Today we’re doing a DZ60RGB v2 build featuring the TOFU 60% Aluminium case and NovelKeys Cream switches.
Big shoutout to Ctrl.Shift.Esc for providing all the build parts. Now in case you don’t know, Ctrl.Shift.Esc is a new custom mechanical keyboard store in South Africa. And yes, you heard that right, in South Africa. They’ve partnered up with some of the biggest names in the custom mechanical keyboard world, including KBDfans, Varmilo and Tai-Hao. I’m sure many fellow keyboard enthusiasts in South Africa share my frustration that there simply isn’t enough supplies available locally, and importing can be very costly. So it’s really exciting to see this new exclusive mechanical keyboard store. On the Ctrl.Shift.Esc website you’ll find pretty much anything, from cases and PCBs to switches and custom keycap sets. They only launched in December of 2020, so some of the stock is still on the way, but the website is constantly being updated.
We’ll be using the KBDfans TOFU 60% Aluminium case for our build today. This is the grey version, however there is also a burgundy colour available on Ctrl.Shift.Esc. The case is made of CNC machined aluminium with an anodized surface. This thing is just tank-like at 780 grams and it feels extremely robust. It has a 7 degree typing angle for an ergonomic experience. I love the simplistic rectangular design, and in addition to the grey and burgundy versions, there is a beautiful range of colours available on KBDfans. The case comes with four circular rubber feet that’s very easy to install. The TOFU case is compatible with most 60% PCBs, including the DZ60RGB v2 we’re using today. I feel like it is very reasonably priced for the quality you’re getting, but there are also some cheaper case options available on Ctrl.Shift.Esc, including the KBDfans Plastic Case and Low Profile Aluminium Case. These will fit right into a budget build. If you have an affinity for acrylic cases, there is also the TOFU Frosted Acrylic Case.
Our PCB is the DZ60RGB v2 hot swap. This version supports the 63-key layout, which means we will have the smaller 1.75U right Shift and dedicated arrow keys. There is also an ANSI version that caters for the standard 61-key ANSI layout. This PCB features Kailh hot swap sockets, so installing the switches will be a breeze as we don’t need to do any soldering. The DZ60 supports 5-pin switches with a south facing switch configuration. It has per-key RGB lighting and features a USB-C port on the back left. Just take note that the two switches in the top left corner are inverted. We also have some pre-cut foam that will help improve the overall sound.
Then we’ll be using the KBDfans DZ60 CNC brass plate Type B. This plate supports multiple layouts so gives you some flexibility. Just make sure that your PCB and mounting plate are compatible before finalising your order. There is a useful little table on the Ctrl.Shift.Esc website to help you out. The Type A plate is made for the 2U left Shift, and Type B for the more standard 2.25U left Shift. We have a brass and aluminium plate here, and both look really good. These plates have good thickness to them and the quality is apparent. I’ll be using the brass plate for the build, as I like the extra heft and it just looks awesome.
As far as switches, I opted for the NovelKeys Creams. These are linear switches with a 55g actuation force and 70g bottom out, so a medium switch that’s heavier than Cherry Reds but lighter than Blacks. The NovelKeys Creams have an MX style housing, and the housing and stem is made entirely of POM, which is a strong and low friction plastic. The switches are also advertised as self-lubricating, which should result in increased smoothness. I will be lubing these with Krytox 205 Grade 2. Beautiful looking switches and I cannot wait to start typing on these!
We’ll be using the KBDfans PBT SA Chalk Keycap set. I like some colour on my keycaps, so these are right up my alley. This is a 158-key set, so there are plenty of extra keys to support those non-standard layouts. These keycaps are dye sublimated and the quality is really good with a thickness of 1.4mm. This set features the SA profile, which is characterised by taller keys and a higher profile than OEM.
So our first step will be to lube these NovelKeys Cream switches, and I’m using Krytox 205 Grade 2. Apply a nice even layer and be careful of overlubing, especially if you’re using the thicker Grade 2. Overlubing will result in mushy feeling switches. It is also advisable to bag lube the springs on these NovelKeys Creams, but I won’t be doing that here. We’re using the Cherry MX screw-in stabilisers, and I’ll do the usual stab mods, which involves clipping the stems, lubing the housing and applying dielectric grease to the wires.
Once all of that is finished, we can go ahead and install the stabilisers. The Cherry stabs clip in very easily, and then you simply add the plastic washers and screws from the bottom. Next we’ll install the NovelKeys Creams. Try to spread the first few switches across the mounting plate and PCB, as it will give you a nice even base to work with. Now we add our foam to the case, and pop in the PCB. It was a little tricky getting the screws in, but I eventually managed to do it. Last but not least, we put our keycaps on. The Chalk set has all the extras we need for the 63-key layout.
The final build looks absolutely stunning! I was worried that the keycaps wouldn’t quite match the case, but it looks really good in my opinion: a combination of elegance with a little bit of playfulness. The NovelKeys Creams were a pleasant surprise. I generally prefer lighter switches, but these heavier linears have swayed my opinion. Beautiful sound and they feel really smooth with the lube. The overall sound of the board is soft and bassy – not bad for a tray-mount board! The Cherry stabs are good. A tiny bit of rattle on the left of Space Bar, but that can easily be fixed by rebalancing the wire. I was very chuffed with the final result here.
The DZ60RGB v2 is compatible with QMK, and our first step will be to flash the keyboard’s firmware. Before we can do this, we will need to create a hex file. This is very easy to do with the QMK Configurator. Just make sure you choose the correct keyboard (dztech/dz60rgb/v2 in this case). I was happy with the default configuration, so didn’t need to make any changes. Once you’re happy with your layout, click on Compile and a hex file will be created for you. Then you simply fire up the QMK Toolbox, select the hex file you created and click on Flash. If you run into any issues, there is a reset button on the back of the PCB.
So with our default QMK Configuration, Layer 1 is accessed with MO1 (Fn), and it has all the typical Fn stuff like the F-Row, Nav Cluster and media controls. The Delete key (LT2, Delete) gives us Tap Layer functionality. So when holding Delete we can activate Layer 2, but with a tap it will act as normal Delete. The RGB controls can be found on this layer. You may have noticed that the /? key is missing on our keyboard. We have a Mod Key Combination on Right Shift (RSft_T, ?/), which means it will act as /? key when tapped, and you still get the modifying property by holding it. A question mark is made by holding left Shift and tapping right Shift. Keep in mind that the Layers are fully customisable with QMK; I just decided to go with the default configuration here.
QMK is really powerful: in addition to having MO (Fn), we also have Tap Layers and Mod Key Combinations. You can get the keyboard to behave exactly the way you want it to.
I really like this 63-key layout, as it gives you dedicated arrow keys and a dedicated Delete key. This can of course be accomplished with a 61-key layout, but it feels a lot more natural with the 1U arrow keys.
I was just really satisfied with the end result here. The typing experience is superb, and the quality of all the individual parts is just apparent when using this keyboard. The final weight of the board was over 1.2kg, so an absolute tank. Once again a big thanks to Ctrl.Shift.Esc for making this possible, and I’m really excited for the future!