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.