Techkeys SixKeyBoard CNC Edition

In addition to being a full time IT professional, and woodworking hobbiest, and dad of 3 amazing kiddos, I also have another obsession with mechanical keyboards. If you have never typed on a mechanical keyboard, dump your keyboard and get one right now - it is life changing. So this hobby led me down a rabbit hole which turned into a small business selling Mechanical Keyboard creations and accessories. I saw an opportunity for a perfect crossover between my two hobbies and the result is the Techkeys SixKeyBoard CNC Edition.

This handheld controller has some pretty nifty features:

  • Plug and Play USB - behaves like a standard keyboard
  • Anodized Aluminum Case
  • Cherry MX Compatible tactile and clicky Blue Switches. Click clearly defines a key press unlike a common keyboard or gamepad.
  • USB Cable routed from bottom of device to reduce interference with CNC
  • Allows operator to get extremely close to bit, and operate with one hand for precision jogging or zeroing operations.
  • Programmable through visual programming tool EasyAVR.

My primary objective is to share the hard work that I have poured into this project, but if you would like to support me by purchasing one it would be much appreciated. I realize there are a lot of options for jogging devices (game controller, mini-keyboards, tablets and mounted PCs) but I would argue that nothing beats a tactile clicky switch you can hold in one hand and does not require you to look at to control.

I welcome all questions and feedback, and will leave you with this video giving a quick demo and adorable sales pitch!

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I don’t suppose a 2 x 4 version with 8 keys would be an option? esp. if you could map them to gamepad buttons (I’m thinking the two to increase/decrease the feed rate).

Or, have you considered making a 1x4 product which could be snapped together? I know a lot of artists using tablets for art would love to have something which could be attached to the bottom of a tablet with Velcro and which they could then use to access modifier keys when drawing (I’m a Freehand guy, so I’d need shift, ctrl, alt, and either tab or ` depending on what sort of work I was doing at the moment).

It’s a bit tough to justify this when a Stream Deck with the same # of keys is just a bit more, but to be honest, you had me at “mechanical”

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I am working on a 3x3 board to add 3 speed options I think much larger than that and it starts to become more of a mounted device rather that an ergonomic handheld device. Unfortunately, with COVID-19 things are quite delayed, but I am hoping to have that out in the next few months. Sneak peek at the keycaps I have already received for the speed controls:

Side note - it seems from my research that X-Carve’s Easel does not support keyboard shortcuts for speed controls – sucks to suck

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Please see: Using a Game Controller with CM513 and later

You only need 2 buttons for speed (if you map to the game controller buttons for this).

Any possibility of the 1x4 option though?

Possible yes, but each board requires quite a bit of circuitry design, testing, manufacturing as well as case design so it is a bit of an undertaking.

I do have some ideas for a more flexible design but its more than a few months out.

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These macro keypads are typically just some switches hooked up to an ATMEGA32U4 (Arduino Leonardo or pro micro.) A 1x4 would be a fairly simple diy project if you weren’t intending to mass produce with a custom PCB. You can program the switches to emulate any key press or combination.

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You are correct - if you have the raw materials, some soldering skills, some programming skills, and can fabricate a case, this isn’t an incredibly difficult product. If you are interested in taking it on, I do sell swtiches (https://techkeys.us/collections/accessories/products/gateron-keyboard-switches) and a unique PCB that can make your wiring a little more tidy (https://techkeys.us/collections/accessories/products/the-enabler). If anyone goes this route, I would recommend doing a “plate mounted” case (like this https://techkeys.us/collections/accessories/products/sixkeyboard?variant=25290988040) Of course feel free to reach out to me to leverage some of my keyboard knowledge.

Also - if the $60 price tag is too daunting and you are a maker at heart - you can buy just the PCB of the SixKeyBoard for $15 (https://techkeys.us/collections/accessories/products/sixkeyboard?variant=18993395524) and solder switches, and build a case. The anodized aluminum cases were a good chunk of the cost of the final product and that is something a lot of you can mill on a Shapeoko! The custom injected molded keycaps needed to be produced in great quantities so they were a large expense as well.

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Not to knock your work or product, but a $5 wireless keypad works. And is wireless… Or a probably free game controller is even better. Looks nice, but I’d rather spend the difference in tools.

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No offence taken. You are right there are cheaper options and I would agree wireless is nice but here is my opinion on why I think my custom solution for this problem is better:

  1. Wireless keyboards need batteries (some last longer than others)
  2. Wireless keyboards are either large and clunky or have tiny tiny keys that you really need to look at while pressing
  3. Most Wireless keyboards have mushy keys that do not clearly actuate with a click making it harder to know exactly when and how many times the button press is issued

As I mentioned, a lot of the cost of this device is on the fit and finish, and something similar (or perhaps even more custom to your workflow) could be created for less. But this is my ideal controller (well almost – speed control buttons in the works) and I think if it is great for my workflow it would be great for others.

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