Custom Mechanical Keyboard

2020-08-19

As I say… Everyone needs an expensive hobby :)

Summary

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 :) finished product

Build Process

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 ST5

5) Insert switches into plate and PCB ST5

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 ST8

9) Cap the switches with keycaps ST9-1 ST9-2

10) Completion!! keyboard desk space

Step 4 - Flash

Disclaimer: The firmware that came with the PCB I ordered is a little buggy, so I’m still working through this step. Looking for alternative flashing software

Parts

PCB/Case/Plate/Stabilizer: 80% TKL Layout Kit link

XD87 Hot Swappable PCB with underglow LED and USB-C connection

PCB front PCB back

Ten Key Less layout plastic case - Black

Case

Stainless steel plate

Plate

GH60 PCB mounted Stabilizers

Stabilizers

Switches: link

Gateron Brown switches

Switches

Keycaps: link

104 Key Translucent PBT Keycaps

Keycaps

Reflection

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 :)