Font Awesome

Nerd Show and Tell: Mechanical Keyboards are Awesome!

by Dave Gandy

At Font Awesome, we’re really into letting the nerd flag fly. If you were to wander around our offices, you’d find an enormous collection of custom and stock LEGO sets, FDM and SLA 3D printers, Star Wars art, first- and third-party Transformers (since Hasbro doesn’t make all of the best ones), and lots more.

And in case you haven’t noticed, we love injecting some nerdery into our icon designs too.

How Our Nerd Hobbies Inform Our “Real” Work

In our day jobs, we work hard to make Font Awesome awesome. But strangely enough, the best parts of company culture come from everything we all do outside of work. Hobbies, activities, games, social groups, family, kids. Life. It’s what’s actually important.

It also helps our brains reset each day to bring real focus with us at work. We do better work when we spend the appropriate amount of time not at work. We’re more creative when we have other outlets for our creativity. And let’s be honest. When you’re a Nerd, you have a hard time turning it off. So you inevitably bring that curiosity, passion, and energy back with you to work.

We also love sharing our inner nerd. We’re a remote company, so we get together one week per quarter to see the other humans we interact with daily (it’s a huge key to making remote work sustainably work). 

A weirdly large amount of the time is sharing the random Nerd rabbit holes we’ve fallen into over the past several months. Cycling. Nutrition. Some new D&D Kickstarter. A new Sanderson novel. Something we made. Something we did.

So, it’s no surprise that I’ve got a “thing” for, well, lots of things. I obsess over finding the best backpack, the best sneakers, and my latest obsession — custom mechanical keyboards. Hey, it’s cheaper and more practical than a car collection, right? 

My New Nerd Obsession: Custom Mechanical Keyboards

So. Custom mechanical keyboards? Yup. (You’ll receive a complimentary pocket protector on your way out.) Welcome to my nerd show and tell time. 

Here’s how I see it. Designers and software developers spend eight hours a day typing on keyboards, right? So for something we spend so much time on, why not find something you really like? 

Vortex Race 3 Keyboard with 75% Layout

Here’s the backstory. I happened upon the Race 3 keyboard through a Twitter post by Jason Snell that caught my eye. So I took the recommendation and bought one with Cherry MX Blues. It was a great board for me at the time. And it became the gateway into my new obsession.  

Custom Mechanical Keyboard Geekery Goes Deep

Are you intrigued yet? Good news. The rabbit hole goes about as deep as you’d like to go. You can get a custom keyboard that suits just about any want or need you have, including keycaps (which profile? What color scheme?), switches (clicky? Tactile? Linear?), “sound profile” (you going to chase the thock or the clack?), layout (65%, TKL, 1800, or can you go all the way down to a 40%?), the list goes on.

I really cut my teeth on the Mode Eighty. It’s a keyboard with a tenkeyless (TKL) layout that’s super easy to change out a PCB-plate assembly. So I got to try out tons of combinations of switches, keycaps, and plate (my favorite combo is a thocky build with a carbon fiber plate, Gazzew U4ts swapped with 70g TX long springs, and MT3 keycaps. Like I said, the rabbit hole goes deep). It became a really quick way to learn. I love that keyboard.

That’s why I’m suuuuuper excited to share that *Mode has pre-orders up for their SixtyFive, an unbelievably customizable 65% keyboard. 

Mode Sixtyfive with Black Top and Bluegray Backpiece

Most keyboard group buys have a couple of colors, and that’s it. With the Mode SixtyFive configurator, you can pick your top, bottom, and back pieces separately, then you get to pick your mounting style, plate, and PCB. And they’ve got more exotic materials like a solid copper bottom, torched titanium back piece, and a top machined from a solid chunk of polycarbonate. There are millions of combinations. And boards start at a great price (well, for this hobby ).

( The SixtyFive was a great board, but Mode no longer offers it. Check out their new Sonnet, an infinitely customizable 75% board that we also love. Oh, and don’t miss their super-awesome Mode Sonnet Configurator.)


How Nerdery Can Build Community 

The fun side benefit of this quirky nerdery, or any nerdery really, is that there are entire communities to get involved in.

And that’s how people work, isn’t it? We’ve spent the last year and a half separated from one another, and we’re so starved for connection that we’ll bond over the minutia of keyboard keycaps, switches, and stabilizers. As a matter of fact, Mode’s Discord server is my favorite place to learn. They’ve built an awesome community where you can ask questions, and folks there are amazingly patient and helpful.

And while things can’t ultimately make us happy deep down in our souls, there’s something magical about the pursuit of beauty and excellence that just has to be shared with others.

Let Your Nerd Flag Fly!

So, what’s your thing? Let us know and bring your own Nerd Show and Tell to the Twitters. In the meantime, we’ll give everybody on the Font Awesome team a chance to share their inner nerd, too, so keep a lookout for more news on underwater basket weaving, news raiding, or competitive duck herding

Just kidding. Sort of. But not really.  

*Font Awesome doesn’t get any free products or kickbacks in exchange for blog posts. These are things we just genuinely find awesome and want to share.