Look! It’s Hive76!

It’s a bit late, with all the building shut downs and nautical hackerspacing lately, but here they are, pictures I took with my face-backpack-thing at Maker Faire while wearing an orange spandex skin suit! We pulled together a heroic effort to fix it after everything was basically broken on arrival, so the mask now supports a new raspberry pi and fresh camera. Other than that it went great! I even had an extra battery to swap out as needed. See you all at the next Maker Faire (and other assorted local events!)!


Playing the Lumiphonic Creature Choir!



Hello, mortal.


buskers76 – photo by Matt Yarema

Time for a long overdue update on the building situation. As many of our regular open house visitors have noticed, 915 Spring Garden, the building where Hive76 has set up shop since its inception in 2009, has been shut down due to code violations after a small fire in another artist’s studio. It is an ongoing issue with the city and owners of the building to resolve, but meanwhile we have no access to the building, our space, or our tools, so open house is postponed.

In the meantime, Hive76 members have been working on new projects in our garages and home workshops, and are going to public events to stay involved in the community, such as PumpCon this weekend. Stay tuned to our mailing list, along with our IRC Channel, #hive76 on irc.freenode.net, where we will make announcements of these events. We encourage everyone to reach out via e-mail and in person at any events we’re attending.

Hive76 is currently working with the realty company to find out when the building can re-open. We’re also investigating other options, such as moving Hive76 to a new location within Philadelphia. Either way, we’ll try to keep you informed about Philadelphia’s Premiere Hackerspace.

hivelord contemplates the future - photo by Matt Yarema

onward & upward – photo by Matt Yarema



Sorry everyone, due to a fire that happened last week in another artist’s studio, the 915 Arts building is closed to occupants, pending repairs and bringing things up to code. We will keep everyone updated when our scheduled open houses and everything is back in order.





How to build your own keyboard, or as I like to call it, spending way too much money on a computer peripheral you could get for like ten bucks. Hearken back to the old days, though, a true aficionado knows the glory of a loud, heavy, indestructible keyboard, like the IBM Model M, which has a cult following to this day. I was surprised to find out that there is a small but thriving community of manufacturers and hobbyists making mechanical keyboards, keycaps, switches, firmware, and all. You can design and assemble the entire keyboard yourself, and it can be fully customizable, with the firmware running on a Teensy 2.0 microcontroller.


I’d like to thank matt3o, who wrote the guides I followed to build this keyboard, and helped with a few issues in my design. His guides are linked below [0]. I’ll probably refer to them a lot, as my keyboard is pretty much a stright run through his guides, though with a different layout and a (what seems to be) novel and much faster way to solder the diode grid to all the switches. I also added a nifty transistor switched LED strip to illuminate through the acrylic layers on the case. I hope this guide can convince anyone interested in custom keyboarding to take the plunge and build their own!

Pictured above are the three keyboards I made. The first one, with the unlabelled keycaps, I considered purely a prototype, but it turned out perfectly functional. It’s made out of clear acrylic and some wood middle layers. The goal was to just test out my layout, CAD design, LED strip, minimize costs, and develop firmware before dropping the huge moneybomb on aluminum/wood cases. What I like to refer to as the ‘executive’ version is made of of waterjet cut 6061 Aluminum 0.06″ sheet, laser cut 0.15″ Poplar wood, and 0.062″ clear acrylic. The switches are all handwired with bare pre-tinned 28 AWG wire and heatshrink on the columns to prevent shorts. The keyboard with the NERV key is a work in progress and is basically the same as the DSA dolch keyset, but with different keycaps and a teensy++ microcontroller.


On to the tutorial! I’m going to break it up into multiple posts since it is a fairly long process. Here are the categories:

1. Case design and manufacture
2. Switches and keycaps and stablizers
3. Assembly and soldering
4. Firmware, LED strip, and transistor


[Part 1 – Case Design and Manufacture]
This part was the biggest learning curve for me to deal with, but thankfully there are a few tools made by members of the keyboarding community that takes a lot of the tedious gruntwork out of the situation.

You’ll first want to check out www.keyboard-layout-editor.com [1]. I highly recommend sticking with a straight ANSI layout pictured below, which is the standard you will find on most stock keyboards. My custom layout is similar to an ANSI 60% layout, but I added a column and scrunched in the arrow keys at the bottom right. I like it a lot, but buying keycaps is a pain, you’ll have to use a blank layout or pay too much for a special modifier pack to get the correctly sized right shift key and function keys. I designed it to fit a stock DSA Dolch kit from Signature Plastics. I’ll comment more on choosing keycaps in the next section, for now keep in mind that, when planning your layout, you are going to have to later spend money on the keycaps.




The nice part about keyboard-layout-editor.com is that you can export your layout as text in the Raw data tab. Cut and paste my layout below if you want to follow along. It will also come in handy with the next tool, which can do the majority of the CAD design for you. You can import your design from keyboard-layout-editor and http://builder.swillkb.com/ will make a CAD file for you [2]! That’s easily 90% of the work done right there! It’s an ongoing project, so you’ll want to open the output files in CAD and make any changes or modifications you want. Here’s the code for my keyboard layout, pictured below:

[{w:1.5},”Tab”,{c:”#909596″,a:7,f:6},”Q”,”W”,”E”,”R”,”T”,”Y”,”U”,”I”,”O”,”P”,{a:4,f:3},”{\n[“,”}\n]”,{c:”#f16f3b”,w:1.5},”|\n\\”,”Pg up”],
[{w:1.75},”Caps Lock”,{c:”#909596″,a:7,f:6},”A”,”S”,”D”,”F”,”G”,”H”,”J”,”K”,”L”,{a:4,f:3},”:\n;”,”\”\n'”,{c:”#f16f3b”,w:2.25},”Enter”,”Pg dn”],




I’ll explain more about stabilizer types in the next section, but a quick intro will suffice for now. When you press a key, stabilizers transfer the force from the sides of larger keys to the switch. There are a few different types, but I recommend going with costar stabilizers, since they fit in a rectangle and are easy to work with and readily available to purchase on The Internet (don’t ever underestimate how difficult it can be to source the parts you want for a keyboard).

When I first used swillkb it only output the top plate design, but it was easy enough to start from there with some basic CAD knowledge and make all the other layers for a the entire case. Use cut and paste and try your best to run up the learning curve of your CAD program of choice.

Without having and 2D CAD experience I tried out a few software packages before settling on Draftsight [3]. It’s free once you register and pretty straightforward to use. I also ordered the aluminum plates from eMachineShop, which has its own CAD program you can import dxf files into and order your own custom parts, which made it easy to get an instant quote on the design cost. Incidentally they were also the cheapest option. I ordered the Poplar wooden middle layers from Big Blue Saw, which was cheap but it turned out they were out of stock, so it took a month before the parts arrived in the mail. It’s worth sending off an email to double check what they have in stock if their website isn’t explicit.

Once you have your top plate designed, and if you already ordered your keycaps or have a spare set laying around, go ahead and print off, to scale, a paper version of the top plate. It’s an easy way to double check your layout and design before sending the CAD files off to be manufactured.



I lucked out, and have a friend in a design shop who cut out the entire design in acrylic so I could first verify the layout and case design before dropping the cash on a metal and wood case. Thankfully the layout was spot on, all I had to do was raise the stabilizer holes 0.25mm on the y axis to get them to work smoothly. With the tight tolerances in the design, you may end up having to file down the stabilizers to get a smooth travel. That’s fine and almost expected, I haven’t had any issues with it after filing down a bit of the plastic.

Next article I’ll talk about the fun part, choosing the switch types and keycaps to get the right look and feel for your keyboard!




[0] http://deskthority.net/workshop-f7/brownfox-step-by-step-t6050.html
[1] http://www.keyboard-layout-editor.com
[2] http://builder.swillkb.com/
[3] https://www.3ds.com/products-services/draftsight-cad-software/


This week we have a very special request for those planning to attend our Wednesday Open House event. One of our members has organized a clothing & toiletry drive to benefit those experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia. She works at Mary Howard Health Center—a local health center that provides primary care and social services to patients on the homeless continuum—which  is hosting a summer clothing boutique this week, July 22-24. The boutique will offer an opportunity for individuals in need to “shop” (all items being FREE, of course!) for summer clothing, accessories, and personal care items.

Spring Boutique_final_for Hive

They are looking for donations of the following needed items:


  • Gently used men’s clothing (t-shirts, dress shirts, shorts, pants, shoes—they are particularly in need of sizes XL & up/size 36 and up
  • New men’s socks (preferably white for their diabetic patients)
  • New Toiletries (soaps, shampoos, deodorants, lotions, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shaving supplies)


Any quantity of the above items would help them give to their patients  in need this summer.


Please bring donations with you this Wednesday to our Open House event! Corrie (Hiver & Mary Howard HC employee) will be there and is happy to share more details about the event and the work that Mary Howard Health Center does within the homeless community in Philadelphia.

You can also drop off items at Mary Howard Health Center, located at the corner of 9th & Sansom Streets (entrance on Sansom).


Please feel free to contact Corrie with any inquiries (ctice_at_phmc_dot_org).


Corrie thanks you in advance for helping make this event a success!


Our New Laser Cutter!

The new laser cutter station in our classroom.

The new laser cutter station in our classroom.

We are very happy to share that Hive76 is now home to a 45W H-Series laser cutter from Full Spectrum Laser! Members now have the capability to cut complex 2D shapes in wood and plastic in thicknesses up to 0.25 inch. If you can draw it on a computer, the laser can cut it. It’s great for engraving too:

Hive76 rocks!

Hive76 rocks!

We’ve just begun making test cuts and machine break in. Our next step is to develop a class for members to become laser cutter certified. I can’t wait to see what kind of cool projects our members will use this tool for. In the mean time, stop by our open house Wednesday nights 7-10pm to see it in action and find out how to become a member!





Laser guts.



Tagged with:

Our old Makerbot case sitting in the scrap parts bin has been resurrected as a grow case for my terrariums! All it took was an afternoon, some scrap plastic sheets, a few LED strips + power supply, and liberal use of a hot glue gun.


ready to go


printing some plants


lights off


Lost Artwork Found!

One of our members Marie made a beautiful painting of Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII.  Sadly when Marie moved away from Philly to pursue her programming career her painting got lost in the abyss that is the Hive76 utility closet.  Luckily her painting resurface and is now on display for everyone to appreciate.


Thank you Marie, we miss you!


Vintage Video Game Night!

50-ToyHallofFame-atari-2600-game-systemCommadoreSONY DSCnes

Well, it’s that time of year again! We’ve gathered up all of our old consoles, dusted off our CRTs, and practice blowing off our NES games!

NES, Super NES, N64, Commodore64, Atari, Dreamcast, 3DO, plus tons of games, and more! The Hive76 vintage video gaming night is back again for Philly Tech Week 2015!!

A free event!
Tuesday, April 21
915 Spring Garden St


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On Tuesday April 28th Chris Anderson will be instructing a lecture and demo on Hydroponic and Aquaponic gardening. If you are interested in learning alternative farming and gardening techniques this class will introduce a more environmentally friendly process for growing your own produce. Generally, the hydroponics approach is beneficial because although the initial costs are higher, on a long term outlook the process is exponentially less expensive. Hydroponics also takes up to 50% less land use, therefore is much less intrusive to the environment, minimizing clearing of woodlands and soil degradation. The soil-less process of hydroponics also uses up to 90% less water and up to 60 % less fertilizer and pesticide use.

Join Hive76 members to learn more about how you can build your own sustainable farming/ gardening hydroponic or aquaponic system. The instructor will be providing the Basic items for the wicking system being built but please bring any supplies you have that may enhance the design. Chris Anderson will help guide the class in how they can optimize their gardening system with their suggested materials, exploring the creative possibilities in using recycled products. That class will cost $8, CASH ONLY. For more information check out the class in the Hive76 Calendar. Please comment below if you are interested and will be attending. Can’t wait to see you there!

Take a tour of Chris Anderson’s classroom design.

The materials for the class are as follows:

Basic items:
2L or 3L soda bottle(s)
Old white t-shirts/towels (washed)
Encouraged items:
Aquarium/fish-tank air-pump, tubing, air-stone
Gravel (any size)
Geolite, Vermiculite, hydrocorals
plastic planter cups
empty plastic squeezable condiment bottles
plant seeds
caulk, silicon, caulk-gun
pipe cleaners
construction paper
aquarium lid with florescent light
power-strip; plug in timers
straws, tubing (any sizes)