How to Build a Custom Mechanical Keyboard?

There are many mechanical keyboards available on the market, but for some players, it seems more meaningful to build a custom mechanical keyboard of their own, and they will also get a great sense of achievement when they are done. To meet the needs of this segment of gamers, we’ve put together this complete guide to building your own mechanical keyboard from scratch. Required keyboard components: PCB, switches, case, USB cable, mounting plate, lamp beads, solder, stabilizer, lube, tweezers, screwdriver, and keycaps.

Tips: Creating your own mechanical keyboard is a complicated thing that requires a lot of patience and time and effort. And due to the cost of shipping the accessories separately, it is often more expensive to make a mechanical keyboard than to buy a ready-made mechanical keyboard. If you just watched a video or two and found it easy to follow the trend, I would recommend you to buy a new mechanical keyboard. Check out Cool Burn’s Gaming Mechanical Keyboards

Step 1: Decide what kind of mechanical keyboard you need

Before you start assembling a mechanical keyboard, you need to think about some details of the mechanical keyboard you need. Such as the size of the keyboard, lighting, keycaps, switches, etc., these are all areas that need your careful consideration. If you just want to see the specific assembly steps, please see the second step.

1. Keyboard size

At present, the main keyboard sizes include 60%, 80% and 100%. The following will introduce the advantages and disadvantages of the three layout keyboards for your convenience.

  • 60% keyboard layout

The 60% keyboard has only 60% of its key layout compared to the normal 104/108 key standard layout keyboard. The most common number of keys on 60% of keyboards is 61, and there are other keyboards with 64 and 67 keys. Compared with the 100% full-size keyboard, the 60% keyboard lacks the function key area and number key area on the right side.
The advantage of the 60 keyboard is its small size, light weight and small footprint. Whether it is going out to carry or for desktop space management, it is very advantageous. The disadvantage is that the right function key area and numeric key area are missing, which will be very inconvenient for users who need or are used to using them.

  • 80% keyboard layout

Compared to the normal 104/108 key standard layout keyboard, the 80% keyboard only has 80% of its key layout. The 80% keyboard is a keyboard without a keypad, so it is also called a TKL (TenKeyLess keyboard: a keyboard without a 10-key numeric keypad on the right) keyboard. The most common number of keys on 80% of keyboards is 87, and there are other keyboards designed with 84, 86, and 88 keys.

The advantage of the 80 keyboard is that it has complete function keys without any lack of key functions, which is a compromise choice.

  • 100% keyboard layout

The 100% keyboard is currently used by most organizations or individuals and is also the most comprehensive keyboard.
A full-size keyboard usually has 104 keys, and some full-size keyboards have a total of 108 keys. The 108-key keyboard is usually a multi-function keyboard or a gaming keyboard with 3 multimedia keys and a volume adjustment key in the upper right corner. If you’re a gamer, a 108-key keyboard might suit you better.

The advantage of the 100% keyboard is that it has complete functions and convenient keys.

After confirming the size, you can buy the PCB version, case, steel plate and USB cable

  • PCB circuit board

The PCB circuit board is the brain of the keyboard, just as important as the computer’s CPU. The size, layout, and functions of the keyboard are determined by it. Therefore, please do a detailed understanding of the product before purchasing. Here are two kinds of PCB boards, ordinary and hot-swappable.

Ordinary PCB needs to solder each axis to the corresponding hole, which is very complicated and difficult to replace. Novices do not recommend using ordinary PCB boards.
It is much more convenient to hot-swap the PCB board. It only needs to put the shaft body in the hole, no welding is required, and it is very easy to replace, which is very friendly to those who try it for the first time.

  • Shell + steel plate + USB cable

The enclosure encloses the components in a circle and shields them from external elements. You can choose the material and color of the shell, which will determine its durability, light transmission and aesthetics. The plastic case is lighter, but less robust. The metal case is heavier, but will be more durable. At the same time, you need to buy a steel plate for fixing the position of the shaft body and a USB data cable.

2. Mechanical switch and lubricating oil

Mechanical switches are a very important choice, and the reason why mechanical keyboards are expensive is because of their shafts.

  • Shaft brand

The shaft body is divided into different manufacturers and different brands. The most well-known shaft body brand is Cherry, which is also the best shaft body at present, but the price is very expensive. There are also many other good shaft brands, such as GATERON, KAILH, TTC, etc. In recent years, the gap between their shaft effect and the cherry shaft has been narrowing, and the price is much cheaper.

  • Axle type

In addition to the shaft brand, there are also shaft categories. In general, the axis body is divided into two types: linear axis and paragraph axis. The characteristics of the linear axis are quiet and silent, and the up and down feel is straight. When you press it, it goes directly to the bottom, that is, it directly touches the bottom line. The characteristics of the paragraph axis are mainly reflected in its unique paragraph sense. As you press, the distance to the middle section significantly increases the required pressure. After a certain threshold is reached, a sudden breach of the threshold reduces the required pressure, often accompanied by a loud sound. The four common types of shafts will be introduced below.

Keyboard switches

1. Green shaft (blue switch)

The green axis is the segmented axis, which is the axis with the highest pressure among the four main bodies. Typing and pressing have a unique “paragraph feeling”, which can be understood as: after pressing halfway, if you want to continue pressing to the end, you must increase the pressing force, and there will be a crisp sound. (The pressing sound of the green axis is similar to The sound when pressing the ballpoint pen) So the green axis can be said to be the most “mechanical keyboard” spindle. Happy, but at the same time, the sound of typing will be a nightmare for those around you. It can be said that the green axis is achieved by brittleness, and it is also defeated by noise.

2. Black shaft

black switch

The black axis is a linear axis, which is the axis with the highest working pressure among the four main shafts. Typing and pressing are more laborious than normal users, especially those who have just switched from membrane keyboards. So it is not suitable for ordinary users, especially female users or users who need a lot of input. At the same time, the black axis is the one with the lowest sound among the four main axes, and has the least impact on the people around.

3. Red axis

red switch

The red axis is a linear axis, which is the axis with the smallest working pressure among the four spindles (same as the brown axis), which can be said to be very suitable for users with large input. The sound of the red switch is very small, but it also lacks the “sense of paragraph”, which makes people not feel the unique typing feel of mechanical keyboards, and even many users feel that the typing feel is similar to that of membrane keyboards.

4. Tea shaft

tea switch

The brown shaft is the shaft with the least working pressure of the four main bodies (same as the red shaft). It also has a unique “paragraph feel” like the green shaft when typing and pressing, and it also makes sounds. But the sense of paragraph and sound are much weaker than the green axis. The pressure is not as strong as the green axis, the sense of paragraph is not so strong, and the sound is moderate. It can be said that it is very suitable for users with a large amount of input. Especially for users who touch the mechanical keyboard for the first time after leaving the membrane keyboard and want to experience the unique feel of the mechanical keyboard, the brown-shaft mechanical keyboard is the best choice.

When purchasing the shaft body, you can buy lubricating oil at the merchant’s store. Usually, the business that sells the shaft body will sell the lubricating oil.

3. RGB lamp beads

If you want good lighting effects, then RGB lamp beads are also something to pay attention to. Confirm the color, specification and quantity of the lamp beads before purchasing.

4. Keycaps

Common materials for keycaps include ABS keycaps and PBT keycaps. If you want to achieve good light transmission effect, it is recommended to use two-color injection keycaps. The two-color injection keycap is a two-color injection molding process that combines two different colors of plastic (usually black and white). The white part forms the letter part and the inside of the keycap, and the black part is wrapped outside the keyboard to achieve good light transmission of the text. .
ABS keycaps are the most of all materials, mainly due to their mature technology and low price. The disadvantage is that the wear resistance is poor. After long-term high-frequency use, the ABS keycap will become smooth and greasy, just like a layer of oil, and the feel will be much worse.
PBT keycaps have very good effects in oil resistance, wear resistance, aging resistance, corrosion resistance, etc. It is said that they will never be oiled. Most high-end gaming keyboards use PBT as the keycap material. However, due to the high hardness of PBT plastic, it is difficult to form, and the material itself is expensive, so the price is very expensive, and the hand feel will be relatively hard.

5. Stabilizer

The stabilizer can help you support the larger keys on the keyboard and prevent them from shaking, such as the space bar, shift key, etc. How many stabilizers you need depends on the size and type of your keyboard, typically full-size keyboards require 5-7 stabilizers, and smaller keyboards require less. Stabilizers include board-mounted, screw-in and snap-in. What type of stabilizer is required depends on your PCB.


Part 2: Install the mechanical keyboard

When you have the above materials ready, you can start installing the mechanical keyboard.

1. Test the PCB board

You need to test the PCB version first to see if it works properly. After connecting the USB to the PCB board, insert it into your computer, open the PCB board test website, and insert the tweezers into the small holes on the PCB board to touch the contact pins. If the key is working properly, you will see the corresponding keys on the keyboard on the test site. lights up. Then, you need to test each button hole one by one.

2. Lubrication switch

The next step is to lubricate each mechanical switch. Apply lubricating oil to the shaft core of the mechanical switch, the concave-convex track of the base, the spring, and the valve stem. The whole process takes several hours, but after lubricating, the friction sound between the spring and the shaft can be reduced, and a smoother tapping experience can be obtained.

3. Assemble the stabilizer

Most of the stabilizers are disassembled to prevent, we need to assemble the stabilizers. The stabilizer includes the housing, stem and wire. Insert the stem into the housing from the bottom of the housing with one side of the two holes facing the front of the housing. Next, thread the end of the wire through the small hole in the bottom through the stem, and when fully inserted, press the wire into the snap to snap it securely into the housing.
Tips: You can modify the stabilizer if necessary. You can trim, lubricate, and band-aid the stabilizer, which can effectively reduce the unexplained rubbing noise when pressing the key, and make the keying process more comfortable.

4. Install the stabilizer

Take a moment to observe the layout of the PCB board and confirm where each gimbal should be placed. Once the gimbal is installed, it is not an easy task to remove the gimbal and reinstall it. After confirming the position, insert the stabilizer according to the pattern or buckle.

5. Install the mechanical switch between the positioning plate and the PCB

There are two protruding pins under the mechanical switch. Press down the pins corresponding to the two holes of the buttons on the PCB board, but do not use too much force. If the corresponding position is wrong, pressing too hard will damage the pins.
If the shaft body needs to be welded, after the shaft body is installed, make sure that the two metal welding feet of each shaft are all exposed, and then the shaft can be welded. The heating time should not be too long (too long to damage the pad), and the tin on the solder joint should not be too much or too little, and it is the best situation to have a full cone.

6. Install RGB lights

The long leg of the RGB light is the positive pole, which should correspond to the “+” on the back of the circuit. To ensure that each light is on, you can connect the computer to turn on the backlight test. A few LED lines are reversed. If you find that they are not bright, they can be plugged in reversely.

7. Mount the PCB board into the enclosure

Put the installed PCB board into the casing, align the holes of the screws, and screw the four corner screws into the holes in turn to ensure that the PCB board does not shake.
If your keyboard has PCB foam, you can add foam between the case and the PCB board to reduce reverberation and make it sound better.

8. Install the keycaps

Installing the keycap is the easiest part. Align the cross hole under the key with the protrusion above the shaft body, and then press down slightly to install the keycap. If you do not know where each key is located, please refer to the key layout of the same series of keyboards on the Internet.

9. Keyboard usage test

Through the above 8 steps, you have completed all the process of installing the mechanical keyboard. Now, you need to test whether each key of your keyboard works normally and whether the lights are turned on in sequence. If there is no problem with these, then congratulations, you have Successfully created my own mechanical keyboard.

Conclusion: Building your own mechanical keyboard is a very painstaking process, and if you’re not really serious about building your own mechanical keyboard, then I don’t recommend it. But if you do make it happen, it’s a real joy, enjoy your new mechanical keyboard, and good luck.