"Send More Paramedics..."

Hey guys! Hard to believe it's already been a week since our last post, but here we are at the end of February. It's been a hectic month so far (to say the least!) with Valentine's Day, Kudos' birthday--and, as you all know--our impending release, but luckily we have lots to show for it, including two new additions to our little fur family: Furt & (Moogle) Mog.

Letting the cat out of the bag

Among the plethora of hints Kudos' has been dropping for you guys, some of you are probably wondering--what now? When are they going to finally make an official announcement? Well, I wanted to take a second to explain to you guys WHY this has taken as long as it has, since he is--understandably--way too swamped to update this thing right now.

Technical Difficulties

Frankly speaking, there have been some "hiccups" along the way. If you've been following our posts, or are familiar with casting at all, you know resin is a fickle beast. So much of what we are doing is essentially reverse-engineering--playing with and controlling different variables and attempting to quantify or duplicate the result. However, due to the nature of the beast, there are times when a problem arises and the solution is nowhere near immediately apparent. And until it becomes so, it's pretty much an educated guessing game. A particularly stressful one at that, because it brings progress to a screeching halt.

As you can imagine, this can get pretty frustrating at times, even downright scary (if you function on a tight schedule like the one Kudos sets out for himself). One small hiccup can set him back DAYS on production. The current release we're working on is a five-part mold (3 part process), which can only be accomplished over the span of about 24 hours. If anything comes up, we're instantly behind a full day, usually more, since we are currently working around Kudos' extremely unforgiving work schedule (you know, his other full-time job). Free time is a precious resource around here, and keeping a tight schedule is imperative to our success. (and sanity, as the events of this last weekend reminded me, because one of us may or may not have had an emotional breakdown)

Weekends, birthdays, holidays--they all take a backseat when it comes to our end goal: creating something that hasn't been done before. And I promise, this coming release will be well worth the wait (and the hype!). But I also wanted to mention that it wasn't without a hell of a lot of blood, sweat and tears that we were able to bring it to you. This, for me, is a very special release, and I hope everyone else enjoys it as much as we do. It truly came at a high price.

Also, to everyone who wished Kudos a happy birthday or sent him a gift--you guys are the best! It really made his day. Still,  I could only get him away from casting long enough to get dim sum and open his presents! (it took him 3 days just to touch his Sweet Lady Jane cake -_-)

As usual, lots more to come! Thanks for all the support from everyone in this wonderful community. KK loves you<3

Koala-T

🐨🍵

KK: In the Lab

KeyKollectiv Stickers are in!

KeyKollectiv Stickers are in!

First off, Happy Valentine's Day everyone! I don't think the holiday is all that special personally (but any excuses to be extra nice to each other is👌🏻in my book). With LA traffic being even more unforgiving on holidays and Kudos' birthday coming up, we decided to forego leaving our cave and celebrate at home.  Our original plan was to "relax"--maybe watch a movie and cook a nice meal together; no crowds, no work, no stress. However, that plan fell apart within the first few hours of being awake because we are both in-denial workaholics. So instead of being mushy and cuddling on the couch, we're hanging out in our lab and prepping for our next production, which as it turns out, is actually less stressful (and fun) than "relaxing" because it doesn't come with the costly price tag of feeling worthless.

Anyway, Kudos and I have been wanting to post more workshop related posts but since I'm  still (*ahem*) not at liberty to spill the beans on our upcoming release, I figured I'd get creative and share with you one of our current inspirations--Tame Impala. We like to listen to a lot of music when we're casting, but one song in particular has been on repeat for DAYS, it's that good.

But wait, there's more! THE MUSIC VIDEO IS EVEN BETTER. Seriously, I know music videos aren't relevant anymore but this is quite possibly one of the best and most creative I've seen in years, possibly even ever. Do yourselves a favor and watch it right now. (you're welcome!)

Key-Walas; That's a Wrap!

Well, it’s that time again. All round 3 and after-sale orders were shipped out this morning. The lab has been swept and cleaned; no more bottles of premixed jelly colors and molds and sprues and shipping clutter strewn about. To be honest, it feels a little empty. By the time we wrapped up this last round, I could barely fit through our apartment door with all the packages. On the bright side, it feels extra clean without all these boxes everywhere.

Enjoy Your Feeling:

It’s always a little bittersweet wrapping up a sale. Kudos says he never wants to see a key-wala again, but I’m a little sentimental about this one. They’re just so cute and I hope they make everyone else as happy when they look at them as they do for me.

As much as I can appreciate the beauty in a stock HHKB or Leopold 660C, there is something about the personality of artisan caps–like Booper’s monkey or cosmonaut, or even Binge’s slo-fi–that I find endearing to no end. But then again, I’m all about the little things. Life is boring and mundane most of the time, so you might as well cherish it for what it is. And if I’m not mistaken, I think that’s what draws a lot of us into this somewhat unusual niche in the first place; it’s about finding enjoyment moment to moment–right down to touch of your fingertips when it hits just the right switch. Every little detail is a reminder to be present and grateful.

shout out to /u/lastafay for the photo on the left; thank you!

In other, non-sale related news, I have managed to watch a few episodes of Adventure Time over takeout (usually while simultaneously processing caps if at all possible), attend a family gathering, and catch up on a little bit of sleep (totally kidding about that last part, I’m a zombie right now), but Kudos on the other hand has SOMEHOW already been working away on another project, one I am personally really excited about, I might add. Unfortunately I’ve been ordered to bite my tongue on this one, so hopefully he’ll be updating himself on that shortly. (not to mention his birthday is in 8 days!!!)


Lots more to come from us in the coming days. Stay tuned! <3

Koala-T

"KeyKollectiv" Presents: Cha-cha-changes

Alright, so it’s 2AM; Kudos decided to pull the trigger on Round 2 a little early (due to a prior engagement with my family later today.) Surprise! Congrats to those of you who got in and to those who didn’t: good luck in Round 3–you can do it!&nbsp;&lt;3     This little “adjustment” translated to a late night of logistics and processing for us this rainy Sunday evening in Los Angeles. Fortunately, round 1 orders were already done; out of sight, out of mind! Or so we thought. Somehow Kudos and I momentarily forgot that we are anxiety-prone individuals who generally can’t rest until all tasks are completed. As much as I’d like to disclaim that sentence with the clause “within reason,” I’m not 100% sure in Kudos’ case I can. But then again, I’m the one writing this at 2am, not him. My point is, we like to “control our controllables”, as we say here in the Choubell household. Ponyo (our cat) particularly likes this philosophy as she currently believes she controls everyone in it.   Margin of Error;   As I mentioned earlier, Kudos and I don’t generally ‘like’ to rest (just kidding, I mean we physically can’t because our autonomic nervous systems seem think that making keycaps is the equivalent to life or death), this occasionally means we are half asleep in frog pajamas while printing invoices over our Monday morning coffee.. or editing Youtube videos at 1AM (:X). Mistakes happen. For anyone who noticed that little typo, I fixed it. Because it’s the little details like that–at 2AM–that show you what you really care about. If you can sleep, it can wait. At least, that’s my barometer right now.  Lastly, to anyone I have not responded to recently, I am deeply sorry. You will be hearing from me shortly! Here is what we have been up to since since our last release:

Alright, so it’s 2AM; Kudos decided to pull the trigger on Round 2 a little early (due to a prior engagement with my family later today.) Surprise! Congrats to those of you who got in and to those who didn’t: good luck in Round 3–you can do it! <3

 

This little “adjustment” translated to a late night of logistics and processing for us this rainy Sunday evening in Los Angeles. Fortunately, round 1 orders were already done; out of sight, out of mind! Or so we thought. Somehow Kudos and I momentarily forgot that we are anxiety-prone individuals who generally can’t rest until all tasks are completed. As much as I’d like to disclaim that sentence with the clause “within reason,” I’m not 100% sure in Kudos’ case I can. But then again, I’m the one writing this at 2am, not him. My point is, we like to “control our controllables”, as we say here in the Choubell household. Ponyo (our cat) particularly likes this philosophy as she currently believes she controls everyone in it.

Margin of Error;

As I mentioned earlier, Kudos and I don’t generally ‘like’ to rest (just kidding, I mean we physically can’t because our autonomic nervous systems seem think that making keycaps is the equivalent to life or death), this occasionally means we are half asleep in frog pajamas while printing invoices over our Monday morning coffee.. or editing Youtube videos at 1AM (:X). Mistakes happen. For anyone who noticed that little typo, I fixed it. Because it’s the little details like that–at 2AM–that show you what you really care about. If you can sleep, it can wait. At least, that’s my barometer right now.

Lastly, to anyone I have not responded to recently, I am deeply sorry. You will be hearing from me shortly! Here is what we have been up to since since our last release:

photos all from NYE 2015; Kudos and I actually processed ALL our orders before going out. No joke. (we were late)

And on that note, I am going to sleep so that no one from Round 2 winds up with a box of cat toys instead of key-walas.

<3 Koala-T

Key-Wala: Good Enough to Eat?

For the last few months, Koala-T’s health had been declining. While driving her home back from surgery, I couldn’t help but to think about how fragile life can be. Funny how existential crises can put everything into perspective. High failure rates? Order fulfillment? These things seemed so trivial in the grand scheme of things.

As I wrapped up the rest of MeowCaps, I couldn’t help but to think that I never made the cap that I originally intended to make for her. With our one year anniversary as KeyKollectiv on the horizon, I felt it was time to pay homage to my other half. Koala-T, who stood by me in my darkest hours. She who watched me work myself to delirium. Through resin rash and missing orders, she stayed by my side. And though a major driving force of KeyKollectiv has been me, I would likely not have the will or determination to persevere without her.

Koala-T has always had a sweet tooth. People would joke about how our caps looked like candy. It’s hard to see bright colored cubes and not think that. How would I incorporate this concept while paying tribute to her? A few days of concept sketching and I thought of it. Gummy bears! They are the quintessential gummy candy and would be perfect to showcase colors. But, gummy bears are long. How would I squeeze down the dimensions to work with a keyboard switch without losing that iconic form factor?

My workbench was a graveyard of deformed ursine gummy. Ever take a gummy bear and squish it down? The end result usually looks less of a bear and more of a meatball with limbs. After some pretty hilarious and horrifying revisions, I had a master that resembled a gummy bear. She squealed when I showed her the first draft but that familiar nagging feeling haunted me. Was it cute? Sure. But it felt incomplete at best.

It was so obvious that I felt stupid for not thinking of it earlier. Koala gummy bears. Of course! Within the hour, I extended the ears and carved that iconic koala nose. After that, all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. Color and styles followed organically. We would call it Key-Wala.

It was missing something. That familiar Kudos creepiness. Since releasing Furt, we’ve been getting a lot of inquiries about a new release. Though Furt V2 is still deep in development, we wanted to extend his influence to our other collections. With that, Furt X Kill-Wala was born. A keycap of cuteness injected with the macabre!

Sale Information!

Menu Album

KeyKollectiv Workshop: Intro 1

The period between releases is usually the most relaxing. Orders have been shipped and Koala-T and I have been brainstorming new ideas. It is a hope of ours to try to put out consistent blog posts. As we are a bit too early in the development process to tease our next collection, I figured I’d address a different segment of our fan-base.

Frequently, Koala-T and I receive a lot of inquiries from fans who are interested in making their own artisans. Though we cannot speak for other established artisans, we think the increased interest in resin casting is a welcome addition to the scene. After all, competition breeds innovation and diversity gives the community more options.

As resin casting does have inherent risks, educating oneself is paramount when delving into this craft. As such, it is not only the responsibility of a fledgling crafter to do all the research they can but also the responsibility of the artisan to provide sound advice.  

We hope to release the “KeyKollectiv Workshop” blog posts as an ongoing segment. Because artisan resin casting involves several processes, the goal is to focus each segment on different aspects of the craft.

Before we continue, I wanted to emphasize that any advice/instructions/opinions are that of KeyKollectiv. Information that we provide is based on our own experiences and research. Please bear in mind that methods/materials we use may not necessarily work for you. As such, we will attempt to provide general information that is more applicable to a wider audience. We understand that there is, already, a myriad of guides/tutorials posted on other sites. We encourage all interested parties to do their research and consume as much information from other sources as well. Keep in mind that these workshop segments are, by no means, a complete guide. And remember that preparedness will save you a lot of time, money and your safety down the line.

Material World

Among the most common inquiries we receive about resin casting is which materials to use. The truth of the matter is that there is no correct answer to this question. This question is equivalent to asking “what shoe size should I purchase?” The answer will be different for everyone. Before we determine what will work for you, we need to consider several factors.

First: Which brand of resin or silicone should you purchase? Two of the most popular brands in the US are “Smooth-On” and “Aluminite”. For the most part, either brand is a good choice and each one has an equivalent product for your needs. You may see slightly different cure times and structural properties but the difference is marginal. Our recommendation is to do some research on which distributors are located nearby. If you intend on taking resin casting past preliminary experimentation, it would be in your best interest to find materials that are readily available. If you are patient and want to save money, stores like Michael’s and Blick usually mail out coupons on a regular basis. Most stores will allow you to use them toward a purchase of a starter kit.

So you’ve located a distributor and settled on a brand to use. What now? Chances are, if you are reading this intro, your experience with resin/silicone is limited. It may take some time for you to adjust to a workflow that suits you. Your best bet is to select materials that have a longer pot life. The pot life refers to the amount of time your resin/silicone will be “workable”. In other words, once resin/silicone approaches its pot life, it will be too viscous to stir/mix/pour properly. These times can range from mere seconds to hours. You may find yourself taking longer than you originally anticipated just to end up with resin or silicone that is too thick to use. From our experience, resin with a pot life of 3-10 minutes and silicone with a pot life of 7-20 minutes was ideal for us in the beginning. Please note that, as you become more experienced or acquire better equipment, you may find that there may be products (with different properties) that suit your needs better. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Keep in mind that pot life is different than cure time. Pot life refers to the amount of time that your materials can be manipulated in a viable manner. Cure time refers to the amount of time it will take for your materials to become inert or safe to handle/demold. For example a resin that has reached its pot life will be gooey (gel-like) while a resin that has reached its cure time will be solid enough to remove from your mold (for the most part). Please make sure you know the distinction before selecting your materials.

Lastly, resin/silicone can be very temperamental. External factors such as ambient humidity or temperature can play a huge factor in your end result. If your work area is located somewhere with high humidity, keep in mind that the moisture may react with your resin and cause inhibition. In these cases, you may need to consider materials with a shorter pot life to mitigate exposure to moisture. Ambient temperature also plays a huge role in the resin casting process. Because your materials depend on an exothermic reaction (chemical reaction that produces heat) to cure, you may find that cure times will increase in colder weather. In these cases, you may need to include an additional heat source or acquire materials with shorter cure times.

There are simply so many factors that will affect the end result of your casting. Learning to properly troubleshoot problems will be one of the most useful skills you can develop throughout your journey. Research and experience will help to mitigate failure rates. Stay tuned for the next segment where we will discuss silicone, equipment and safety. Until next time!

In all fairness...

Often times, we are presented with questions or suggestions about how KeyKollectiv should run their sales. Personally, we welcome all input or criticism so long as it’s constructive. If you hate something we make, tell us it sucks. But also, tell us why it sucks. It is our firm belief that criticism is a catalyst for positive change. Those who reject input from others are the people who cease to improve. After all, ego is just armor for the insecure.

For those who have closely followed our progress on Reddit or GeekHack, the philosophy behind how we approach our sales may already be familiar. As we wrap up our sixth sale, we felt that it would be in the best interest of our supporters to explain our standpoint.

In the world of artisan keycaps, there will always be people who miss out. This is inevitability of a model where demand exceeds supply. At some point, the artisan must shift perspective from “how do we make everyone happy?” to “how do we minimize the amount of upset people?”

Limiting factors

A common sentiment among our supporters is to limit the amount of keycaps someone can purchase. This is a fair argument and I can certainly agree with the logic behind it. I’ve heard the argument that some people will likely not use all the artisans they purchase. This is also a valid point. The mech community is diverse. For some, having one daily driver is sufficient while others keep a plethora of keyboards/keysets.

Like many niche communities, there is a fair amount of avid collectors. I personally own 14 Topre keyboards. Do I need them? No. But they all serve a different function and each of them mean something to me. From my experience, I’ve met many community members who own more keysets than keyboards.

I, like many others, have a completionist approach to my hobbies. It’s not enough for me to own just a 55g Realforce. I also want to have a 45g uniform or variable weight in my possession. Likewise, this mentality can, very well, carry over to artisan keycaps. Furthermore, it isn’t uncommon for someone to buy artisans for friends/family/significant others in an attempt to share their hobbies and passion.

We understand that it may be frustrating to know someone has bought a set of keycaps while others receive none. Our goal is to strike a balance between both perspectives by imposing limits that don’t impede on both ends of the spectrum. From our experiences, the line between fair and excessive is a tenuous one. One which we are constantly working to refine. We recognize that our system isn’t perfect. Rest assured that we will always do our best to consider all options.

A major concern regarding limiting quantities is the ever-present influence of the after-market. Market speculators and resellers are a downside to most enthusiast community — mechanical keyboards is no exception. The fear is that, without limits, “scalpers” can easily buy up the allotted keycap limit and flip it afterwards. In an ideal world, the people who buy KeyKollectiv caps are people who actually want to keep or share them. The thought of someone making a profit off of our work leaves something to be desired. Unfortunately, we simply cannot regulate the aftermarket without imposing sweeping policies that will end up hurting everyone. Rest assured that KeyKollectiv does try to watch the aftermarket for any potential scalpers and actively keeps a list for “personal” records.

Distribution

Determining who gets into the sale is another conundrum we are faced with for each sale. In the past, we’ve done free-for-all flash sales, first-come-first-serve and raffle. As KeyKollectiv gained in popularity, we had to come to terms that the first-come-first-serve model was largely inefficient. SnacKeys Series 1 sold out within 7 seconds for the first round. The influx of orders was simply too much for the formlimiter script we included in the order form. The backlash was overwhelming. Accusations of people running scripts and aftermarket profiteering flooded the threads. We did our best to fulfill all the orders we could. In the end, even the 300+ SnacKeys we produced was not enough to put a dent on the sheer amount of demand.

There was a lesson to be learned from all of this. We adopted the raffle system into the Furt Beta sale. With only 25 Furts produced and over 300 entries, many of our most dedicated supporters were left with a bad taste in their mouths. In the end, we resolved to come up with a more efficient distribution system going into our next sale.

Koala-T and I weighed out the pros and cons of our previous sales. The first-come-first-serve system we utilized previously simply did not accommodate the demand anymore. We liked the randomness of the raffle system but wanted international fans and late-comers to have a chance to participate as well. What we came up with was a “staggered raffle system”. The sale would be divided by multiple phases. Each phases allowed new people to enter themselves into the raffle. This system also had the added benefit of giving us time to fulfill orders in a timely manner. Participants would be able to select which keycaps they wanted to buy and would be invoiced for what we had available.

KeyKollectiv greatly appreciates our fans. There are numerous supporters who have been with us since the day that a relative unknown by the name of kudos_and_godspeeddecided to post pictures of his humble first attempts at resin casting. We recognized that our fan-base has expanded considerably since MeowCaps V1. We’ve made so many friends along the way and are grateful for the warm welcome the community has showered upon us since the beginning. It’s for this reason that selecting random people for our sales is so difficult. It pains us to pass up on our dedicated fans who have been with us for so long. But we remind ourselves that fairness and integrity must be maintained. For all we know, that unknown may one day be a huge contributor to the community. He may have a wife or kid that would be elated to receive a KeyKollectiv cap. We may, very well, be their introduction into the artisan world. Their experience with us may help them forge new friendships and bonds with others within the community. After all, we were all an unknown at one point.

-Kudos

What are we up to?

This holiday break flew by, and now that it’s 2016 I’m left wondering what I have to show for it. One thing’s for sure, though, 2015 was a very eventful year for both Kudos and myself. I keep forgetting that KeyKollectiv has only been around for a little less than a year, and despite taking up a huge chunk of our time in 2015, so many other things have happened. I seem to only remember things related to KK lately. 

As I’m typing this, Kudos is working away on the last of our PurrKeys stock on his new equipment. Me? I’m marveling at my newly madeover Poker II and mulling over my anxiety about tomorrow. Why? Because after sitting on my jelly poms set for nearly half a year, I finally had the time to give my poker a well-deserved facelift… even if I had to sacrifice one of my clear switches in order to make them fit (it broke when we were removing a too-snug cap). Oh well. Just another modification to add to Kudo’s and my growing list of keyboard projects.

Tomorrow I begin prepping for my impending (although minor) surgery on Thursday. Suffice to say, I am not looking forward to it. I am, however, glad that this sale gave me something to be preoccupied with so I didn’t go completely stir-crazy. Now that we are reaching the end of our stock and packaging up the final orders, I can’t help but feel a little sad. Especially since I don’t think I’ll ever do Meowcaps again. Part of me wanted to do another small run of translucent “gummy” colors (like ‘mint jelly’ from the first collection), but I think it may be time for this marsupial to move on. 

Speaking of which, Kudos and I have been kicking around some ideas for our next release. While we haven’t decided on a color scheme yet, I’m pretty sure we’ve agreed on our next design. I say “pretty sure” because, of course, Kudos insisted that we try something that will be technically challenging, despite my personal inclination towards simpler designs in the artisan world. Regardless, I believe this next release will satisfy both of those requirements and I’m looking forward to the coming days of prototyping during my recovery.  So long as we can pull it off, that is. More on that later. As for me, I’m off to go have my final supper of choice–Kudo’s homemade dan dan mian. :3

– Koala-T

Beyond the Threshold

threshold.png

New Year’s Day, 2016. Koala-T and I sat in our lab sorting orders and printing out invoices/shipping labels. In one hand, I held a newly casted Calico MeowCap V2 and in the other, a V1.  There’s no doubt that these two keycaps were very similar but I knew the vast differences. The fingers and base were tapered to give it a more “round, organic” feel. This streamlining allowed for better clearance. The finish had a nice gloss and polish to it. Colors were consistent and bright. In many ways, V2 was a culmination of what KeyKollectiv learned throughout the year. How strange it was that we would be bringing in the new year by revisiting the first design that put us on the map.  

The coming of a new year tends to stir contemplation and reflection. For KeyKollectiv, we couldn’t help but to think of how we got here. Nine months ago, a relatively unknown community member by the name of kudos_and_godspeed posted up his humble attempts at resin casting keycaps. Back then, a keycap free of voids/bubbles was a victory. The encouragement of his peers gave him the drive to continue. As time passed, he would be joined by Koala-T and release MeowCaps. What began as a desire to customize their boards became a keycap that was sought after by the community.

And here we are, on the threshold of a new year. Our sketchbooks filled to the brim with concepts. Ambitious ideas that we yearn to bring to life. And though the countless, grueling hours compel us to rest on our laurels for a little while, we realize that our accomplishments exist only because you do. That’s right. You.

The few community members who encouraged me to keep trying after posting photos of my first attempts. The compassion and support that people poured on us when we announced that we couldn’t fulfill MeowCaps V1. To those who didn’t think twice to send us donor keycaps. Those who offered their help in our darkest hours. The many friends we’ve made along the way. Thank you. Thank you for believing in us. Thank you for acknowledging that we are people and not some faceless company. Thank you for the photos of keyboards adorn with KeyKollectiv caps. Thank you for your enthusiasm and allowing us to make your day. Thank you for being part of this Kollectiv — for being an integral part of KeyKollectiv. Here’s to you.

In our infancy, we look to our horizon and look forward to a new year. We look forward to meeting new friends and celebrating the bonds we’ve kept. And most importantly, we look forward to sharing this passion with you. Happy New Years!

 

-Kudos and Koala-T

 

Watch a quick time-lapse of me drawing the logo image Here

Andy at KeyChatter

Hey everyone! Kudos and I have been busy getting all the Round 1 orders packed up and ready to go, but in the meantime we wanted to take a second to give a shout out to our very talented friend Andy over at KeyChatter and ask that if you haven’t already, please go take a look at his site because you’re missing out; it’s your one stop shop for everything mechanical keyboards!

We are very excited about what KeyChatter has in store for the upcoming year and didn’t want to keep it all to ourselves. Now.. back to working on your orders!

– Koala-T