Model 01 Kickstarter Day 26: MakerLabs in Vancouver + Key Layout Changes

Hello from Bellingham, Washington!

We’re less than 5 days from the end of the Kickstarter campaign.

This morning, we woke up in Seattle and set out for the Canadian border en route to MakerLabs in Vancouver. Canadian customs was even less interested in the Model 01 prototypes than the last time we brought them into Canada…two weeks ago. Has it really been only two weeks since we were in Toronto? It must have been, but it feels like that was a lifetime ago. In the intervening time, we’ve brought the Model 01 to fans and makerspaces in Ann Arbor, Chicago, St Louis, Dallas, Austin, Denver, Albuquerque, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Eugene. 

MakerLabs is the biggest, newest hackerspace in Canada. After Artisan's Asylum in Somerville, MA, it's the biggest space we've visited on this trip. They just moved into their space 3 months ago, but it's already remarkably well filled out. Derek Gaw, one of their founders, described their model as a cross between Artisan's and TechShop. They provide turnkey fabrication services, have a small retail area, sell memberships ($100/mo) and rent studio space at $2/sq ft. The makers renting studio space there run the gamut from woodworkers, to a pattern maker, to a leather worker, to a cabinet maker, to a chef (they have a small commercial kitchen), to an artisanal soap maker, to a specialty coffee roaster. Derek said that many of the makers who rent studio space offer classes in their crafts.

Soap made at MakerLabs!
Soap made at MakerLabs!

The space is two levels. The front half of the downstairs is a reconfigurable multi-purpose space that gets used for everything from meetups to light making. Just about everything in that part of the space is on wheels, even one of the CNCs. The rest of the first floor is split between studio space, a woodshop, a lasercutting area, a 3D printing area and areas that will become a darkroom and a cafe.

Taking the Model 01 for a test-drive
Taking the Model 01 for a test-drive

Tonight's event was quite well attended, though apparently one attendee's flight got delayed and they missed the meetup. We managed to find a few minutes during the meetup to catch up with our old friends Joe and Luke, who showed up. Jesse spent a bit of time nerding out about the design of keyboard internals, USB connector choices and keycap plastics with Henry Liu from who came down to check out the Model 01.

One theme this evening was key layout and hand size. Tonight, we got both ends of the hand-size spectrum. A 6'9" adult who's been programming for decades and a 4'-something 10 year old who's just getting started on her programming career. The younger of the two spent time trying out the Model 01 as well as 4-5 other keyboards folks had brought along. Her favorite switches turned out to be the loud Matias clicky switches. We feel bad for her future officemates.

We talked through the changes we know we'll be making to the key layout:

  • The palm key will be moving about half an inch further away from the thumb keys to make it slightly more comfortable to hit 
  • The arc of thumb keys will be tightened up just a bit to help folks whose thumbs find the current layout a bit too spacious 
  • The contours of some of the keys will be softened just a little bit. A few of the current shapes are a little pointier than we'd really ever meant for them to be 
  • We'll be making the tops of all of the keys slightly smaller. They won't get further apart or closer together. By making the tops a little bit smaller, we'll increase the empty space between key tops, which should reduce typos and make the Model 01 more comfortable. 
  • We may tweak the positions of the pinkie keys just a tiny little bit to help make them easier to hit

One interesting change we came up with this evening as we talked to an attendee is "growing" the butterfly and escape keys so they reach down to just above the thumb arc. Right now, that's dead space on the keyboard and also one of the most fragile bits of wood on the enclosure. Changing the shape of those two keys is pretty easy to do and should help make the Model 01 more comfortable for more folks.

Obviously, we'll test all of these changes before locking them down.

The limited edition Model 01 is made from mahogany. Up to now, we haven't had pictures of what that might look like.

Cutting a mahogany Model 01 on the ShopBot at home
Cutting a mahogany Model 01 on the ShopBot at home

One of the few things we managed to do during our two days at home this week was to mill a sample of a mahogany enclosure for the Model 01. This is actually the very first time Jesse managed to cut a workable Model 01 enclosure on the ShopBot at home. We still don't have a finished mahogany enclosure (it generally gets quite a bit of finishing), but this is what it looks like after a single light coat of oil.

Mahogany Model 01 enclosure before and after a first light coat of oil.
Mahogany Model 01 enclosure before and after a first light coat of oil.

You know how really nice wood sometimes has a kind of vibrant iridescence as you turn it in the light? It’s a really lovely effect, a bit hard to photograph, but lovely.  Mahogany has it pretty well.  Anyway, Kaia was wondering what the name for this phenomenon is, and it turns out it’s called chatoyancy From the French word for cat, chat, because the wood looks kind of like cat’s eye, the gemstone.

A couple people have asked us about mahogany and sustainability. We're absolutely thrilled that folks care where we're getting our wood. It's a sad fact that some many beautiful trees have been harvested nearly to extinction and we very much don't want any part in that. The Forest Stewardship Council is the globally recognized authority on wood sourcing. We’re committed to only using FSC-certified sustainably sourced wood.  The mahogany pictured here is plantation-grown 100% FSC-certified Honduran mahogany.


Today, we drove 198 miles, bringing us up to 7458 miles since we set out from Boston.

As of 1am on July 11th, a total 1552 of you have backed us to the tune of 1554 keyboards and $479,143. That's...just about $20,000 in the past 24 hours.

On Saturday, we're at ADX in Portland

On Monday, we're at EventBrite in San Francisco

On Wednesday, we're biting our nails as the campaign ends. 

On Thursday, we're sleeping.

<3 j+k

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