Lily58L - my entry into split keyboards
Two is better than one?
My venture into split keyboards was born from wrist pains that I presumed had been because of the long hours I spent sat at my computer desk with an unergonomic setup. I later realised that cycling was the cause after spending on a Lily58L to improve my desk ergonomics🥲. It is clearly too late now and I've sunken deep into the desire to build more split keyboards, but back to the topic at hand, the Lily58L split keyboard.
Lily58, not to be confused with Lily58L is an open source split keyboard design that is available on GitHub. Lily58L is a seemingly closed source modification of Lily58 from Keycapsss that has support for underglow LEDs, per-key LEDs and dual rotary encoders, with the optional addition of a track ball in the position of a rotary encoder. The keyboard also features a number row that I hoped would help ease the transition from my Keychron K6. And I can't forget the OLED display for the cool factor and I suppose for the somewhat useful information that it is able to show. What I really want on the OLED displays though, is to get bongocat vibing on the displays when I figure out how to set it up. All in all, the Lily58L is a well rounded design that offers all I needed from my first split keyboard build.
Tons of research was carried out, scouring subreddits (r/ErgoMechKeyboards, r/olkb - ortholinear keyboards and r/MechanicalKeyboards) for opinions and information on what split keyboard and controller I should choose. I initially wanted to order all parts from the source to reduce complexity but this ended up doing the opposite and likely would have cost more in total. I ended up discovering Mechboards, a UK distributor of mechanical keyboard parts, which is where I got my bluetooth keyboard controllers from; the Nice!NanoV2. Mechboards also sell a number of kit to easily get started with a keyboard build.
My component list is as follows
- Lily58L PCB kit from Keycapsss Germany including diodes, 2x 3.5mm jack and WS2812B LEDs
- 2x Nice!NanoV2 from Mechboards UK
- Gateron MX yellow (KS-9) switches and 1100mAh Li-Po batteries from Amazon
- Kailh MX sockets, OLED displays and SK6812 mini-e LEDs from AliExpress
Simple FR4 cases are widely available for the Lily58 but I chose to design and 3D print my keyboard case which is soon to be open source.
The build itself took about 5 hours and the Lily58L-Build-Guide was very helpful. A few issue were also discovered after soldering, where some components did not make good contact with the pads. This was fixed with a little more heating time with the soldering iron and a generous use of solder.
Fast-forwarding to the next important step of building the keyboard, determining what firmware to run on the keyboard. For wired keyboards, this question does not need to be asked as QMK with its broad support and extensibility would provide all that is necessary to get up and running in a matter of minutes. For bluetooth split keyboards on the other hand, ZMK is the de-facto firmware.
I shall be updating this article as things change with my current build. I am looking forward to building a smaller sized split keyboard and currently have my eyes on the Corne-LP or Corn-ish Zen.
Please feel free to reach out to me via the comment section below or via the contact page to discuss about keyboards or anything tech.