I’ve used enough keyboards to have a pretty good idea of what I wanted: a “column staggered” ergonomic keyboard, with a “3x6” or “4x6” layout, and at least three (though preferably four) thumb keys per hand.
I found a few keyboards that I liked:
- I love the design of the Ferris keyboards, but they’re all 3x5, with only two thumb keys per hand. So that doesn’t really work for me. They’re also not Pro Micro compatible, so you can’t make them wireless.
- The Elephant42 is interesting. It’s not actually a 3x6, but sort of a… 3x6 - 1? Which might work just fine; I’m not really sure.
- The Pteron looks like my perfect one-piece keyboard, but I really wanted to stay split.
- The Torn keyboard is pretty good: the design is a bit showy, but I reluctantly admit that I like the visible diode array. It’s not Pro Micro compatible, though.
But the Kyria was ultimately the winner. Unfortunately the website that sells the Kyria doesn’t really have any decent pictures of the assembled keyboard, but a google image search will give you a pretty good idea of what they can look like.
It has exactly the layout I want, except that it has these two extra not-really-usable thumb keys:
How are you supposed to press those?
The Advantage2 and Ergodox have these same keys, so I’m used to their uselessness, and they don’t really bother me. The Kyria also allows you to merge the two keys into a single 2u key, if you’re using normal “MX-compatible” switches, but not if you’re using low-profile Choc switches. I’ll talk a bit more about that in a future post.
I also am sort of ambivalent about the lack of a number row. I’m used to typing numbers using a numpad layer, so I don’t really mind this, but I would be happy with a 4x6 layout as well.
The Kyria has one particular advantage over all of the other keyboards listed here: you can buy parts for it. It’s not a totally bespoke, custom thing – it’s a product that someone is selling. Or rather… it’s a kit that someone is selling, that you can assemble yourself.
And it just so happens to be compatible with something called the tenting puck. This is basically a threaded mount for any tripod hardware – which opens up a whole world of weird ergonomic possibilities. (Seriously. Click that link.)
I was encouraged by this, and decided that I had found the keyboard for me.
I was also encouraged by the fact that splitkb.com publishes a layout tester: a piece of paper that you can print out to see if the key layout feels comfortable in your hand.
I printed it out. I tested it. It felt great.
Ordering the parts
I ordered the Kyria PCB and case and parts from splitkb.com, at a time when the website claimed orders were shipping within one day. This turned out to be false, however, and due to an office move, a problem with international shipping labels, and the general state of logistics in late 2021, it took one full month before my kit arrived from the Netherlands.
This might normally be frustrating, but the package arrived with a complimentary stroopwafel, so all is forgiven. Also like it’s a two-person shop so whatever.
This turned out to be sort of a blessing in disguise, as it meant I had lots of time to read up on keyboards and keyboard building and learned about nice!nanos and custom plates and all kinds of things.