American Kestrel

November 23, 2018

Introducing the American Kestrel. So named for its wing-like appearance. I think the name is fitting, and cool. This is my first PCB design after my test order. This is the decendant to my handwire board I've been calling the Ergodox Compact (EDC), future builds (if any) will be called the Merlin. There are a few changes from the original.

This board ditches the numbers row. I have determined it to be completely superfluous, instead the numbers are on the second layer on the home row.

I've replaced the 2u keys in the middle columns with 1.5u keys, I found the costar stablizers used in the EDC build were extremely noisy, and make a very irritating rattling sound.

The extra space created by the 2u to 1.5u change let me put an extra row of keys in the center columns. This allows changing the matrix to a fully populated 6x5 by doubling up the columns and putting the inside columns on their own row.


The build is very straight forward. Solder on the diodes and switches. I chose white solder mask for this since this will be my main keyboard and I want to try RGB underglow and think white will reflect more light.

I added configuration jumpers to allow using either an Adafruit ItsyBitsy or the QMK Proton-C. The appropriate jumpers need to be bridged.

Here you can also see the RGB underglow jumpers for use with a Neopixel strip. Also we have light ports for future shine through support, you'll notice the light ports are way too small, will need to fix that in the future. There is also Kail hotswap socket support, but you have to flip the board over and mount the ItsyBitsy/ProtonC upsidedown, which kinda sucks. I probably won't use the hotswap sockets on this board, but it its good to know my footprints work.

After a few minutes of typing on the kestrel I decided I didn't like having the Novelkeys Box Royals on the outside columns, So I desoldered them, and carefully poped them out.

Replaced them with Kailh Box Blacks. Much better.

Here's the Neopixel Strip taped to the acrylic bottom plate.

Using 8mm spacers there is barely enough room for the pixel strip, luckily it is protected by the sheathing to prevent any damage from the pins sticking through.

I don't have any photos of the underglow on, but suffice to say it is underwhelming.

Some pictures of a second build, using the Proton-C, having USB-C is pretty cool, other than that, it works the same as the ItsyBitsy.

The Kestrel perched on my MBP.