Bitten by the bug and building stuff is fun.

Atreus: key caps without switches

Work in progress

I will be updating this post while building the keyboard. Building a custom keyboard where you need to get parts from different vendors, group buys, etc. will take a lot of time waiting for stuff to arrive.


Atreus is an open source, ergonomic, 40%, ortho-linear keyboard. It's designed by Phil Hagelberg and he provides the kit with different options.

He was kind enough to sell me a slimmed down kit with the PCB, diodes and controller. For this build I wanted MX compatible switches because there are a wider range of keycaps available.


After some googling I found an Atreus build using an acrylic case by cy384, and I have to say I liked that a lot more than the kit's wooden case.

I used cy384's cad file (atreus-3xspacer-openscad-3mm-p2.eps) and sent it to ponoko. Their work is very nice:

Atreus: case fitting

So far, so good. Then Big Blue Saw had a sale campaign on 6061 aluminium 0.125" water jet cutting...

... and here is case #2

Atreus: Big Blue Saw case

This is the first time I ever ordered anything printed from CAD drawings, but it looks like the PCB will fit.

Atreus: Big Blue Saw case

I did one mistake. Uploaded two files, one with 1 spacer layer, the other with two. Ordered the first. The PCB with switches requires 5-6mm height, and two layers are required. An acrylic stripe in the middle looks great though.

Atreus: Big Blue Saw case

Then the switch plate. The normal is to use 0.06" so the switches "clips" to it, but 0.125" will work as well with the support of the PCB. Without the PCB you need to hot glue the switches to the plate.

Atreus: Big Blue Saw case

The top layer has no other function than make it look good, maybe for the wooden case to be stronger, but thats no issue with 0.125" aluminium. It will not be an Atreus without.

Atreus: Big Blue Saw case

Here is a test photo with keycaps but without switches. Looks like its stolen from a Star Wars fighter jet.

Atreus: key caps without switches

The aluminium needs a bit of sanding, but I want a bit rough look & feel. The plastic strips will be exchanged with black hex screws.


With many keyboards you need to solder SMD components, but Atreus uses normal diodes. The soldering is very easy, just check the direction of the diodes.

Here is a picture of my PBC and you can see the controller in the middle.

Atreus PCB controller soldered

After soldering diodes and controller, it's time to flash the firmware.

There is a step by step instruction on github:

My homebrew installation was quite old, and I got a problem when installing avr-gcc. Uninstall/reinstall did the trick.

I used this command to flash the firmware. The address, -P, might be something else on your computer.

avrdude -p atmega32u4 -c avr109 -U flash:w:atreus.hex -P /dev/cu.usbmodem1411

Atreus: uploading firmware

Without switches, there is not much more you can test at this point.


Black DSA PBT keyset from Pimp My Keyboard, color NEM. Ergodox Base Set and 4x1.5u single caps.

input - output


For this industrial looking keyboard, a matching cable is required. ZUS Kevlar Charging Cable was chosen for this project.

It's a crowdfunding project and the vendor claims that this is the last usb cable you'll ever need.


Waiting for switches and bolts to arrive.


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