Assembling Keybow

In this tutorial, you'll learn how to assemble your Keybow mini mechanical keyboard. Assembly should take 15 to 20 minutes, and the only tool you'll need is a Phillips screwdriver. We'll fit the Raspberry Pi Zero WH to the acrylic baseplate first, then fit the Keybow PCB, and last of all fit the switches and key caps.

Attaching the Raspberry Pi Zero WH to the baseplate

We'll begin by attaching the rubber feet to the thicker acrylic plate.

Peel the protective film off the two acrylic pieces very carefully. The thinner piece is especially fragile, so be really careful when peeling the film off this one. Take the thicker piece and turn it so that you can read the Keybow text. Stick the four rubber, self-adhesive feet to the acrylic where the four outlined circles are.

Next, we'll attach the Raspberry Pi Zero WH to the acrylic baseplate.

Remove the Zero WH from its antistatic bag. Flip the baseplate over, so that the rubber feet are now sitting on the surface on which you're working, and the outline of the Zero WH is at the top left corner. Sit the Zero WH on this space, with the GPIO pins towards the top of the acrylic baseplate (the solder joints underneath the Zero WH's header should sit neatly in the cutout at the top). Use two of the M2.5 metal screws and two nuts to attach the Zero WH using the bottom pair of mounting holes (the ones further away from the Zero WH's GPIO pins).

The thinner acrylic piece is a shim layer that levels up the metal standoffs that attach the Keybow PCB to the baseplate and Zero WH, so that they all sit at the same height. We'll fit it now, using one of the standoffs.

Slot the shim layer next to the Zero WH on the baseplate; it'll only fit one way. Take one of the metal standoffs and one of the metal M2.5 screws. Push the screw through the hole at the bottom right corner of the baseplate and shim layer, from below, then screw the female end of the metal standoff onto the screw.

Take care not to overtighten any of the metal screws, as you'll risk cracking the acrylic.

Lastly, screw the remaining nut all the way onto the male thread on the top of the standoff that you just fitted. This will sit in the mounting hole on the Keybow PCB that doesn't have a threaded metal post and keep that corner level.

Don't fit any of the other standoffs to the acrylic baseplate yet!

Attaching the Keybow PCB

The three other mounting holes on the Keybow PCB have threaded metal posts. We'll be screwing the male-threaded ends of the metal standoffs into these metal posts. Peel off the little amber pieces of protective film off the posts and screw in the standoffs.

You can now push your Keybow PCB's female GPIO header down onto the male GPIO pins on the Zero WH. Make sure that all the pins are lined up correctly. There will be a little gap left between the headers, but don't worry because they'll still be making good electrical contact.

Use the remaining three metal M2.5 screws to attach the standoffs to the acrylic baseplate, again taking care not to overtighten them and crack the acrylic.

Mounting the switches and key caps

The switches push tightly into the PCB switch plate, and then the whole plate with switches mounted pushes down onto the Keybow PCB, with the pins on the switches being gripped in the hot-swap sockets.

It's important that you orient the switches the right way round when pushing them into the plate. If you look carefully at the switches, you'll see they have a little cavity underneath on one edge. If you turn the switch plate so that the black and gold side is facing upwards, and the KEYBOW text is at the right hand side, then the cavities on the switches should all be at the top.

Push each switch into the plate, so that they sit flush. They're quite a tight fit, but they should click in when they're properly fitted.

Next, we'll mount the key caps. It doesn't matter which way round they go, as they're completely symmetrical. Push them all the way down onto the stems on the switches.

Flip the switch plate with switches and key caps mounted and take a look at all of the pins on the switches. Sometimes, they can get bent slightly in transit, but they all need to be straight to fit correctly into the hot-swap sockets. You can gently bend them back into position if you need to.

Turn your Keybow PCB assembly and switch plate so that the KEYBOW logos are both at the same side. Align the two pieces with each other, and gently sit the switch plate and switches in the correct location with the pins on the switches in the sockets on the PCB. Once you're happy that they're all correctly aligned, then push the switches down into the sockets. It's best to hold the whole thing at both sides and apply even pressure, so that they all go in straight. The bottoms of all of the switches should sit flush with the Keybow PCB.

Next steps

The next step is to set up the Keybow software and customise your key mappings. We'll cover all of that in the Setting up the Keybow OS tutorial.

That's all folks!

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