gherkin keyboard review

Categories:   productivity   tech  
Tags:   dvorak  

/images/gherkin.jpg

The Gherkin Keyboard Review

This is the review of the gherkin keyboard, a 30% keyboard from the 40percent.club.

This keyboard is for extreme enthusiasts.


Let’s clear some things up:

  • Is this a joke?
  • Why is it aligned in a grid?
  • How can 30 keys be enough?

Is this a joke?

Though many keyboard enthusiasts build the gherkin just for the sake of building a gherkin, there are people that actually use it.

Here are some reasons why I think people build/use the gherkin keyboard:

  • Build it just for fun.
  • Keep it as a collection.
  • For secondary use along with other keyboards.
  • Use it for stenography.
  • Insane people that believe they can use it as a daily driver just because people say it ain’t possible <- me.

Why is it aligned in a grid?

This layout is called the ortholinear layout. The grid layout is designed for intuitive typing.

With the gherkin, every key is literally 1 keystroke away making it very easy to touch type on.

How can 30 keys be enough?

If your coming from a 40% keyboard, you might think that a 30% keyboard is taking things too far.

However, with the use of layers, Mod-Tap and the IGNORE_MOD_TAP_INTERRUPT feature, it’s possible easy to use the gherkin as a daily driver.

I think it’s border-line usuable with a few compromises (I can still type 85+ wpm on this little thing).

My current Gherkin layout

Here is my current layout for the Gherkin keyboard.

I try to keep my layouts the same across all keyboards: (preonic, planck, levinson, gherkin).

Layer 0 - Dvorak


,----------------------------------------------------------------------
|ctl ' |   ,  |   .  |   P  |   Y  |   F  |   G  |   C  |   R  |ctl L |
|------+------+------+------+------+------|------+------+------+------+
|L4 A  |   O  |   E  |   U  |   I  |   D  |   H  |   T  |   N  |    S |
|------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+
|sht ; |alt Q |win J |L3 K  |space |L2 B  |L1 M  |   W  |   V  |sht Z |
`---------------------------------------------------------------------'

This is a standard Dvorak layout with the - (hyphen) and x missing.

I had to sacrifice the x for the more commonly used spacebar.

Some of the keys have 2 symbols: you “hold” it to activate the first symbol and “tap” it to activate the second one.

For example if you hold the very top-left key it will register as a ‘ctrl’ key, but if you tap it, it will register as a ‘.

This is how you can fit all of the keystrokes in just 30 keys.

When the L1, L2, L3, L4 keys are held, they activate different layers making it possible to map this keyboard logically.


Layer 1 - Numbers


,----------------------------------------------------------------------
|ctl 1 |   2  |   3  |   4  |   5  |   6  |   7  |   8  |   9  |ctl 0 |
|------+------+------+------+------+------|------+------+------+------+
|tab   |   F2 |   F3 |   F4 |   F5 |   F6 |   F7 |   F8 | BCSC |Enter |
|------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+
|sht   |alt   |   F1 |   F9 |      |      |*L1*  |      |      |sht   |
`---------------------------------------------------------------------'

The L1 key enables the numbers as well as the BackSpace, Enter and Tab keys.


Layer 2 - Symbols


,----------------------------------------------------------------------
|ctl   |  esc |      |      |      |      |   [  |   ]  |   `  |ctl - |
|------+------+------+------+------+------|------+------+------+------+
|tab   |      |      |      |      |      |   /  |   =  |   \  |      |
|------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+
|sht   |alt   |      |      |   X  |*L2*  |      |      |      |sht   |
`---------------------------------------------------------------------'

The L2 key enables my the all the symbols as well as the x character.

The x is actually not commonly used in english so it’s not really an issue.


Layer 3 - Shortcuts


,----------------------------------------------------------------------
| VirL | VirR | CH L | CH R | VolU |      |      |      |      | ctl  |
|------+------+------+------+------+------|------+------+------+------+
|WinTab|AltTab| Copy | Paste| VolD |      |      |      |      |      |
|------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+
|Ctl+W |alt   |      |*L3*  | Mute |      |      |      |  Ins | Del  |
`---------------------------------------------------------------------'

This layer is has some useful shortcuts on the left side which is often used with the mouse.

This mininizes having to switch hands between the mouse and the keyboard.

VirL & VirR will switch virtual desktops.

CH L & CH R are for switching between tabs in chrome.


Layer 4 - Navigation


,----------------------------------------------------------------------
|      |      | up   |      |      |      |      |      | P.Up |P.Down|
|------+------+------+------+------+------|------+------+------+------+
|*L4*  | left | down | right|      |      |      |      | home | end  |
|------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+------+
|sht   |alt   |      |      |      |      |      |      |      | sht  |
`---------------------------------------------------------------------'

This is the navigation layer and in my opinion the most important layer.

Using this layer effectively is almost like mastering the vim shortcut commands.

summary

Apart from the “Symbols” layer and the issue with the “X”, I think this layout is quite intuitive. If your coming from a 40% keyboard you will need some time adjusting to using your thumb and fingers for the bottom row.

I think that you will agree that the gherkin is definitely capable as a daily driver.

How can I get one?

You can purchase the gherkin kit from the 40percent.club.

Here is what you will need:

With the Grid:

  • 1 grid plate
  • 1 gherkin pcb
  • 1 bottom plate
  • arduino pro micro
  • 30 switches (mx or gateron)
  • 30 keycaps (mx or gateron)
  • 30 diodes
  • some m2 screws (m2 is the diameter)
  • some m2 stands to place between the plates

This gherkin will have the grid to slot the switches in. This guarantees that the switches will be aligned perfectly but the build will be slightly larger.

Without the Grid:

  • 2 gherkin pcb (use the second pcb as the bottom plate)
  • arduino pro micro
  • 30 switches (mx or gateron)
  • 30 keycaps (mx or gateron)
  • 30 diodes
  • some m2 screws (m2 is the diameter)
  • some m2 stands to place between the plates

You can omit the grids and solder the switches directly on the pcb. The build is smaller compared to the above version but it’s up to you whether you get the switches to align perfectly or not.

LEDs

If you want to add leds, you need additionally:

  • a mosfet, a resistor (I forgot the resistance) & 30 leds that.

Don’t get surface mounted leds unless you have flux.

other things

Note: this board is not compatible with alps switches.

Also, if you don’t like the green pcb, you can download the pcb file somewhere and order your own pcb in a different color.

I got my first gherkin pcb in black.

See the gherkin instructions on the 40percent.club’s website regarding the parts.

I got most of my components such as the stand-offs and screws from Aliexpress.

You can also 3d-print your case if you have a 3d printer.

soldering

Unless you getting hot-swappable stands from somewhere, you’ll need to solder all the components to the pcb.

You’ll need:

  • Soldering Iron
  • Solder
  • Flush Cutters
  • Screw drivers

There are a few gherkin builds on youtube you can follow.

Just becareful of: + the order you solder the switches and pro micro on the board. + the orientation of the pro micro when soldering. + do you want the usb-port out on the left or right? + the pro micro’s usb port is flimsy; hot glue it in place after the build.

Installing the QMK firmware

Once you built the keyboard, you need to flash it with the QMK firmware.

When you flash the board, you need to short circuit the reset and ground pins on the arduino using tweezers or something.

You can follow the official guide on olkb for instructions.

The documentation here on https://docs.qmk.fm is good.

If your on a windows, here’s what you probably need:

The github page will have some instructions along with a Planck folder with the default keyboard layout.

You can customize this layout to your liking before you flash it on your board.

You’ll need to run a few commands in the terminal for this.

You can also check my layout on my github.

Conclusion

The gherkin is definitely my favorite keyboard due to it’s low cost and portability.

If I knew what I know now, I probably wouldn’t have bothered getting the Planck or the Preonic (I would still get the levinson though).

If you’ve never typed on a mechanical keyboard you should give it a go. They really are amazing to type on.

Another popular choice is the “Anne Pro 2”, a 60% bluetooth RGB keyboard with Gateron switches.

If you’re interested in learning touch typing or the Dvorak layout, you can check out that article too.

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Categories:   productivity   tech  
Tags:   dvorak  
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