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.