Do It Yourself – is a phrase that today reserved for makers. The rest of us value “throw away” culture. But DIY approach has a lot of psychological benefits.
After moving out from my parents house, to live by myself, I’ve had only a laptop. I’ve used this laptop for the entire year at my first rental flat. After moving to a bigger apartment, I’ve decided to treat myself with a new PC. As a maximalist, I want the best I could get for my money, and a keyboard was not overlooked.
I opened for myself the world of mechanical keyboards at that time and I said that I want one. I won’t go into deep details about the difference between membrane keyboard and a mechanical one, but in a nutshell – mechanical keyboards give you a better feeling when typing and have a longer life span than a regular membrane keyboard. And while I can argue that gold plated 100% oxygen free copper speaker cables, have no objective difference compared to good quality, speaker cable; mechanical keyboards are actually superior to membrane or scissors keyboards, especially if you are a heavy typist such as software engineer or a writer. I know it, I’ve used all 3 types.
Anyway back to the story. I got myself the best mechanical keyboard I could afford. For the next 7 or so years, my mind was occupied with either work or yet another obsessive hobby such as photography. I forgot all about that keyboard. Up until the day my mind once again became obsessed that I need a different keyboard now. One which is smaller, more ergonomic.
We live in communities
I, of course, started to look for the best I can get. One thing I’ve learned: there is a community around everything. And while mechanical keyboards are not that popular as a hobby compared to, let say mountain biking, apparently, there is an entire market of custom mechanical keyboards.
And the scale of customizability ranges from making different keycap colors (keycap – is the individual plastic cap of your keyboard, let’s say the cap for the letter “Y”) all the way towards designing custom PCB (PCB – Printed Circuit Board, an electronic board that makes your electronics work). And I was debating between ordering a pre-made keyboard from a known manufacturer or buying all the parts and actually making the keyboard myself. Price wasn’t a factor as the difference was neglectable.
DIY – Do It Yourself
When I buy a product of quality, I expect that the company that makes this product to have employees that know what they are doing. I also expect them to have better quality control and a polished assembly line. That’s the reason I buy products that are already assembled and tested, rather than making them myself. I simply lack the tools, knowledge, manpower and time to make everything myself.
Also when you make something yourself, it’s always imperfect, especially if you make it for the first time. You do not have the necessary equipment and tools to make it; you lack the knowledge to make it and etc. But there is also an amazing satisfaction feeling in making something yourself. My fiancee and I made a wooden shelf some time ago. It’s far from perfect but it’s ours and it decorates our bedroom in an exceptional way. Apart from this, the whole process of making it was captivating for both of us. We got to spend time together in a non-regular way; we got to make something and use equipment we didn’t use before, and we got into a situation of teamwork that is different from the day-to-day situations you get to.
So as you guessed, I’ve decided to make my own keyboard. There is a scale on how hardcore would you like to go in a DIY project starting from getting a ready board that requires only assembling all the way to making your own PCB or even keycaps. I took the middle ground and ordered a ready PCB, switches, keycaps and some other parts – and soldered my own keyboard. I type that post from this very keyboard I’ve made.
It’s not perfect but its mine
It’s far from perfect. Some keys are not aligned and it was my first major soldering project so I screwed some soldering joints. Am I happy? Yes, of course. Using something you’ve made is a great satisfaction. It also taught me a lot of things:
- It taught me that everything is possible. We live in a very fortunate time, a time where the entire knowledge of the human race is accessible with a few keystrokes and internet. You no longer need to attend school or college to learn how to solder or make furniture. There are a lot of free and paid tutorials, books and videos about every possible topic. And while some disciplines such as doctors or certified mechanics, requires attending a certification program or school, your small DIY project will be fine if you’ve learned how to solder from a YouTube video.
- It gave me the courage to try other projects in the future. It gave me confidence that if something goes bad I’ll try to fix it instead of calling a professional to fix it or worse – throw it away. It’s a very valuable skill – the ability to know that you are in control. Our generation used to throw things away. Our phone doesn’t work – we throw it away. Table got scratched – we throw it away. Our relationship doesn’t work – we throw it away. And while sometimes throwing things away because they are broken beyond repair – is the correct solution, having the courage and the ability to fix them, or at least try to, teaches us a lot more than just fixing our phone and saving money – it teaches us that a good and happy life requires hard work rather than always taking the path of least resistance.
- It helped me fight with my perfectionism. I do believe that being a perfectionist is not bad by itself, but it should be moderated. If you see something that is a little bit misaligned and you feel that part of you dies – this is a bad feeling to have. The world is imperfect and it’s fine. In Japan, they have a worldview called Wabi-sabi which is centered on the acceptance of imperfections. It’s a concept derived from Buddhism. Striving to perfection is fine – but it’s also very important to accept imperfections.
- It showed me how things work. I don’t know how it works in other places in the world, but the country I live in requires mandatory knowledge of how a car works to get your driving license. And while this knowledge is limited to basics only, without going into details of how an internal combustion engine works or what is compression ratio, this is still mandatory. And no, you can not know everything. The world has a lot of things and some of them are very complicated. But having basic knowledge about the things that surround us or that we use daily – is a valuable common knowledge that won’t be useless.
What can you do?
You can start small. Assemble IKEA furniture – its a great satisfaction watching TV that stands on a TV stand that you’ve assembled.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I’ll tell you even more – you will make mistakes and it won’t be perfect and it’s fine. We, humans, have this bias that if something comes out of a factory – it’s way better than if we would assemble it ourselves. But think about it this way: the guy who assembled your keyboard, have to assemble tens of such per day and he gets paid not by quality but by quantity. His interest is not doing it perfectly but rather doing it “good enough” and I bet you can do it “good enough” as well and apart from saving money – you will also gain satisfaction.
So don’t hesitate to try, even if you will fail, and you will, you will also get a lot of benefits from it.