the Norbaforce Mark II
the Norbaforce Mark II
The ultimate fancy-pants, endgame, holy-grail housing for your Realforce keyboard
Made in the USA
It was a longstanding dream of mine: to make a luxury aftermarket housing for the world's most glorious keyboard, the Japanese-made Realforce tenkeyless. The resulting Norbaforce design became by far my most popular project, with demand far outstripping my supply. Happily, it's now back in this much-requested re-release, and better than ever.
This product was offered as a custom pre-order in October, anticipated to ship around the end of February. The limited quantities in certain finishes that are currently for sale in the shop are planned extras, which you can order now and will ship at the same time as the group buy, but they may be subject to refund in the (unlikely) event of any production shortfalls. If you're new to my work or haven't participated in a group buy before, check out the kind praise I've won from existing clients who have participated previously.
An all-new Norbaforce
The Norbaforce Mark II has seen a ground-up internal redesign from the Mark I, while retaining the original's iconic external look.
Support expanded from the 87U family to the new R2 family of keyboards. I have worked hard to maintain backwards compatibility with the venerable old 87U family of Realforces while also adding support for the diverse new R2 ( "mid size") series, which includes a Cherry MX-compatible Realforce.
Made in the USA by expert craftsmen. I don't think a project like this is worth doing if I can't produce the starry-eyed dream version of whatever I'm making. Nobody really needs an expensive mechanical keyboard; it is a fundamentally sentimental purchase, so I believe we should feel good about how it was made and the people who made it. Moving production here to the West Coast of the United States has made it possible for me to forge direct personal relationships with high-end specialist makers, bringing a new level of quality to my designs. Even the hand-made custom gift boxes are made right here in California.
Heavy steel rear cover plate. Thanks to the amazingly positive reception to my Heavy-6 project, I have added a similar heavy steel backplate to the Norbaforce, which both increases its physical heft and also provides a more acoustically dense backing material for the housing. Fully assembled with an 87U, a powder coated Norbaforce Mark II weighs in at over 5½ pounds (2.5kg).
Alodine coating under powder coat finishes. This expensive pre-treatment step, similar to anodizing, ensures excellent coverage and adhesion for optimal powder coat cosmetics.
New material and finish options. from hard anodizing, new powder coat finishes, and to the insane (and insanely heavy) all-stainless Veracity Steel housing option, there are options to fit every aesthetic whim and fancy.
USB Mini interface. to support a broader range of enthusiast cables and to avoid current limitations in USB-C compatibility (breakout PCB sold separately) The breakout PCB adds detachable cable functionality to the Realforces, which normally have hard-wired, non-detachable cables.
Same sleek retro-futurist design. Its gently tapered and rounded profile makes the Norbaforce expensive to machine, but singular in its design. The shape intentionally gestures towards mid-century American optimistic techno-futurism, which for me is directly sentimentally linked to the origins of my own love of computer keyboards.
Finish and material options
K2 White textured powder coat [white rear plate]
Aperture Metallic gray textured powder coat similar to the type used on limited-edition Leica cameras [black rear plate]
VHS White/gray textured powder coat, reminiscent of the backgrounds often seen in Memphis and Vaporwave aesthetics. It is specifically designed to pair with my forthcoming After-School 1992 keyset but is sufficiently versatile to be used with a wide range of colors and sets. [white rear plate]
Retro Refrigerator Another totem of 1960s optimism, this glossy blue-green powder coat resonates with vintage vibes. [white rear plate]
Palm Desert A rare finish designed to pair well with earth-toned keysets, this textured powder coat is reminiscent of desert sand. It is specifically designed to pair with the Palm Desert 1968 Arabic sub-legend set I plan to offer early next year. [white rear plate]
Astrophysical This dark purple finish is lightened with flecks of silver sparkle, making it an excellent pairing for sets like Laser, designed by my esteemed colleague Mito. [black rear plate]
Tactical This bead-blasted (matte) black finish is created with Type III anodizing. This process is known as "hard anodizing" because it creates a much thicker oxider layer, offering superior durability compared to the standard Type II anodizing seen on most enthusiast keyboards. The surface can be hand-waxed for a maintainable finish that achieves an even deeper black color. [black rear plate]
Veracity Steel This shiny hand-polished stainless steel is, in my view, the most retro-futurist of the offerings in the lot. It weighs in at over 9 pounds when assembled with a Realforce (black rear plate). The same material and finish used on many luxury watches, this finish can be re-polished and is thus user-maintainable over time. [black rear plate]
Specs and technical details
385mm wide x 181mm deep x 22.5mm tall
The Norbaforce Mark II is compatible with all TKL form-factor Realforce keyboards I have encountered (86U, 87U, 88U, 89U, 91U, R2 RGB, R2, R2 PFU Edition, etc.). In addition to the housing listed here, please be sure to purchase the breakout PCB that works with the particular keyboard you own.
As with the previous Norbaforce, the Mark II comes with attachable riser feet, allowing both an ergonomic flat profile and an inclined angle (3 degrees, the same as the Realforce 87U native angle) for those who prefer it. Risers match the finish of the housing.
Rear cover plate
Each Norbaforce Mark II comes with a powder-coated steel rear cover plate. It will be either textured white or textured black, as specified in the finishes list above.
The Winkeyless option
For my fellow keyboard nerds who are into the truly arcane, I have arranged a "Winkeyless" option, which uses blockers to blank out the 1u LWin and RWin/Menu keys on the 87U family of keyboards (not compatible with the R2 series). This requires some non-trivial modding and reduces the functionality of your keyboard, so those of you who want this option probably already know who you are. ;)
This is a made-to-order product; your patience is cordially requested.
Your Norbaforce will be manufactured to order specifically for you in the housing/finish configuration you request and is thus a non-refundable commitment once manufacturing begins in mid-October. I anticipate shipping late this winter, but physical manufacturing to high cosmetic standards is tricky and sometimes takes longer than original estimates. I will always send updates in the event of delays.
Moreover, I want to make sure you are delighted with your Norbaforce when it arrives. In the event of any problems, I promise to make it right.
International. I am now offering the ability to pay for calculated duties and taxes in advance with your order rather than having to sort it out with your customs authorities on delivery. I'm sorry to report that I'm not able to under-declare the value of the items in your order, whether or not to you opt for pre-paid duties. However, to have full control over your customs declaration, you can always use a US-based proxy shipping/forwarding service.
Bundling. Any items ordered in the same checkout as your Norbaforce, even if they are in stock, will ship at the same time as the Norbaforce order. To obtain an in-stock item earlier, please order it separately.
This product is an aftermarket upgrade housing and is a DIY kit; keyboard and keycaps are not included. Installation 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. (But, of course, that's also part of the fun.) Assembly is straightforward and documented, and of course I'm always here to answer any questions if any questions arise during your install.
Any other thoughts or questions? Just shoot me an email using the address at the bottom of this site, or join the discussion over at KeebTalk.