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the Norbaforce

the Norbaforce


The ultimate fancy-pants, endgame, holy-grail housing for your RealForce keyboard.

This project is a longstanding dream of mine: to make a luxury after-market housing for the world's most glorious keyboard, the RealForce tenkeyless from Japanese manufacturer Topre. Among the models in this family are: the 87U, 86U, 88U, and 89U, and my housing happily fits all of them.

Nota bene: This group buy for a custom-manufactured product ended 31 December 2017 (11:59pm PST). It is expected to ship in the summer, with custom powder-coated finishes shipping a couple of months later. Sign up here to be notified of new designs and their availability.

What you get

I've spent years of experimentation (and an embarrassing amount of money) developing and prototyping this design, and I'm truly proud of the result. The set, comprising 37 individual parts, has a number of unusual features:

  • Custom Norbauer-&-Co. breakout PCB, giving the RealForce a detachable cable and adding internal surge and line noise protection
  • An unusual sculpted profile design, at once retro and futuristic, flaring out slightly at the bottom and adding numerous chamfer and corner-radius details
  • USB-C cable included
  • Detachable angle risers, contoured to form a nearly seamless line and clean profile along the side edge of the case (case can be used dead flat without them, or at an incline with them attached)
  • Seamless case Reverse engineering of the plate and PCB allowed the plate to be hung from above, eliminating any seams on visible surfaces of the case itself and sealing the back with a contoured plate.
  • Custom-molded rubber feet fit along the narrow edges of the bottom housing wall
  • Protective packaging The case will arrive in a luxurious protective box with  dense custom-machined EVA foam padding.
  • Easy assembly. No soldering required; it's a simple transplant with a cable-swap and some screws.
  • An arcane winkeyless option for you nerdiest of nerds. <3 (Requires actually removing your winkey switch housings, looks best with the 86U.) If you have to ask what this is, you probably don't want it.

Dimensions (exclusive of risers) are 385mm wide x 181mm deep x 22.5mm tall


I've worked hard to line up a selection of high-end finishes that are otherwise rare in the keyboard world.

  • Aerospace Aluminum this media-blasted clear anodized option is the color of aluminum itself and pairs well with Apple products—as clean looking as it gets
  • Tactical Black, Hard Anodized this tasteful finish offers extreme technical performance in resisting abrasion compared to regular anodizing due to its markedly greater oxide layer thickness. The many threaded holes are painstakingly masked off by hand to avoid throwing off part tolerances. Its media-blasted surface gives a matte appearance.
  • Powder coated finishes these unusual custom finishes are hand-applied here in Silicon Valley and are a way to get opaque colors and exotic textures that could never be achieved in anodizing alone.
    • Enigma Black has a gentle speckled texture, creating a fairly matte appearance. This finish is evocative of those found on vintage 1940s-era electronics.
    • Enigma Gray is the same as Enigma Black but with a dark gray tint rather than full black.
    • Royal Wrinkle a black finish with a more noticeable texture, taking the form of wrinkles rather than specks, also leading to a fairly matte appearance. This finish is evocative of the finish on vintage Royal typewriter housings.
    • Singularity Black a glossy opaque black
    • Retro Refrigerator a medium-gloss, smooth, blue-green finish reminiscent of 1960s kitchen appliances.
    • Space Station White a medium-gloss, smooth, opaque white
    • Venice Beach a totally-not-messing-around hot pink in a medium-gloss smooth finish
    • Galaxy Console a textured tan finish designed to be the perfect complement to the Galaxy Class keyset from Roddenberry Entertainment
    • Astrophysical Purple a smooth low-gloss finish with silver specks
    • Monte Carlo Red a red wrinkle texture designed to replicate the finish on Ferrari engine blocks

For powder finishes, please click the name above to see a swatch/sample image of the color. Note that all product images in the main listing are only of the aerospace aluminum, tactical black, and retro refrigerator finishes. For the others, you'll have to look at the swatch images and use your imagination a bit. ;)

Note that all rear cover plates (not visible during keyboard use) will come in the Aerospace Aluminum finish.

This is a group buy/pre-order for a bespoke product: patience required.

As I think previous participants in my group buys would vouch, I like to take my time and get shit right; I always favor a delay over a decrease in quality. I also hate over-promising on timelines, or having deadlines slip and worrying about feeling like I'm letting people down. So I'm going, hand-wavingly, to assert that sometime in the Spring or early summer is the delivery estimate. It could very likely be be earlier, but my pessimism (and hard-won manufacturing experience) precludes my counting on that. However,  I promise updates whenever anything of significance occurs, both on the GeekHack thread and also by email (in the case of unexpected significant delays).

Note that powder-coated finishes are hand-applied to order here in Silicon Valley by an extremely skilled shop that is the best one I've ever worked with, but as a result, those finishes will take longer to ship (on the order of 1-2 months) than the anodized finishes.


European customers will have the option at checkout of using a domestic EU proxy for shipping, which means the shipping cost includes taxes and fees. This service is generously provided by

I apologize that I can't under-declare the value of items for customs. This is a DIY kit, keyboard not included, which requires you to remove your RealForce from its stock plastic housing. This may invalidate your keyboard warranty, and by purchasing you agree to take on that project and its results at your own risk. You'll need a Phillips-head screwdriver. ;)