Custom Mechanical Keyboard
Sooo I have been talking about building a custom keyboard from scratch for the longest time, and finally put the order in during quarantine. I chose a Ten Key Less (TKL) layout, hot swappable PCB, and Gateron Brown switches. I will link the exact parts/ stores I ordered from below. The total for my keyboard was around $170, but it did take almost two months for all the parts to ship. Overall, I am very happy with the final build :)
Step 1 - Order
Do you research on what size/ layout/ switches/ etc that you want for your keyboard and place orders for those parts. Essentially, there are six components you need: Case, PCB, Switches, Mounting Plate, Stabilizers, and Keycaps. This is a really good tutorial to follow along.
Step 2 - Check
When the parts arrive, you first have to check that there are no defects. Specifically, there are softwares that either come with the PCB or can be found online, used to check that the PCB is printed properly. If everything looks good, you can move on to building the keyboard.
Step 3 - Build
1) Separate case into top case and bottom case
2) Assemble stabilizers (tutorial here)
3) Insert stabilizers into PCB (if yours are PCB mounted too)
4) Align plate on top of PCB
5) Insert switches into plate and PCB
6) Check that switches are inserted properly using keyboard testing software
7) Place assembled PCB into bottom case
8) Cover the top case and click into place
9) Cap the switches with keycaps
PCB/Case/Plate/Stabilizer: XD87 Hot Swappable PCB with underglow LED and USB-C connection
Ten Key Less layout plastic case - Black
Stainless steel plate
GH60 PCB mounted Stabilizers
Switches: Gateron Brown switches
Keycaps: 104 Key Translucent PBT Keycaps
Lube: GPL205 G2 and GPL105 G0
The process of building my keyboard was a little trickier than I imagined. For example, mounting the stabilizers into my PCB took a lot of force and honestly hurt my fingers. Having the hot swappable PCB definitely made the process easier, so I highly recommend choosing a hot swappable PCB if you are building a custom mechanical keyboard for the first time. It avoids the need to saulder and is more lenient with mistakes.
Basically, I now have a very expensive hobby because building mechanical keyboards from scratch is honestly more expensive then buying pre-built ones. However, there is something so satisfying about using products that you designed, built, and cultivated. I am hoping to build two more keyboards in the near future (one that is not hot swappable and one that is a 60% size). As well, I am hoping to film a sick video for the next keyboard I build.
PS. hit me up if you have more than $200 to drop and want a custom mechanical keyboard, I would be happy to build one for you :)
Version 2 Upgrades
Date: March 8th, 2021
So I was getting kind of tired of my Gateron Browns. They were a little too light and not clicky enough, which lead to a lot of typos while coding and not enough satisfaction while gaming. I decided to invest in some upgrades for my board. I also finally got around to saudering hot swap LED sockets which I've had lying around for the longest time.
Switches: Glorious Panda switches LED: Long Pin Hot Plug Hot Swap Sip Socket Keycaps: Shiba Inu Keycap Set XDA Profile PBT DYE-Sub Japanese Keycaps
Super happy with the final product. I love the doggy keycaps and I actually enjoy this profile more than the old keycaps - they're a little shorter and less curved making it easier for me to type. Next thing I want to upgrade are definitely the stabilizers although I think I'm going to build a new 60% keyboard instead of continuing to upgrade this one.