeyboards.com/brand-new-model-f-keyboards-may-update/

A reminder on checking the project forum threads:

Do not be alarmed that the project web site is only updated about once per calendar month! I post frequently over on the Deskthority and geekhack forums’ project threads and participate in the discussions there (linked to on the About – Forums page of the project web site), so if you would like to see all of the updates as soon as they are available please do register on the forums (registration is free) and subscribe to those threads! The blog updates usually include a compilation of these individual posts.

Dye sublimation update and history of the dye sub adventure; thoughts on the project’s direct-to-consumer model:

Summary: Dye sublimation quality approved for production; alignment very good for nearly all keys but not yet approved – has improved significantly from the November update.

Now that the alignment results have improved significantly as shown below (but are not yet to spec), the factory is finalizing the design of what will hopefully be the production jig, and the jig should be completed in the next couple weeks. I have ordered the (very costly) dye sub equipment for the factory (previously the factory was paying to use another factory’s machines for R&D purposes) which should finish production and be delivered in about 1-2 weeks.

Summary of the dye sub adventure beginning in 2016: Excellent quality dye sublimation is quite rare and has proven to be difficult to reproduce. Years have been spent on R&D trying to get the keys and dye sublimation to meet IBM’s 1980s Model F Keyboard standards. I have gotten advice from many engineers and other dye sublimation professionals, including one of the original supervisors of Model F keyboard production for IBM back in the 1980s. The equipment for making IBM quality keys (molds, PBT plastic, other consumables, dye sub equipment, etc.) has ended up totaling in the range of six figures, far beyond the original expectations of the entire budget of the project back in 2016. As interest in the project was far higher than expected, we were able to afford moving from sourcing Model M / Model F keys elsewhere to making the keys ourselves and being able to make them IBM Model F XT quality, which I believe we have achieved.

This project has definitely been a labor of love that has far exceeded the original expectations. I am fortunate to have control over the costs, manufacturing and quality standards of this project, to ensure that everyone gets a product where no corners have been cut in the name of cost control. That is why I continue to emphasize the project philosophy which includes a focus on product quality over meeting an expected timeline or deadline. Another benefit of offering these keyboards directly to consumers without going through a third party is that I can offer them at the lowest possible price. Model F keyboards cost $600 to $800 new from IBM in the 1980s (adjusted for inflation); with modern production processes and the direct to consumer model we have aimed for the same quality at about half that original price. I hope to expand upon these and other topics in a forthcoming book I have started writing on the Model F adventure. Please do email me if you’re interested and I’ll let you know when it’s finished (expected some time after all keyboards are mailed out).

The factory continues to improve the placement of the sublimation. Results have improved from the previously posted test. Fewer keys are noticeably out of place. They are continuing to work on this. Please disregard the wrong color used on some of the test keys; all keys will be the correct color for production. I am hoping for everything to be finalized this month with dye sublimation to begin in January before the weekslong Chinese New Year break in February. I do not know how many key sets, if any, will be completed in January but I may have them send whatever they can complete before the CNY break, so I can start mailing out these key sets. I don’t know the order of which key sets will be made when so please do check out the forums for the latest updates.

Second container shipment update / some important project notes:

The factory continues to finish up quality control re-inspection and repairs with the remaining keyboards as detailed before. They are expected to finish this week (week of 12/27). This work has taken significantly longer than expected. The container shipment is now preparing for a departure in about one week, meaning it would be arriving in early February. I would have hoped that the shipment could have gone out far sooner of course but the quality control of the goods and making repairs were more important than meeting a timeline. And as noted before, having me do all the repairs (even if the shipment went out earlier) would have significantly bottlenecked the QC and shipping process more than having the factory team take care of it.

QMK beta updates:

QMK beta continues to be the default firmware to ship on all Brand New Model F Keyboards. It has been running for months on hundreds of these keyboards with very few issues. However if you do have an issue to report please report directly to Deskthority.net forum member pandrew by sending a PM. pandrew may have available newer versions of the QMK beta than what I am loading onto each keyboard. Check on the project web site – Code page to see links to various JSON layout files you can download and modify to customize your own keyboard layout, function layers, etc.

Model F Manual updates

The Model F manual project by Deskthority.net user darkcruix continues to expand in comprehensiveness for all Model F’s, both original IBM and the new ones. The manual has now reached more than 200 pages! Please feel free to access the latest draft at www.bucklingspring.com and feel free to contribute to the project and discussion over at the Deskthority thread for the manual.

Email deliverability issues:

As an update I’ve been having some email deliverability issues in recent weeks. I worked with my web hosting provider and I think the issues have been resolved. Please do let me know over PM on reddit, geekhack, or Deskthority if you are still having issues emailing me through the project web site and please do feel free to follow up if I haven’t replied within a few days. My user name can be found on the About – Forums page of this project web site.

Some special inventory items, looking at my list:

I have to double check this but as of now I think I have one unclaimed keyboard with black unprinted keys installed: F62 Industrial Gray, split shift and split backspace.

I also have F62 Beige, ANSI Enter and Split Backspace with Pearl/Pebble unprinted keys installed

And F77 Beige with Split Shift and 2U backspace with Pearl/Pebble unprinted keys installed

These keyboards can possibly ship in the coming weeks. First come first served so please do double check with me before ordering if you would prefer not to wait.

Brand New Model F November Update – outstanding dye sublimation results, second container shipment, key top wear analysis, lost/stolen keyboard found, and more!

Project status summary – what has been going on lately:

This section is nearly the same as other recent updates: For those who have not been following recent updates and frequent postings over on the Deskthority and geekhack project threads, I will note that there is still time to customize and order your Brand New Model F Keyboard and/or any accessories like the First Aid Kit for future repairs, extra key sets, inner foam, extra flippers/springs, Model F key pullers, custom made 3 meter USB cables compatible with these keyboards, and other parts. Also I will note that the keyboards have started shipping – it does not mean that your keyboard will be shipping right away! There is still a ways to go to get everyone’s keyboard out.

The major news from the prior update is that I’ve QC’d and shipped out 500+ keyboards so far (milestone reached in late September) and am continuing to send out shipments without printed keys to those who want early delivery, with printed items to ship later.

For those not aware – the “separate shipping” option is still available for you to request – more details in point 3 of the June update below.  I continue to mail out keyboards, First Aid Kits, and anything else in stock to those who request it, with printed keys to ship later.  Most classic case keyboards can ship in the next month or so upon request, except some black and True Red cases.  Many keyboards are arriving in the second of two container shipments for the early bird round (details below).  Black, Industrial SSK Blue, and Dark Gray unprinted key sets will arrive later this year as well.  Pearl/pebble unprinted key sets are in stock and can ship with your keyboard if you have ordered it (you can still place a new order for one of these key sets as well, so you have keys to use now as well as having printed keys that will arrive later).

The only keyboards that are not going out are those who prefer delivery all at once (e.g. if they do not have extra Model M / Model F / Unicomp keyboards to borrow keys from) and those whose keyboards are in the second of two container shipments of the early bird round (mostly the remaining keyboards with installed, unprinted keys as well as the compact case keyboards).

The last step is the dye sublimation which they are working on setting up and still needs more time to complete.

Dye sublimation update:

Summary: Dye sublimation quality approved for production; alignment very good for nearly all keys but not yet approved

More good news – the latest sublimation tests arrived today by DHL Express and the quality is outstanding, as good as the earlier samples and in my opinion equal to or better than my 99th percentile quality IBM Model F reference set. I have also examined them with my Meiji EMT stereo microscope like last time. The factory has made excellent progress over the past two weeks on sublimating entire key sets.

Legend alignment has improved significantly from last month’s testing, but it is still not good enough in some instances. The factory noted that they are going to focus on the alignment, now that the sublimation quality has been confirmed good. As a note, some keys are repeat keys because the jig holds more keys than are contained in a standard key set. Some keys like Ctrl, Alt, Left Shift have been left out of the key set sample. Please see my prior note about the Function keys – the below alignment is not correct for the function keys and Esc keys (as well as other keys) and they will be standard Model F / Model M locations for the production key sets.

As noted before, the goal is to get these keys in line with the 99th percentile example of the Model F, with the expectation that we will reasonably achieve the 50th percentile or better. I think we’ve achieved 99th percentile sublimation quality and am hoping for 50th percentile or better alignment.

Some keys will always be slightly out of alignment tolerance – even so with IBM – so the goal is not perfection. According to my digital caliper measurements of an excellent, probably 90th+ percentile IBM XT keyboard example with outstanding sublimation quality, 24% of its keys aligned out of the bounds of the standard deviation (an amazingly tiny 0.15mm!). IBM’s out of bounds on this set ranged up from 0.18mm to 0.46mm variance from the average alignment of the key set (still excellent results). As I’ve seen having owned and refurbed dozens of F’s over the years, the standard deviation was far larger / looser on many of the other, later production units.

The goal is to get at least the alignment consistency to around what the typical IBM Model F alignment was over the life of the Model F (I wouldn’t be holding up everyone’s sublimated keycaps orders if we’re at the 50th Model F percentile instead of the 99th percentile of alignment, for example).

Next steps: Now that I have approved the sublimation quality, they are going to continue testing to determine the best settings for correct alignment while still maintaining the same sublimation quality. Once everything is approved, mass sublimation will start. They will be sublimating and inspecting thousands of key sets so it will take some time but we will proceed only if everything is right and the factory is aware that out of tolerance alignment is not acceptable. I know everyone has been waiting a while and I appreciate everyone’s patience and support to get the best possible results with modern-day production standards.

Sublimated keys
Sublimated keys
Sublimated keys

Second container shipment update / some important project notes:

I spoke with the factory again and we are now looking at around the end of November for the second of two container shipments of the early bird round to leave the factory. They were delayed from the previous estimate of 10/31 due to a significant increase in demand for manufactured goods of higher priority (they are seeing this across many of the factories in China as you might have imagined) and the associated squeeze on the labor pool over there. The factory understands that quality control is the most important thing and they will not rush to meet any deadline if it means cutting corners.

Thanks for your everyone’s support for this project. Based on some recent forum discussions I will reiterate some points I have made before on the project web site and the forums, and over email / PM to many of you:

-While we wait for the dye sublimation to finish, I am continuing to send out shipments without printed keys to those who want early delivery, with printed items to ship later.


-If you want your order to go out within one month from now, there is a good chance that it is in stock because I ordered extra keyboards beyond what everyone ordered, and the first container shipment arrived a while back.

-The only keyboards that are not going out are those who prefer delivery all at once (e.g. if they do not have extra Model M / Model F / Unicomp keyboards to borrow keys from) and those whose keyboards are in the second of two container shipments of the early bird round (mostly the remaining keyboards with installed, unprinted blue/black keys as well as the compact case keyboards), expected to arrive around year end.
PM or email me if you have a classic case keyboard and want to ask about the separate shipping option to get your keyboard in the next month or so. Also in stock (and able to ship ahead of keys) are some compact F62 keyboards (regular gray case color, ANSI only) and compact F77 keyboards (black case color, ANSI only).


-The best way to support the project a little more is to order accessories like extra key sets/first aid kits/controllers, upgrades to custom/low serials and custom production dates, and letting other tech-minded folks know about the project. This will help cover the significant additional expenses running tens of thousands of dollars including in the areas of failed tooling, storage, quality control, lost parts, R&D, sampling, years of DHL Express sample shipping, significantly increased international shipping costs, and other areas. I have so far been able to prevent the keyboard pricing from increasing by increasing the pricing of accessories. However labor and raw materials costs have skyrocketed over the past few years so I’m unable to guarantee the same pricing during the final round.


-Despite all this, the project successfully achieved its goal of bringing the Model F back into production and has shipped out more than 500 keyboards so far (with many more to go!). I am continuing to ship these keyboards out without issue and accept new orders for keyboards and extra parts to allow everyone the chance to customize their own Brand New Model F Keyboard and order enough parts on hand to keep their keyboard running for decades, long after production has shut down.


-Right now the reason everything is not able to ship is that either it is set to be on the second container shipment or someone is waiting for their keys and keyboard to ship together rather than get their keyboard sent ahead of the keys (see my post from the day before for details on the project status).


-I’ve been mailing out lots of orders early while the factory takes care of the key sublimation to help reduce the number of keyboards that have to be mailed out later on while I have some down time now. If you could request early delivery (see the project blog for details) that would be much appreciated.

Lost/stolen new Model F Keyboard / “Porch Pirate” blog post update:

Summary: The lost/stolen keyboard has been safely returned to me by Cargo Largo. I want to thank Cargo Largo and the buyer for their cooperation and helpfulness. I especially want to thank the buyer for checking out my blog entry about this particular lost/stolen keyboard and letting me know about it.

Here’s a link to my original blog post on the subject. As a recap (more details on the Deskthority project thread), the back story is that a few months ago, a keyboard being sent to a customer was lost/stolen while in UPS possession; UPS denied the insurance claim. Recently, an eBay user (and winner of a new Model F eBay auction in question) suspected that a Cargo Largo ebay auction listing may have been the exact keyboard that was “lost” by UPS and resold by an affiliated company Cargo Largo, which tends to sell a lot of such items “lost” by UPS. I confirmed by serial number that it in fact was the specific keyboard in question and worked with the eBay buyer and with Cargo Largo. I have received the keyboard and now consider the matter with Cargo Largo satisfactorily resolved. I am also happy to continue working with UPS as a shipping partner, as besides a few issues they have done a great job getting Model F keyboards out to everyone at a reasonable shipping cost. Everyone including the drivers and sales representatives continue to be responsive and helpful.

Key top surface wear over the years – why I strongly recommend ordering and keeping extra new Model F key sets for later on:

Below is a scan of the newly sublimated keys compared with original IBM keys. I have also added scans from many years ago of the same physical original IBM keys so everyone can see what four years of typing does to wear down the key top surfaces. As the textured surface wears down, the keys can become more smooth/slippery.

I expect the same to occur with the new production keys as they are the exact same material that IBM used for keys as per the IBM Model F Keyboard production engineer who has been a big help to the project. This is why I am hoping to be able to make as many spare key sets as possible so people can order them with their keyboards and have for future decades.

To see the texture it is best to save the photo or open the image in a new window to zoom in. At left is my IBM key from 4 years ago, and at right is the same key, 4 years later.

Request for Model F tips and tricks:

If anyone has any other Model F tips and tricks not already mentioned in the darkcruix manual or in the manual on this project web site please do share them here! I hope to add them to the manual. I am hoping the Deskthority and geekhack project threads can also continue to include a discussion on tips and tricks for new (and original) Model F Keyboards.

QMK Model F Beta Firmware:

The new Model F keyboards have been shipping with beta QMK firmware, which has been solidly reliable from reports I have seen and according to my own experience. Again a major thanks to Deskthority user pandrew. To access the QMK beta (for example if you want to customize your keyboard layout/function layers), kindly PM pandrew directly over on Deskthority.

Has anyone customized their new Model F F62 / F77 layouts beyond the standard offerings? I’d be interested in seeing what people do to optimize their keyboards.

Please do feel free to share layout screenshots / QMK JSON files / xwhatsit firmware .l files.

Status of new beam spring controllers, solenoid drivers, custom made extra hefty solenoids:

I received a few beam spring controllers and solenoids by DHL Express and have mailed some of them out (I have some left in stock). The solenoids are especially nice and hefty! The solenoid is so forceful it moved itself around my table when I was testing it loose (not installed in the keyboard)!

I have the solenoid drivers in stock now, and have been shipping them out.

The rest of the beam spring controllers and solenoids will be shipping as soon as they arrive in the second container shipment.

So far 151 solenoid drivers, 22 beamspring controllers (of which 5 displaywriters), and 130 solenoids have been ordered as of last month!

Changing between case types:

The ultra compact case works with the standard assembly. You just need to change the bottom plate which is included free if you order a spare case of the opposite type (e.g. classic F77 keyboard and compact F77 case or compact F77 keyboard and classic F77 case). Instructions to do this can be found on the project manual (click the Manual tab on this web page).

However I do recommend that those thinking of ordering an extra case instead order an extra keyboard (an option of a keyboard without keys is available if cost is a concern). Not only do you get all the parts significantly discounted from what they would cost to buy separately, but you also get a fully functional keyboard that would not require switching parts around (assuming you get the keys). If you already ordered a spare case and are thinking of changing to a full keyboard, please PM/email me to see if the option to upgrade is available.

Installing solenoids in the ultra compact cases?

You’d be correct in guessing that there is no extra space – it was designed to be the smallest possible design that still used all the same parts (except bottom inner assembly plate which was made less wide and with feet as shown in the screenshot). You can see that there is a little room underneath the inner assembly on the back side but it is not large enough for too much.

If you wanted a solenoid you could probably mount the solenoid externally (3M VHB tape or drill a hole in the case and use screws – the solenoid has tapped holes to accept M2.5 screws.

Using other key sets with the New Model F Keyboards:

Are you using Unicomp stabilizer inserts with Unicomp keys? I have found that while all the inserts are compatible, due to variations in tolerances the best experience is with matching like for like (IBM keys with IBM stabilizers, etc.).

Brand New Model F September Update – shipping milestone, dye sub success, next container shipment, solenoid installation video, firmware

Project status summary – what has been going on lately:

This section is nearly the same as last month’s update: For those who have not been following recent updates and frequent postings over on the Deskthority and geekhack project threads, I will note that there is still time to customize and order your Brand New Model F Keyboard and/or any accessories like the First Aid Kit for future repairs, extra key sets, inner foam, extra flippers/springs, Model F key pullers, custom made 3 meter USB cables compatible with these keyboards, and other parts. Also I will note that the keyboards have started shipping – it does not mean that your keyboard will be shipping right away! There is still a ways to go to get everyone’s keyboard out.

The major update for September is that I’ve QC’d and shipped out 500+ keyboards so far and am continuing to send out shipments without printed keys to those who want early delivery, with printed items to ship later.

The only ones that are not going out are those who prefer delivery all at once (e.g. if they do not have extra Model M / Model F / Unicomp keyboards to borrow keys from) and those whose keyboards are in the second of two container shipments of the early bird round (mostly the remaining keyboards with installed, unprinted keys as well as the compact case keyboards).

The last step is the dye sublimation which they are working on setting up and still needs more time to complete.

Major Shipping Milestone!

This month the 500th Brand New Model F Keyboard shipped! This is a major milestone for the project that started back in 2015.

Orders continue to ship out. Message me if you’re interested in the separate shipping option described above.

For those not aware – the “separate shipping” option is still available for you to request – more details in point 3 of the June update below.  I continue to mail out keyboards, First Aid Kits, and anything else in stock to those who request it, with printed keys to ship later.  Most classic case keyboards can ship in the next month or so upon request, except some black and True Red cases.  Many keyboards are arriving in the second of two container shipments for the early bird round, expected later this year.  Black, Industrial SSK Blue, and Dark Gray unprinted key sets will arrive later this year as well.  Pearl/pebble unprinted key sets are in stock and can ship with your keyboard if you have ordered it (you can still place a new order for one of these key sets as well, so you have keys to use now as well as having printed keys that will arrive later).

Regarding new Model F orders, orders can ship in two parts if you’re interested, with the keyboard and non-printed accessories that are in stock to ship within about one month of ordering, and the rest to ship later when ready. Please feel free to email me to make sure the option is available for what you’re ordering, if you are interested in that option.

Second container shipment:

The factory is wrapping up the repairs and expects the next container shipment to go out before the end of October. In order to continue mailing out keyboards upon request, the factory will not be holding up the second container shipment for the dye sublimation to finish.

This shipment consists of the remaining items from my first order (the early bird round) plus extras that I ordered, beyond what people have ordered. All the remaining beam spring controllers (both Displaywriter and non-Displaywriter) and solenoids were completed and will be included in this shipment.

Dye sub update: Great success this month!

Below is a high-res scan of the latest sublimated keys of excellent quality (same as what was posted previously with my phone camera) vs. the exact originals they were based off of.

The new ones as sublimated by the factory’s equipment appear to be a touch wider and thicker, so the finalized artwork will be updated to counteract those changes. (I did not account for the higher than expected amount of dye migration/bleed during the sublimation process, as the finalized artwork was an exact match to the originals)

As noted earlier the sublimation quality is excellent, as shown in these scans, looking at the keys in person, and examining them with my stereo microscope. The factory is working on the alignment and the jigs.

It is interesting to note the amount of uneven wear on older, well-used IBM keys compared to brand new ones.

I was very impressed that the quality of the sublimation itself met or exceeded the quality of the highest percentile of IBM’s Model F sublimation work, even comparing them under my stereo microscope.

I provided the factory with detailed tolerance specifications for the dye sublimation alignment testing this month. Now that the sublimation settings are good, the trial of the dye sublimation jig was worked on this month and was set to be completed by the end of last week. This is the first test of a full jig as opposed to previous tests of small jigs to work out how to achieve the tolerances, so it took a few weeks longer than previous test jigs. The dye sublimation has taken longer than expected but as reported in the prior update, the results have been outstanding, meeting or even exceeding the sublimation quality of the 90th+ percentile original IBM examples (check out the prior updates for more details).

Solenoids update:

The solenoids themselves already started shipping. I received a few of the production units by DHL Express. The rest of the production batch will be on the second container shipment later this year. If you would prefer not to wait please email or PM me if you wanted to help cover the additional shipping costs. The solenoids and solenoid drivers are still available to order.

Solenoid Installation Guide and Sound Test video:

Model F Comprehensive Product manual update:

Work on a comprehensive product manual for the Model F Keyboard (helpful for both new and original Model F keyboards) continues, thanks to efforts led by Deskthority member darkcruix. The manual is in great shape so far and is now more than 100 pages! Please feel free to check out the manual and help out with the effort by going to this Deskthority thread: https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=24416

Great computer setup with a new F77!

I wanted to share (with permission) a great photo from a customer matching a True Red F77 with an SGI (Silicon Graphics) Fuel computer. A great setup!

xwhatsit issues; QMK firmware on the Model F:

A couple months ago I switched to QMK for all the new Model F’s that are shipping. I continue to be surprised with the xwhatsit issues that have come up in recent months based on xwhatsit’s otherwise solid history in my experience dating back to 2014. I do hope that these xwhatsit firmware-specific issues can be resolved so that there will always be multiple firmware options for these keyboards. QMK so far continues to work very well. If interested, please contact Deskthority.net user pandrew to request an invite to the QMK Model F beta.

Compiling firmware:

I thought I’d share instructions someone sent me on using the xwhatsit utility and compiling the xwhatsit hex firmware files – someone was asking me about this recently. As always, this would be done at your own risk.

Compiling/running the xwhatsit capsense utility on Linux:

For Ubuntu:
1. Open the Software & Updates program and select Community-maintained free and open-source software (universe)
2. Extract the precompiled file into a directory
3. Open a terminal and cd into that directory
4. In a terminal run: sudo apt update && sudo apt install gcc gcc-avr avrdude
5. sudo apt install build-essential
6. sudo apt install qtcreator
7. Run sudo ./ibm_capsense_usb_util

How to compile the firmware hex file on Linux (easier to do than on Windows):

For Ubuntu:
Open the Software & Updates program and select Community-maintained free and open-source software (universe)
In a terminal, run: sudo apt update && sudo apt install make gcc gcc-avr avrdude avr-libc build-essential
To get patch files from GitHub, click on the commit and in the URL, append .patch and then save that as a .patch file. pandrew’s work to create 0.9.2 firmware can be found here: https://github.com/purdeaandrei/ibm_cap … its/master
Move the patch files into the src directory
In the terminal cd into the src directory
To change the files based on a patch file, run patch < filename.patch
Run patch files in order from oldest to newest (start with debounce patch, then patch 1, then patch 2, then patch 3 (the latter three patches from pandrew).
Run make and copy the ibm_capsense_usb.hex file that was created
The default debounce is 11. To create the debounce 6 version, edit the scan.h file and change the line with #define SCAN_DB_THRESH_TOP 11 – change to a 6 (I used to use the debounce 6 version when sending out the Brand New Model F keyboards)
Run make and copy the ibm_capsense_usb.hex file that was created

Brand New Model F August Update – dye sub, product manual, new reviews, hefty solenoids, improved firmware

Project status summary – what has been going on lately:

For those who have not been following recent updates and frequent postings over on the Deskthority and geekhack project threads, I will note that there is still time to customize and order your Brand New Model F Keyboard and/or any accessories like the First Aid Kit for future repairs, extra key sets, inner foam, extra flippers/springs, Model F key pullers, custom made 3 meter USB cables compatible with these keyboards, and other parts. Also I will note that the keyboards have started shipping – it does not mean that your keyboard will be shipping right away! There is still a ways to go to get everyone’s keyboard out.

The major update is that I’ve QC’d and shipped out 469 keyboards so far and am continuing to send out shipments without printed keys to those who want early delivery, with printed items to ship later.

The only ones that are not going out are those who prefer delivery all at once (e.g. if they do not have extra Model M / Model F / Unicomp keyboards to borrow keys from) and those whose keyboards are in the second of two container shipments of the early bird round (mostly the remaining keyboards with installed, unprinted keys as well as the compact case keyboards).

The last step is the dye sublimation which they are working on setting up and still needs more time to complete.

Total number of Brand New Model F keyboards shipped so far:  469.  As a note this does not indicate the future pacing of order fulfillment, which will ramp up significantly once the rest of the keyboards are ready to go out (including the sublimated keys).  Right now all but a few keyboards have been mailed, for those who requested shipment.

The factory continues to work on dye sublimation and additional QC work on the second container shipment of the early bird round. They succeeded with the actual sublimation this month (see nice sublimation quality example below) but need to work on optimizing the jig for proper alignment of all keys. Essentially they make a test jig and then make another one, and do this as many times as needed (it is not inexpensive!). Vertical alignment is consistent within tolerances for 7 of the 8 samples (except “S” – all legends need to be repositioned lower on the key tops of course), but horizontal alignment consistency in these samples (distance from left side of key cap) is not yet acceptable. I was hoping that they would be finished by now but they need more time.

For those not aware – the “separate shipping” option is still available for you to request – more details in point 3 of the June update below.  I continue to mail out keyboards, First Aid Kits, and anything else in stock to those who request it, with printed keys to ship later.  Most classic case keyboards can ship in the next month or so upon request, except some black and True Red cases.  Many keyboards are arriving in the second of two container shipments for the early bird round, expected later this year.  Black, Industrial SSK Blue, and Dark Gray unprinted key sets will arrive later this year as well.  Pearl/pebble unprinted key sets are in stock and can ship with your keyboard if you have ordered it (you can still place a new order for one of these key sets as well, so you have keys to use now as well as having printed keys that will arrive later).

Regarding new Model F orders, orders can ship in two parts if you’re interested, with the keyboard and non-printed accessories that are in stock to ship within about one month of ordering, and the rest to ship later when ready. Please feel free to email me to make sure the option is available for what you’re ordering, if you are interested in that option.

Recent reviews:  I have been updating the May update post with dozens of reviews and customer postings as they come in (check them out and let me know if I missed any!). Here’s a great review on the ultra compact F77 keyboard from Level1Techs on YouTube. Very thorough and professional! I like how they explained everything clearly, introduced the xwhatsit configuration software, and showed how the stabilizer inserts work.

I also wanted to share a recent, thorough blog review of a new Model F F77 Keyboard with great photos:

http://ryan.abel.space/blog/model-f-keyboard-review

Dye sublimation update – excellent progress:

The factory has done an outstanding job with the latest key samples. They seem to have perfected the various variables to get a good quality result.

On my Meiji stereo microscope it is almost impossible to tell the difference in sublimation quality (sharpness, color quality) from my top reference standard F122 from 1984. I was surprised that there was nearly zero off color bleed / dye migration in the new samples, while even my ’84 keys had a tiny amount of this only visible on the scope.

Right now you can tell the difference from the originals due to the poor legend alignment which is far from approved.

I have just approved the sublimation quality of these samples. The next steps are for the factory to work on the alignment which involves more work on the jigs.

Below are some (slightly out of focus) phone photos below. It compares the 3 new S D F key samples to original IBM XT keys (installed on the keyboard) and the S key borrowed from my reference F122.

The legends are a bit too thick and will require adjustment to match the originals.

Update on the Model F manual:

I have put up an initial manual to help with troubleshooting, maintenance, and configuration of Model F Keyboards, now available at www.ModelFKeyboards.com/manual

On the product manual page, please do check out the “Statement of Brand New Model F Keyboards Project Philosophy: Full user control of product maintenance and repairs”

A number of Deskthority and geekhack forum members are contributing text and artwork to create a definitive, far more thorough Model F manual, with excellent attention to detail so it resembles the original 1980s IBM manuals.  They are even using the original IBM manual font, which IBM freely released to the public recently.  This project is being led by forum member darkcruix.  This manual is an excellent resource so far, and will include content from my online manual.  Previews and discussion can be found on the forums as well as the dedicated forum topic:  https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=470489#p470489

Custom made extra hefty solenoids, solenoid drivers, USB-C Model F, USB-C beam spring (non-displaywriter), and USB-C beam spring (displaywriter) controllers are still available to order but I do not have much stock left.  Shipping of all these items will be later this year, with the next container shipment, except for the solenoid drivers which are in stock and can ship.  I have a very limited supply of production samples for the other items – if you require immediate shipping please email me for pricing (there will be an extra fee to help cover the significant cost overruns for the new Model F project).

A few of the production solenoids arrived and they are excellent!

For those not aware, a solenoid contains a metal cylinder that vibrates the keyboard and/or makes a noise every time you press a key (with exception for certain key programming like the Windows GUI key, etc.) and helps add even more clickiness to a keyboard.

These solenoids are also a great option as an upgrade to IBM’s original solenoids too (I’d always save the originals of course for the sake of completeness).

The solenoids are more than double the weight of the original IBM beam spring solenoid in one of my 3278 keyboards.  The solenoid drivers and solenoids are compatible with the xwhatsit Model F and xwhatsit beam spring controllers, so you can add a solenoid to your Brand New Model F Keyboard! Check out the keyboard project thread for photos and a discussion of this option!

The adjustable stroke of the new solenoids works well. At full stroke (5mm) the solenoid is at its heftiest. The solenoid was also well engineered and was able to keep up even at full stroke with my typing of 90 wpm without noticeable queueing of clicks (I prefer the 5mm maximum stroke setting. The factory default setting is 0.5mm which produces a more comparable stroke to the original solenoids). It was set to 25ms extend, 50ms retract in the xwhatsit controller settings.

As of last week, 90 solenoids and 106 solenoid drivers have been ordered. Both are still available to order!

Below is a video of the solenoids in action! They sound hefty even before they are attached to a metal case which should add further impact!

Why pick this solenoid over other solenoids or over IBM’s original solenoids?

The new solenoids are far beefier than IBM’s originals, so your solenoid clicking will be even better! It’s a custom design that you can only order here. The specifications are 6v, 40 ohm, 0.15A, 0.9W, adjustable throw factory set to 1mm but with a user-adjustable range of about 0.5mm to 5mm (there are 2 screws that can be loosened to adjust the distance of the strike bar). The factory throw setting allows you to start using this solenoid with no modification (still need to follow xwhatsit’s solenoid installation guide to avoid damage to equipment).

This solenoid has the dark blue outer covering, black and white twisted wires and 2.54mm connector like the original IBM solenoids, but with a strike bar so it won’t exactly resemble the IBM solenoid.

This solenoid is not the one that may still be available on other web sites, though it looks similar and the voltage and resistance specs are the same. Also that other model doesn’t have the adjustable throw – you would have to spend time milling the strike bar to modify it for correct usage with the solenoid drivers. If the ebay solenoid’s throw distance isn’t changed, your solenoid will be very sluggish and won’t be able to operate at full typing speed. Also my solenoid is even larger than the eBay solenoid, the 26mm height dimension on eBay is set to be ~29-30mm on my solenoid (the solenoid goes sideways in F62/F77 so it fits) though all the solenoid specs are subject to change. With a larger metal frame, my solenoid should be a little louder than the eBay model and far louder than the original IBM! This is the largest possible solenoid that will fit inside the classic style F62 and F77 cases.

QMK firmware update:

Since I switched the keyboard firmware over to QMK in the last month or so, that is what many recently mailed keyboards may be running, especially if your keyboard was mailed out in recent weeks. You can check Windows Devices and Printers I believe. The xwhatsit utility won’t launch in those cases. To switch back to xwhatsit I have posted instructions in the above manual. QMK works by flashing the firmware and layout all at once. The editing of the layouts is done on a web site instead of a standalone program.

So far QMK has received zero complaints and it has been functioning 100% perfectly according to all the feedback I have seen.  Please do look into it as xwhatsit may not be the better option for certain computer setups.

I have created some QMK Model F layout files from pandrew’s beta, based on the available layout options and have posted them on www.ModelFKeyboards.com/code

Those layout files won’t work on the regular QMK site just yet – only on the beta site requiring an invite.

Feel free to request access to the QMK beta by posting on the Deskthority.net project thread.

Powdercoating update:  Due to the extended lead times for powdercoating in China, the factory is starting preparations for colors for the final round (for both classic and compact cases). Please do post if you would like to order any previously unavailable colors and if there’s enough demand (not sure of the minimum order quantity just yet) then I will look into offering them. I like Dark Blue as a powdercoated zinc case option, and maybe doing another run of the True Red which came out nice.

Interest check: ultra durable modern style powdercoating for classic zinc and/or compact aluminum cases?

Just to show everyone how far powdercoating has come: here’s a video of me taking the end of a screwdriver and trying to damage these samples. Only the faintest of marks was left on these powdercoated metal samples.  Note:  this powdercoating is not available to purchase with your keyboard, but is just an idea for maybe the end of the final round.  I cannot switch prior or future orders to one or the other type of powdercoating.  I am just wondering if anyone would be interested in tough coatings for the final round. I am planning on switching at least the compact cases to the tough powdercoating instead of the anodizing. The appearance is great for both of them and the powdercoating is far more durable than anodizing. You’ll still be able to get the classic powdercoating no matter what, as a possible option for the classic style cases.

There was a note on space bar compatibility over on reddit that I wanted to post over here:

Unicomp offers two 5.5U space bars, one known as “pre-2013” and one known as 2013 onwards. Only one is compatible with the Model F keyboard (don’t remember which!). They are physically different designs.

https://www.pckeyboard.com/mm5/graphics/ProductNews7-25-13.pdf

The Unicomp 7U space bars I believe are the same as Model M space bars and are compatible with the new Model F Keyboards.

Every new Model F has a pad so you can split the longer space bar to use the shorter space bar if you have a spare barrel and flipper (I also sell the shorter space bars – just order one unit of “Extra keys”).

Model F space bar custom fine tuning:

I custom adjust each space bar for every keyboard by hand so I do not recommend removing it unless it has stopped functioning.

You have to lift up the space bar until the stem clears the barrel inside, and then only touch the metal stabilizer wire to push the wire away from the tabs and towards the space bar barrel so that this action slightly pushes up the metal tabs, while making sure no sudden movements result in the plastic space bar tabs snapping off.

When putting every thing back, you have to bend the metal tabs a little so that the space bar doesn’t get stuck and/or rattle too much. This is more of an art than science and you can significantly alter the sound for better or worse by adjusting the position of the metal tabs. That’s why I recommend not altering it at all.

There should be a slight gap in the classic style zinc cases – the original IBM tolerances were more generous than those of today’s manufacturing standards. You could take a rubber mallet or try to bend the zinc case by hand with everything removed from inside the case including USB cable and P clip, but this is likely to result in damage to the finish of the case and is not recommended. I’d leave it be or add a piece of foam or felt if needed.  You can easily break the space bar’s little plastic tabs by removing the space bar incorrectly.

Key splitting:  All 2U and larger keys can be split, including the space bar (shorter space bar + 1.25U or 1.5U key) like on the JIS layout on new Model F photo I posted before.  It’s built in to each PCB design on all keyboards.

Case tightening:  A Deskthority forum member had a great recommendation for the classic case models: “I seemed to improve the key feel and sound ever so slightly by tightening the screws of the case” – definitely check to make sure your zinc case screws are fully tightened as it will press the bottom and top inner assembly plates closer together, which should help the sharpness of the clicks.

Here’s a post on buzzers/beepers for Model F keyboards:

https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=463031#p463031

Screw sizes – thought I’d put all the sizes in one place:

Yes you can purchase extra screws from me – please email me for current pricing and to confirm availability. All classic case screws are Pan Head screws. You can also purchase them locally or online for a low cost, probably lower than my cost.

However I recommend ordering from me if you want the Torx T8 screws I’m using for the compact cases (I also sell Phillips head compact case screws). They are of excellent quality and are custom made just for this project from a brand new mold. (the factory is replacing the lower quality phillips head screws on all the ultra compact cases that have not yet shipped to me)

Always compress the compact case right next to the screw with firm pressure (the same firm pressure to the screw with the screwdriver), go slowly, and use the correct bit (Phillips #1 PH1 for compact case screws and PH2 for classic style case screws and controller ground screws). Use only manual hand screwdrivers. Do not overtighten or the screw will strip. The small screws are far more likely to strip if the screwdriver slips.

6/32 x 3/16 in – controller and P clip screws (total 3)

6/32 x 1/2 in – classic style zinc case 4 screws

M2.5 x 4mm – compact case 4 screws to attach bottom inner assembly to case

M2.5 x 20mm – compact case (F62 12 screws, F77 14 screws)

Photo album of new Model F keyboard variations that have gone out so far – same as prior album continually being updated, just linking to it again here:

The blue gray / silver gray cases came out great and look even better in person than in these photos. This is a great color and I had extras made beyond what was ordered, in case anyone wanted to upgrade or order a keyboard or case in this color.

Also the Regular Gray Ultra Compact cases look great. The finish is excellent.

Note on dust covers:  for dust covers I have used the Fight Computer Dust Antistatic Vinyl Keyboard Cover (Keyboard Cover: 20W x2H x9D-Large) for my buckling spring keyboards. It is a soft cover. I was looking through my old emails and it looks like this month is actually 7 years since I ordered it, and it has remained in good shape without discoloration or other damage. I added a thick copper wire around the bottom to give it some more structure for ease of removal and installation.

First New Model F trackpoint mod!

Submitted to me by a non-forum member. I believe there are multiple options for doing the trackpoint mod as described here: https://www.modelfkeyboards.com/questions/question/success-trackpoint-mod/

“I used the Unicomp M13 trackpoint but the others I mentioned will also work. I used the unicomp controller and have two USB cables running out the back. If the current controller has any extra inputs that handle PS2 or some unused GPIO pins then it could be integrated into the existing controller with the stand alone SK8702 trackpoint controller. I plan on going bluetooth in which case I can join the two controllers through a hub internally and not have to worry about two controllers and cables. I used the Unicomp GHB keys with the cutout to clear the trackpoint.”

Here’s a link to the photos from silentbob’s Brand New Model F trackpoint mod.

https://imgur.com/a/Sp7sfYO

Photos of key colors all in one photo (from left to right: Pebble, Pearl, Black, Industrial SSK Blue, 60% Dark Gray):

Model F Keyboard Manual NOW AVAILABLE!

As always with these project updates, a reminder that you can still order your Brand New Model F Keyboard as well as add on accessories like the First Aid Kit for future repairs long after production has shut down.

 

Check out www.ModelFKeyboards.com/manual for the draft version of the Model F Keyboard Manual.

 

The manual includes how to set up your keyboard, information about Model F Keyboards, and troubleshooting (including what to do if you get your keyboard and a key does not work initially).  The very first things to do when you get your keyboard (or even beforehand!) should be to check out the included booklet as well as review the manual.

 

I’d appreciate it if those reading through the manual can offer additional content and/or corrections if something is not clear. You can email me additional paragraphs and sentences! Please do not copy and paste content from anywhere else unless you receive permission and attribute the source.

It is aimed at helping owners of both the original keyboards as well as the reproductions.

It will help provide buckling spring owners (everyone from beginners to advanced users) with a central place to learn key re-seating, disassembly, spring replacement, changing the layout, etc.

 

The August project update will be forthcoming, but Brand New Model F Keyboards continue to ship and we passed 400 keyboards shipped about a month ago!  The factory is focusing on getting the second container shipment of keyboards ready to go later this year, as well as on setting up the dye sublimation to put the legends on the keys.

PSA: A note on package theft and porch pirates – how you can help

Millions of packages are stolen every year, from what I have recently read.

Unfortunately the contents of a delivered Brand New Model F Keyboard order appear to have been stolen recently.  I am working with the buyer and through proper channels to investigate the matter and cannot comment further on it at this time.

There are some misconceptions on this topic, but if a package is delivered and then the package and/or its contents go missing (possibly from “porch pirates”), the seller is not held responsible for paying for a new order, and shipping insurance does not cover packages after they are delivered (though some of the big companies can afford to take the loss and decide to replace the order, or mandate buyer-friendly resolutions as a matter of policy so some buyers mistakenly believe they have no liability for any package theft from any company they order from).  It is a similar situation to someone breaking into your car or house and taking your property – the place you bought the item from is not responsible. I know this does not seem fair but that is the current state of the matter.  Obviously please do first check with those who live around you as someone may have taken in the package to help you.

How you can help:

  1. Please email me immediately about any Brand New Model F listings that you see that are not mine, as they may be stolen property and I can first check the serial number and, if needed, alert the proper channels.  Each keyboard has a serial number I can track to a specific owner, and I know the serials that are reported missing vs. if someone is just selling what they ordered which is fine (a serial number not listed as missing is not a problem).  If the serial label has been defaced or removed, it may be a stolen item.
  2. I will recommend again that everyone orders signature confirmation if someone is not able to be there to accept the package, or arrange to have the package held for delivery by USPS or at a UPS store (I don’t think there’s a cost to hold mail).  For signature confirmation please order 7 units of the store item $1 increments and note “signature confirmation” if interested in that option (this amount is for shipments within the US; contact me for international rates).  This way you prevent the package from being taken after it is delivered.  Given the low rate of package thefts I do not force everyone to pay more; it is optional though theft does happen and you could lose a lot more than $7 if your package is taken after delivery.  When you receive a package, make sure it is approximately the weight you ordered before signing for it and consider refusing delivery if there is a discrepancy.  In my order confirmation emails I add notes on what shipped and what has not shipped, and you can see on the package tracking page the exact weight of the shipment.  A note that your entire order may not ship in one shipment so please be aware that you may correctly be receiving only a portion of what you ordered in one shipment.  The shipping companies usually don’t let you open a package to inspect it before signing, but if a package appears to weigh far less than what was on the label or it looks too small you do not have to sign for it.  A classic case keyboard box is 18 or 21 x 13 x 3 inches (depending on F62 vs. F77) and a compact case keyboard box is about 18 or 21 x 8 x 3 inches.

Check out this article with more details on package theft.

Model F June update: keyboards continue shipping, new xwhatsit beam spring and solenoid-related store items, early shipping option still available!

Main points:

  1. Orders continue shipping out (still time to order keyboards and add accessories to your order) and reviews and photos continue coming in!
  2. Beam spring controllers, custom made solenoids, and solenoid drivers are now available to order.  Custom made solenoids are compatible with all xwhatsit keyboards:  Model F and beam spring!
  3. The early shipping option is still available (can request your keyboard to ship within about one month; details below)
  4. Factory updates, details on my final stage QC work before each keyboard goes out:  Dye sublimation setup continues this month at the factory.  They are working as quickly as possible to start mass sublimation of key sets.
  5. Some additional updates:  xwhatsit 0.9.2 firmware update, photos, QMK firmware, more Model F technical tips
  6. Model F Project philosophy: full user control of product maintenance and repairs

 

Why is shipping slower than expected?  How will it speed up in the future?  When can my keyboard ship?  Read on to find out…

 

Detailed update:

  1.  Orders continue shipping out (still time to order keyboards and add accessories to your order) and reviews and photos continue coming in!

For those who have not been following recent updates, I will note that there is still time to customize and order your Brand New Model F Keyboard and/or any accessories like the First Aid Kit for future repairs, extra key sets, inner foam, extra flippers/springs, Model F key pullers, custom made 3 meter USB cables compatible with these keyboards, and other parts.  Also I will note that the keyboards have started shipping – it does not mean that your keyboard will be shipping right away! There is still a ways to go to get everyone’s keyboard out.

The 300th Brand New Model F Keyboard has shipped this week!  I have been updating the May update (two posts down from this one) with additional links as the reviews and photos continue to come in.  There are also many additional posts on the keyboard forum threads (linked to here) of photos of Model F keyboards in their new homes, as well as reviews.  I encourage everyone to create an account and contribute to the keyboard forum sites – I especially appreciate people posting photos, unboxings, and reviews of their Brand New Model F Keyboards!

A wonderful, thorough new Model F unboxing video containing several keyboard variations has been posted by Deskthority and geekhack user darkcruix this month.  It gives a great overview of what to expect with your new Model F keyboards.  Head over to the forums to check it out and discuss (or check out the YouTube link here).  There are a number of detailed reviews over on the forums in case people are interested in checking out what people are saying so far.

 

2.  Beam spring controllers, custom made solenoids, and solenoid drivers are now available to order at the below link.  

Since a few people have messaged me about doing another run of the xwhatsit solenoid drivers and xwhatsit beam spring controllers, these are now available to order (more details in the link below).  Custom made solenoids to follow soon (compatible with all xwhatsit keyboards:  Model F and beam spring!).  I’m also considering a run of displaywriter beam spring controllers but need everyone interested in ordering one to make a commitment so I can see if there’s enough quantity to proceed.

Is there any interest in the displaywriter beam spring controller? I’d need commitments for 5-10 controllers at $100 each to order these controllers.

These should start shipping next month, but will be low priority compared to getting out keyboards. Fortunately they are far easier to QC and ship than a keyboard. If the dye sub keys arrive then, these will ship out more slowly.  Check out the below page for more details.

 

 

3.  The early shipping option is still available (can request your keyboard to ship within about one month; details below)

Currently my time is focused on getting as many keyboards out as possible (Doing the final QC on each one of course before mailing) while also taking care of the hundreds of hours of still-needed work managing the project, dealing with the factories, emails/PM’s/forum posts, etc.  More details on my QC work are in section 4 below.

Please let me know if you wanted your keyboard to ship early without the printed keys (many of you have other Model M, Model F, and/or Unicomp keys that you could borrow from temporarily). As per my recent blog updates, I’ve been mailing out lots of orders early (while the factory takes care of the key sublimation) to help reduce the number of keyboards that have to be mailed out later on while I have some down time now. Your order may be eligible!  Please confirm with me first before ordering the separate shipping as many of your orders are in the second container ship of the early bird round, arriving later this year.  After confirming with me, if you’re in the US you would order 10 units of the store item $1 increments and note “separate shipping of printed items.” I will ship the space bar and stabilizer inserts with your keyboard. Please ask me for a quote for international separate shipping.  Otherwise everything can ship as soon as it’s all ready to go without extra cost, expected later this year.

 

4.  Factory updates, details on my final stage QC work before each keyboard goes out:  Dye sublimation setup continues this month at the factory.  They are working as quickly as possible to start mass sublimation of key sets.  

Dye sublimation setup continues this month at the factory.  They are working as quickly as possible to start mass sublimation of key sets.

My final stage QC work has been slowed down by having to open up many of keyboards to fix misplaced flippers and add a bit of solder to some leads on ribbon cable wires that were not soldered (I look for and fix 100% of these issues before sending out each keyboard of course). The QC from the factory definitely needs improvement to speed things along.

In order to minimize the time it takes to send out keyboards from the second container shipment (and future keyboard orders in the final round) I have asked the factory in recent weeks to load the 0.9.2 debounce 6 firmware and test that each row, column, and flipper are properly set up for all keyboards. I wrote up the testing procedure – if any rows or columns are not detected properly in xwhatsit they will touch up the solder and/or replace the controller. They will also be replacing the compact case screws with custom made T8 screws which should be a little easier to work with. The board repairs were the biggest bottleneck in getting out more keyboards each day.  Testing through the xwhatsit firmware will make the factory testing much faster than having to open up each keyboard to visually inspect all the solder points.

To save time and reduce the potential for issues delaying things, the factory has also started working on improved processes to make sure the timeline is far faster for the final round later this year.

As noted in last month’s review, there have been significant delays due to COVID. The second of two container shipments for the early bird round was delayed for a while but should be leaving China in about one month from now. The factory completed assembly and is now finishing up the QC.

The factory is working on dye sublimation setup this month and I am hoping for mass sublimation to start in the coming weeks. I know that the dye sublimation has taken longer than expected.

 

5.  Some additional updates:  photos, xwhatsit firmware update 0.9.2, QMK firmware, more Model F technical tips

Great photography of the new production Model F keys on an original IBM Industrial SSK:

Here are some excellent quality photos sent to me of the Brand New Model F keys installed on an IBM Industrial SSK, including a comparison of the original two piece keys to the new one piece keys.  Sharing online with permission of the photographer.

All unprinted keys below are the new production Model F keys currently available to order with a keyboard or separately here:  https://www.modelfkeyboards.com/product/extra-set-of-brand-new-production-xt-quality-one-piece-keys/

The keys look great on the original IBM keyboard!

Industrial SSKIndustrial SSKIndustrial SSK

 

Another Model F tech tip:  fine tuning the space bar

I do install the space bar for all those who ordered one as part of a key set, as I want it to sound right for everyone. I have configured so many that it’s quick for me to get it right. One can possibly damage the space bar as the little tabs can break off if the space bar is removed incorrectly.

The metallic twang / reverberation / ringing is definitely the sound I am going for (!) but there are ways of reducing it. The bigger the thud of the space bar, the better in my view! In addition to the mods you referenced (quotation snippet copied below), one can also carefully push down the metal space bar tabs for a reduction in rattling sound. Always push the side of the space bar whose tab you want to adjust towards the metal tab in order to get that wire nearly touching the back of the metal tab before you push down that tab, then repeat for the other side. (I do this as I install each space bar even for the “separate shipping of keys” keyboards going out). Pushed down even more and it may make the space bar require “heavier” force to actuate (push down too much and the space bar will get stuck frequently!), though this may result in some damage when trying to remove or adjust the space bar.

applying a single layer of electrical tapewhere the stabilizer met the clips, as suggested by dotcom, helped immensely. I haven’t tried clickclack’s spacebar heatshrink mod but might do that someday. As it is, the spacebar is now the best sounding key on the keyboard.”

 

QMK firmware update:  alternative option to the xwhatsit firmware, now successfully ported to Model F keyboards! 

Beta testers report auto calibration is working and stability is improved over the xwhatsit, but still waiting on a GUI.  Right now you have to reflash the entire firmware to make any changes to the layout from my understanding).

I think the auto calibration is the most important reason to switch to QMK. Once the GUI is released, should be even more of a reason to switch!

I did not know until recently that the calibration could be done that way for xwhatsit hardware and QMK firmware!

 

Issues with xwhatsit key ghosting / double presses (all issues 100% resolved on xwhatsit firmware and non-existent on QMK firmware to my knowledge):

Double presses and other issues could be related to the debounce filter, threshold, seating of the spring on the flipper nub, or some kind of damage to the spring (the tops of the springs can get caught on something and bend out of shape – spring damage can’t be 100% fixed in my experience without replacing the spring itself).

Andy what you describe is usually an issue with the threshold setting or the way that the keys were installed (did you follow the key installation procedure posted on the project web site blog? If the keyboard wasn’t held upright and each key tested for the proper click beforehand, that may be the cause).

Whenever adjusting the threshold, I strongly recommend blanking out the layout by installing a blank layout. You can go back to one of the premade layouts by importing them (the layout files are available at ModelFKeyboards.com/code )

 

An important note on USB hubs from one new Model F user:

“I spent a couple of hours going nuts until I finally figured it out.
I have a F77 that arrived a few days ago. I put some keys on it and gave it a spin. Awful, simply awful.
Key presses would register or not register. Random text would appear while typing. Unusable.

Turns out I was using a 4 port non-powered Anker USB hub. Works fine for my model M’s, and the rest of my keyboards BUT not the F77.

I then plugged the F77 into a powered USB hub and tada, all is good.

Hope this helps others.”

 

Latest xwhatsit firmware update 0.9.2:

I have posted the 0.9.2 xwhatsit firmware files for alternative debounce 6 and 11. These files include joc’s alternative debounce updates from the 0.9.1 update and pandrew’s recent work fixing the firmware layer bug. I have recompiled these firmware files to show a keyboard as having version 0.9.2 in the xwhatsit GUI program. Big thanks to forum member pandrew for fixing the firmware layer bug.

Also are some basic instructions that someone helped me put together on how to create a hex firmware file with all the patch files and how to run the capsense GUI on linux (with the usual disclaimers – instructions are for informational purposes only, should not be construed as technical advice or recommendations).

Yesterday I confirmed that the xwhatsit GUI utility still runs on the latest Windows, Mac, and Linux.

If you don’t have the bug described on the forums or are not familiar with updating firmware, this firmware update is optional and offers no other changes besides the bug fix (the bug:  if you pressed Fn+another key, but released the Fn key before releasing that other key, the other key’s base layer would emit a signal – for example if you pressed FN+top row 1 and then released Fn before releasing top row 1 key, you would have the number 1 emitted instead of just F1).  As always technical support for these keyboards is offered on the forums instead of through emailing me :).

 

Just a few photos of two shipments of multiple keyboards in the various stages of being mailed out overseas (these went out last month to some people including GH/DT forum members!).

It’s tricky to find the best box for the job!

 

6.  Model F Project philosophy: full user control of product maintenance and repairs

The Model F keyboard is a robust design. Every part is 100% user-replaceable / user-repairable, often needing just a couple tools:  screwdrivers, pliers, and at most a soldering iron.  Compared to other consumer electronics products, Model F repair is easy and even a complete beginner can get up to speed quickly on how to use the keyboard software and keep their keyboard going for decades to come.

To reiterate the project philosophy, this is a community type project where the goal is to have a product that you can use and learn to maintain yourself for decades from now, long after production has ended, with help from the community if need be.  The most basic recommended maintenance involves just taking off the keys with a wire key cap puller to clean them with mild soap and water every now and then.

I know I’m used to just bringing something back to the store if anything is wrong with it and for something complicated like a motherboard or graphics card that’s probably the best option, but the new Model F project philosophy is for the users to be able to fix small issues themselves due to the simplicity and full repairability of the Model F design (many buyers come from the world of the original IBM keyboards that are decades old and almost certainly require some maintenance work, so they expect it and are used to it). This keeps costs down so I am able to offer these keyboards at less than half of what IBM charged for them (adjusted for inflation).  Also there’s a great community of Model F keyboard fans, most prominently on sites like Deskthority and geekhack. You will never be out of reach of someone who can offer you advice and help in the coming years.

There are definitely markets for hardware with service contracts.  Not sure about a market for a +$100 more costly keyboard with full maintenance and technical support though.  IBM’s 1980s price guides mentioned they would require charging banking customers a minimum of about $100 per year (not adjusted for inflation) for each original Model F keyboard in maintenance costs as part of a service contract.  However, if I had to hire staff to deal with “free” returns, more personalized technical support / phone support, and doing even the most minor repairs (re-seating keys, replacing springs and barrels, changing the USB cable, etc.), each keyboard would cost a lot more because of overhead costs, and these keyboards are already not inexpensive to begin with. And it would slow me down even further mailing out these great keyboards.  I believe that this direct to consumer, community type project is the best way to bring the Model F to as many people as possible and at the lowest possible cost.

xwhatsit controller step-by-step troubleshooting guide with images (if you run into any issues)

“Help! Lots of key output when I plug in my new keyboard!” + Emergency way to do a clean firmware load

A few people asked me how to do an emergency clean firmware load.  For example if you store the threshold value too low and you have a layout already programmed, dozens of keys will send signals to your computer randomly and it could lock up your keyboard.

I have provided step-by-step instructions (see the below imgur album) with photos and screenshots on how to go through all the steps to get your xwhatsit-powered keyboard up and running again.

Sometimes your keyboard will do this the very first time you plug it in because of differences in your equipment or country.

This is very rare though – it has only happened in a few cases so far – but it does happen!

Brand New Model F Keyboards May Update (including roundup of all reviews)!

Summary: Model F orders continue shipping out, Passed ONE MILLION DOLLARS in orders, New Early Shipping Option without Keys, Reviews coming in, Sublimation Update, Second Container Ship, COVID-19 Slowdown, xwhatsit firmware update and new QMK firmware ported to xwhatsit Model F

**If you can help me by requesting early delivery of your order it would be much appreciated! Kindly see the last paragraph below for details before sending over your request.

Despite the current world events, I continue to mail out orders of Brand New Model F Keyboards, First Aid Kits, cases, and other parts. So far over 190 keyboards have gone out and reviews / photos of people’s new Model F keyboards have been coming in. Another 10-15 should be going out in the coming days, as of now (just finishing up the QC and getting the order contents together). Nearly every order that can go out, has gone out (not all unprinted keyboards have gone out as many are in the second container shipment – see below). We also reached a major milestone of over one million dollars in orders! Feel free to check the Deskthority and geekhack forum threads (linked to on the forums/press page of the project web site) to see all reviews, photos, and posts.

Some recent new Model F Keyboard posts, YouTube video sound tests/reviews, and written reviews from those who received their keyboards (list is being continually updated):

The ModelFKeyboards Twitter page, where I have retweeted various tweets of photos of those who received their keyboards

http://ryan.abel.space/blog/model-f-keyboard-review

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNYUK0dgMFM

https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=463234#p463234

Twitter video

Reddit review

Chyrosran22 trailer video for F77

Level1Techs video review

https://twitter.com/scottwasson/status/1270845545234542594

Reddit detailed review

Lazy Game Reviews (LGR)

Update after 1 year of usage:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEcAm6GQlps

https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=462869#p462869
https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=462270#p462270

https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=485912#p485912

https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=468735#p468735
https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=462403#p462403

https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=476861#p476861

https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=470587#p470587

https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=468585#p468585

reddit post 1

reddit post 2

https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=476686#p476686

reddit post

https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=79141.msg2972061#msg2972061

https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=468593#p468593

https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=473329#p473329

Floss mod YouTube sound test

Twitter post

Tweet with photos 1/2021

YouTube review March 2021

reddit post – 160 WPM achieved on new F62!

https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=79141.msg2978357#msg2978357

F77 typing test with solenoid

Twitter post with photo showing compact F77 next to PC AT keyboard

F77 typing test with vintage IBM 3178 solenoid

reddit thread

F62 typing test

Typing test of F62 vs. Model M vs. Cherry MX Blue

YouTube typing test – zinc case new Model F keyboard

YouTube typing test – a second test – zinc case

https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=478373#p478373

Reddit thread 1

Reddit thread 2

Reddit thread 3

Reddit thread 4

Reddit thread 5

Reddit thread 6

Reddit thread 7

https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=45475.msg2900508;topicseen#msg2900508

YouTube video review October 2020

YouTube Video – Brand New Model F typing test (about 4 minutes)

Hacker News / Y Combinator

Blog post review with lots of photos 1/2021

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_XSbMKLLrU
https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=79141.msg2895857#msg2895857
https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=462049#p462049
https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=461810#p461810

https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=467808#p467808

In-depth YouTube review from June 2020

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6iKD_nXEu8
https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=79141.msg2866476#msg2866476
https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=461064#p461064
https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=460030#p460030
https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=79141.msg2853670#msg2853670
https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=460387#p460387
https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=79141.msg2879731#msg2879731

https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=107631

https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=79141.msg2877161#msg2877161

https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=474545#p474545

https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=471038#p471038
https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=79141.msg2889380#msg2889380
https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=79141.msg2890752#msg2890752
https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=79141.msg2852521#msg2852521

YouTube Unboxing and key installation
https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=79141.msg2853254#msg2853254

https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=473252#p473252

https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=79141.msg2953010#msg2953010

Great series of videos showing different new Model F keyboard mods by DT user Twst (floss mod vs. no floss, buzzers, beepers, different solenoids, etc.):  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCh7FbPSydoafCYMgLrCfk1w/videos

A Deskthority user has added a solenoid to his Brand New Model F Classic Case Keyboard:  https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?f=62&t=23707&p=462600&hilit=f62#p462600

New xwhatsit firmware update fixes an issue related to releasing the function key before another key – see some posts up from this one for the download: https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?p=461824#p461824

QMK firmware has been ported to xwhatsit Model F!  Firmware is currently in the beta stage and current beta testers report everything 100% working so far, from what I have read. If interested, please post on the project thread and contact Deskthority user pandrew who has done the port.

The question on everyone’s mind: When is my keyboard shipping?

The answer is: it can now ship as soon as this month! with some caveats though – please see the “new option” below.

Second container ship: The factory has finally finished assembly and palletizing the keyboards. The second and final early bird round container shipment is set to ship in 1-2 weeks. Unfortunately there were significant delays due to the worldwide health crisis and factory shutdowns. Key factory personnel quarantined in Wuhan and elsewhere have since returned to work but a lot of assembly, QC testing, and packaging time was lost. Because of the unexpected extra QC time on my part, the factory reports that they finished installing test keys on every single keyboard in order to adjust bad springs (and then removing the test keys to test the next keyboard). With fewer spring adjustments needed, this should save me a few minutes per keyboard for the second batch of early bird keyboards.

Just about all orders that can possibly ship, have already shipped. Not all unprinted keyboards have shipped: the rest of the unprinted keyboards are in the second container shipment.

New option – I can likely ship your keyboard without keys within a couple weeks, or beginning in late June for keyboards arriving in the second container ship: Many people have been paying a small extra amount for separate shipping of printed keys when ready so I have been busy getting orders out in the mean time. Since the key sublimation requires more time, everyone is encouraged to request early shipping if they are fine installing the keys themselves (easy to do – I posted some YouTube videos on this and linked to them in some recent blog posts). The early bird/low serial priorities are still 100% in place for when the sublimation is ready.

If you ask me first, I can possibly ship your keyboard in 1-2 weeks with printed keys shipping separately, if you cover the extra charge (ask me for an international shipping quote; in the US feel free to order 10 units of the store item “$1 increments” and choose free/other shipping.)  Check with me first though to make sure your keyboard is not in the second container shipment.  Space bars and required stabilizer inserts for your keyboard(s) will be shipped out even if the rest of the key set you ordered is shipping later.

Sublimation update – mass sublimation expected to start in June.  Given the huge number of orders so far and the amount of time I’ve recently realized it takes to QC each keyboard order, plus the longer than expected time it would take me to do each key set’s dye sublimation personally as planned, I am working with some keycap dye submination firms to take my keys and transfer sheets and take care of the work 100% to the sublimation standards I’ve already achieved, thus saving me time and allowing the orders to go out much faster than planned. This will ensure that the dye sublimation quality is up to my standards, as well as save the months of continuous dye sublimation I’d be doing – leaving me time to focus on the final QC and on getting orders out more quickly. This will help everyone’s orders to go out earlier than if I were to take care of them as originally planned, while using 100% the same materials that have produced the approved XT quality sublimation results so far (see recent blog posts for photos).

***For this reason I am sending out keyboards upon request without keys, in order to keep things moving. I encourage everyone to take advantage of this option to help me fill up the downtime by getting out orders before the keycaps finish mass sublimation. Those of you with other buckling spring (Model M or Model F) keyboards can use those keys for the time being, or order keys from Unicomp or eBay to use for the time being (everyone can still wait for their full order to be delivered in one package too). Please message me first if interested and I will let you know how many units of the store item $1 increments you’ll need to order for separate shipping of printed keys (likely 10 to 20 units, more for countries outside North America and Europe).

Once the sublimated keys come in I will be ramping up order fulfillment in order to get as many keyboards out each week as possible.  I am hoping to have everything out by year end.  Thanks again to everyone for their patience as we bring back these great keyboards.

And finally, some more technical tips and notes (am compiling them for a Model F online manual to be released in the future):

Regarding re-seating springs: just a note for those who come across the review that in nearly all cases you do not need to take apart the keyboard to fix keys that do not click or spend a few minutes pressing a troublesome key – I have posted some videos on this thread as well as on the web site blog detailing a quick spring adjustment and key re-seating guide that requires less than one minute per key to do. Very important to reattach the key as shown in these videos, with the keyboard positioned as shown in the videos (vertically, with the space bar row up). The goal is to have the spring touch the 12 o’clock position of the barrel when the keyboard is positioned that way. If the spring end is not positioned at 12 o’clock (per the video) and the spring does not touch the barrel, buckling error is more likely to occur.

Regarding squeaky space bars:  that is nearly always the case of adjusting/slightly stretching or replacing the spring rather than due to the space bar stabilizer wire. This is something I test on all keyboards as part of QC but I hope to improve on this. On a similar note, especially with rattling space bar wires as well as to prevent the space bar from getting stuck on the end of the metal tab, I recommend pressing down on the metal tabs if you re-seat the space bar (after confirming no squeak and proper buckling when pressing the space bar). I do this as needed during QC. With the final production round, the metal tabs will be adjusted a bit to minimize the need to get them out of the way manually.

March Update: Dye sublimation, shipping timeline, technical tips, third party video reviews, QC notes

Dye sublimation update:

I have successfully completed the dye sublimation setup! Below is a photo of the first sublimated key with the new setup. These are among the best results in any tests so far.

Upon close evaluation with my Meiji EMT stereo microscope, the sublimation is close to that of my favorite F122 from 1984. But I do not think we are yet at the point to do the comparison “can you tell the difference between which is new and which is the original?” as with the keyboard case finishes a while back (I think some people can tell the difference below). Therefore, the below photo is not indicative of the production legends.  So far there is no consensus on the forums which one is which and a number of people are on each side (I am glad to hear that!).

As a recap, the decision to dye sublimate the keys myself was because of the lower quality and high unit cost of the sublimated samples I received as well as the industry professionals telling me they no longer have the equipment they used for key sublimation (in some cases) or are unwilling to sublimate non MX keys (in other cases). The goal was XT quality sublimation for one piece Model F keys. I failed to achieve consistent sublimation results over the past 10 months of testing and had been circling back and forth with a number of sublimation industry professionals, engineers, and one of the original Model F keyboard production supervisory engineers who has been a significant help to the project.

I’ve had to redesign and switch out much of the setup. I built some of it myself and had some of it built in the US while the CNC milled jigs were done in China. In the end I had to apply advice from different industries and online forums discussing a few industrial processes to get it to work. Even the smallest things caused trouble (one example: I thought one of the sensors was bad but it just didn’t like switching power supplies so I had to get a linear regulated PS). My initial control panel setup involved analog devices only but that wasn’t sufficient, so I had to design and build a digital control panel.

Hopefully I am not announcing success too soon (!); the next steps are additional sublimation tests to evaluate consistency of results, fine tuning the sublimation parameters, and then tests of a full key set and front printed keys. If all goes well I can order the sublimation transfer sheets and begin mass sublimation. Thanks again to everyone for being patient with this final part of the project.

 

Shipping status update and timeline:

So far 140 Brand New Model F Keyboards have shipped out of about 2,050 keyboards ordered so far – every complete order that can ship, has shipped (not all unprinted keys have shipped as many are in the second shipment of the early bird round, expected in a couple months, or they have printed items in the order).

If your order has not yet shipped, I will note again that I cannot yet estimate when each keyboard will ship because I don’t yet know the pace of sublimation and order testing/fulfillment.

 

Additional technical/troubleshooting tips:

A note for those updating their function layers and keyboard layouts: the Fn key should have Fn1 selected in the drop down menu on both the Base Layer and Layer 1 of the xwhatsit GUI. If it is not selected in Layer 1 as well, you may get unwanted key presses.

I have added visual representations of the layouts and function layer to each of the four product pages to help everyone choose.

In addition to the methods described in the “QC secrets” for fixing buzzing springs, I have found that sometimes just stretching the spring and then reinstalling the key reduces the buzz – the buzz may have to do with a length of spring slightly too short for a particular key, as well as a spring end that should be a bit closer to the flipper nub.

 

One of the first third party video reviews has been posted on YouTube:

For this reviewer, Joc’s updated firmware with the alternative debounce threshold 11 was optimal while debounce 6 had some issues with pressed keys. The F62 was connected to a 2016 Dell laptop for this test. I don’t know the reason for the need to use threshold 6 vs. 11 but my guess is that the capacitive sensing is more sensitive to minute differences in voltage output or USB power management and that affects a small, but significant, percentage of xwhatsit controller users based on the connected equipment. If anyone has more details on this please do share!

 

A note on quality control, especially for those not as familiar with hardware manufacturing:

There is a QC process with dozens of steps that I go through for each new Model F keyboard – it is one reason it takes more time than expected for each one to go out. The factory also goes through this QC process before me on each keyboard and I have asked them to improve on this for the final round.

Everyone’s keyboard ships only after I test each key and fix any and needed springs or other issues.

And again my apologies that orders only started shipping last year. I know it is a long time to wait for anything.

For those on the fence about ordering a new Model F, I am getting many emails and PM’s from those who are happy with their new Model F keyboards – if you like the original Model F you’ll like the new ones! For those who have received their new Model F please do post on the forums Deskthority, geekhack, and reddit, even if you are happy so far with your Model F!

Even IBM had to perform quality control on their Model F keyboards – a 1980s IBM newsletter article posted on one of the forums a year or so ago describes how employees would use a microphone and headphones to listen to the click of a key and fix the keys that don’t sound right. You are correct that the Model F requires a higher level of quality control than other mechanical switches and rubber dome keyboards, but it is well worth the effort on my part to get the QC right, for the ability to type on a new Model F as a daily driver keyboard.

I recommend listening to the video in one of my earlier blog posts comparing a new Model F after my QC to 3 original Model F keyboards. Having restored dozens of these keyboards over the years I can say that the new Model F performs and sounds on par with many original Model F’s.

IBM Model F Quality Control Secrets REVEALED! Adjusting keys + springs Brand New Model F Keyboards

I just finished the third Model F instructional video: how to fix buzzing springs and non-working keys on your Model F keyboard. Check out the other videos in my channel for additional instructional videos on the Brand New Model F keyboards. As a note, this is the QC process I go through for each new Model F keyboard – it is one reason it takes more time than expected for each one to go out. The factory also goes through this QC process before me on each keyboard and I have asked them to improve on this for the final round.

Also a high quality sound comparison of the New Model F Keyboard vs. two original IBM Model F PC XT Keyboards and a Model F 122-key keyboard.

Over 100 Brand New Model F Keyboards have shipped so far!  Once I can start mass sublimation I am hoping to pick up the pace significantly.  As I asked in my prior blog post I am open to having volunteers help get these keyboards out on a Saturday – so far I’ve gotten some interest but the more the better!  Please let me know if you’d like to help in a couple months from now.

As an update I am working on what should be the final fixes to the dye sublimation setup.  Progress has been disappointingly slow on this but I think this is the final aspect of the setup that I was missing (recent results were inconsistent).

 

“When is my keyboard shipping?” Plus setup/adjustment instructions and videos

I am getting many emails from eager Model F fans who have been patient with all the past factory delays – unfortunately I cannot estimate when everyone’s keyboard will ship!

As soon as it does ship, you will get a tracking confirmation email – check your junk folder daily as there have been some email deliverability issues in recent months.

Still need a couple months before printed keyboards start shipping as I am still working on the dye sublimation.  Unprinted keyboards started shipping last year.  Unfortunately I cannot split orders, change orders to unprinted keys, or ship some orders separately so you get part of your order earlier.  I have only ordered a certain number of each variation.

There is still time to order a Brand New Model F Keyboard in the early bird round, as well as First Aid Kits, extra key sets, and other parts.

Below is a gallery of all the unique variations of shipped keyboards (some have more than one photo and the photos are out of order, my apologies).  So far 76 of about 2,000 keyboards have shipped.  Given a number of factors explained on the project threads on the forums (see my posts there for more details), one cannot extrapolate based on the current pace of shipping – not to worry!

If you live near New York, I am hoping that maybe 10 or so people could help me as soon as the keys are sublimated – the pace can get a lot faster if many people can help on one or more Saturdays.  Even though the factory has done 95% of the work, each keyboard’s QC process still takes me about 20-30 minutes to ship an order.

 

I would like to remind everyone to read the included manual which contains important information about setting up your keyboard.  Before plugging in your keyboard, you should definitely test each key for functionality and you may need to re-seat keys, the space bar, or springs for full functionality.  Many of you are new to Model F keyboards and were not aware that you need to spend a little time to set it up.  If you are a perfectionist and want to fine tune the sound of each key, you may need to do additional adjustments with the springs, which I will make tutorial videos for later on.

 

The first two Model F instructional videos have been posted:

 

 

Below are some of my notes on Model F keyboard testing, which will be rewritten and reorganized for the manual later on:

Importance of testing the Model F after you get it but before you start using it on your main computer: Even though there is strong protective packaging, Model F springs are often dislodged during shipping which can result in a bad click sound or no click at all, and keys (and sometimes springs) may need to be reseated. I have found that carefully removing and flipping the spring upside down can fix most spring issues, and replacing the spring with another spring is a last resort. Keys don’t actuate/keys are not recognized in xwhatsit program when pressed, tizzing spring-removing and replacing-using tweezers, toothpick. Includes space bar removal and re-seating. Test with 1U key to make sure spring is good. Metal tab pressing down, scotch tape or heat shrink tubing application to reduce rattle if preferred. Please carefully remove and reseat the space bar. This key’s tabs are easily broken so please be careful. I need to make a video on doing all this when I have more time. Before reseating the space bar, install a 1U key in the space bar barrel with flipper/spring and see if it actuates and registers in xwhatsit. When installing the space bar back, follow the most recent YouTube video I posted for proper orientation of the keyboard.

Proper key installation (holding keyboard vertical etc.) – see above video.

Case removal-do not use the wrong tools – use the proper PH1 head. If driver is not a tight fit, do not use the driver and purchase the correct driver-otherwise the screw will strip.

Xwhatsit firmware installation, testing each key registers, then programming-go through most of the QC steps on video. The extra typed characters is a result of the debounce filter as well as the voltage threshold. Agreed that the keyboard needs to reach room temperature and should be unplugged and plugged back in after warming up. First I would flash the alternative debounce filter threshold 6 (uploaded in the below link). In some of the keyboards I flashed threshold 11 which turned out to be not enough to prevent the extra characters. Then I would set the voltage threshold to 126 for any F62 and 122 for any F77. Click store to EEPROM (auto-voltage does not work for some reason). Then set column skips 9 to 15 for F62 and 11 to 15 for the F77. Click store to EEPROM. Link to layout files and updated firmware: https://www.modelfkeyboards.com/code/ To install the firmware using Windows (I don’t know about the other OS installation procedures), after assembly you would install atmel flip, plug in the USB on the controller and plug it into the computer, then go to device manager, right click the “Atmel” device, click have disk, go to the Atmel Flip installation folder, allow searching subfolders, and install the driver, then load atmel Flip 3.4.7, click the chip icon “select a target device” and pick atmega32U2, click OK, then click the USB icon, click USB, click Open, then click File, Load HEX file and select Joc’s firmware hex file (alternative debounce threshold 6), then click run. After it says verified/pass then unplug the cable, wait 10 seconds, plug it back in, wait another 10 seconds, then open xwhatsit’s newest version of the GUI (0.9.0?) and if it opens then you were successful! If you have never installed atmel firmware before on your current computer installation, you need to open the xwhatsit software utility, click tools – enter GUI bootloader, click Yes, and then do the above Control Panel – Devices and Printers for the Unknown device. unplug and plug in again if not detected first time after flashing. if can’t install, can also try shorting PROG on the xwhatsit controller and keeping it shorted, then connecting it to USB, wait 1-2 seconds MAXIMUM, then release prog. will cause error device descriptor failed if you hold it too long. The ghosting issue was taken care of with the improved debounce filter implemented in DT user Joc’s firmware about 3-4 years ago. I have seen no new Model F ghosting with a properly configured xwhatsit with the new firmware. Setting the voltage threshold a few numbers too high results in ghosting or some keys not recognized when pressed. I recommend voltage threshold 122 for all F77’s and between 122 and 126 for all F62’s. Always click store to EEPROM after adjusting; the auto voltage doesn’t work too well for me. For the F62’s, start with 126 and if a key in the rightmost or leftmost column of physical keys flickers in the xwhatsit GUI (as opposed to being solid) when a leftmost or rightmost key is pressed down fully, lower the threshold from 126 to 124. If there are still issues, lower to 122. The column skips (columns 9-15 skipped) must be stored to the EEPROM before adjusting the voltage threshold.
Show how to fix keys and the space bar to avoid buzzing/squeaking. As a note when you are ready to review these hopefully in a few months, I’d recommend emphasizing that some users may require changing settings on the xwhatsit controller or there will be problems like keys not registering or key “spamming” – plus I’d note that problems like non-clicking keys and a sometimes bad buzzing key sound upon actuation are easily fixable by the user, just like on the originals (I’ll be making videos at some point to show how to fix the various issues with Model F keyboards in general). Nearly all of the dozens of the original F’s I’ve restored over the past 5 years (XT, AT, F104 Unsaver, F107, F122) have had some key issues like buzzing or requiring to re-seat the keys but those who are new to the world of Model F may not realize that. Maybe I’m more sensitive to the correct Model F sound but I’ve had to replace or reseat a few springs on each keyboard so far but others may be even more sensitive and may require some adjustment by the end user (I’ve asked others to listen in a silent room and they could not reliably tell the difference between good and not as good).

I believe that the nice space bar thud sound (and minimizing rattle) is highly contingent on the proper placement of the metal tabs – bending the stabilizer wire slightly away from the metal tab ends results in a more rattly space bar with a lighter actuation force that some people prefer (more like many original F122’s), while pushing too much towards the metal tab ends can slightly increase actuation force for the space bar. Optimally the back of the metal tab should touch the space bar stabilizer wire. For now one can bend the space bar wire to get a better sound. The factory will be stamping the holes for the metal tabs with a CNC type machine for improved accuracy with the final round towards the end of this year. the space bar would sometimes stick. It seems like the left barrel (the empty one) on the space bar was binding a bit. I solved it by cutting a thin foam disk (about 2mm thick) and sticking that into the outer barrel on the bottom of the space bar. This limited the travel just enough to avoid binding.Once that was done, the keyboard was perfect.  A “squeaking” or stuck space bar is often due to a bad spring combined with the need to slightly adjust the bend of the space bar stabilizer wire – you can replace the spring without opening up the keyboard by using tweezers – will post a video later.
For those who did not order installed keys:  To avoid the keyboard sending all the keys to the computer it is shipped so that you have to adjust the voltage threshold setting before it will work. This is done for all keyboards with no installed keys to prevent potential unwanted key presses on a computer.

Model F instructional video 1: Key installation tutorial

Now that the keyboards are shipping I hope to publish instructional/troubleshooting videos and a written manual over the coming months.

First in a series of Model F instructional videos: one way to assemble the Model F Keyboard (as a note the factory installed most of the unprinted key sets to save me time). Important to hold the keyboard vertical or near-vertical while installing the keys and test each key. Don’t let the keyboard rest horizontally until the key has been pressed in. This video does not show the additional quality control / keyboard adjustment steps to eliminate buzzing/bad springs, configure the software, etc. – these videos will be made in the coming months.

NOW SHIPPING! Brand New Model F Keyboards

NOW SHIPPING!

The very first Brand New Model F Keyboard is shipping!  A Classic Case F62 in Black with HHKB Style Split Right Shift and Split Backspace, serial number 5, going to a forum member who picked the single digit serial option and was also an early bird tooling volunteer.

(For those who have not been following recent updates, I will note that there is still time to order your Brand New Model F Keyboard and/or any accessories like the First Aid Kit for future repairs, extra key sets, Model F key pullers, and other parts.  Also I will note that the keyboards have started shipping – it does not mean that your keyboard will be shipping right away!  There is still a ways to go to get everyone’s keyboard out.)

Lots of photos are below (updated 12/15/19 with the second, third, and fourth keyboards to ship!).  Here are some descriptions of the photos:

Production boxes – shown without tape, with fiber reinforced gummed paper tape applied to both box flaps, and with the final IBM-style box sticker denoting the serial number, production date, plant number, and containing a working Code 39 barcode (same tech IBM used) encoded with the text displayed below the barcode.

The actual first keyboard – described above. Extra keys to make up the full 103 key set are included in the two plastic bags.

The alignment of the keyboard label, using a carpenter’s square. The label is positioned the same way IBM positioned it for the 4704 keyboards – if you lift the spacebar-side edge up while the keyboard is on your desk, the label will be right side up.

The foam keyboard packaging, sealed with fiber reinforced tape as IBM did back in the day. Note that the Brand New Model F Keyboards tape has not yet yellowed as IBM’s keyboards have done (after a few decades!)

The keyboard booklet (“Keyboard Operator’s Guide” per IBM nomenclature), printed on color paper like many 1980s pamphlets and containing safety information and other important information.

The order packing slip printed on vintage continuous form, tractor feed, green bar computer paper with a dot matrix printer. Names and addresses have been blocked out for privacy reasons, and the second page was removed for ease of viewing the photo.

Please note the black electrical tape around the space bar stabilizer wire, in the area where it contacts the metal tabs. This has significantly improved the space bar sound in my testing and has reduced the metal-on-metal rattling present on some new Model F’s. So far I have been adding this tape to each keyboard that would benefit from it. Also I push down the tops of the space bar tabs a bit to help reduce space bar movement and improve stability of the key. Be careful when removing the space bar (be sure to push the metal stabilizer wire out of each tab one tab at a time to push up the tab a little so that you do not force out the space bar).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12/15/19 update:  second, third, and fourth Brand New Model F Keyboards shipping!

 

 

Brand New Model F Keyboards FINALLY DELIVERED! Photos and update

1,349 keyboards were delivered to me today! Gross shipment weight over 12,000 pounds.

Finally after several years Brand New Model F Keyboards are in stock!

While I wait for the remaining dye sub parts to arrive I have time to start testing and mailing out all orders where stock is available (e.g. orders of keyboards with no keys or unprinted keys). The early bird tooling volunteers and low serial numbers with available stock will be going out first.

Also below is the first page of the small 5.5 x 8.5 in. booklet that will be included with each order (in addition to the dot matrix packing slip). Please let me know if there are any errors or suggestions.

Lots of Model F Keyboards

Lots of Model F Keyboards

Lots of Model F Keyboards

Lots of Model F Keyboards

Lots of Model F Keyboards

Can anyone guess the significance of the booklet product number in the bottom right corner of the front page?

Operator's Guide

 

November update: Container ship delivery this week, dye sublimation setup

Delivery of the Brand New Model F keyboard container from the port to me is being scheduled this week!

As noted earlier: Still time to place your order for any keyboard or to add on to your order with extra parts for future repairs and configurations (First Aid Kit, extra flippers/springs, inner foam, cases, etc.). To allow for the latecomers I have ordered extras of all four types of keyboards (compact and classic variations of both F62 and F77).

I have ordered all the final shipping supplies. Poly mailers will be wrapped around the boxes for weather protection during shipping as well as to keep the original product boxes free of shipping labels.

My goal is to get as many keyboards out as quickly as possible, as long as each one has been thoroughly tested and passes my QC.

All the replacement technology and other parts for the dye sublimation setup will be arriving this week as well. Once I set it up and get it outputting consistent sublimation results, it should take a couple weeks to print the sublimation transfer papers and then I can start mass sublimation.

Again my apologies to all who have been waiting all this time – we are near the finish line but are still a few months away from everyone’s order being delivered.

Tracking the container ship across the sea – two weeks away!

We are about two weeks away from the container ship arriving in NY!

I have online tracking and have been following the ship’s movements and estimated date of arrival (sorry I decided against sharing the container number and tracking web site publicly).  I am glad that the web site makes it as easy to track as a regular package but with additional GPS type detail – you can see where in the world the ship is at any time.

As noted earlier: Still time to place your order for any keyboard or to add on to your order with extra parts for future repairs and configurations (First Aid Kit, extra flippers/springs, inner foam, cases, etc.).  To allow for the latecomers I have ordered extras of all four types of keyboards (compact and classic variations of both F62 and F77).

Washington, D.C. Meetup Sat. 11-2-19: Over 150 registered so far!

I will bring some Brand New Model F Keyboards and hope to see you there!  The container ship full of 1000+ keyboards will be finally arriving a week after the meetup!

 

Looks like over 150 people have already signed up and this event has been “sold out” in the past (reached full capacity with a wait list) so I recommend signing up if you plan on attending!

 

Pallets are packed and ready to go!

They should arrive in early November.

As noted in prior updates: Still time to place your order for any keyboard or to add on to your order with extra parts for future repairs and configurations (First Aid Kit, extra flippers/springs, inner foam, cases, etc.).

Still time to add the low serial option (skip ~1,500 people in line and get your keyboard much earlier) and order a signature requirement option (email me for details on signature requirement or to change your shipping address).

 

The shipping container is packed to the edge! Below are photos showing the progress of loading the first two pallets and then the final pallets.

First early bird shipment set for Saturday 9/28/19!

Daniel Hillard:  “After you box them?”

https://youtu.be/DeO23relnpU?t=39

 

As an update the factory has completed assembly of most of the keyboards but is still working on finishing up mass assembly.

To avoid having everyone wait any longer, they will be shipping me by container ship most of the early bird keyboards but not all of them. The remaining early bird keyboards will ship a month or so later. They expect to give me more than enough keyboards (both compact and classic style) to keep me busy with shipments out to everyone in the mean time.

This means the expectation is that the keyboards arrive to me in early November!

I want to thank everyone again for their patience with the factories as they worked to produce parts worthy enough for a Brand New Model F Keyboard.  This project would not have been completed the right way had we focused on deadlines over quality standards and I am happy to see all of the continued support for this quality focus on the forums and from emails.

As noted earlier this month:  Still time to place your order for any keyboard or to add on to your order with extra parts for future repairs and configurations (First Aid Kit, extra flippers/springs, inner foam, cases, etc.).

Initially I expected the factory to determine they could finish X number of keyboards per day and complete everything by the formula:  total quantity/X days.  But I have learned that the factories train the assembly workers to assemble one configuration of product at a time and some configs are more tricky than others for the workers doing the assembly.  They started with the classic style keyboards and expected to be finished by this point but there were some unexpected assembly challenges with the ultra compact cases so assembly slowed significantly.  The assemblers also made some mistakes with the classic style cases (e.g. forgot to put the 2-3 nub keys where needed) and this resulted in additional time needed.  It may be quick to fix one keyboard mistake but slower to fix one mistake on hundreds of units when everything has already been boxed!

Note on the low serial option:  the orders with the low serial selection/upgrade will get prioritized.  You can still upgrade your current order after the fact with the low serial upgrade store item, so that your keyboard is one of the first 200 or so to ship.

Note on signature requirements and shipping address updates:  Please feel free to email me for address updates and requesting a signature requirement (signature requirement costs about $5 extra).

More information on the packaging:

I will probably wrap the boxes in a plastic type gray wrap. No double boxing unless extra large stuff is ordered.

Some more photos of the boxes: below are some detailed photos of the double walled box edges. The fold is designed to resemble that of the Model M 1391401 box but with double walled box construction so the product box would double as a shipping box (wrapped with gray wrap to avoid stickers on the box).

I have ordered fiber reinforced tape for the classic style keyboard foam packaging (similar to what IBM used) and I have a gummed paper tape machine for sealing all the boxes (will be using 72mm wide reinforced paper tape)

Readying Brand New Model F Keyboards to sail across the sea!

Brand New Model F Keyboards are being palletized for their journey across the ocean this month!

Still time to place your order for any keyboard or to add on to your order with extra parts for future repairs and configurations (First Aid Kit, extra flippers/springs, inner foam, cases, etc.).

 

 

 

12 Misconceptions about the Model F Keyboard – what initially scares many people away

As mass assembly finishes this week and next week and the factory prepares to palletize the keyboards for the container ship (there is still time to order!), I wanted to write an article to help explain some of the initial hesitations people have had about the Model F before they did some more reading and research and were convinced to become a part of the project. I think that the biggest barrier to increased adoption of the Model F is lack of awareness in the market.

1. Am I sure that this is the best keyboard?

In a word: Yes. The Model F keyboard is widely considered the best computer keyboard for typing. Many consider it to be their end game keyboard after having tried those alternative MX type, primarily plastic keyboards. IBM’s approach to developing the Model F focused on years of R&D to maximize typing performance, efficiency, usability, and comfort, and it went on to be used by millions of people in the 1980s. The Model F was built up to IBM’s engineering standards, not down to a price point. And thanks to modern advances in manufacturing, the Model F reproductions maintain IBM’s exacting standards and materials while costing about 50% less and having modern technology upgrades: an open source GUI controller, configuration software and firmware allowing for native USB and full NKRO.

2. Am I sure this will work with my computers/devices?

Yes, fully functional with Mac, PC, Linux, and even Android. You do not need to install anything. Uses the standard, built in USB keyboard driver.

3. Do Model F Keyboards hold their value?

Yes, and demand for these keyboards has increased in recent years. With prices for used models now closer and closer to the brand new price, for many it is no longer worth the hassle of seeking out and restoring 35 year old circuit boards and metal parts of the original Model F keyboards. Uncertain remaining life expectancy of the originals.

4. The cost is too high:

The original Model F F77 keyboard sold for $925 adjusted for inflation, according to the January 1984 IBM Hardware Price List ($375 in 1984 dollars). New ones are less than half the original cost. Metal construction, extremely tight tolerances (a number of factories today could not meet IBM’s 1980s tolerances and we had to start over on a number of components-keys, springs), high price of zinc. Should last for decades. Replacement electronics (xwhatsit controller) PCB design, firmware and GUI software are all open source so can keep using your Model F even if the electronics fail. Alternative controller design (CommonSense controller by DMA) also proven working (in case chip of the xwhatsit controller is no longer available). The Model F Keyboard is fully and easily disassembled and repairable unlike the Model M and other keyboards.

5. Does it sound exactly like my specific example of Model F:

Variation of Model F sound (I have restored dozens of IBM Model F Keyboards and each one sounds noticeably different from the others), aging/oxidation of metal alloy springs.

6. Too loud:

IBM spent millions of dollars in R&D to design the best keyboard ever.  Key tactile and sound feedback were carefully engineered to improve typing speed and accuracy.  Extended key travel and precise buckling feel and sound upon the moment of actuation are unique to buckling spring keyboards.  However compared to today’s $25 keyboards these are likely less tolerated in today’s open office environments.  There are ways of making it quieter though:  pushing springs all the way down the base of the flipper nub, using a different type of metal alloy for the springs (after researching more than 50 different spring formulations over 2 years, I have a list of quieter spring materials and expect to offer these in limited batches as replacement parts in the future)

7. Too large/heavy, too much bezel, ugly classic case design:

Ultra compact offering was added-smallest possible footprint given the design of the capacitive PCB with traces on the edges. Allows for closer mouse placement for those who prefer it. The original design is a reproduction of IBM’s original design but with a higher quality alloy than IBM used (new ones use Zinc 3 alloy and are a pound heavier than the originals).  IBM designed industrial-quality business machines designed to last for decades.  The IBM 4700 banking system is so well-built that a number of these systems (with their Model F keyboards) are still in use today at community banks with just a handful of branches.

8. The layout is odd, no function keys/some specific key is missing:

The Model F layout is close to the standard 60% or 75% keyboards. These keyboards do have function keys, integrated into first row. Press Fn+1 for F1, etc.  The project’s goal is to reproduce the extremely hard to find 60% and 75% style Model F keyboards.  All of the keys of the large Model F keyboards are available through function layers that are fully customizable with the open source GUI software.  I know that most people buying the brand new Model F keyboards are used to full size keyboards.  It took me a little time to get used to the more efficient layout but being able to own a Brand New Model F keyboard makes it well worth the effort!  Also adding extra keys would make the keyboard similar to the Model M’s on eBay that sell for well below what new production keyboards can possibly sell for.

9. I can just get an original and restore it:

Yes you can do this. Many guides online will walk you through it. I have cleaned and restored many Model F and Model M keyboards over the years and my familiarity with their workings helped lead me to the reproduction project. However used Model F prices have skyrocketed in recent years and do not offer as compelling a discount to the Brand New Model F Keyboards. Those circuit boards on the original Model F keyboards are 35+ years old and they won’t last forever.  The new Model F reproductions are designed to last for decades more. The brand new Model F keyboards are also native USB with NKRO and are fully customizable with function layers, macros, and the option to customize each key and layout.  You can’t do any of that on an original Model F keyboard.  I do hope you consider ordering a Brand New Model F Keyboard before production ends – it is well worth getting used to the more compact layout to be able to use a brand new Model F!  Any questions feel free to contact me directly over email or on the forums.

Example of an original – dirty – Model F typically found on eBay.  You can’t see the gunk in the listing photos as it is hidden under the keys.

10. Case paint chips, key tops wear down over time:

Yes, this is true just like it is with the originals. The PBT used in buckling spring keycaps resists wear significantly better than ABS keycaps. Extra key sets can be ordered if you prefer no wear in a decade or so from now.  Paint also chips during shipping so there may be minor but noticeable imperfections with the paint finish even on a Brand New Model F Keyboard.

11. No drainage channels:

Yes:  a sticky/sugary beverage will wreak havoc. May need Goo Gone and rubbing alcohol to refurbish. A Model F First Aid Kit is available with spare parts for future keyboard repairs (flippers, springs, inside foam, barrels, keyboard bumpers) especially if a part is too sticky to save.

12. This is a limited production run project with no plans for continuous production – future spare parts availability?

Valid point. To counter this I have ordered tens of thousands of spare parts and encourage people to buy extra parts and First Aid Kits of extra parts for future repairs long after production has shut down. New barrels, flippers, springs, and key sets are fully compatible with the IBM originals so extra parts can also be used to fix the originals.

In one minute how would you summarize the benefits/highlights of the Model F reproduction project:

An exact reproduction of the Model F, updated for the modern age
Over $800,000 raised so far. Still some time to get one
The Model F is the best keyboard ever
Best for long-term typing
Excellent build quality and long track record of continued full functionality of the originals
Fully open source electronics and fully customizable through a GUI
Sufficient key travel unlike the latest MacBook pro (!)
Full NKRO
Native USB
Removable and replaceable USB cable

Check out this great overview of Model F Keyboards by Chyrosran22 (below):

August Update: Final mass assembly finishing this month!

The factory is on track to finish all early bird assembly by the end of August.  For those not following the posts and updates as closely, everything ships to me for final QC testing and dye sublimation (sublimation happening while I test and prepare an order for shipment – will not wait for all sublimation to finish). It will take a number of months to ship out everything.  Assuming these ship to me in early September, orders should start going out in mid to late October (4-5 weeks total, including time on the container ship and processing and transportation from the port).  The “low serial number” orders go out first, followed by the earliest orders.  There is still time to upgrade your keyboard to low serial number by ordering this store item.

They had expected to finish in June but ran into some trouble:

  1. A number of die cast zinc cases were lost in a factory move and their replacements only recently finished production.  They had to be remade and powdercoated from scratch.  The factory absorbed most (but far from all) of the cost of this problem.  The Model F accessories and key sets available separately are priced a bit higher to help cover the significant cost overruns including those stemming from this issue, so please do consider ordering extra key sets, foam, and other accessories!
  2. Bottom inner assembly issue:  The factory had to remake many of the bottom inner assemblies as they were out of spec (they could not bend them back to shape accurately). The stamping tool broke and took a while to fix. Production finished on these but plating (the golden color finish) has taken longer than expected from the subcontractor. After plating finished, then final assembly was able to resume (can’t assemble and easily store hundreds of inner assemblies without the bottom inner assembly).  Unfortunately for the relatively low quantities of this project we do not get priority timing at the factories – the finishing factories are especially busy.

While the number of completed keyboards did not increase much in July, the factory finished as much as they could without having the remaining bottom inner assemblies, including the key sheet installation (for dye sublimation) and other small item assembly (flipper+spring assembly).

The final parts of the project were completed and arrived at the assembly factory – the product boxes:

In one minute, how can you help the Brand New Model F Keyboards project?

As mass assembly finishes in the coming weeks and the project wraps up in the coming months, I could definitely use some help from anyone reading the blog.  Even if you have just one minute!

What I need help most with is getting the word out to the various people who may be interested – even if you have not yet joined the project.  My goal is to be able to afford to make as many new Model F keyboards as possible.

Most people don’t know about buckling spring keyboards and many of those who do only discovered the project by chance / by a Google search!

I am sure that many of you know one or more people who might want to learn about the project but are not active in the keyboard forums and may not know about buckling spring.  It would be a great help if everyone reading this could let 1-3 or more people, or other online communities/social media know about the project.  Chyrosran22’s excellent YouTube review of the Model F would be a great link to send someone or post:  https://youtu.be/y9Jds326gks

After hearing from many of you about what drew you to the Model F project, I believe that you might have the best results letting these people know about the project:

  1. The programmer/writer/blogger.  Someone who uses their keyboard a lot for typing and wants a keyboard that could last a lifetime.
  2. The computer/tech/mechanical keyboard enthusiast who wants the best featured keyboard, or someone in the market for a new dependable keyboard who wants the best one.  Many users who have tried the other clicky switches end up with the Model F as their end game keyboard.
  3. The Model F/M user looking to upgrade/looking for a brand new production buckling spring keyboard/those who remember the using an IBM keyboard at school/home/work.

Brand New Model F Keyboards June Update: Mass assembly expected to finish this month!

The factory continues assembly this week and they have sent some more photos of in-progress and completed assemblies awaiting packaging (the pictured bubble wrap is temporary).

The plan is to finish all assembly and packaging by month end.

There is still time to order a Brand New Model F Keyboard and be included in the early bird round!  Also you can still order additional keyboards and add-ons and they will likely ship with your original order (yes your spot in line for everything is your earliest keyboard order if you order another keyboard/accessories!).

I sent them 137 unique keyboard variations to assemble, based on what everyone has ordered plus the extra keyboards I ordered for the latecomers (still have some left for the early bird round but running very low on early bird Industrial Gray F77 cases – it would be much appreciated if anyone could message me to switch to Black or Off-White/Beige!).

Also as a note, all offered key layouts have a front printed F1 etc. option with legends specific to their layout.

Nice seeing everyone at Keycon last Saturday in New York City! There was a great turnout and over 430 people signed up!

 

Brand New Model F Keyboards May Update 2: More Photos of Mass Keyboard Assembly

Here are some more photos of mass assembly at the factory. As noted in the prior update, mass assembly was slowed due to the bottom inner assembly parts needing to be re-curved, and then the stamping tool to re-curve these parts broke (has since been repaired). As requested they are storing the assembled flippers/springs in open air (not in sealed bags) to help maximize the quality of the Model F sound (exposure to moving air/humidity). Also pictured is a production styrofoam for shipping the classic case keyboards (the ultra compact variations will get another type of foam packaging).

Brand New Model F Keyboards May Update: Mass Keyboard Assembly Continues

Mass assembly continues at the factory. This photo of in progress F62 inner assemblies is from a week ago (the factories had a holiday break this first week of May).

We are still aiming for completion of all keyboards by the end of this month.

As noted earlier the factory caught a production error in the curve radius of the bottom inner assemblies and has been correcting all those parts before those parts can be assembled. Because of this error it was not practical to ship the first 500 keyboards first so now the expectation is that all the keyboards can ship soon after the end of this month.

Also as a reminder I have ordered extras as part of the early bird round so you can still order a keyboard and accessories and have it ship as part of the early bird round!

Meanwhile the factory is assembling all the other parts. So far the spring assembly and inner assembly closing is being done by custom built machines and the key, barrel, and spring installation is being done manually (they noted that the pick and place machine design for these custom components would exceed the cost of labor).

 

Some news on the bottom inner assembly front. While fixing the bottom inner assemblies the stamping tool broke, but now it has been fixed and it produces a curve that is to spec. They are now able to resume correction of the parts. Attached is a photo of an unfinished compact bottom inner assembly showing a within tolerance match to the specified radius. The curve tolerance is important because an accurate curve allows a more equal spacing of each barrel between the top and bottom inner assemblies. Too much or too little space between the sandwiched metal plates would have affected the sound. IBM Model F plates maintained the same radius tolerance even 35 years after they were made!

The expectation is still for all assembly to finish by month end, though the now-resolved bottom inner assembly issue may delay things by a week or two.

fixed bottom inner assembly

A Quieter Model F Keyboard? How to reduce / mod the sound of your Model F Keyboard

In addition to the floss mod described on the Geekhack/Deskthority keyboard forums, another mod to consider is the grease mod, researched and described by the below YouTube user.  Also in my research I have found that pressing the springs down all the way on the flipper (normally there is a 0.2 to 0.3mm gap) reduces the ringing.  I do not offer and have not tried any of these mods but below is some information to consider.

The purpose of the grease mod is to reduce the reverberation/ringing after each key is pressed.

His comments are copied directly below.

Apply Synco Superlube on the inside of the spring with a metal probe…just enough to dampen the vibration

As an experiment, I tried a few switches on an XT F. I did nothing to the first XT F in the video…you can hear the sound I’m referring to…it’s like a super-loud, much more intense, sharper and “drier” version of what my (in superb condition) 1988-1989 Model M boards sound like. Then on the second board, I did the Alps spring lube trick on the keypad only. The feel is the same, the click sounds great (to me), the actuation force is ever so slightly less. But the annoying (to me) spring noise virtually disappears.

video 1 – detailed key sound (lubed keypad; unmodified other keys):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kha_cvhZBp8

 

video 2 – typing demo of the unmodified F:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1j1g-xLF6k

 

video 3 – typing demo of the fully spring lubed F:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqvr-U9CEuY

Brand New Model F Keyboards Mass Assembly at the Factory! Key Sublimation Sheets

Here is a video of manual installation of the key sets to template sheets before the dye sublimation process (I am taking care of the dye sublimation but the factory is preparing everything to save time). Check out the other project videos in this channel for the custom-built machines helping with mass assembly. Everyone gets the full 104 key set when they order a regular key set for their keyboard.

Factory mass assembly April update!

  • The factory expects to complete all the currently ordered keyboards by the end of May – great news!
  • 20,000 flippers+springs have completed assembly. They are continuing to assemble the rest of them.
  • They expect to complete 200 keyboards by the end of the month. Because of this I was thinking of waiting an extra week or so to get about 500 keyboards in the first shipment. The 200 figure is lower than expected because they noticed a slight error in the bottom inner assembly radius on many of the completed parts and are re-bending these finished parts before closing the inner assemblies. The IBM XT keyboards’ radii were consistently perfect so the new Model F’s need to be as well!

A Bluetooth Wireless Model F Keyboard?

Yes I think a Bluetooth (BLE) wireless Model F will be feasible in the future.  I have discussed with Deskthority user DMA who has designed his CommonSense controller as an alternative to the xwhatsit controller used in this project and that also powers several hundred original IBM Model F keyboards.  He let me know that he was able to get the F122 to run wirelessly on Bluetooth for about 20 hours on a 500mah Lithium Ion battery using the PSoC 4 BLE module and Cyprus development board (you can use this board as is for the Model F to my knowledge).

https://www.cypress.com/documentation/development-kitsboards/cy8ckit-059-psoc-5lp-prototyping-kit-onboard-programmer-and

The CommonSense controller can be designed to be a drop in replacement for the Brand New Model F Keyboards’ xwhatsit controller.

Currently the CommonSense project has working prototypes but other than that it seems to be on hold.  Here is the github page in case anyone is interested in contributing.  Please do check out the Deskthority thread and post questions there.

https://github.com/dmaone/CommonSense

https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=13988

It would be great if someone could modify DMA’s diptrace files to make it a drop in replacement for the Model F xwhatsit controller – please do let me know if you are able to help!

Dot matrix green bar packing slip:  As we wrap things up now is the time to decide on the smaller aspects. Here is a printer font sheet from the dot matrix printer (for the packing slips). Please let me know on the forum project threads which font you think would be best.

Looks like the current international layouts people asked for are UK, Danish, Swedish/Finnish, Norwegian, French, German, and 3 people asked for Swiss French, Swiss German, or Latin American Spanish (one each). Currently all but the final three will be made, with the strong possibility that the final three will also be available.

 

Major Project Milestone – Mass Assembly Stage Begins!

Success!

After evaluating the latest samples, today I approved full assembly of the Brand New Model F Keyboards! It took a lot more time than expected (!) but I think the current quality of the keyboards has made it well worth ironing out the QC issues.

All three of the current spring-flipper attacher machines now produce the right sound and tactile feel (photo in the prior update).

The plan is for the factory to assemble as many keyboards as possible and ship them at the end of April, with additional batches every month or so. This way, orders can start going out as soon as June.

On the dye sublimation front, I am waiting on some additional replacement parts for the setup before I can continue with the dye sublimation testing. Two more parts require custom-built solutions different from my current setup. Both will be ordered in the US to save time. Should be a few more weeks until they are finished and in hand.

Keycaps can still be ordered and added on to existing orders for the time being, but please try to get these in as soon as possible.

Regarding the expectations for whether your order goes out in the first batch, it depends on how many keyboards the factory finishes by the April 30th deadline for the first shipment and how many people order “skip the line”/low/custom serial keyboards from now until then (so far ~162 low serials).

Keyboards can still be upgraded to low serial if you want to skip the line.

To help with everyone’s estimations, below is an approximation of the number of keyboards ordered each month through the end of last month – please note that ~162 of these will be prioritized with the first shipment out.

The intention is to ship as closely as possible by order date, earliest first, but with the low serial supporters sent out first.

If they finish 400-500 (maybe too ambitious an estimate!), maybe all the low serials and most of 2016 will finally go out in the April shipment.

2016 369
Jan 77
Feb 87
Mar 17
Apr 9
May 13
Jun 44
Jul 20
Aug 21
Sep 7
Oct 31
Nov 29
Dec 14
2017 608
Jan 34
Feb 22
Mar 18
Apr 29
May 45
Jun 51
Jul 207
Aug 58
Sep 26
Oct 44
Nov 42
Dec 32
2018 508
Jan 35
Feb 42
Mar 50
Apr 43
May 37
Jun 52
Jul 43
Aug 45
Sep 53
Oct 42
Nov 39
Dec 27
2019 68
Jan 36
Feb 23

March Update: Assembly Stage Progress – Automating the Assembly Process

Update from the factory: the factory has made good progress on the assembly preparation.

They are fully assembling 1 of each keyboard (the 4 keyboard variations compact F62, classic F62, compact F77, classic F77) as a test, along with sending me the spring samples from the newly built attacher machines.

The other good news is that the factory is designing and adapting machines to do most of the assembly work! We are expecting pick and place for the inner foam, barrels to the top inner assembly, flippers/springs, etc. This should rapidly speed up assembly time compared to what would have been assembly by hand.

Dye sub testing update: I did some quick tests but determined I needed to replace some parts and order some additional parts for the jig before properly starting the key dye sublimation tests. Will continue testing once these parts arrive.

Additional F77 right side block options now available as extra add-ons!  Please see prior update post for details.

Assembly phase update: The factory expects to send assembled spring/flipper samples next week, and hopefully a few completed fully assembled keyboards with unprinted keys (following the keyboard assembly manual I sent them). Once these assemblies are approved, the factory will start mass assembly and ship about 500 units at a time to me. I am hoping the first 500 can be ready to ship to me by the end of next month. Then it will be 3-4 weeks on a container ship. If all goes well then May-June will possibly see the first shipping units.

We now have video and photos of the custom Bottom Inner Assembly machine! Here is a video of the machine that properly assembles the bottom inner assembly (F62 ultra compact specifically in this video).

Very cool to watch this in action!

 

The factory has also completed another pneumatic spring attacher machine:

February update 2: Passed $700,000! Dye sublimation jig for the keys, spring assembly, factory reopens after holiday break

The final parts of the dye sublimation jig have completed production and shipped this week! They should arrive next week. The dye sublimation jig has been custom designed and built based on my research over the past year or two including conversations with a number of helpful long-time dye sublimation industry experts and engineers, including a supervisor of Model F keyboard production at one of IBM’s factories in the 1980s!

Still waiting on the sample sublimation sheets from the dye sub shop and the custom stamped template sheets for the key sets to maximize alignment during the sublimation process. I am hoping to start sublimating full key set samples a few weeks from now. One of the owners of the sublimation print shop I’ve been talking with told me he worked on the IBM Selectric key legend application (non-sublimated) in the early 1980s! He said the process involved a special hard dry ink printed to hard plastic sheets and then transferred to the keys.

This month we passed the $700,000 mark in orders!  A major product milestone – who would have thought? Thanks to all those who have joined the project for their support, advice, and patience throughout the now-resolved factory production delays of the past.

A special thanks to forum member Zed who has just about finished the US ANSI layout (other layouts to follow). As posted a while back, Zed has been making all the fonts for this project, making sure they are accurately representative of the early IBM Model F fonts, with some updates for the more recent Model M style keys and making them match those of the Model F.

New custom keys and new F77 right side block layouts available to order:  If you’d like to see the extra/custom legends available to order here is a new product page showing all the options:  https://www.modelfkeyboards.com/product/new-custom-legend-keycaps/

The factory reopens next week:  The goal for the factory is to assemble some test keyboards based on my instructions, and then fully assemble and ship to me the first few hundred keyboards in March and April. Those who ordered the earliest and those with low/custom serial numbers will be going out first. Currently about 150 of the 1500 ordered keyboards are low serial.

Spring assembly:  The factory is still trying to produce the spring/flipper assembly machines. Their redesigned machines’ first samples showed one perfectly working machine (machine 2) and two machines that still needed work. Assembly may be delayed if these machines are not ready.  I reviewed the latest spring assembly samples recently. Spring machine 2 is excellent, perfect! Only 1 bad assembly requiring adjustment out of 20 total assemblies. If all the springs are like spring 2 samples then they will likely be approved! Spring machine 1 has 10 good and 11 bad springs so it is not approved. Spring machine 3 needs adjustment/improvement. 14 decent assemblies and 6 not good assemblies.

Model F Book:  I am planning on writing a book on the Model F journey after the orders are delivered – hope you’ll consider reading it!  Please do message me if you are interested in reading the book and I’ll let you know when it’s available.  The book will go through bringing back the Model F as well as general recommendations for those interested in bringing a manufactured product to life.

First Shipment of Keys + Now in Stock! Unprinted Key sets, stabilizer inserts, inner foam

The very first key sets are now in stock and ship tomorrow!  First ones going out are Industrial SSK blue and dark gray.

I can ship more keys-only orders if you wanted your set early (the keyboards will not ship early; unprinted key sets only for now); please message me!

Now in stock and ready to ship:  unprinted key sets, horizontal and vertical stabilizer inserts, flippers with springs, and inner foam for original and new Model F keyboards.

They did not mail enough space bar wire stabilizers so I can only send 3 more sets for the time being if you want the wire stabilizer (I can also send out sets without the stabilizer).

Below is the list of expected key set contents. The installed printed key sets will get the full 104 keys, plus an extra printed 1U “0 Ins” key for those F77’s with their right side block.

A mountain of keys!

 

 

Adventures in Manufacturing: lessons learned so far + January progress

For those new to discovering the project or who have not followed as closely, please do not be scared by what you will read below! All Brand New Model F manufacturing and other issues were successfully resolved last year and none of the below issues affect the delivery of the orders, expected to start mid-year now that the parts are sitting at the factory waiting to be assembled.  I will reiterate that the factory is expected to assemble the keyboards starting in March (after returning from Chinese New Year break) and get them on a container ship as soon as the first 500 or so are finished.

January progress:

  • This week I will be receiving samples from the completely redesigned and newly built spring-flipper attacher machines (photo below of one of them).
  • Given the failures of the spring attacher machine repair attempts last year, this month the factory started over on the spring attacher and built a machine with a new design. From the video tests the factory showed me of the assembled springs, there is a near-100% success rate of the attacher!
  • The new design eliminates the horizontal movement of the posts holding the springs and instead just moves along one axis.
  • I think the spring sound video I sent them helped highlight the importance of an attachment that matches the spring-nub spacing and spring angle specifications. 3 machines have been built so far, each one assembling 3 at a time. They will be making some more of these attacher machines in March after their break, maybe as many as 9.
  • The dye sublimation jig is still under construction at a firm in the US and I expect to continue the R&D in February when hopefully everything will be ready.
  • Also this week I’ll be receiving some stock of blank (unprinted) key sets and other parts this week so please let me know if you’d like to order key sets to be delivered early in February (no keyboards are being delivered early though!). I also have limited stock of assembled flippers/springs, barrels, and F122 / F107 inner foam that can ship within a few days of an order.

 

As part of my forthcoming book on the Model F project and manufacturing adventures abroad (after all keyboards have shipped), here are some notes on a proposed chapter that will offer some behind the scenes insights on bringing something magnificent back to life and the scary world of high-end hardware manufacturing overseas.

Time requirements:
The time requirements are much higher than expected because so much goes wrong and this kind of project requires such high quality standards to get it right. Constant back and forth for very particular quality goods to my standards for this project added many months to the timeline (example – after months of the factory producing and mailing case color samples based on existing Pantone/RAL colors to no avail, the right texture and color was achieved by shipping an original F107 case and Industrial SSK case bottom to one of the factories). Parts requiring a consistent radius (the curved inner assembly plates) required getting custom stamping tools built because existing tools were not accurate enough for the precise radius IBM used.  Getting the old large pitch ribbon cables like those of an IDE hard drive or floppy drive required talking with many potential suppliers.
Keeping long hours: 12 hour time difference on the US East Coast. Talk at night and in early morning. They are often responsive even at late/early hours.

Adventures with suppliers:
Getting funds back from underperforming suppliers has proven nearly impossible. Failure of the key molds in 2017 – funds were gone for good and had to start over with another factory that did a perfect job but was 6 months later than expected.
Importance of getting a good supplier, vetting the supplier through Alibaba (ideally visiting the supplier’s facilities – many great articles on vetting suppliers and overseas manufacturing), and ordering a sample first if possible to gauge the supplier.
Even getting back less than $300 from a minor supplier who sent parts completely different from those I ordered took months and the involvement of one of my managing suppliers and Alibaba who ended up telling the bad supplier their status on AliBaba was jeopardized (that was one of the only things the supplier paid attention to).  Paid by PayPal which offers no buyer protection for custom made goods.  Early on, the bad supplier even refused delivery on the returned parts after agreeing to accept the return.  Probably the only reason I won was because I kept communications on AliBaba and the factory likely relied on the site for significant new business generation – suppliers do not want to be suspended from there or they could lose significant business.  Insist on talking through AliBaba messaging for most of your suppliers of more straightforward parts.

Adventures with hackers:

Summary-suppliers were hacked and lost some money.  I was also scammed but fortunately for me 100% of the funds I sent to the fraudsters were recovered a couple weeks after reporting it.
Lack of security practices especially with phishing scams and wire fraud. Important to use secure passwords and change them often – not always done by all companies. It’s good to call your suppliers or talk through a non-email platform (e.g. Skype/whatsapp chat) every so often, and if wire information changes you should call before transferring any funds. Do not transfer funds to a “subsidiary” or a company whose bank account name on the wire transfer form does not match the name of the company on AliBaba. Nearly no major supplier accepts credit cards or PayPal for large purchases – it’s payment by wire transfer which almost never can be reversed.
Both the supplier and I learned this the hard way. One supplier for this project did not change their email password and it was being accessed by the hackers for more than one year from what we could piece together. What they do was hack a factory’s email address, monitor their email communications for more than one year and when a customer is ready to pay, they altered the official wire form’s account number. After reporting this to the FBI and Hong Kong police as well as issuing a wire recall, the funds were surprisingly returned successfully – every single cent! The supplier was not so lucky and lost some money from scammers pretending to be me and asking for a refund due to a [non-existent] emergency. They registered a similar email address to the one I used and spoke with the supplier from that email – I was never hacked in any way.  Usually the funds are transferred out of Hong Kong within days of receipt so this was a nearly unbelievably good turn of events for me, and not so much for the smaller amount lost by one of my suppliers. Business insurance not common in China/Hong Kong, and often doesn’t cover phishing/wire fraud (good for you to have it though!).

Lessons learned with wire fraud case:
Don’t wire funds to other accounts not matching the business name of your account, no matter the reason given, unless you call the contact person first at the publicly listed number you have called before – email can be hacked. Get to know the voice of the contact person at the factory. Make sure your suppliers use two factor authentication for their emails and have strong passwords, and tell them to change their passwords! Should educate the suppliers – I do not have alternative email addresses – be careful for an altered email address – it is not from me. Use a non-free email address, preferably of your own domain.

Summary:
Despite all the past troubles, all issues have been resolved and we are on pace for these Brand New Model F Keyboards to start shipping out around mid-year. Assembly and dye sublimation are the last two major steps. Please do see my other monthly updates to learn more about the process and feel free to message me with any questions on ordering and customizing your Brand New Model F.

 

P.S. Even companies like Apple have had trouble with manufacturing due to supplier issues – an interesting article discusses the Mac Pro’s delays due to a single custom screw.

How did the Model F get its name?

A forum member over on Deskthority recently asked IBM and they responded!  Great detective work.

An IBMer researched the company archives and noted that IBM’s overall keyboard designs were sequentially labeled by letters.  The Model F was referred to as the “Keyboard F” initially.  The older keyboard designs were named with earlier letters.

“Keyboard F Mechanism Manufacturing is doing more with less versus previous keyboards, Specifically the IBM Model B keyboard mechanism and the Model E keyboard mechanism.

It would appear that Model F and Model M are sequential models of keyboard mechanism.

The article mentions that Model B keyboards have an absurd 9 moving parts, where Model F only has 3. I assume the cap, spring and flipper.

So it is actually pretty likely that “M” doesn’t reference Membrane at all.”

December Updates: Spring Assembly, Full Keyboard Assembly, Dye Sublimation of Keys

Some timeline updates from the factory – we still have quite a bit of assembly time ahead of us:

The next batch of spring samples should arrive next week – hopefully the spring attacher machines 2 and 3 are assembling everything to spec!  So far the factory has spent several months trying to get machines 2 and 3 right.  Machine 1 has been producing good spring/flipper assemblies.

Then they are going to start doing some test assemblies of a few full keyboards and testing the different configuration options.

Then in late January they start their long break for the new year.

After that assembly is expected to ramp up. Depending on assembly quality and speed I may have them assemble a few hundred and send them over right away instead of waiting for all 1500 or so to be assembled – not sure just yet if this is feasible.

Meanwhile this year I have been consulting with dye sublimation industry experts and an original IBM Model F keyboard production manager and ordering parts to design and build my dye sub system for the keys. Progress has been slower than expected.  I had someone help me by building a temporary jig but the results were not to spec, and based on my conversations I decided I needed to build the real rig and then continue iterating from there.

November Update 2: Still in Assembly Phase (Production Phase Finished)

I received some more assembled spring samples this week. Machine 1 is still producing approved assemblies. Machine 3 is improved but still needs adjustment. Machine 2 needs adjustment. I’ve asked the factory to start using just Machine 1 so we can get things moving. I sent them a quality control video showing the testing of springs and emphasizing the sound differences of good and bad assemblies. I have asked them to do the basic sound testing as part of the QC – essentially a spring with some reverb is good, but with a buzzing sound or no reverb means it should be detached and reattached, and the spring should potentially be discarded. I am not being overly particular on the length of the reverb or whatnot.

Once the other two machines are set to spec they should produce the 95%+ approval rate observed with spring/flipper attacher Machine 1’s samples.

Even a fraction of 1 mm out of spec in the distance between spring and nub causes performance and sound issues. Also even a few degrees off for the spring angle attachment to the flipper is noticeable. The assembly process delays are frustrating but the factory will keep making adjustments so all keyboards pass my quality control standards.  Fortunately all of the parts have been successfully produced and are sitting in storage (they finished production about two months ago), so we no longer have to worry about manufacturing issues.

Quick November Update – Production phase finished, currently in assembly phase

As noted in a prior update, production on all parts finished successfully and met the Model F quality standards.  We are currently in the assembly phase.

You can still place your Brand New Model F Keyboard order this month if you have not done so already; I have ordered extra keyboards beyond what was ordered by everyone.

The assembled spring samples arrived this week. Machine 1 is still producing perfect assemblies but machines 2 and 3 need some adjustment.

The difference in the sound output upon key press and release is noticeable with improperly attached springs so I do not want to proceed with using those two machines until they are on the quality level of Machine 1.

I was hoping for a quicker turnaround on the spring attacher machine repair work but the final months of the year are the busiest for the factories unfortunately.  I have asked the factory to start full assembly with Machine 1 for now to save time.

Keyboard Production Finished! September Update 2 + Update Roundup

A major project milestone – Brand New Model F keyboard production has finished!

The production of the keyboard parts finished last week, but there is still time left to customize and order your Brand New Model F Keyboard if you have not done so already!  

The keys and springs were the last needed parts for the keyboards, and they are now all done.  Now we just have the assembly, dye sub, and packaging to complete.

The factory produced about 200,000 springs and 200,000 keys in recent months.

We also just reached the $600,000 order mark!  Thanks to everyone for their patience with the factory on the journey towards brand new Model F keyboards made to IBM’s standards.

The other keyboard parts all finished production a while back and are awaiting assembly.

The web site was down over the weekend due to a major issue with the web host that has since been resolved.  No orders have been lost or need to be placed again.  Orders are now being accepted once more.

Regarding the compact cases – I have received the final production case design and it is excellent.  The sample cases from last year were very good but the bottom plate was a little too thin and the factory had to add more screws to ensure a tight assembly.  The blue cases came out a beautiful deep blue color that I like, but they are not a match to the Carolina Blue we specified so I’m requesting they make additional cases with the correct Carolina Blue color for the final round.  The regular/silver/light gray compact cases are also a match to the approved samples. I would describe the color as a little lighter than a 2013 MacBook Pro.  If anyone wants the darker blue cases that look great (see photo below) please message me.  A few Carolina Blue cases have not yet sold out in case anyone’s interested.

The F122 (also for F107/PC AT) production foam arrived and I have shipped out many of them – I mailed out all orders last week for those who wanted the foam to ship separately. Please message me if you’d like your Model F foam order shipped now. I have extras beyond the number ordered so feel free to place another order this week if you’d like.

Production photos:  Check the recent prior updates for some photos of the keys, springs, P clip production, and cases.  Also watch some videos of the first time I ever typed on a Model F Keyboard, at age 1 (!), the custom built pneumatic spring-flipper attacher, and an original IBM Model F Keyboard assembly video that someone posted on YouTube a while back.

Brand New Model F Keyboards at the meetups:  in recent months people got to try out the Brand New Model F Keyboards at meetups in the Bay Area, Washington, D.C., and New Jersey.  Below in one of the July updates is a great video put together by YouTuber and keyboard reviewer Nathan at the Model F NorCal meetup.

Model F Kickstarter Campaign Video?  As noted earlier I am planning on a Kickstarter campaign as part of the final production run. In the coming months (after the early bird orders are shipped to everyone) I’ll be making a video about the Model F’s including clips of people using the keyboards in NYC.  If anyone wants to be in the video, or can help by volunteering a nice looking venue for filming (or if you have any recommendations), please let me know.

New First Aid Kits:  If you have not done so already I strongly recommend the new First Aid Kits for decades from now when production has long ended.  The more parts out there, the greater number of these keyboards will be up and running in the decades to come.  You can order additional inner foam mats and other accessories (or even full keyboards) and they will ship together with your earliest Model F order.

Questions for you:  For those who signed up to the mailing list, I am wondering:  how did you learn about the project?  Why do you like Model F keyboards?

If anyone has any advice or recommendations please let me know.  And feel free to follow the production updates on the web site blog.

A reminder on pricing changes:  free US shipping now built into item prices; same overall cost though.  I have been getting many questions on shipping, so to make things easier I have changed shipping to be free in the US and increased pricing by the amount of the original shipping charge ($21).  I’ve also disclosed shipping costs for each region on the store page and each Brand New Model F keyboard page.  International shipping has also been discounted to reflect the $21 pricing increase so that the out of pocket is the same with this change.  The accessory key sets have gone up $4 to help cover prototyping overages.  Please note that existing orders will not have to change to reflect the new pricing.  Shipping Rates — US: Free. Canada: $39.92. Europe/Asia/South America: $49.30. Australia/New Zealand: $69.59.

Washington DC and NJ Meetups this month + September Production Update

I will be at the Washington DC meetup on Saturday 9/15 and the NJ meetup Sat. 9/22 if anyone wants to try out the new Model F keyboards.

The 200,000 keys are expected to finish later this week. The 199,000 remaining springs finished production and are being packaged for transport to the factory doing the assembly.

 

Those are the last two parts of the keyboards themselves.  We still have the packaging, assembly, and dye sub to complete.  The plan as noted earlier this year is to have the assembly finish for everything and have the keys assembled to sheets so that I can dye sub and then press on to the keyboards without having to complete the dye sub and mail it back to the factory.  Check out the IBM Model F keyboard production video I linked to in a recent update for the inspiration.

 

This way I can do a bit of dye sub and mail out those keyboards as the dye sub is completed for that keyboard, saving months of time.

 

We reached $600,000 today! + Production Status Update

Today we reached the $600,000 mark for Brand New Model F Keyboard orders!

Thanks to everyone for their patience with the factory on the journey towards brand new Model F keyboards made to IBM’s standards.

As noted in the prior update, assembly started this month with the 1,000 production springs/flippers and the final two remaining parts were approved and entered production earlier this month (200,000 keys and 199,000 springs).  They are still working on producing those springs and keys.  The other keyboard parts all finished production a while back and are awaiting assembly.  The Carolina Blue ultra compact cases came out a darker shade of blue than specified, so I have ordered additional units to be made with Carolina Blue – if anyone wants the darker blue cases that look great (see photo below) please message me.  A few Carolina Blue cases have not yet sold out in case anyone’s interested.

The 200,000 key production is moving along nicely and should be finished in the coming weeks.  Below is a photo of one box of completed 1U keys.  After that is the dye sub.

 

August Production Update – all keyboard parts now in production or finished production!

Production springs approved for mass production! The springs fortunately are a match to the approved sample springs and I have approved the remaining 199,000 springs for production. The factory’s first 1,000 springs were correctly assembled by the custom built pneumatic spring attacher machine #1; machines 2 and 3 require some minor adjustment to correct the seating of the spring on the flipper for optimal performance.

I also received some samples of the production compact cases and they are excellent. The sample cases from last year were very good but the bottom plate was a little too thin and the factory had to add more screws to ensure a tight assembly.

The blue cases came out a beautiful deep blue color that I like, but they are not a match to the Carolina Blue we specified so I’m requesting they make additional cases with the correct Carolina Blue color.

The regular/silver/light gray compact cases are also a match to the approved samples. I would describe the color as a little lighter than a 2013 MacBook Pro.

The production black hard anodized compact cases are also excellent.

And the F122 (also for F107/PC AT) foam arrived – I mailed out all orders last week for those who wanted the foam to ship separately. Please message me if you’d like your Model F foam order shipped this week. I have extras beyond the number ordered so feel free to place another order this week if you’d like.

So this means that all keyboard parts are now in production or finished production! The last major part is the dye sub which the other shop is still working on.

July Update 2: Keys going into production! Color matching has succeeded for all colors.

The pearl color is approved and the keys are now going into production! The key color is a match to the original XT set used on the prototype classic case F77 I brought to the various meetups (two keys shown below for comparison to the new keys).  As noted earlier, pebble/gray and Industrial SSK blue were approved (a match to the IBM Industrial SSK Model M blue custom function keys).  60% gray was also approved.

The assembled springs first batch should be going out in a week or two. The factory has produced three of the spring attachers so far (from the video posted earlier).

As always please disregard the colors in these photos as they are not 100% accurate.  In person the keys are a match.

July Update: Progress on keys, springs, and P clips!

Keys are approved for production! Industrial SSK blue color is a match and has been approved!

After 6 months of retooling the molds, the factory has succeeded! All keys and stabilizer inserts function and operate well with the barrels. The factory will either start production on all colors except pearl/off-white, or they will wait until that color is approved (they are still working on the PBT color mixing as the previous samples were very close but not an exact match).

 

First tests of the custom built pneumatic spring attacher!

 

P clips are almost finished! The P clip secures the cable inside the classic die cast zinc cases to minimize risk of damage to the USB port on the xwhatsit controller. Just another example of molds and tooling needing to be built from scratch because none of the original Model F tooling survived. Attached are photos of the P clip stamping tool and inspection process.

Great Brand New Model F Bay Area Meetup Video!

 

On Saturday 7/7 I brought some Brand New Model F keyboards to the Bay Area for a small meetup.

YouTuber and keyboard reviewer Nathan made this great video of clips from the meetup:

 

Some of the forum discussion threads on the meetup:

https://deskthority.net/keyboards-f2/bay-area-ca-brand-new-model-f-meetup-7-7-t19299.html

https://old.reddit.com/r/MechanicalKeyboards/comments/8wosw9/bay_area_brand_new_model_f_keyboards_meetup_venue/

June Update 2: Final Model F assembly starts next month! Pricing changes to reflect free US shipping

Next month marks the start of Brand New Model F Keyboard assembly!  Assembly will start with attaching over 100,000 springs to their flippers using a custom built machine (link below).

After the approval of the springs earlier this month, they have entered production.  Outside of the keys this is the final part we were waiting on.

The factory will make about a thousand springs next week to start with, and then official Brand New Model F Keyboard assembly will start with the spring-flipper attacher (photos here)!

I will then inspect the quality of the first production springs on the flippers to make sure they are in line with the approved samples they provided.

Pricing changes:  free US shipping now built into item prices; same overall cost though.  I have been getting many questions on shipping, so to make things easier I have changed shipping to be free in the US and increased pricing by the amount of the original shipping charge ($21).  I’ve also disclosed shipping costs for each region on the store page and each Brand New Model F keyboard page.  International shipping has also been discounted to reflect the $21 pricing increase so that the out of pocket is the same with this change.  The accessory key sets have gone up $4 to help cover prototyping overages.  Please note that existing orders will not have to change to reflect the new pricing.  Shipping Rates — US: Free. Canada: $39.92. Europe/Asia/South America: $49.30. Australia/New Zealand: $69.59.

 

June Update: Bay Area Meetup, NYC Meetup, Update on Springs and Keys

Bay Area California Model F Meetup planned for Saturday July 7:  https://www.reddit.com/r/MechanicalKeyboards/comments/8pfa1d/bay_area_ca_meetup_brand_new_model_f_keyboards/

I need some help coordinating the meetup especially with securing a venue – please let me know what you can help with!

 

NY Mechanical Keyboards Meetup this Saturday June 16:  I will be bringing the Brand New Model F prototypes!  https://www.reddit.com/r/MechanicalKeyboards/comments/8q96lu/nyc_mechanical_keyboard_meetup_this_saturday/

 

Update on the springs:

Spring Success! Out of the 12 samples we have one match that will be approved for production! The search is finally complete after several dozen unique spring variations over the past few years.

I would say it is as nice or even nicer (less worn out) than my original gold standard reference (off my 1984 6110344 F122). It has a sharp click followed by a solid resonance that is not too high in pitch, not too low in volume, and not too short in duration. I was surprised the match was so close to not only any original Model F spring but to my reference spring/flipper.

I hope to bring the new springs (along with the keyboard prototypes) to the NY meetup on Saturday and to my Bay Area (CA) Model F meetup I am trying to set up on July 7.

 

Update on keys:

New key samples should be here later this week.  They have been working on fixing a couple of the mold key cavities and getting the PBT colors right.

Brand New Model F Keyboards May Update: Wrapping up Keys and Springs

I know there are a lot of options for customizing your Brand New Model F Keyboard and I have to do a better job with the photos and descriptions, so feel free to message me with any questions or concerns.

My goal is to be able to make as many of these Model F’s as possible before production shuts down for good, and every order helps!

If you know anyone who might be interested in a Brand New Model F please do send them this way!  I’m always glad to read in the order comments that someone discovered this project through a friend.

 

Any more thoughts on the 60% dark gray v. 80% dark gray keys? So far I am leaning towards changing it to 60% unless people are fine with 80%.

Four major notes this month:

  1. The key factory is fixing up the molds and expects to be finished by the end of next week (as you saw in the prior update, almost all keys meet the tight tolerance requirements and are approved for production). They are also working on the color matching. So we could have the final samples in hand in ~2 weeks and then start mass production of the keys in June.
  2. The spring factory is still working on the final samples. They had to put in a special order at the wire factory in Japan as the wire is no longer common enough to stock.
  3. We are wrapping up here. Again my apologies for the factory production delays, and I thank those who are excited as I am about bringing the Model F back into production!
  4. Speaking of wrapping, I have ordered a gummed paper tape dispenser and reinforced paper tape so the actual keyboard boxes will have a more professional IBM-like appearance, along with the dot matrix printer and green bar computer paper for everyone’s packing slip. IBM used paper tape on shipping boxes of many of their 1980s computers and Model F keyboards, and also on their 1390131 two-pack shipping boxes – see third photo here: https://www.modelfkeyboards.com/product/brand-new-in-box-ibm-1390131-model-m-keyboard/

Catching everyone up on the project:
After speaking with some very helpful advisers including engineers and someone who helped run a successful large Kickstarter campaign, I waited until the factories were able to produce fully functional prototypes and could produce the keyboards for $350 or less before accepting any orders. That was probably the most important piece of advice I’ve received for this project.
I have studied the challenges of hardware projects, especially those requiring less conventional production processes. One of the issues with some crowdfunded projects revolves around developing new technology and the project fails as they ran out of development resources – this issue is not the case here as the software and controller firmware were fully developed thanks to xwhatsit and the factory has completed the Model F molds and tooling for all the plastic and metal parts (save the keys) so the final round will be able to go much more smoothly. The Model F parts went into production with no yield issues. I read recently about e-ink phone cases and 3D VR headphones as examples of production and technology development problems resulting in them running out of money.

In summary:  100% functionality was achieved with the prototypes; the factory delays have enabled us to move towards meeting the original Model F aesthetics, sound, and experience.
The factories have eventually succeeded in producing the several hundred thousand parts I’ve ordered so far – PCBs, die cast cases, flippers, barrels, ribbon cables, inner steel assemblies, etc.  All but the keys and springs passed my inspection, were produced, and are boxed up waiting to be assembled.
In general the factory production delays have historically focused on whether to proceed with the original timeline with working but substandard parts or rejecting the prototypes to make the new Model F as close to the originals as possible – I have always chosen the latter option. Few issues were with parts being non-functional. The goal of this project from the beginning has been a reproduction of the Model F, not a Model F style keyboard.
The two “key” parts remaining are the key sets and springs. The factory has proven they can make the springs within tolerance and actuate correctly; just trying to get them to sound as close as possible to the original Model F.
If the keys become a bottleneck we will still be able to deliver the orders using Unicomp keys for those who would prefer not waiting any longer for the new keys (but again almost all of the keys are now approved and within spec, and the factory is just finishing up a few corrections and matching colors).

Know Any Marketing/Kickstarter Experts? Planned Model F Kickstarter/Indiegogo Campaign!

In the final round’s month or two of accepting orders for the Brand New Model F Keyboards project (after early bird keyboards are shipped of course), I am still planning on a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign and could use any advice from those involved with major tech hardware campaigns in the past.  I have been reading up on this, and thankfully a couple experts have already reached out and have been a great help.

I think the additional venue will help the factory to make as many new Model F keyboards as possible and open the project up to those more comfortable working through the Kickstarter/Indiegogo sites.

April Update: We reached the $500,000 milestone this month!

This month we reached a major project milestone: $500,000 in orders! Thanks to everyone on their confidence in the project and their patience as the factories work to make sure the new Model F lives up to the classic original.

Producing these parts to IBM’s tolerances has been a significant challenge for the factories. There have been many iterations of prototypes that I’ve rejected as out of spec. I had to cancel the agreements with two factories (key molds and springs) last year as they could not produce parts to spec and the new key mold factory had to start over.

Fortunately the constant rejection of prototype parts until they get it perfect has resulted in the factories finally succeeding on almost all parts. Many of the parts have finished production already and are waiting for assembly – die cast cases, flippers, barrels, controller PCB’s, capacitive PCBs. The top and bottom inner assembly production is almost finished (just need the powdercoating) and one key mold is good while the other needs adjustment. These are all parts whose production examples I’ve approved for quality and tolerances. Right now we just need the springs, keys, and dye sublimation to finish and then the keyboards can be assembled and ship.

Update on the springs: The Japanese material springs were technically perfect, within spec, but too quiet! They lacked the full volume Model F resonance after a pressed key is released. The factory is sourcing the same spring material from the material analysis report but from other factories (same spring factory though). Not all materials of the same grade are exactly the same or sound the same as I’ve learned. I’ve gone through about 20 unique spring production runs over the span of this project so far. We are getting there! A new run of spring samples should be ready by month end or early next month.

Update on the keys: One of the two new key molds has passed my examination of the sample parts (the mold containing the 1U cavities) so the 1U keys are approved for production! The keys meet all dimensions’ tolerance measurements (+/- 0.1 mm!); the key tops are richly textured like those of the brand new original Model F’s in my collection. They interact with both new and original barrels smoothly, including on the Model M barrel frames. Unfortunately the second mold with the other keys needs some more adjustment. The black PBT from the new production keys is of excellent quality and texture; I do not see circular areas of excessive shine on the tops characteristic of the original Lexmark black keys. And we are also waiting on the color matching. The factory has original Model F XT and Industrial SSK blue Model M keys for color reference.

March update: key molds success; production continues

Key Success!  The key factory told me they have successfully corrected the key molds and showed me a video of the new keys and barrels working smoothly!  I will of course evaluate the samples when they arrive in a couple weeks to make sure all tolerances are met.  Below is a photo from one of the new key molds.  Once the PBT material, tolerances, and colors are approved then key production will start.

After that the keys will need to be dye sublimated.  The sample keys from the new factory successfully accepted dye sublimation on their key tops but the dye sublimation techniques to reduce bleeding and ensure deep black text are still being worked on.  As noted in the February update the factory got the key top texture perfect their first try!

Sorry there has not been much to update the first few weeks back into production this month.  The factory is still at work on the project.

The first new production parts will be shipping this week – those who ordered only F122 or F107 foam!  If you need your foam early and would like separate shipping please let me know.

The ultra compact cases and inner assembly parts are still in production.  Some unfinished F77 ultra compact case tops are in the photo below.

Popular Mechanics March Issue – “The Hunt for the Modern Model F” article

Please check out the Popular Mechanics March 2018 print issue and take a look at the article “The Hunt for the Modern Model F”!  Different from the other great Model F article on the Popular Mechanics web site over the summer.

It’s also available here to purchase in hard copy and digital formats (I’m not affiliated with them and receive no comp.):

https://www.magzter.com/US/Hearst-magazines/Popular-Mechanics/Automotive/264043

We are now into the Spring Festival/CNY so there will not be much to update from the factory for a while.

January Update 2 – Assembly Jigs, New Key Samples, Completed Inner Foam

The factory has made nice progress on version 2.0 of the key-flipper assembler. It appears to work with pneumatics. This should save significant assembly time and avoid this part of assembly becoming a bottleneck to the project.

A few of each type of the completed production inner foam arrived and they are all excellent.

The key samples arrived and I can confirm that the key texture is an excellent match to the original XT keys (see the photos I posted in the first Jan. update). The keys are also great quality – nice thick walls and strong, high quality PBT.

With the next key samples arriving in a week or two, they should be within tolerance (these first sample keys were just to see the key top texture and PBT quality – they do not yet meet the strict tolerances). The factory is still working out the PBT shrinkage issues (PBT is a difficult plastic to work with because it shrinks during the injection molding process).

Soon after I am hoping for the correct key colors for the project to be confirmed (pearl/pebble, blue, etc.).

The Japanese steel spring samples are almost done – just waiting on the finishing stage and then they can mail them.

So it’s just the keys, top and bottom inner assembly, springs, and compact cases that are not yet waiting to be assembled. Everything else is boxed and ready for assembly. For storage reasons the outside protective foam and boxes will be done last by the factory, when everything else is just about done.

January update: first new one-piece keys out of the new injection molds!

The very first one-piece keys just came out of the new injection molds!

Below is a video of the injection mold in action! Everything is so automated. All other keys also finished.

I will receive the samples from the factory later this month for evaluation.

Regarding the other parts, the inner foam completed production.  The Japanese steel spring samples are still in production and will likely finish around month end.  The compact cases and inner assembly steel plates are still in production (the factory completed the newly designed tooling to ensure a perfect bend of the inner assembly late last year).  The factory is working on a bulk spring-flipper attaching machine that can attach many springs at once to cut down assembly time for everyone.  It is a slow process to get everything right but we are getting there!

November update + dark gray printed keys now available to order!

Per the factory the key molds are expected to finish the first week of January. This is the same subcontractor that did a good job with the barrels and flippers (all to spec).

The spring samples should arrive next week. These are made with a new factory that is using the exact original standard material that IBM used for their springs (I had them analyzed at a lab). To speed up assembly, the factory expects to build a bulk spring attacher (their prototype could attach one spring and flipper at a time).

Dark gray printed and unprinted sets are now up for order! https://www.modelfkeyboards.com/product…iece-keys/

Total cost is $5 less than the $10 expected premium. These will be a limited early bird color to minimize extra setup charges for the final production run next year. You can pick free/other shipping if you want to add keys to your current order.

To keep the project on track and avoid extra assembly variations, these are extra sets only – they can’t be your only set or installed set if ordering a keyboard.

October update

For those just catching up on the updates, much of the delay in this project is a result of trading more time for high quality output and not settling for the first samples presented to me.  Retooling, reformulating paint and powdercoating processes, and cancelling substandard subcontractors have contributed to the delays.  I want these keyboards to be good enough for me to use – equal to or better than the original Model F’s I’ve restored and typed on over the years. I will not ship a substandard product to meet original expected timeline predictions.  Production has successfully completed on most of the components – the controller boards, die cast zinc powdercoated cases, ribbon cables, and the tens of thousands of barrels and flippers,   We are waiting on the compact cases, springs, key molds, inner assembly steel plates, and inner foam to finish up, and then for assembly to start.

For this project, an equal or better quality reproduction of the original Model F is the most important goal, especially since there are nearly $400,000 in orders so far (originally I was in talks with the factory to sell maybe 100 keyboards total!).  Production has taken a lot longer than expected.  A saying I’ve heard definitely applies here – fast, high quality, or at a good cost – but you can only pick two of the three.  A sampling of some of the issues:  https://www.modelfkeyboards.com/4-11-17-major-update-catch-up-how-close-are-we/

The factory made less than expected progress in recent weeks due to a national holiday where everything shuts down for some time.

The factory is now back from their national holiday break and hopes to resume production soon on the compact cases, foam, and inner assembly steel plates.  Production is approved and ready to go from my side.

Following up from the September update, I received some PCB material samples from the factories but none was a match.  They were on the good but not perfect sound level of the PCBs that already finished production.

I am now in talks with a longstanding US PCB material manufacturer who identified some specific characteristics of the old PCBs from photos I sent them – he will look into this some more this week.  It seems like both the PCB substrate and solder mask of the old PCBs may have contributed to the sharp click sound.  I asked about a custom vintage style PCB formulation just for this project – with near 1,000 PCB orders this may be possible.

I am still sourcing the special spring material that was successfully identified by the material analysis lab a few weeks ago (I had the original Model F XT springs analyzed at a material analysis lab).  It is an old standard that is no longer as widely available in such a small diameter but will hopefully have good news from some wire manufacturers this week.  Better spring materials have taken market share since the 80s but they miss out on the classic Model F sound in my opinion.  The pitch will hopefully be just right with this classic spring formulation.

There were some questions about the low/custom serial option – it’s is a way of supporting the project and skipping several hundred people in line when these keyboards arrive and I start testing them one by one and mailing them out.  The default “no” option on the drop down menu still gets you in the early bird round however.

Pricing may change a little in the near future as raw material prices have increased significantly since last year.  Probably a price change of no more than $20 to $30 extra.  If you get in your order before the prices go up you will not be asked to make up the cost difference.

September Production Update and Spare Parts Availability

The US factory’s aerospace-grade spring samples are technically excellent – they meet or exceed all the tolerances specified – but the spring sound is not yet perfect. It’s a little too sharp/high pitched. Either the material alloy is off or they were heat treated a little too long/too high a temperature is my guess. Or maybe the sound dulls a bit over time and with corrosion of the original springs after 30 years.

The factory suggested I have the original springs analyzed at a material analysis lab – I have sent off some original XT springs to a lab. They can determine with reasonable accuracy the content of the original springs. We should know more next week.

Meanwhile the main factory is still preparing to finish up production of the remaining parts – inner assembly plates, boxes, inner foam, outside foam, and ultra compact cases. I am hoping to have these completed parts, key samples from the new mold supplier, and all the springs by early November.

The other parts completed earlier this year and are sitting in boxes waiting to be assembled:  original die cast zinc powdercoated cases, PCBs, ribbon cables, barrels, USB cables, and flippers.  Thanks everyone for hanging in there as we perfect production of Brand New Model F Keyboards!

While you wait for your order, I am asking that you consider, if funds allow, getting a Model F First Aid repair kit for long after production ends and orders are no longer taken.  The more kits and parts are ordered and out in the community, the greater the number of extant Model F’s will be in the decades to come. So far we have over 3,800 extra barrels and flippers, 60 extra factory made inner foams, and about 133 first aid kits ordered for ~850 keyboard orders.

Feel free to pick free/other shipping when adding small extras to your original order and I will combine the shipping.

 

 

August production update

The main theme continues – it was tougher than the factories and I expected to meet IBM’s exacting standards and tolerances from 35 years ago.

Instead of delivering functional keyboards and meeting the original factory timeline (I’ve been typing on the fully working prototypes without issue this year), I want to make sure these keyboards live up to the quality standards of the originals for the clickiest, most musical typing experience possible, even at the cost of time (rejecting parts) until these standards are met. Eventually they have been met for the other critical parts, many of which finished production and are waiting in boxes at the factory for assembly (tens of thousands of barrels/flippers, the die cast zinc cases, capacitive PCBs, controllers, custom IDE/floppy style ribbon cables have finished production).  Check out a few blog posts back for a detailed production update by part.

Dimensions on the keys that are off by just 0.5mm do not function well (I received the latest key samples this week). Spring free length variances are too large for a more consistent feel.

I cancelled the spring contract last month due to poor part tolerances and I expect to cancel the key mold contract as well and move it to another manufacturer this month. While this is going on I will have assembly start on the rest of the components to avoid any bottlenecking so we keep on schedule.

The springs are going to be made in the US. Almost none of the US-based spring factories had the equipment to manufacture springs to IBM’s 1980s tolerances and automatically discard all springs that do not meet the tolerances (at least one does – the one I am working with). Some US factories could only meet 4x IBM’s original tolerances!

The factory said that these springs’ tolerances are as tight as those of their aerospace customers.

I will be ordering sample springs this coming week for evaluation and then if they are good I will order all the springs from this factory – everyone will get the US-made springs.

Got on the home pages of Popular Mechanics, ExtremeTech, Tom’s Hardware, Tech Report, and PC Mag this week!

Over $270,000 in orders so far to bring back The Best Keyboard Ever, the Model F keyboard, currently in production.
This is exciting – these great articles are sure to bring more interest in the Model F.
 
 
 
 

Featured on the PopularMechanics.com and PCMag.com home pages today!

It was an honor for the Model F project to be featured on the home pages of www.PopularMechanics.com and PCMag.com today!

Eric from Popular Mechanics wrote a comprehensive and well-researched look at the Model F project and the history behind the Model F mechanical keyboard.

http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/gadgets/a27123/model-f-project-buckling-spring-keyboard/

Screenshot from www.PopularMechanics.com 7/5/17.

 

And here is the PC Magazine article on the project today:

http://www.pcmag.com/news/354767/keyboard-enthusiast-sells-brand-new-ibm-model-f

 

What makes up a Model F Keyboard? + Detailed production status of each part

We just reached the quarter million dollar order mark!  Over $250,000 in orders so far!

There is still time to place your order.  Here is a link to the order form where you can customize your layout (ANSI, HHKB, international ISO, etc.), colors (off-white/beige, Industrial Gray, Black, True Red), etc.: https://www.modelfkeyboards.com/product-category/main-f62f77-offering/

 

What parts and technologies make up a Brand New Model F Keyboard, what does each part do, and what is the production status of each part?

 

Barrels and Flippers – all production complete

These are the key (pun intended) parts of the Model F.  The barrels hold each key in place and allow for smooth up-down movement as keys are actuated.  The capacitive flippers make contact with the capacitive PCB and complete the signal when a key is pressed.

Powdercoated Die Cast Zinc Cases – all production complete for Off-White/Beige, Industrial Gray, Black, True Red, and Silver Gray cases

These cases are made from a dense, high quality zinc metal and powdercoated so that the texture and colors match that of the originals – the IBM Industrial SSK and the IBM Model F metal case keyboard.  These cases are sturdy and will not flex or break when you are typing.  These help contribute to the 8 to 10 pound weight of each F62/F77 keyboard!

The factory did an outstanding job with texture and color matching.  Can you tell which case below is the original and which is the reproduction?

Industrial SSK original with powdercoated F62 case

Controller PCBs – all production complete for factory built/factory assembled compact xwhatsit controllers

Also complete is the new open source firmware/cross-platform GUI configuration software by xwhatsit, native NKRO / USB functionality with removable USB cable.  Typing on a brand new F77 keyboard for this post, with one of these controllers – all is working well!

Ribbon cables – all production complete

The controller PCBs connect to the capacitive PCB underneath all the keys with a ribbon cable like those on the old IDE / Floppy Drives.

Capacitive PCBs – all production complete for F62 regular, F62 HHKB style split right shift, F77 regular, F77 HHKB style split right shift, and custom F62

The Model F design completely seals all the capacitive PCB contacts so that they are not exposed to air/wear and tear – one reason why Model F’s last so long.  The flipper never actually contacts the copper inside the PCB directly, but the conductivity of the flipper material allows for a signal bridge between the two rectangles of each key when activated).

Inside foam – currently in production; expected to finish in a month or two

The inside foam ensures even pressure of the barrels against the inner assembly, and also a way of minimizing dust and other debris entering the inner assembly.  Each one is custom stamped to match the top inner assembly cutouts for the barrels, whether for the standard or HHKB style layouts.

Buckling springs – currently waiting for updated samples that more closely match the original Model F springs; production will take under one month once samples are confirmed for production.

The buckling of the spring causes the flipper/pivot plate to be pressed down on the capacitive PCB, thus completing the circuit and sending the pressed key’s signal.

Top and bottom inner assembly; ultra compact cases – currently retooling; production expected to finish in a couple months

The sample parts were slightly off spec so I rejected them.  The factory is retooling their equipment to produce all accurate parts.  I reject out of spec parts that do not meet my quality standards, even though this has caused delays in the project.  The end results though have been great so far (check out my earlier post on the challenges of making parts from the 1980s and the importance of quality control for this project).

The top and bottom inner assembly hold all the keys, barrels, flippers, and capacitive PCB securely in place.  To maximize the performance, sharpness and clickiness of the Model F it is important that these parts be built to spec exactly, as they were in the 80s.

The compact cases are made of high quality but lightweight anodized aluminum – great for frequent travelers.  The compact cases cut the weight down to about 3 or 4 pounds from 8 to 10 pounds of the original style cases.

Dye Sublimated PBT Keys – currently retooling; production expected to finish in a couple months

The factory has had significant delays adjusting the molds to ready them for production but they are expected to finish the tooling this month and then the keys can be injection molded.  They are designed to match the original IBM XT key quality.  Dye sublimation allows the keys to resist wear of the legends after decades of usage as the sublimation ink is absorbed into the key, not just sprayed on top like with the most common keyboard legend printing today, pad printing.

Product packaging – boxes and outside foam – outside foam is going into production this month; currently waiting for corrected box samples that use thick double walled cardboard for maximum protection during shipping

The goal of the Brand New Model F Keyboards project is a high quality product with the finest materials designed to last for decades.  Packaging is designed to be similar to the original packaging for these keyboards (I am one of two original IBM F77 6019303 keyboard owners on the forums – I have one brand new with original foam packaging).  These keyboards are also among the easiest to take apart and repair yourself – videos will be posted on how to do common repairs to keep your Model F typing along in the decades to come.  Just make sure you order the First Aid Kit for future repairs – it includes springs, foam, and other parts that I’ve seen fail with the original keyboards after decades of use.

Any questions, feel free to message me or post on the Q&A page.

Joe

 

Brand New Model F Keyboards project update; new first-run production photos; order window still open!

Any questions, feel free to submit through the web site, email me, or message me/post on r/MK (I am u/1954bertonespyder) or GeekHack/Deskthority (I am Ellipse)

I am typing on a fully assembled new prototype F62!

We are getting there – thanks to everyone for their patience with the factory delays.

The feel is very comfortable to type on. Another buckling spring fan in my family hit 112 WPM on 10fastfingers with this first-run F62! You can really notice the difference with new springs that have not been worn out and oxidized after 30 years, some more than others – creating an uneven typing experience with a high-mileage Model F.

Everything is working very well so far. The powdercoated die cast zinc cases are excellent quality. It was well worth the couple extra months to get the paint job right. The off-white/beige color is almost an exact match to the 1988 F107 case I mailed them as the reference.

The texture is the same bumpy, mostly matte but slightly reflective powdercoating as the original. The True Red and Black cases look good. In the next week or two they will mail the Industrial cases.

The capacitive PCBs, controller PCBs, inner foam, and outside foam are all good. Every PCB is being grounded in two spots to the bottom inner assembly with 6-32 screws to eliminate the risk of stray capacitive signals.

There were a number of issues that I have told the factory to work on and prioritize for completion as soon as possible. Some notes:

The top inner assembly parts are very good but slightly off spec. The TIA curve is about 1mm off from the ideal. My XT sample has a perfect curve that matches my CAD files exactly so I have asked the factory to remake the samples to this standard. The perfect curve helps ensure a more even pressure on the barrels between the top and bottom inner assembly. The wrong curve can result in wiggly barrels and clicks that are not as sharp so it is important that they get it right. To correct this issue they are going to adjust their tooling and mail corrected parts ASAP.

The compact cases had some issues with the color of the hard anodizing being slightly off. They are adding another couple screws on the bottom to further secure the case.

The product boxes were 2.5mm thickness instead of the 5.0mm I had specified so those were rejected, though the box artwork is well-printed.

Finally the springs are very close to the originals but I want to see a few more spring samples with different materials before the springs go into production.
The springs have improved sound but the top inner assembly needs to be re-made and accurately curved before the Model F sound is at its sharpest. Currently it’s well within the range of the original Model F’s that have gone through my refurbishings over the years.

5-6-17 Quick Update

For a more thorough update please see the previous post (below).

The factory is still working on adjusting the key molds – I am frustrated by these delays too but will only accept parts that meet my high quality control standards and function as well as the originals.

In the mean time, all the other first run parts appear to be finished! I am expecting them to ship everything out except the keys in the coming days.

When these first-run parts arrive I will examine each part and if it is all good, production will start on the remaining parts! (Top/bottom inner assemblies, springs, hard anodized compact cases, keys, boxes, and inner/outside foam).

The factory expects production and assembly to take 2-3 months, and then these will all ship from China to me for final testing and shipping (generally) in sequence of when you placed your order.

Here are the first run compact cases – please note that these colors are not accurate and are not representative of what anyone will get:

Here is the new batch of finished springs:

4-11-17 major update catch-up – How close are we?

I hope this post will catch everyone up for those who have not been following the threads and blog posts as closely, and also if you are interested in how things are made.

As an update we passed $200,000 in orders a month or so back (actually over $210,000 now!) and have about 455 keyboards ordered so far. As many of you know the project has faced some challenges but these production delays are being wrapped up this month. Tens of thousands of parts are completed and sitting at the factory in storage, waiting for the other parts to finish production and then assembly can start: these parts include all the die cast zinc cases made from brand new molds-cases we successfully powdercoated to match the original Model F keyboard style and color. Also the barrels, flippers, capacitive PCBs, compact xwhatsit controllers, case molds, and ribbon cables. We are still waiting on the key molds, keys, inner assembly plates, ultra compact cases, and the final “easier” parts (boxes, inner foam, outside foam packaging).

The turnaround time for the factory is longer than expected for correcting issues before the run starts but it is understandable given my quality standards and the unique aspects of bringing back 1980s production parts. They have been very patient working with me for going on 3 years now.

The factory timeframe I believe was based on expectations of standard parts requests and finishes – they didn’t know how challenging this project would be for the nonstandard requests, nor did I.

The factory is actually building or adjusting their tooling for the special characteristics of this project. For example they are building a machine that curves the PCB to match that of the originals as there was no equipment that could delicately deal with PCB curving without damaging the copper traces. There is also tooling that precisely makes the inner assembly parts to the IBM Model F curve.

The parts requiring the most amount of work, the die cast original style cases, took 3 months for die casting, final machining, and powdercoating. Before then was maybe 3-4 months for making the molds and adjusting the powdercoating and texture.

The die cast case powdercoating process took months because the factory had to experiment with different paints and textures to match the original bumpy Model F 4704 texture – using standard powdercoating for the prototypes did not take long. The kind of texture and paint color did not exist (no Pantone color!) so everything had to be custom mixed until the colors were a perfect match to the 4704 case sample from 1988 that I provided. Then the powdercoating for some of the paint they tried did not stick well to the zinc so they had to switch to another type of paint. They ended up having to mix the custom made texture into the custom color powdercoat paint to get everything perfect.

The flippers and barrels were made from different proprietary materials (options had to be researched by the engineers) that were close approximations of the original plastic formulations that were never precisely disclosed back in the day (they work and the flippers perfectly convey the capacitive signal).

Here I recap examples of first try prototype adjustments needed – the passed parts are listed in the OP “finished production” section:

– Original cases – powdercoating color and texture needed a few tries to get right and accurately match the originals (which they do now). Their earlier samples were very well made (and without much delay) to high modern standards but did not match the texture and color of the originals.

– Barrels – some measurement errors on my part of fractions of 1 mm caused the barrels not to interface with the keys like the originals; had to have them adjust the molds

– Keys – one critical dimension of the keys was not to my spec, probably 0.5mm off spec which made the keys not buckle consistently.

– Springs – they tried a number of materials; also the spring measurements were not accurate enough, under 1 mm difference but it is noticeable and could prevent a key from buckling

– Inner assembly plates – they were not to spec, maybe under 1 mm too large (the width of space between the top and bottom inner assembly plates. The first ones had holes that were too small to fit the barrels and some of the powdercoating was flaking.

In all cases I have held the factory to my standards and have rejected substandard parts.

Once they determine exactly what is needed, production is approved to start and there should not be much of a delay due to rejection of parts.

The f62 original should be about 7.5lbs and the f77 original should be 8.3 or so pounds, (my original f77 is “only” 7.2 pounds!), 3.4lbs for the compact f62 and maybe around 4lbs for the compact f77.

Quick project update 4-4-17

451 F62/F77 Keyboards ordered so far – over $210,000 in total orders!

F77 216
F62 166
Industrial SSK Blue Keys 61
Front-printed keys F1, etc. 49
Extra steel spacebar tabs (pair) 43
Extra inner foam (F62, F77, F62 split shift, F77 split shift, F107, F122) 40
Compact F77 40
Extra Set of Brand New Production XT-quality one-piece keys 38
FirstAidKit 36
Compact F62 29
Extra F77 Case 21
Extra F62 Case – ‘Kishsaver” 21
Apple/Mac Command-Option Keys 21
xwhatsit Beam Spring or Model F USB controller 17

The factory is waiting on a subcontractor/supplier for finishing some of the first run parts (hard anodizing, etc.) and another national holiday is this week so that has caused some delays (Tomb Sweeping Day).  Originally they were hoping to have the first run prototype parts shipped by the end of March but now we are looking at mid-April.  Once these final parts are approved production can finish on all parts!

Youtube user unboxes a new-in-box IBM Model M square silver logo keyboard from ModelFKeyboards.com

Youtube user Rællic picked up my pair of brand new factory sealed IBM Model M square silver logo 1390131 keyboards and has done a quick unboxing video.

I do have another one of these from the same shop in case anyone’s interested in getting a brand new IBM Model M square silver logo buckling spring keyboard (part 1390131).

 

Quick update 2-28-17

We passed $200,000 in orders this week – a major milestone!

We are still waiting on the first run prototype parts to be made and then hopefully approved. I was hoping to get these earlier but the factory has been slow to get things going after the Chinese New Year holiday. Production of all parts can start after these first-run parts are approved.  The current factory target is for first-run parts to be in hand for inspection by the end of March.

Anyone can still add to their order at this point with additional keyboards and/or accessories.

Several people suggested I offer a kit of spare parts for the future when production is long finished after this year – now you can order it through the store item “First Kid Kit.”  No need to pay for extra shipping – I will combine orders – just choose “other shipping” at checkout.

Quick update 2-5-2017

Everyone at the factory is returning for work this week.  We passed $190,000 in orders recently!

The immediate priorities are to get in hand the remaining first-run parts made to my specifications:  buckling springs, top/bottom inner assembly, boxes, and the keys.  After these parts have been approved, production will continue from where it left off (production has finished on the flippers, barrels, original style cases, capacitive PCB, controller PCB, ribbon cable to attach the two PCBs, and USB cables).

At this point we are waiting on the factory to do everything to spec.  I will not approve or send out something that I would not want to use myself, something not to my specifications and level of quality.

Another early 2016 interview with a major tech news site about the Brand New Model F Keyboards project

Below are my replies to their questions:

 

1.  It’s tough to fully convince someone of the appeal of the Model F keyboard in just words – you have to try one out to really understand the advantages of buckling springs, including the smooth key travel of the Model F keyboard and the sharp, satisfying click when a key has been pressed.  I feel this project appeals to different people for different reasons but one major reason is that it is the very first, and so far only, project to restart production of IBM’s legendary buckling spring keyboards, now that the patents have long expired and have gone to the public domain.  It offers the only alternative if you want a keyboard with one of the most widespread mechanical keyboard switches since the 1980s that is not based on Cherry MX.

 

Here are the main perspectives of appeal for this project in my view:

 

–The typing experience:  The Model F keyboard offers the best typing experience.  If you’ve never typed on a Model F or Model M (its significantly cost reduced successor that replaced almost all the metal with plastic) it is difficult to convey the experience.  IBM’s venerated buckling spring switch technology was developed in the 1970’s and is at the core of the IBM Model F.  This keyboard switch has a delicate yet incredibly tactile response that makes typing a pure pleasure.  If one of your readers is new to mechanical keyboards, the buckling spring switch is what other mechanical switches are modeled after and compared against (especially those blue and green switches!).  Many consider the buckling spring the best switch for typing, with anecdotal claims that using a buckling spring keyboard reduced fatigue and improved accuracy (I have personally passed 100+ WPM on my Brand New Model F prototypes with a few typing tests).

 

–The quality perspective:  The Model F is probably the highest quality, mass produced keyboard anyone has or ever will type on.  You have the solidness of the keyboard:  It is a heavy keyboard that weighs 5-10 pounds depending on the model and has a metal case, steel inside plates and buckling springs.  Compare this to a mostly plastic Cherry MX style keyboard that sells for $100 to $200.  Then you have the legendary IBM moniker and its connotation of the highest quality of goods and a reputation for extreme durability.  Many 1980s and 1990s IBM keyboards are still fully functional today.  IBM’s Model F keyboard from its PC AT computer even works natively with today’s PS/2 ports, as long as you buy a passive 5 pin DIN to PS/2 adapter.  Then you have the quality of the key caps – they are made with PBT plastic which does not yellow or degrade as quickly as low grade ABS plastic common to many keyboards.  Also the key legends are dye sublimated onto the keys, meaning the ink is deeply infused into the cap instead of pad printed on top of the keys (the latter method often leaves sloppy looking or illegible legends and shiny/slippery key caps over time that make the user less productive with the keyboard).  The interaction of all of the metal plates in a Model F as a user types produces what many describe as a musical quality of the keyboard where each key sounds slightly different (the buckling springs in my project – at least for the prototypes – are actually made of a specific material that is commonly sold as piano wire!).

 

–The legacy/historical perspective:  Tens of millions of IBM buckling spring Model M and Model F keyboards were made over the 1980s and 1990s and many people fondly remember using that great clicky keyboard at work or at home.  Some may remember when they upgraded their IBM computer to another brand and only then noticed how much they missed their clicky keyboard!  Even as people upgraded their computer equipment over many years/decades, the one thing many people held on to was their IBM buckling spring keyboard, which is unique in an industry where planned obsolescence is the norm.  I do hope that these keyboards survive the test of time.  So many products people buy today develop issues in a few months’ or years’ time and are meant to be disposed of; it is great to be able to buy something made today that you can use every day and it will be there for you to use 10, 20, 30 years from now.  I hope this F77/F62 project will be like that.  I do not want to compromise a project like this by lowering standards and cutting corners to make it inferior to an original because it is something I want to be able to use and something that is on par with the original Model F keyboards that I use daily – that is why I insist on materials and production processes that meet or exceed original standards and tolerances, including lots of metal!

 

–The technical perspective:  Building from the quality perspective, the Brand New Model F keyboards project improves upon the original F’s by offering the great Model F technology in a modern 60% and 75% style layout that can be factory customized (ANSI, ISO/international layouts, HHKB style layouts, unprinted keys, etc.), full NKRO (N-Key rollover) capacitive switch sensing, native USB connectivity with no special driver required for Win/Mac/Linux/Android, and open source firmware and GUI software to fully customize your keys, function layers, and macros.

 

–The ability to get a Model F brand new, fully assembled and configured, and native USB is also a big factor – most people prefer not to clean out 30 years of gunk and hair from a used keyboard off an online auction site and spend hours washing and restoring it just for the privilege of using an IBM Model F keyboard in all its prime.  And then they need to figure out how to buy a teensy or Model F USB controller board, program firmware onto it, and configure that firmware – it’s just too time consuming but up to now it was the only way to use the best keyboard possible.  Also many Model F keyboards came with strange layouts that were difficult to get used to, such as the IBM XT keyboard.

 

–The upgrade over a Model M:  Most people who enjoy buckling spring keyboards know about IBM’s Model M clicky keyboards, and not the superior earlier model, the Model F.  While the Model F was replaced with the cheaper and now easier to obtain Model M, the Model M made some sacrifices on build quality and tactile response, replacing almost all metal with plastic.  Out was the incredibly sharp and firm click of the Model F’s flippers making direct contact with its large printed circuit board.  In was the Model M’s tiny pivot plates hitting a rubber mat and underlying plastic membrane sheets with a relatively dull thud.

 

2.  The process and history of the project:  I have been a collector of IBM buckling spring keyboards for years and was able to acquire a number of Model F keyboards through my network of IT recycler contacts, but no 62-key “Kishsaver” Model F keyboards (Kishsaver refers to a nickname given to keyboards that Deskthority contributor Kishy described in detail on his web site and helped reintroduce to the public a few years ago).  (A note on the naming conventions of this project:  While the brand new Model F keyboards from this project can support any number of keys, I chose model names that reflect their original key counts; hence they were named F62 and F77.)  To no avail I spent a while looking for more 62-key F62 Kishsavers and 77-key F77 keyboards.  Given the high demand for Kishsavers and 77-key Model F keyboards and the non-existent supply, as well as my own interest in a Kishsaver, I looked into what it would cost to bring these great keyboards with metal cases back into production, working on the CAD files and discussing ideas with a number of very smart people including professional engineers, PCB designers, and product designers, some of whom have contributed to the DT/GH/reddit forums.  I was also inspired by the significant interest and discussions on the forums regarding bringing back the Model F buckling spring keyboard.  This project is definitely not a one man show – I could not have done this project without the help of so many community members, especially xwhatsit for inventing a reliable capacitive controller replacement for Model F keyboards, as well as others whom I have not yet asked if they would like to be publicly recognized.  I have learned a lot along the way about manufacturing, PCBs, materials, micrometer measurement, CAD (computer aided design), and about the specifications of Model F keyboards.  This is a unique project in that it is the first one to bring back Model F buckling spring technology, which has been out of production for essentially 25+ years.  The buckling spring patent expired long ago, opening the door to “generics” but no projects involve brand new buckling spring keyboards made from 100% new stock.  I had to pay for all the tooling, CNC milling and molds – with no guarantees of success.  Another forum member pointed out that the Cherry MX and other custom keyboard projects have lower production costs as the individual key mechanisms are pre-made, unlike Model F components.  I have been working with my China contacts for about a year and a half on a number of projects so it was not difficult for me to work with them on this project.  My past projects included mass production of xwhatsit’s PCB’s that allowed older IBM keyboards to be USB, have full NKRO, and function on today’s computer equipment.

 

3.  I think there are many factors for the increased interest in mechanical keyboards.  One is definitely the expansion of the number of computer and gaming enthusiasts and the gaming and mechanical keyboard communities that have flourished in recent years (including reddit.com/MechanicalKeyboards, Geekhack, and Deskthority).  Another related factor is the massive growth of interest in technology in general, and not just by a subset of the population.  Many years ago it was not as common in my experience to be knowledgeable with using computers and smart phones and they were not as much an essential part of most people’s lives, but nowadays almost everyone has a smart phone and/or tablet with them at all times and uses their devices constantly throughout every single day, and even young kids are better than their parents at the computer and are online and/or gaming daily.  With this acceptance of technology into the mainstream of our culture I think it has opened the door for millions of people to want and to seek out the best of what technology has to offer in a given product category:  the newest and best iPhone or Samsung Galaxy, a brand new flat screen large-format, high definition television, the best tablet, a state of the art (possibly custom-built) computer, a car with advanced computer integrations and safety features, a high-end home stereo/surround sound/sound bar setup, etc.  Many of the mass produced keyboards with Cherry MX switches have centered their branding and marketing on being “gaming keyboards” but I feel that mechanical keyboards serve a significantly wider market as well and are even more important for the comfort and productivity of those who use computers every day, especially those who do a lot of typing.  I’ve spoken with many writers and programmers who love the Model F and other mechanical keyboards because their keyboard is one of the most important things they use every day and are willing to pay more for the best (many spend more hours typing on their keyboard than sleeping in their beds I’m sure!).  Many consider the buckling spring the best switch for typing, with anecdotal claims that using a buckling spring keyboard reduced fatigue and improved accuracy.  This is one reason mechanical keyboards in general are gaining in popularity, but unfortunately, availability has been a real problem for new buckling spring keyboards.  Keyboards with those other switches are often your only choice if you are looking for a 60% compact or tenkeyless board, since there those form factors with buckling spring switches either don’t exist or are rare and can only be acquired second-hand.

 

4.  I am a big fan and collector of the IBM buckling spring keyboards.  My very first keyboard was an IBM Model F.  The first family computer was an IBM PC (5150) or IBM PC XT (not sure the exact model) with its IBM Model F XT keyboard.  In recent years I’ve used the 122 key Model F keyboard as my daily driver thanks to Soarer’s great work with his converter and Fohat’s guide to refurbishing and adjusting the F122 layout to more of a 1391401 Model M ANSI layout.  In 2014 xwhatsit helped me to bring his Model F keyboard controllers to mass production and assembly in China at a significantly lower cost.  From a young age I have had a great interest in computers and have done a lot of typing on Model F keyboards.  I have taken them apart and repaired/restored a number of them.  But no related background for me; I am not a professional programmer or CAD person.  The professional and/or enthusiast-level background of those who have helped me with this project include programmers, PCB/hardware designers, engineers, product designers/inventors, and other Model F keyboard fans. Without them this project would not have been possible.

My full interview with a major tech news site

Here is a February 2016 interview about the Brand New Model F Keyboards project.  Here are my replies in the interview.  You can see the published press articles on the Press/Forums page.

First time bringing a product to market?  Nope – I handled two group buys for xwhatsit’s keyboard controller PCBs (one in late 2014 and one last year).  I worked with xwhatsit (Deskthority and Geekhack) to confirm the recommended parts for his open source designs and then found a great partner in China to work with, a partner I am using with the current project to bring back the IBM Model F keyboard. This initiative was the first one that mass produced xwhatsit’s PCBs.   Xwhatsit’s controllers were the first widely used controller replacements that enabled the original metal case Model  F keyboards to work with modern-day computers.  This is the first major project I’ve been involved with though.  I could not have undertaken this project without the help of so many community members from a variety of professional and enthusiast backgrounds including product design/engineering/manufacturing, circuit board design and programming, as well as fans and users of original Model F’s who helped with good advice throughout the project, which started around April of 2015 and was announced publicly at the end of June 2015.

 

I am a collector of Model F and Model M keyboards so I used my own collection to gain an understanding of how they work and to do the CAD measurements.  I actually had a few F77s and F122s (77 key 4704 F’s and 122 key Model F’s) whose parts were analyzed for this project.  Fortunately the Model F design is so easily disassembled, reassembled and repairable that no keyboards were harmed in the process.  I paid for the molds and tooling from China, which is where manufacturing and assembly of the brand new IBM Model F reproductions will take place.

 

Manufacturing of China – yes this is definitely an adventure.  The important part is to make sure you have the right partner there – one that is responsive, has excellent attention to detail, manufactures a great product to spec, and stands by their work (guarantees to re-make any out-of-spec parts).  Another key is to produce working prototypes and then make any small adjustments from there – some of the great advice I received from someone heading up another manufacturing project in China.  Yes it was a challenge getting the right materials and learning all of the terminology involved with manufacturing, including tolerances (how different from your drawings a part can be before it becomes out of spec and is not acceptable in the product).  Thankfully there were a lot of great project advisers, including those experienced both professionally and on an enthusiast basis with  product design/engineering/manufacturing, circuit board design and programming, as well as fans and users of original Model F’s who helped with good advice throughout the project.  This project and determining proper materials and production processes could not have moved forward without their understanding of and experience with manufacturing.  Another difficulty in determining the right partner in China is of economies of scale.  With such a small project, many of those in China I spoke with showed little to no interest in taking it on because they knew of all the months of back and forth that would be required to go over specifications, the hours of their engineers’ time to review CAD files, and the hours needed to tool and produce prototypes.  Unless you are making thousands of units it is a major challenge to manufacture inexpensively in China.  The issue is definitely of cost, even in China.  Tooling costs involve paying the factory for materials, labor, and the opportunity cost of “machine hours” to set up and customize a number of their factory’s machines in a way that will make your product.  Every production run requires re-tooling the machines because after your parts are made they need the machine to be set up again for another project.  Mold and tooling costs run in the tens of thousands of dollars total for this project.  Also getting the plastics right was a challenge and major risk for the project.  Model F keyboards use capacitive buckling spring technology, which requires specialized plastic that can act as an electronic bridge on the matrix PCB even though it never physically touches any exposed metal contacts.  Fortunately I had a lot of help from some professional engineers and product designers who advised me on which resins (specific types of plastic) would be a good choice for this project.  We got the plastic resin right the first time for both the major plastic parts (the “barrels” upon which the keys attach to and “flippers” attached to buckling springs – these flippers flip down when the spring is buckled and form a capacitive bridge).  I’m not sure these technical descriptions are 100% correct but here’s a link to xwhatsit’s project page which may prove a better resource if you’re interested.

http://downloads.cornall.co/ibm-capsense-usb/

 

Setbacks?  Because of the months of communication back and forth in discussion with potential suppliers as well as the great support network of mechanical keyboard enthusiasts on Deskthority, GeekHack, and R/MK (Reddit.com/MechanicalKeyboards) any problems were minor at most and corrected quickly (e.g. the foam they used for the packaging was not the one I had specified – they quickly fixed it and re-made the prototype foam pieces shown with the F62 and F77 on the Brand New Model F keyboards web site).  I did need to redo some measurements that were about 0.1mm or 0.2 mm off from IBM specs and believe it or not that made a noticeable difference in the functionality of the parts (it also cost me four figures for mold adjustments!).  The biggest surprise/setback was that PayPal decided to freeze all the project funds [now we use a major credit card processor, Authorize.

 

Electronics – All electronics and software for the Brand New Model F keyboards project were conceived, designed, and programmed by Deskthority forum member xwhatsit.  It is my understanding that he completely disregarded IBM’s original controller design and went back to the 1970s buckling spring patents (now long expired and in the public domain) to redesign the software and hardware from scratch.  The capacitive PCB (the big PCB underneath the keys that contributes to the extra clickness of Model F keyboards over Model M keyboards) has a very similar layout to the originals.  Yes this project just uses xwhatsit’s open source Model F USB controller soldered by ribbon cable (like the original Model F’s) to the capacitive PCB.  I may not end up using xwhatsit’s controller, however, as I am considering another design currently in development on the keyboard forums.

Working Compact Case F62/F77 prototypes are finally here! + Questions for you

I know that many of you were waiting to see photos and video of the working compact case prototypes in action before placing an order.  Well they are here and they pass inspection!  See the photos and video here:

https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=79141.msg2329617#msg2329617

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For those who ordered the classic style die cast zinc powdercoated cases, all those orders are in production!  Each part is in a different stage of production; most of the parts have finished production, including the powdercoated cases.  So we are just waiting on those remaining parts and the final assembly of each keyboard.  Then the finished keyboards will ship to me by sea mail from the factory in China.  After a few weeks the container ship should arrive in NY where I will be testing each keyboard one by one to make sure it passes my strict quality standards.  I expect to wrap everything up before mid-2017.

The factory has done excellent work so far and I’ve been using the fully working prototype F77/F62 keyboard for about 11 months now as my daily driver (including as I write this update!).

The delays in recent months were primarily due to my strict quality standards (rejecting factory samples one after another until they got it right) as well as factory delays.  I’ve learned that complex, high quality products made from brand new molds take significantly longer to manufacture than the factory’s estimates.

For those who are thinking of ordering an F62 or F77, you still have time to order but once the final round deadline passes, no more orders will be accepted.

Check out the die cast molds, thousands of barrels and capacitive flippers, the finished powdercoated cases, the ultra compact case prototypes, the new xwhatsit compact PCBs powering these keyboards, and other factory photos from the production process.  It shows unfinished parts in production as well as finished parts.

Newly added original buckling spring keyboards now available to order!  Including an Industrial SSK, brand new Square Silver Logo original IBM Model M 1390131 keyboards in full retail packaging, new in box and used early 1990s Model M’s, original PC AT Model F keyboards, and more.

If anyone else wants to help with this project, the most important thing I could use help with is on the marketing strategy.  I would like to have the ability to make as many new Model F keyboards as possible!  If anyone can offer some help it would be greatly appreciated!
SUMMARY OF EVERYTHING THIS BUY INCLUDES
* Basic keyboard models:  F62, F77, Ultra Compact F62, Ultra Compact F77
* One-piece XT-style keycaps made from new molds, including Industrial SSK style blue keys – extra sets are also available separately
* Extra parts also available separately including Model F (AT) compatible barrels, flippers, cases, PCBs, inner foam, and inner assemblies
* Available layouts:  ANSI:  US and HHKB style with split backspace and regular non-split backspace.  ISO:  Vertical enter with a variety of international layout variants:  Spanish, German, Nordic, French, UK, etc.

IN PRODUCTION
* Ultra compact cases
* Key molds / keys / buckling springs
* Inner assembly plates
* Boxes / inner foam / outside foam packaging

FINISHED PRODUCTION
* Die cast zinc cases (powdercoating is done too – the die cast cases are all finished!)
* barrels
* flippers
* capacitive PCBs
* compact xwhatsit controllers
* case molds
* ribbon cables (to connect controllers to capacitive PCBs)

ORDERS LOCKED
* Cases and other parts have been ordered, so please no major changes!  Adding to your order is OK as I am making extras for the early bird round (see below)!

STILL CAN BE ORDERED
* Everything.  I have ordered extra keyboards and parts for the early bird round, which will be ongoing while supplies last.  Then there will be a final round for about a month after the early bird keyboards are delivered.

QUESTIONS FOR YOU – please reply!
* How did you hear about the project, for those not following the Deskthority/Geekhack/reddit threads and posts?
* How do you plan on using your F62/F77?  From those I’ve spoken with so far, there are quite a few programmers and writers.
* What part of the project convinced you to be a part of the group buy?
* For those who haven’t ordered yet, is anything holding you back?  Was anything not presented well on the web site, that could be fixed?  Any other questions feel free to reply to this email or PM me on the forums and I will get back to you.
* Do you have any advice on marketing/getting in the media?  Which relevant news sites/blogs/authors do you like?  I probably need to get some F62/F77 review samples out before the end of the final round.

Comprehensive Production Update

Here is a comprehensive production update for those who have not been on the forums recently.  Everyone still has time to order but once the final round deadline passes, no more orders will be accepted.  Please check the web site for the deadline.

The most important thing I could use help with is on the marketing strategy.  I would like to have the ability to make as many new Model F keyboards as possible!  If anyone can offer some help it would be greatly appreciated!

 

SUMMARY OF EVERYTHING THIS BUY INCLUDES
* Basic keyboard models:  F62, F77, Ultra Compact F62, Ultra Compact F77
* One-piece XT-style keycaps made from new molds, including Industrial SSK style blue keys – extra sets are also available separately
* Extra parts also available separately including Model F (AT) compatible barrels, flippers, cases, PCBs, inner foam, and inner assemblies
* Available layouts:  ANSI:  US and HHKB style with split backspace and regular non-split backspace.  ISO:  Vertical enter with a variety of international layout variants:  Spanish, German, Nordic, French, UK, etc.

IN PRODUCTION
* Ultra compact cases
* Key molds / keys / buckling springs
* Inner assembly plates
* Boxes / inner foam / outside foam packaging

FINISHED PRODUCTION
* Die cast zinc cases (powdercoating is done too – the die cast cases are all finished!)
* barrels
* flippers
* capacitive PCBs
* compact xwhatsit controllers
* case molds
* ribbon cables (to connect controllers to capacitive PCBs)

ORDERS LOCKED
* Cases and other parts have been ordered, so please no major changes!

STILL CAN BE ORDERED
* Everything.  I have ordered extra keyboards and parts for the early bird round, which will be ongoing while supplies last.  Then there will be a final round for about a month after the early bird keyboards are delivered.

Here are over 100 production photos of the foam, metal parts, boxes, controllers, powdercoated die cast zinc cases, ribbon cables, etc.  It shows unfinished parts in production as well as finished parts.

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