My captain's chair

(Chris) #1

Captain’s Log, Stardate 95825.73: I am extremely happy with this setup.

Those wooden clamps are custom made (and a bit Frankenstein-y; the prototype became the final product as I tweaked it). Each one is just two strips of construction lumber, about 7/8" thick. The jaws are brought together by two bolts which screw through t-nuts on the bottom strips. Tighten down with a ratchet.

From there, I’ve embedded several t-nuts into various locations on the bottom strip which fit the camera mounts (adding more as I found the best location for the old, inferior mounts).

The trackpad is a Magic Pad. I attached a scrap piece of plywood with an embedded t-nut underneath it; the plywood is attached to the trackpad with removable but strong 3M Command Strips.

These are absolutely wonderful mounts; the ones I used before were garbage; these have much greater range of motion and are stabler and easier to adjust. I have 3, one for each keyboard half, and one for the trackpad:

The least stable components of the setup are the chair arms themselves, which is not bad at all. The chair itself is a Steelcase Leap. The arms of the chair are pretty adjustable and integral to getting the tools where I want them.

The USB cable for the keyboard presented a bit of a challenge. Currently I’ve used an extension, and the cable is run behind the chair and up the back, through a wire hook hanging from the ceiling. From there the cable runs to my USB hub at the back of the desk. This works fairly well, but a longer cable would be better. There is one on the way (along with a Lightning cable for the trackpad so I don’t have to worry about charging it, which will run the same way), and that will complete my rig, I think!

(@TheBaronHimself) #2

Very neat! May I ask which model that laptop arm is?

(Chris) #3

Update: The extension cables worked great. The Keyboadio is connected via two Type C extension cables (linked below since shopping for a trustworthy cable that actually transfers data and power can be frustrating) and one extra-long cable. Similarly, the trackpad is hooked up via two Lighting extension cables and an extra-long cable. Here’s the Type C extension cable I’m using:

This extra length allowed me to use two hooks on the ceiling (3M Command Hooks, which I highly recommend using all over your domicile), providing extra head clearance while still being able to lean back as far as my chair allows. Photo:

There is plenty of slack on the lines no matter how I adjust the arms or position the chair behind the desk. That said, I have added an angle adapter for extra safety:

I’d like to add one for the trackpad as well, but as far as I can tell they don’t make a similar adapter for Lightning ports, which seems silly but a lot of people might think this whole setup is rather silly and overwrought (but they’d be wrong, this setup owns, actually).

@Simon-Claudius I have owned that laptop arm since 2008, had to go through my email archives to find it, haha. Both the laptop arm and the monitor arm are by Ergotron. The laptop arm specifically is the “Ergotron LX Laptop Notebook Extension Arm Desk Mount”. That specific model may or may not be available anymore, but both of my Ergotron arms have served me well for years and can be adjusted with the right tension for quite a good range of weight. For example, clipping the desk fan added a little too much weight for the monitor arm to hold at my desired height, but with a few turns of an Allen wrench it was good to go.

(Chris) #4

One more thing. Based on an idea I read on a mechanical keyboard forum @algernon posts on, I’ve added some tiny squares of grip tape as additional positional indicators on one of each set of thumb keys:

I love the thumb arcs far better than the thumb clusters on the Advantage and the ErgoDox, as they give you an additional typeable key on each thumb and the layout is far easier on the hands. But, I do find myself hitting the wrong thumb key often enough (mainly the adjacent two on each side which both don’t have a homing indicator) that I think this tiny mod will prove beneficial.

(Darrenph1) #5

What grip tape is that? I have some left over skateboard grip tape and its feel much thicker that how that looks.



I have a Steelcase Leap and am interested in trying something like this. Do you just clamp onto the padded arm, accepting that it’s going to damage the padding? I’d love to see a close-up photo of the clamping mechanism from the side and the bottom if you have the time and inclination. :slight_smile:

(Chris) #7

@darrenph1 Here’s the grip tape I used. It’s a big roll so doesn’t hurt to plan to use it other places:

@kittykatmax Yeah I pretty much accepted the potential damage. You could probably alleviate this at least somewhat by adding rubber padding to the insides of the clamp jaws. As for me, I don’t imagine ever changing this setup so whatever damage that might happen to the arm rest padding was acceptable.

Here are some photos a bit closer up:

You can see what I mean by Frankenstein earlier… The previous tripod mounts I tried were far too short with limited adjustability, so I ended up gluing on an extra block (cyanoacrylate, aka superglue, plus a catalyst spray works great for putting things together quickly), and you can see several places where I had drilled to place the t-nut for the mount. With the new mounts I’m using, given their range and adjustability, that extra glued-on block would not have been necessary. This is what happens when the prototype becomes the final product.

At some point I will probably rebuild them from scratch now that I know what works. When that happens, I will likely use a nicer hardwood like cherry, sand it very smooth with round-overs on every edge and apply a nice tung oil and wax finish, reduce the profile of the wood strips a bit (using a hardwood should help here), and maybe make wood plugs to cover bolt heads (or just paint them).

(Darrenph1) #8

Thanks! I look forward to trying out the grip tape. I come from using bump dots, but they feel too big after typing with the small dots on the keyboardio…

(Chris) #9

After about a week of use, I can report that the grip tape is definitely helping my thumbs find the correct keys, and actually has a pretty nice feel (YMMV).

(Dan Pritts) #10

Love the setup, Chris. Sounds like you don’t like charging batteries, but have you looked into making it wireless? looks plausible.

I think I’m going to try to do this. Hope my employer doesn’t mind if I boof the chair arm pads.

The Ergotron laptop arms are still available as of about 2015. One note, when I adjusted mine initially, it was many, many more turns of the allen wrench than I expected. I thought it was broken, but it just needed 10 or 20 more turns.

(Chris) #11

I considered wireless but I’ve heard iffy reviews about Bluetooth adapters for keyboards. I would be interested to hear out it works out if you try it though!

I’ll admit it’s nice not to have to charge anything. I actually added a third overhead cable just to charge my headphones off a hook on the wall behind me where it’s easier to reach and put back, haha.

(Dianna Dearborn) #12

I agree that the thumb home keys need to be more distinct, at least until I get better on the Keyboardio. Does the nonskid irritate your thumb? I used little squares of the fuzzy loops side of self-adhesive hookandloopers (my name for generic Velcro) and it works well without scraping my skin. They are a little thicker than ideal for me but I’ve come to think of the pads as aeries that my thumbs perch upon waiting to pounce on the other thumb keys, fwiw.

Thinking freely, what if the future thumb home keys were made slightly different than the others… like concave on top.

(Dianna Dearborn) #13

Excellent job, Chris! I’ve been planning to do the same since I ordered my Keyboardio. Been wanting this captain’s chair for years. Thanks for being the first here. I plan on modifying my Aerion chair by completely replacing the arms. That is going to need some cnc woodwork to securely fit the new Keyboardio mounts to the metal. I want the keyboards to fold down and slide back out of the way… haven’t completely worked that mechanism out.

Also, to make a cordless chair, I’ve been thinking about creating a Pi Zero Bluetooth link to my computerS with a key chord to select which computer gets the input. This forces the requirement of adding a chargeable battery pack. My bedtime routine will become: plug in phone, plug in tablet, plug in chair. haha

I run a Mac, a PC and, at times, several combos of (Linux) RPi boards… and perhaps Arduinos soon. Too many keyboards, too many monitors, too many mice… argggggggg!

(Chris) #14

So far I’ve actually found the texture of the grip tape to be somewhat pleasant, but mileage may certainly vary depending on the grip tape itself and how sensitive your skin is.

Your plan sounds awesome! One thing I’ll note is that a way to move the keyboard out of the way, particularly when getting in and out of the chair, is something I’ve thought about and would love to incorporate. Currently I have to slide the chair arms back and out and it works pretty well but it means the chair takes up more space. One challenge will be keeping the keyboard stable since you’ll have some additional moving parts, but since you’re planning on totally replacing your chair arms it sounds like you’ll have a great deal of control over the design. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

One thing I’ve been thinking about, now that I’m mounting stuff to my chair, haha, would be a cup holder and maybe even a little fold-out tray for note-taking and the occasional sandwich. I mean why not.

(Dianna Dearborn) #15

Oh Chris, you’ve read my mind about the cup holder! Can’t program without coffee.

If we can dream here, my fantasy has always been some master engineer’s roost where you never had to get up except to go to the bathroom (don’t go there!) and to go home …oh yeah and to stretch now and then. Every body joint would have matching articulations in the chair so you could have infinite positions to adjust as you squirm around during the day. Sensors and servos would have the chair adjust to you as you moved. A recliner type leg and foot rest would allow you to tilt back, keyboard always at your fingertips as your monitor moves to the right place in front of your eyes… nowadays that would be google glasses or some such… vibrators just under the skin would keep the blood flowing, heaters would keep you warm, cooling tubes if necessary… and a cup holder. You’d feel like you are floating effortlessly.

I recently saw an ad for the new highly adjustable Lincoln driver’s seat and yelled at my TV, “That’s It! That’s my dream coding chair.” haha

As an electronic eng then, I learned to program in 1970 and have maintained throughout my hw/sw career that the most uncomfortable job in tech was sitting at a desk with your arms unnaturally extended for 10 hours a day.

(Chris) #16

Now that is futuristic!

(Chris) #17

I have another improvement to share. As with any new ergonomic setup, there is an adjustment period during which you’re frequently tweaking things to match your posture before you find something that more or less works well throughout the day. I’ve found that I tend to want the keyboard at a level which pressed my wrist against the top half of the clamp jaws, in a way that reduced my mobility and probably restricted blood flow, which is bad! The simple round-over on the edge was not enough. So I took the mounts off and took them to the shop. After a short date with an oscillating spindle sander, I brought em back, and here are the results:

The results are actually better than I expected! My wrists now just barely touch the surface of the mounts, if indeed they touch them at all.

(Dianna Dearborn) #18

Chris, about making the keyboard/chair wireless, if you want to take a run at it here is what I’ve been thinking. I bought a Logitech K480 Bluetooth keyboard that switched to three devices. It’s my favorite small keyboard. I like the medium touch, small travel keys with a satisfying click and sound. Perhaps those keys could find themselves onto the anxiously anticipated Keyboardio Monarch.

Oh yeah, wireless chair… The K480 has a switch to select one of three different devices. That’s what we have to emulate. That wireless connections function is built into the $5 PiZero. All you would have to do is plug in your Keyboardio, make the PiZero Bluetooth connection to your computer and Zaaaap! you have a wireless chair. All that would need be added is a small script.

Well, data wireless. You still have to have power. But I posit that your system will have a better data connection than running 25 feet of copper in a big loop antenna configuration. So, I’d just run a power cord until you get the data working the way you want.

Then you find a power bank big enuf to keep the Keyboardio and the Pi going as long as you need it. That’s easy enuf to calculate… and then start plugging your ride in every night.

(Noseglasses) #19

Wow! Keyboardio Monarch - is that going to be a throne-like chair build around a keyboard?

In any case, Keyboardio should definitely hire Coderjoy to think up future product names.

While following your captain’s chair discussions I started to think about a way to link the M01 with my car to use it as a drive-by-wire controller. Currently I am brainstorming about how to distribute the necessary keys on a KITT-layer :wink:

(Dianna Dearborn) #20

Actually, I was thinking that “Monarch” should be the name of the next version of Keyboardio with different keys but in the same design as Model 01. There is no such thing as one best design for everyone, but variations on the theme could appeal to wider market segments. And Keyboardio needs an act two. While the Model 01 is well named, I hope Keyboardio exploits the butterfly theme that the keyboard shape implies and names different technology models after different species of the flying delight. Float like a butterfly, type like a Keyboardio. I suppose that means that the Model 01 could be dubbed, Chrysalis. Just sayin’.

So, I was whimsically trying to influence the next generation with keys I like. Besides, I’m from CA and we cherish our Monarchs here. Hope I haven’t spoken out of school, Jesse and Kaia.

Now, to mount the Monarch to my dream chair…