Custom mechanical keyboards have become incredibly popular in recent years. With so many options for sizes, switches, keycaps and more, building your own keyboard can be an extremely fun and rewarding hobby. However, with so many vendors and group buys out there, it can be tricky to know where to get started and how to make sure you end up with an amazing quality custom keyboard. In this article, we’ll go over 10 tips to help you get the perfect custom mechanical keyboard.
Tip 1: Choose Your Size and Layout
The first decision to make is what size and layout you want for your custom keyboard. Some popular options include 60%, 65%, 75%, TKL (80%), and full size. Consider the size of your desk space and how much you want to minimize. The most common layout is ANSI keyboard, but you also have options like ISO, which is popular in Europe.
Tip 2: Select Your Switch Type
Switches are the heart of any mechanical keyboard, and there are a dizzying number of options. Tactile, clicky, and linear are the three main types, and determining your preferred feel and sound is crucial. Popular switch brands include Cherry MX, Gateron, Kailh, Zealios, and Topre. Getting a switch tester can help decide.
Tip 3: Determine Your Keycap Material and Profile
Keycaps come in different materials like PBT and ABS plastic, with each having their own textures and qualities. The profile refers to the keycap shape, with popular options including OEM, Cherry, and SA. Make sure to get a keycap set that supports your keyboard size and layout.
Tip 4: Decide on RGB Backlighting
If backlighting is important to you, research keyboards and PCBs like GMK67 keyboard that support RGB lighting. Consider what colors and effects you want. However, be aware backlighting can draw more power and require special switch housings. Going without lets you focus spending on other keyboard components.
Tip 5: Pick Your Case and Mounting Style
Keyboard cases come in metal, plastic, and wood, each giving a different look and feel. Mounting style determines how the plate and PCB attach to the case. Common styles include top mount, gasket mount, and integrated plate. This impacts flex and typing feel.
Tip 6: Determine Your Budget
Building a custom mechanical keyboard can get expensive, especially when opting for premium parts. Determine your budget first, then prioritize where you want to allocate funds whether its on keycap sets, switches, the case, etc. Buying in group buys can help lower costs.
Tip 7: Research Group Buy Opportunities
Group buys allow the community to unite and order keyboard components in bulk from vendors and manufacturers. This lowers costs and allows access to unique and limited items. However, group buys require waiting months for production and shipping. Do your research before joining.
Tip 8: Don’t Cheap Out on the PCB
The PCB (printed circuit board) is what everything connects to, so you don’t want to go too cheap on it. Prioritize getting one from a reputable vendor known for quality. Consider available layouts and whether you want hot-swap capability.
Tip 9: Allow Time for Assembly and Tuning
Between lubing switches, clipping and band-aid modding stabilizers, flashing firmware, and more, properly assembling and tuning a keyboard takes time and skill. Be prepared to put in work to get your keyboard sounding and feeling its absolute best. Take your time and don’t cut corners.
Tip 10: Find a Trusted Vendor For Each Part
With so many keyboard vendors and group buys out there, it’s essential to vet where you’re buying from. Do your research to ensure a vendor is reputable and known for quality. Buying all parts from trusted sources gives peace of mind and better support.
Building a custom mechanical keyboard lets you make something uniquely your own. By following these tips, researching parts, participating in group buys, and taking your time with assembly, you’ll be equipped to make an amazing quality keyboard tailored exactly how you want. The keyboard community is also very helpful for recommendations. It’s a fun hobby that lets you express your creativity through electronics and hardware.
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