An artisan keyboard

It started when Eric sent me a link in email. The subject line was “another keyboard”. I’ve been looking for a new keyboard ever since my beloved Touchstream LP began dying. It’s 12 years old, so I can’t complain.

Having suffered with RSI in my late 20s, I’ve become a big fan of ergonomics. It’s why I switched to typing Dvorak instead of Qwerty.

At work I’ve been using the Kineses Advantage LF (with the cherry key stem). It’s a lot like the Touchstream in terms of light pressure to activate the keys and putting your hands in a neutral position. I even got a pedal that I can use to press the Shift key. It’s a whify thing, I was thinking about buying one for home, until I saw this…

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This is the Keyboardio.

It’s beautiful. It’s ergonomic. It was designed by an indie husband and wife team. You can program the light show that plays across the keys (or turn it off). It’s based on Arduino.

It’s open source. They give you the source code and a screwdriver when you purchase one. Which means that instead of going obsolete over time, this keyboard can actually improve. And if you like to tinker with software and hardware, you can improve it yourself.

One of the things I love about handweaving is the beautiful tools, lovingly created by craftsmen or small companies. Beautiful woods, things that feel as lovely to touch as the things you make using them.

Thanks to a couple of peer bonuses from work, it’s mine. Or at least, it will be when they ship in April 2016.

Derby Skates Makeover

I’ve been with my current derby team for over a year, but my skates still reflect the colors of my previous team. It was time for a change. So I went to MacPherson Leather Company, down in Seattle, and after consulting with the guy behind the counter, purchased some leather paint.

I was initially worried the paint would flake off, but the salesman assured me that the paint was super flexible after drying and took me over to a belt sample that he proceeded to wring like a towel you’re trying to clear of water. The paint held. Time will tell if the paint can stand up to the rigors of derby.

I bought the following:

  • Lincoln No. 10 Black suede dye and dressing. You need special dye to handle suede without clumping.
  • Angelus acrylic leather paint, in Light Green. This is the super flexible paint that won’t flake.
  • Angelus No. 600 Acrylic finisher. This is to protect the leather after painting it. The number determines the gloss of the finish. No. 600 is a satin finish.

This is the before picture of my skates. A nice pair of Antiks in my old team’s colors: blue and orange.


My new team’s colors are green and black. The first step was to color the blue suede with the black suede dressing.


I decided to leave the orange accents because: they are pretty; will pop against the green; and to honor the Sockit Wenches. They took a chance on me, and though it didn’t work out long-term, they still have a special place in my heart.


Next I used acetone (aka. fingernail polish remover) to remove the gloss finish from the smooth leather parts of the boot that I wanted to paint green. This step is necessary to make sure the paint adheres well to the leather. This gave the leather a bit of a chalky haze.

Then I used a brush to paint a thin layer of the leather paint. The green over black came out darker than I wanted, so I waited for the boot to dry and then painted another thin layer, this time brushing in the opposite direction than I’d used the first time. I switched direction in an attempt to obscure the brush strokes.

After the third layer of paint, the color was the bright green I wanted, so I let the skates dry overnight (waiting was hard!) and then brushed on a layer of the acrylic finisher to protect the paint.

Ta-daa! The finished skates, now in Tacokicker green and black.


Doing the painting in many thin layers gave a nice even look to the color, and I’d recommend that to anyone trying a similar project. Crossing the brush strokes with each layer helped, but if you get about a foot away from the boot, you can still see some brush strokes. (Though if we’re playing derby and your head is a foot or less away from my skate, brush strokes are probably the last thing on your mind…)

If anyone knows a way to paint acrylic paint onto leather without brush strokes, please drop me a comment and let me know how. I’d like to do more leather painting, preferably without brush strokes.

After this initial experiment, I’m of a mind to get some leather shoes from the thrift shop and steampunk-i-fy them with bronze and copper paint, rivets, and gears.