It’s really weird that this entry has sat empty for so long. The Corne is my go-to board, both for MX and Choc, and yet somehow I’ve never updated this entry. Well, let’s fix that.
The Corne is a 3x6 column stagger ortholinear with three thumb keys per side, for a total of 42 keys. There are versions for both Choc and MX, all with underglow and per-key LEDs. Its MCU slot is pro-micro compatible and the halves are joined via a standard TRRS cable.
The v3 Corne (MX only) is a remarkably easy build and, ignoring the LEDs, even folks new to soldering should be able to complete. The LEDs can be a bit tricky, mostly the underglow LEDs, but they’re also completely optional. The diodes are SMD which some folks reject out of hand but they’re not all that difficult to solder, really. I find them much easier and less time consuming than through-hole. The Corne is extremely popular and can be found pre-built from most keyboard shops. Hell, even I’ve been known to build for folks.
The v2.1 Choc Corne however is a bit trickier. Unlike the v3, the v2 is a reversible board. If you’ve read my other keyboard posts, you likely know how much I hate reversible boards. The build guide is pretty clear but pay special attention to the MCU header location for each half. The LEDs on the choc corne are awful, in my opinion, and I never use them. They are installed by taping LEDs into holes and jumping solder bridges onto the pads. They’re a huge pain in my opinion. If you don’t care about LEDs, the v2.1 isn’t the worst build ever.
I will have an announcement post about this eventually but I, like every other keyboard person who wants to learn kicad, have a Corne variant, which I named the ish (Corne-ish, get it? yeah I suck at naming things). It’s based on the v3 corne, but with Choc switches and no LEDs. It’s built specifically for the nice!nano controller, ZMK firmware, and is wireless-first. The kicads and gerbers are available here.
Lots of folks just use the regular FR4 plates or a 3d printed case for their Corne. I got bored a while back and remixed and designed some sandwich cases for the MX Corne. (Technically these work with Choc Cornes too but the low profile tends to be so low that you can only get one layer without interfering with its operations.)
The curvy sandwich case is a remix which looks really good, in my opinion, no matter what materials you choose. It works with the standard FR4 switch plate and lends itself nicely to the LED effects supported by QMK.
If you’ve ever found that using a corne on your lap is awkward, the unibody case is for you. It is compatible with the standard FR4 switch plate. Install your corne by taking off the bottom plate and screwing it into the bottom plate of the unibody case. The unibody case was designed with this TRRS cable from Mouser in mind but it should work with most short TRRS cables. The center of the case lifts off to expose the MCUs and the TRRS cable for easier maintenance.
Why do I love the Corne? My hands don’t have to move. It’s a simple as that. The split means I can separate my hands to relax my problematic shoulders and the small size means my hands can hover over “home row” and not have to move much. Occasionally a combo or macro will require a wrist rotation but I’ve been modifying my keymap to avoid those movements. The Corne is also small and easy to carry around the house, particularly the wireless builds that don’t require extra cables.
I’ve built a lot of keyboards over the last two years and I keep coming back to the Corne. I’m still tweaking the keymap, particularly for coding symbols, but I’m not sure there’s ever an endgame for keymaps. For instance, I’ve been moving to emacs as my editor / personal knowledge store and that’s required some adjustments. To be honest, when I started this whole thing, I didn’t expect to keep coming back to a keyboard this small, but here we are.