Deck: an integrated instrument & control surface based on norns

The Story
About 2 months ago, I was considering building a DIY neotrellis grid & got to thinking on potential enclosures. A quick spin through the Hammond website turned up this & I was immediately struck with inspiration. I didn’t know what it would take, but I had to build something in one of these boxes.

Originally it was going to be just a grid with a few bonus utilities on board, like some batteries, a powered USB hub, and an adjustable DC power supply. When I got to framing things out though, it turned out the grid wasn’t quite gonna fit in the 10"x6"x2" case unless I were to space out the wooden sides a bit:

I then realized that Hammond happens to sell a larger version of the same enclosure:

Okay, great! Except now what am I gonna do with all that extra space…? Cram a whole norns up there, of course!

As the original norns shield is too tall for things to fit cleanly in the vertical space available, it quickly became apparent I’d need to rework the design. With no experience doing this, I loaded the 200323 source files into KiCad & got to work. 2-ish months later, this is what I’ve got & I’m just about ready to order PCB’s

I’ve been mostly posting on Discord about it, but I did post a version of this a few weeks ago in the DIY norns thread:

The featureset has been updated slightly since then and is (roughly) as follows:

  • 4th encoder a la fates
  • Cherry keyswitch footprints
  • regulated +5V for the codec (to reduce buzz from noisy power)
  • Batteries! (more on this later)
  • added 2.54mm at the top so the pi ports don’t poke thru the top of the case (Pi will be powered internally & HDMI // 3.5mm aren’t used)
  • Hardware MIDI over serial via MICROMIDITRS (thank you to @okyeron)
  • power management via ATXRaspi (including software shutdown)
  • A neotrellis-based grid! (using @okyeron’s firmware adapted to run on a teensy 4.0)
  • 12 potentiometers! (also driven by the teensy over USB MIDI)
  • probably other stuff, eventually. feature creep is a mean, unforgiving b****

I’m still working on the enclosure, but I plan to use a CNC mill, and have gotten a membership at a local makerspace to that end. Lots to learn still but I expect the process to be highly repeatable for small-scale manufacturing.

Going Forward
This thread is intended to document my development process, and will be updated as time goes on.
Any questions, comments, suggestions, ideas, etc let me know!

Huge thanks also to @nonverbalpoetry for helping with voltage regulator stuff, the idea to use mech switches, & just hyping me up in general.


This is incredibly awesome. Can’t wait to see it finished.

This looks like such a brilliant idea. Could definitely see this replacing my fates.
Very keen to see this come to full fruition!
Have you thought about adding cv like an integrated crow?

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hmmmm… I don’t have much modular stuff (just a werkstatt) but either 2 or 3 of the internal USB ports will be brought to the back of the case so one could use crow, USB midi devices, or even a second grid with a USB cable same as an official norns

I’ll think on it though.

what was I saying about feature creep? maybe it needs more knobs…

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if you could plug this into a crow then thats awesome!
Definitely need more knobs. 16!!!

lmao I tried, I really did but received some (pretty good) advice on discord that ~18mm pitch is real tight, especially with 1cm knobs

Plus unless I use a teensy 3.2 (which are unobtanium, for the most part) I don’t have enough analog pins for both the knobs & i2c for the neotrellis matrix

Here’s an idea of what that looked like:


This is so cool. Looks a little bit like the dadamachines composer pro thingy announced a few years ago, which had some concepts in common. It got never released though.

ooo cool i’d never heard of that!

tbh I have a deluge & that’s one of my biggest inspirations but it really is the year of the grid sequencer // groovebox, what with polyend play & squarp’s hapax both being released in the last few months.

It feels as though Synthstrom & to a lesser degree ableton push & novation’s circuit boxes have really pushed grid layouts forward as the control surface of the '20’s (funny considering how long monome’s grid has been around)

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