Review: Quisan Retro Keycaps

Posted: October 21, 2017 in keyboarding
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UntitledHere and there, you’ll see a mechanical keyboard with the old style, typewriter keys on them. Most of the time, these fetch a tidy price, and are considered a bit of a niche item.

Having tried a lot of the frequently-available key types on my mechanicals, I had never tried out a set of these round, metal-bound keys before. Buying a keyboard already thusly-equipped was certainly an option, but I had other plans.

Here’s what I did:

I purchased two identical keyboards, Eagletec KG010N models. I kept one of them bone stock, while I stripped the other of its stock keys and installed the Quisan aftermarket models. One thing to note here: the Quisan keys are not the cheapest caps in the world. Even through Amazon, they fetched about $30 for the set. The keyboard they were going on only cost $37, so the economies are a little out of the ordinary there.

That said, i couldn’t find any keyboard equipped with oldy-woldy keys for the aggregate price, so I call it a win.

Packaging:

Quisan, in my experience, doesn’t really waste a lot of the capital you give them on the package. Perfectly serviceable, but they know you’ll discard the box about nine seconds after getting it.

One really nice inclusion with the package is a layout board, which is a thick piece of plastic with cross-shaped protrusions cooresponding with the layout of a full-sized keyboard. This not only made it easier to apply the keys as delivered, it can be a tool for laying out a custom format at a later date. Trust me, fishing the keys out of a bag and trying to find the “7” key in amongst crap tons of loose caps isn’t fun.

All the keys came in good condition, as did the box.

Installation:

These keys are circular or oblong, but conform to the position and size of the standard key layout for a Cherry MX ‘board. Quisan employed ABS plastic for these caps. The external surround may be metal, but I suspect that it is plastic with a chrome applique. The legends purport to be double-shot, but I have reservations. I think they’re more likely laser ablated, as I seen no evidence of a double shot mold on the back side of the keys.

Installing the keys is fairly straightforward, although the round edges sometimes require a bit more careful effort to get lined up. It should be noted that the stems on these keys are rectangular, rather than being round. This doesn’t seem to have any direct impact on performance or fit. It didn’t impede my progress, nor did I encounter any confounding situations during the installation. Provided that your keyboard has a standard layout and key size, they should work.

In Use:

The popular conical, square edged keys gained their market share for a reason. For one, they are reasonably easy to produce. For another, they have well-delineated edges that make it easy to get your fingers into the right spots while typing.

They’re not the only way to do it, though. There are spherical keys, as well as these, the pure round syle. When you first put your hands onto a keyboard sporting this retro style key set, you might feel a little bit out of your element.

Quick typing is still possible, however. You just have to take a few minutes to get your bearings. I found that things settled down and started to get comfortable after a few hundred words. These keys aren’t dead-flat. There is a perceptible dish on each one, so that your fingers can still find their way home after zipping around.

Are these keys quite as easy to type on as the standard? Maybe not. Not at first. Any high-style piece will have small concessions that need to be made. I didn’t find that I had a massive uptick in mistakes or lack of efficiency, though.

Being higher above the switches than the average key cap, this set will increase the total height of the ‘board. They’ll also make it a bit more succeptible to impacts from the outside of the ‘board. I would say that placing these on your “traveler” keyboard may come with some concerns. For home, no worries.

I found that these keys yielded a change in the sound of the typing inputs. They still sound like the clicky blues that they are, but it is a bit less clacky, and carried a bit less of the high frequency tizz you’ll sometimes hear, especially from the Otemu brand. Still, they’re a lot louder than the normal office setting would approve of.

Downsides?

Well, I suppose that I must hit the space bar fairly hard, because I can feel the raised rim of the bar on my thumb every time. It isn’t painful, but it’s a feeling that lets me know that I’m hitting a hard corner. If I typed for several hours at a time on it, I can foresee that I might start to feel like things were getting less fun. The race between backside and hands being the first thing to give out, though, might mean that it would never rise to the level of real annoyance.

Final Thoughts:

Let us not fool ourselves. Getting a set of caps like this isn’t primarily for their perfect ergonomics. It isn’t for absolute comfort, either. It’s for the looks.

I got the white-face keys, and they look really sweet on the black-anodized brushed aluminum on my keyboard. Is there an element of being on the verge of hipsterism? Oh, yeah. Most definitely.

The good news, though, is that these key caps work pretty darned well, and can fit on any normal ANSI layout keyboard without much difficulty. You can have your style and still get some work done.

Even if you don’t have a mechanical keyboard kicking around, you can still get into the game with a cheap one and these keys for something like $70 and a few minutes’ work. My kind of party.

Cheers, and happy typing.

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Quick Take: Razorock Gold

Posted: October 18, 2017 in Shaving Articles
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Last Razorock soap for a while, I promise.

Performance: 

Again, we see good performance from the soap, with easy lathering, voluminous results, and clean rinsing. The upshot of all of this is that, if you like any of the RR croaps, chances are that you’ll like any of them.

Scent: 

The Gold scent, to my nose, strikes me as one of those moderate priced cologne scents that are popular with the young dudes. Not a bad scent. Rather forthright. Nothing too challenging, nothing too old-fashioned. It isn’t a scent I feel will become one of my daily picks, but it smells nice, and is certainly not the topic of any buyer’s remorse on my part. I’d call it leather, a little spice, a little musk. A warm scent.

Overall:

For a different shaver, perhaps a guy in his late 20s or early 30s, it might key into his scent preference better. For me, I tend to like citrus-based or spicy products a bit better, with the occasional foray into woodsy scents and fouger.

Anyway, the soap is good, and available for a reasonable price. It basically conforms to all the good things I’ve seen in all the other reviews of RR soaps. I’ve A/B tested RR soaps with tons of different brands and price ranges, and rarely found that they were thoroughly outclassed by another soap. Sometimes bettered in some areas, but not rendered obsolete or undesirable.

I’ve read that other people do not have this experience, and find that most of the RR soaps leave something to be desired for them. I’m sure that their points are valid, as everyone has a different skin composition and level of sensitivity to various chemical components. I have frequently handed a soap that I have great luck with to someone else, only to find them far less impressed. And that’s okay. There are so many products out there. The journey IS the destination, and some just have to look in different places.

Cheers, and Happy Shaving!

I make no apologies to anyone. Razorock soaps are the most numerous in my stable. Why? Because they work well for me, come in at a great price, and allow me to try a lot of different scents. Also, Italian Barber has always treated me right in terms of getting the stuff to me on time and in good condition. I have no direct relationship with the IB people. I’ve never spoken directly to them, and I am provided no promotional considerations. Everything I review here was purchased for normal cost.

I am a big fan of sandalwood scents. That said, my tastes run to a woody scent without too much musk or foofy cologne scent along with it. Proraso Red or Captain’s Choice, for instance, are my ideal examples of what I like.

Santal Royale is…different. It’s a good scent. A complex scent. It might be just a bit pungent for me. This isn’t an issue with the soap itself. The transitory nature of a soap scent will typically not cause an issue, even when stronger than normal. This is the case with the Santal Royale.

I found that, though there is a component of sandalwood here, there are so many other elements at play that it doesn’t quite give me that “thing” I am looking for. I would call the scent more of a “dark” cologne scent than exactly a sandalwood. I get the sense that there is some similarity to the Oud scent profile you might find in “The Stallion”, but it isn’t quite as powerful as that particular soap.

Performance of the soap is up to the standard for this line of products, and I have no complaints about it.

Overall, this is a recommended product, as long as you’re not looking for the Proraso Red style, or the Taylor’s style sandalwood. It is very different from Proraso, and far more potent than Taylor’s. This is all related to how my nose works. You may have much different feelings about all of this.

I ended up PIFing this soap to a friend, as I have a number of scents that I prefer over the Santal Royale. Particularly with the companion aftershave, I just found it a bit too pungent for my taste. We try things. They don’t always suit us. It’s part of the game, and part of the fun (provided that you’re not spending yourself into the poor house.)

Cheers, and Happy Shaving!

Keytronics rubber dome review:

Posted: October 13, 2017 in Uncategorized

My friend Dave is always on the lookout for an interesting old keyboard for me to try out. Recently, he found two old Keytronics models at a second hand store. I don’t have all the information on them, but they are old enough to have the DIN 5 pin connection. They do, however, have the Windows key, so my guess is that they were from the era of keyboards that came out with Windows 95.

Dave purchased two of them with the same form factor and of the same outward appearance. They are altogether bog standard keyboards, with rubber dome switches and standard plungers to actuate the rubber domes. The keys themselves are fairly nice, with a clean legend and nice, conical shape, taller and slightly narrower at the top than is the standard today. Basically the same shape as an IBM M series. The chassis and layout is much the same as the “M”, as well. Full keyset, large format with a lot of bezel around the key clusters.

The shape, however, is about as far as the similarities goes. Picking the keyboards up, they weigh less than half what a vintage IBM keyboard does, and have a good bit of chassis flex if you test them out. Being rubber domes, they have a chance to be somewhere between absolute rubbish and passable in terms of typing mechanics. While not absolute rubbish, I wouldn’t say that these old Keytronics keyboards have anything special to offer. Other than being in the vintage beige and having the old fashioned look/form factor, there’s nothing really special here.

Can you type on them? Sure.

Are they great? No.

Brass Tacks:

This era of keyboard had the “Big Ass Enter” key, and the little backspace. This is a rare design choice right now, but once held a big place in the market. Being DIN connection, you’ll need one or even two adapters to get it working on your modern PC. All in all, not really worth it. Not to me, anyway. There are better keyboards being sold for twenty bucks right now, without the need for weird adapters. Not all the old stuff is great. In this case, it was a mediocre product when it came out (most certainly build to minimize cost but appear to be the same as more expensive ‘boards.), and it has not gotten any better with age.

Cheers, and Happy Typing!

RazoRock Son Of Zeus Artisan Shaving Soap-RazoRock-ItalianBarber

I know, I know. All these Razorock soaps? What the heck?

If asked to account for my actions, I can only say that, for my use, RR soaps work great, lather quickly, and have a ton of different interesting scents. All of them are priced well, and my interactions with Italian Barber have always been positive. Joe A. even sent me a letter, thanking me for repeat purchases. I like their style.

The Son of Zeus scent is based upon the cologne Terre d’Hermès, from what I understand. It is, to my nose, a wonderful scent. It has a component of orange, as well as some sweetness and spice. There are elements of “cologne” scent below that, but it isn’t pungent or overpowering. I’d call it reminiscent of the Colonia-style Italian scents. In the same ballpark as Aqua Di Parma Colonia. A little less intense than something like Creed Aventus. Masculine citrus, but not too musky or skunky.

To me, this is one of the best scents RR does. It’s up there with The Dead Sea, Emperor, Santa Maria Del Fiore, and XXX. The soap performed just as expected, and I had great shaves with it. The matching aftershave splash matches the scent well.

This stuff is great. Perhaps emblematic of how good it smells is that I was almost underwhelmed when I A/B tested it with XXX, which had always been my favorite in the RR lineup, in terms of scent.

The price versus performance quotient, as always with this brand, is killer. If you like the original scent, or a citrus-infused profile, this should be an easy win for you. As a side note, this stuff blends great with Lucky Tiger aftershave tonic.

Overall, one of my very favorites from RR (I know, I’ve said that a few times.) There are other makers using this scent profile, such as Fine’s L’Orange Noir, which are also excellent, and will be reviewed as time permits.

Cheers, and Happy Shaving!

The IBM Model M is a vaunted, classic design. Perhaps the crown jewel in the pantheon of easily-had vintage keyboards. And, may I say, deservedly so.

Being the owner of a Unicomp Ultra Classic, I already knew what buckling spring keyboars with membrane switches felt like. I hadn’t, however, had a chance to really play with a classic one since they’d been standard fare in front of actual IBM computers. That’s a long time gone, y’all. The 80s. I was just a wee lad then. No more than, like 240 or so.

My friend, Dave, had a few old keyboards kicking around. He let me borrow them, and asked if I could tune them up and get them working again. I said, “Heck, yeah,” and off I went.

The Model M he gave me had no cord, and it looked a bit rough around the edges. Not filthy, but the keys were dirty, and the whole thing loked like it could benefit from a going over.

Dave let me know that his aspiration was to find a way to make the keyboard a high-visibility device for his father, whose vision isn’t what it used to be.

On the case, I researched how best to get this stuff going. And, not surprisingly, Unicomp had what I wanted. They had a cap set in bright white, with big, block legends, and they had replacement cords that would fit the plug design on the back. Credit card smoking, I was off to the races.

IBM keyboards of this era have two-piece key caps. The top part is thin PBT, while the interior piece, which has the slider element that sits over the coiled spring, is a thicker, beefier piece of PBT. Together, they’re quite a heavy plastic element, and lend something of the solid element that people love so much about these keyboards. It does make them a bit more laborious to take apart, but not too bad. A normal key puller works fine, it just has to work twice as much.

It took me perhaps an hour to install the new cable, test all the keys, and install the new key caps. Everything worked fine, and I quickly got down to typing. I can’t say there’s really any qualitative difference between the original IBM and the Unicomp. They feel and sound just about the same. The build, however, is a different story. The original M I have here, built in 1988, is a huge and heavy beast. I’m not going to say that the Unicomp is small or light, because it isn’t. The original, though, is bigger in all the dimensions, and dominates a desk surface. The fact that it works with absolutely no sense of wear after all these years might give you some clues. None of the switches stick in the slightest, or have a weird force curve. Everything feels just as tight as it must have on the day it left the factory.

The new key caps fit on without any problem, but for two stabilized keys on the numeric keypad. Those use a different stabilization technique, with a metal bar, rather than the conical stabilizer that became common in the later years. With a conical insert, I’m sure I could get those installed, as well. Also, the key set didn’t come with a space bar, which I think is fine, because the OEM spacebar still looks great and doesn’t detract from the looks, to my eyes.

What do we get out of it? Well, you get a keyboard that looks and functions almost like brand new, and one that has the cache of a vintage piece. Really, the only thing it lacks is Windows keys and a Menu button, but both of these things can be overcome with a few mouse clicks. The typing feel is just what you’d expect, with a stiff, solid action and great tactile feel. A typist’s keyboard. It’s good and loud, again, as one would expect.

If you don’t mind putting forth a little effort in the typing process, there’s a lot to be said for one of these old bad boys. They are essentially inestructible, and they are fantastic typing tools. Remember that the old ones will be PS/2, so you may need a USB adapter for them in the modern idiom. Other than that, not much bad can be said.

I would say that, if you can find one for cheap at a yardsale or recycling center, jump on it. Buying them off of Ebay is probably the most expensive way to do it, and you may be just as happy with a new-built ‘board. If you love the idea of the old “M”, but want something with zero miles on the odometer, look at Unicomp. They’ll sell you one, still built in the USA, for reasonable money, as these things go. All the feels, none of the worries about ancient hardware.

Cheers, and happy typing!

Ease of Lathering: As with every other Razorock soap I’ve ever used, this soap springs into lather quickly. It can be loaded quickly, taking no more than twenty or thirty seconds to get a productive amount of soap. Perhaps even less than that, with a firm hand and a brush with some backbone. It does appear to be a little thirsty compared to many other soaps in the same line. More on that later.

Protection: After getting enough water into the soap, this is another voluminous lather, a feature that Razorock soaps typically evince. Once again, this is another alternative version of the RR soap base. They seem to have any number of slightly different formulas. In this case, it appears to start as a vegan formulation, then features argan oil, shea butter (which is a newer thing for RR) and lanolin (which sort of runs against the idea of a vegan soap). It’s an interesting formula, as most soaps that feature lanolin are a tallow base, in my study of these things. In any case, this is a good soap base, and has the face feel you might expect of a soap which features the ingredients listed above. The main difference you might notice, though, is that a little extra water is needed.

Residual Slickness: Very good slickness and face feel is on display here. Despite all the different variations of the soap formula you might find in the Razorock line, they are trustworthy, and all of them work well. (In my experience. I have heard of some shavers who do not get along with Razorock. Sometimes this takes the form of being sensitive to an ingredient, others having issues with lather or slickness. There is no single product that will suit everyone, and I can only give you my own experiences here.)

Your favorite will likely have as much to do with your preference for the scent. Most of the formulas perform well, right from the older, simpler formulas to the “Super Tallow” they recently unveiled. It’s just a matter of degree.

Scent: The Don Marco soap is a bergamot and neroli scent. I’m told that this is a scent that has a long history in the realm of Italian scents. Many have said that this combination smells like a one of those orange dreamsicles. That’s an apt enough description, but I don’t know if it does absolute justice to the scent.

Bergamot is a fresh, citrus smell. If you’ve smelled a freshly-brewed cup of Earl Grey tea, you’ve smelled it. The neroli element seems to add a sweetness, a mellow, vaguely vanilla flavor. The scent strength on Don Marco is present, but somewhat mild. If you would prefer a scent to not reach up and drive a punch up your nostrils, this one isn’t too potent. A fresh smell will suffuse the bathroom during the shave, but you’re not going to think to yourself, “Is this scent ever going away?” To me, I really like it. I didn’t have huge hopes for this soap, but it’s probably one of my favorites of the recent acquisitions from Razorock.

Production/Value: Razorock has made a name for themselves with the value of their products. This is no exception. This soap is less expensive than some of their “premium” normal soaps, such as the ones that have the “super tallow” formula. It could be said that this formulation is just as good as the RR tallow soaps that are more expensive. The inclusion of lanolin and shea butter is unusual in a soap of this price. No reservations about the value here.

Notes: Razorock knocked it out of the park when they created the scent profile for the Don Marco soap and aftershave. It’s truly a treat, at least for me. I like the fact that it isn’t so powerful as some of their other scents, and that it gradually fades away over the course of several hours. If you put this on before breakfast, it’ll still be hanging around a bit by lunch. By dinner, though, it will have basically faded down. That’s perfect for me. If you like a bright, fun scent with some sweetness, I would highly recommend the Don Marco.

Thanks, and Happy Shaving!