It all started more than a year ago when I acquired my first TGR 910 (good times before the aftermarket price hike). I was eager to try the then-hyped Gateron Inks, only to find out they were too tight on the original aluminium plate, bending it to the point of no redemption. Adding my outrageous desoldering skills to the mix, I managed to render both the original PCB and plate unusable within a couple of days.
Fortunately, my incompetence was saved by a guy named Vũ, also my current work partner. He had been on the keyboard scene way before I found out MX Blue were no good (sorry), and was known as the local mech community’s go-to-guy when it came to addressing PCB issues. He actually built my first custom keyboard, so we go way back. With the help from Yuktsi and our great friend Otani (who I’m pretty sure is out saving the world from COVID), prototyping went great, and considering the struggle that many 910 owners seemed to have been dealing with in terms of finding replacement parts, we decided to step up, ran a small group buy, and the rest was 2020.
Baby steps and community blessing
To be honest, we never felt overwhelmed in our early days as group buy runners (the struggle actually came later lol). Part of it came from the fact that both of us, in our own ways, were up to the job. We’d like to think we compliment each other well, and that has always been the setup ever since. Looking back at those days though, we certainly didn’t do everything right and there were a few things that could have gone wrong, but fortunately did not. We simply weren’t aware at the time, and it’s another reason why things were pretty relaxing back then. Ignorance is truly bliss.
We can laugh about it now
After years of active participation, I’m still amazed by how welcoming and accommodating this community is. We received so much community support during our first group buy run even as some unknown guys from Vietnam, it was unbelievable. When things went sideways during the first big wave of COVID with delays, production errors and loss of packages, all the financial loss never bothered us that much. What kept us up at night, instead, was the thought that we let the community down. That sort of anxiety is still prevalent each time we run a new group buy, but we’ve kind of learned to embrace it, and use it as a source of motivation in trying to get things right.
Great friends along the way
Another extremely rewarding aspect is getting to know and work with some of the most interesting people in the mech scene (here comes the name dropping). The idea of running a group buy wouldn’t occur to me in the first place without suggestions and encouragement from Otani; and as a team in conception, we received so much support and advice from local friends, including ones at Golden Star Keycaps.
Hannah 910 Otani Edition
Then there’s the group of wildly talented keyboard makers with whom we’ve had the pleasure of working. Morning Coffee@Merisi.Works was the first one to contact us about doing a PCB commission. We’re grateful for his trust and patience despite the missteps and delays during COVID, and are so happy to see the Sessantacinque finally take off. Switch Couture, the laser magician, was the first to entrust (and test) us with a bulk order, and above all, working with him has been a pure pleasure, and I still don’t know how he manages to do all the things he does. There’s our SEA buddies at Hex Keyboards, who have proven themselves to be among the most exciting and prolific makers out there. We also can’t wait for the Haus 65 by Lewis@HAND Engineering (who also designs the fantastic Dalco Mini) to release in 2021, along with the Ori CLS-2 by the eccentric Bruce@Ori.Club. Finally, working on mini projects with local and regional makers never fails to bring us warmth and valuable learning opportunities. It’s been an absolute privilege.
We derive much pleasure from simply talking to our friends and customers, as no matter what the topic may be, there’s always something to learn. Last but certainly not least, we are thankful for the constant support from the moderating teams at QMK and VIA, who work tirelessly to provide reliable and user-friendly firmware platforms for pretty much every modern custom keyboard.
Our main plan for 2021 is to continue doing what we’ve been doing, but better. There’s always the temptation to scale things up, but we need to manage our expectations. I still need to do other things to support my family, and Vu is at a make-or-break stage of his education. Lucky for us, another member has recently joined the team, and he’s already added so much value to our operations.
Mechlovin' Session 1 - Someday...
Being cautious doesn’t mean we won’t try new things. After all, we’re enthusiasts doing what we love, and nothing gives us more satisfaction than breaking into new grounds. There are still keyboard ideas that we need to realise; and maybe, just maybe, we’ll tiptoe into the artisan keycap game. Much excitement is ahead, and we’ll be up for it.
Nam - Flying@Mechlovin'