Joe’s Hand-Made Oak Planck

Today we interview Joe from the UK who has this stunning handcrafted Planck set into a hand-crafted, retro-inspired oak case. Keep reading to find out more!

Hi there, who are you and where are you from?

Hi! I’m Joe and I’m from the UK

What attracted you to the world of mechanical keyboards?

Honestly, I think I saw a conversation about weird expensive hobbies on Reddit a few years ago and someone ended up linking r/MechanicalKeyboards. I was amazed at how customizable keyboards could be – it’s something many people use every day but most people don’t love their keyboard. For many people, it’s just something they use to get work done.

What were you looking for in your perfect keyboard? Do you think you achieved it?

That’s a difficult one, as I feel there are a few different uses for keyboards, so often one is perfect for one thing and another for another. My Planck is a proper typing board. It’s got me through two years worth of essay writing at uni and it’s always the primary board on my desk. It’s comfortable to type on and my layout is specifically designed to do what I need it to do, but I keep a standard layout with lighter switches nearby for gaming!

Tell us about the case? What did you go for and why?

The case is handmade from two solid pieces of oak and birch plywood. I’m a designer and I have been interested in vintage 70s and 80s styles for a long time, so I wanted to have a keyboard that reflected that. I added the slots on the sides to look like vents in old computer hardware like the Commodore 64, and I’ve got a brown/beige coloured cable on order from Pexon. It’s actually the third wooden case I’ve made for this keyboard, each improving on the last, but I think I’ve finally made one I’m really happy with.

What switches did you go with? Why?

Well, it doesn’t have stabilisers because I went with the full grid layout, but the switches are MX Clears. I love these switches as they’re quite heavy and very tactile. They really feel mechanical, which is something I think fits the “built to last” 70s aesthetic of the board.

How about the PCB?

The PCB is the standard Rev. 4 Planck from OLKB 

Did you use a plate? What’s it made out of?

Again the plate is the standard brushed stainless from OLKB, but I took the time polish it a little when I desoldered the switches recently. Also something to note about the design of the case, the original Planck aluminium case is still inside there – It’s a full keyboard that’s sandwiched in the wood for increased rigidity that the plate alone wouldn’t have given.

And of course… what keycaps are you wearing today?

The caps are Q-Series Pennine from Devlin. They’re based on the old Pennine point of sale keyboards from the late 90s and are similar to DSA profile, but thicker and more blocky. I love the retro, understated look, but also the novelty legends like “Alpha Search”, “Void”, and of course “Hot Key” in red!

Tell us about the Lube!

They are currently unlubed! I actually built the core keyboard a few years ago when lubing was less common and was more of a top-level enthusiast mod! I have tested lubing and filming on some spare switches and liked the sound improvements so I do have plans to do the full board at some point.

Anything else went into this endgame build?

I’ve got a custom cable on the way from Pexon but I’d say the main endgame thing about this board is it’s one of a kind case.

Cheeky question… how much did it all cost?

Oh it’s hard to remember… I think the keyboard itself was a little over £100, and the caps were around £60. The wood for the case was free – the oak was an offcut from some garden decking and the ply was stolen from work (don’t tell the boss!)

How long did it take you to build this keyboard from start to finish?

I built the actual board about three years ago, but the case was more or less built in one day during lockdown! (if you’re reading in the future, just look up “2020”)

If you could change anything about this keyboard what would it be?

It’s possible to sand and finish oak to a really lovely, super smooth finish. The difficult thing is keeping it that way when you’re constantly touching it. Warmth and moisture from your hands will keep raising the grain. I could get around this by using some kind of resin varnish but I wanted to keep it natural so I’ve used beeswax polish. This makes it smell lovely but it will likely need to be lightly sanded and polished every so often. But that’s just a product of the material it’s made from.

Do you have any other keyboards in the works?

I do. I have a KBD75 v2 on order with 67g Zilents and I’ve bought into the second run of MT3 Susuwatari which will fit very nicely! I love the design of the v2 and have a few ideas for some little case mods so keep an eye out on r/MechanicalKeyboards!

Finally… time to promote yourself. Where can we find you online and what do you do?

I usually go by some variant of GreyHexagon, but my Instagram is @joseph.byham and my personal website is joseph.byham.co.uk.

Thanks, this has been cool!

Andy Written by:

I'm Andy, keyboard nerd and moderator of this wonderful website. My dream is to help keyboard newbies learn everything that goes into creating high-end "endgame" mechanical keyboards.

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