Episode 3. Ergomech Sofle v2

I read a lot of Reddit posts in r/mechanicalkeyboards, r/ergomechkeyboards, r/olkb. I learned that the Moonlander’s ortholinear layout doesn’t match the different lengths of human fingers. I learned about column-stagger vs row-stagger.

Open source keyboards

On these subreddits, I learned about open source keyboards. And open source keyboards blew open the doors for me. There’s a whole world of open source keyboards, outside the realm of big retailers, hidden from view of big reviewers.

Someone will design a keyboard and post to GitHub the specifications to print the components of the keyboard. So anyone can build the keyboard for themselves. All that they need is a soldering iron and access to 3D printing.

I also found splitkbcompare a website to compare several of these open source keyboards.

One of these keyboards was the Sofle v2.

Choosing the Sofle v2

The Sofle v2 caught my eye for several reasons. It was column-stagger (opposed to row-stagger or ortholinear). It has so many keys! In my head, I mapped out where all the keys would be. It had a number row. It had plenty of thumb buttons, I figured a few of them could be Control, Command, Shift and Option. It also has two rotary knobs! I mapped one of them to volume and the other knob to switch between Mac and Windows.

All those keys made me feel safe. That I would definitely find some layout that would work for me.

Now I needed to get one.

Acquiring a Sofle v2

I needed a pre-built keyboard. I did not want to build one myself. I’m a programmer, I’m bad at interacting with the physical world. Also, my small apartment doesn’t have room for soldering. And plus I would need new equipment.

Also, my wrists weren’t exactly back to 100% either.

I googled and I searched for someone who sells pre-built Sofle V2’s. It was hard to find! Then finally a Reddit user recommended the services of another Reddit user who builds keyboards!

I messaged with him back and forth for a long time about the all the options for the Sofle v2. He recommended Gateron Yellow switches. He had just finished designing an aluminum case that he was excited about. He patiently answered all my questions about tenting and wrist rests. I had thought I want wrist rests as part of the keyboard, like the Kinesis Freestyle

I was planning on getting blank keycaps, because I didn’t want the pressure of committing to a particular layout. I knew I would probably move around the modifier keys.

I told this to him, and he understandably sent me a mixed bag of keycaps for the keyboard. That was probably a mistake on my part because finding matching keys is kind of a challenge.

Shipping problems

Due to Covid-19, shipping from Vietnam took longer than usual.

One of the tenting legs broke during transport. Snapped in half!

Maybe this is why folks are reluctant to ship pre-built keyboards to customers. It’s so much easier to find kits or separate parts.

He sent me a file to print a new leg. But I’m not experienced with 3D printing.

Usage

The Sofle v2 felt amazing! The Gateron Yellow key switches felt so satisfying. The rotary knobs were nice too. I used one of the rotors for volume, and the other to change between layouts.

As time went on, the custom aluminum case got to be too tall for my wrists. It’s well-made, but doesn’t feel good to me. I needed something lower in profile.

Conclusion

The Sofle v2 was a nice transition to columnar stagger. With the many keys that it has, I was able to experiment with different layouts. I settled into the Miryoku layout which I discuss in the next episode.

I would also recommend buying from the same country as yourself if possible to avoid problems with shipping and customs.

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