How to Build a Custom Mechanical Keyboard

How to Build a Custom Mechanical Keyboard Easily? – A Guide for Beginners

How to Build a Custom Mechanical KeyboardHaving a custom mechanical keyboard has its own meaning for everyone. Custom mechanical keyboard is a form of art in the computer world. To build a custom mechanical keyboard, there are many important things you should consider before starting.

Through this article, we will reveal secrets that you have never found in any article about how to build a custom mechanical keyboard in detail with all the little things that must be considered.

We’ll cover all the important aspects you need so you can efficiently build the custom mechanical keyboard of your dreams. Here’s a Complete Guide on how to build a custom mechanical keyboard efficiently and perfectly.

1. Determine the Custom Mechanical Keyboard Layout You Want to Build and Features

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Intsall Foam Inside The Keyboards Case

The point is at this first stage you only have to determine the size of the mechanical keyboard layout you want to build, the features you want such as RGB Backlight, USB Type C, multimedia keys and others. Once you get the keyboard you want, for example:

  • Custom Mechanical Keyboard Layout: 60% Size
  • RGB Backlight
  • USB Type C

Choosing a Mechanical Keyboard Layout Size

There are a variety of sizes for custom mechanical keyboards that you can build. Generally, keyboard sizes with layouts of 40%, 60%, 65%, and 75% are the most widely used layout sizes in creating custom mechanical keyboards. You can also read our article about keyboard size so that it helps you a little to determine the keyboard layout you want.

  • Full Size (100%) Layout: If you have very complete needs, such as numpad, arrow keys and others, you can choose the Full Size size. But parts of this size are very rare.
  • 1800-Compact (96%) Layout : This is a very similar layout to full size, but the difference is that there is almost no space between the numpad and the other left-hand buttons.
  • TKL Layout: If you feel that numpad is not very important for you, then you can create a custom mechanical keyboard with TKL size (87%). This size keyboard is a full size keyboard with the numpad removed.
  • 75% Layout: This size is slightly similar to the TKL layout size, some function keys are placed vertically in line with the right arrow key.
  • 65% Layout: This layout is very similar to the 75% layout, except that the F1-F12 keys are omitted.
  • 60% Layout: 60% keyboard size is the most commonly used to build custom mechanical keyboards. This is a keyboard layout that has no arrow keys, no F1-F12, and no function keys which are usually above the arrow keys.
  • 40% Layout: Is the smallest size just below the 60% size. This is the 60% non-numeric keyboard lined up above.

For your first custom mechanical keyboard, we recommend that you start by building a custom 60% mechanical keyboard layout. In addition to requiring only 60 to 61 switches and keycaps, this keyboard has parts available in many places. The smaller the keyboard layout you will build, the cheaper it will cost you.

Choose Features

There are several features that you should consider of course this is based on your needs. Here are the features you should specify when building a custom mechanical keyboard:

RGB Backlight: This is an optional which you can ignore as well, but if you want RGB backlight there are several types of RGB and lighting on the mechanical keyboard. You can choose the LED option which is only white, or RGB which is fully lit on the keyboard, and you can also choose without RGB. Because this will determine the costs you have to spend. Custom mechanical keyboards with RGB are usually slightly more expensive than those without RGB and LEDs.

QMK Firmware: If you wish to have the option to reprogram the functions of your buttons, this is an optional feature as well. But we recommend you to use this feature, because I think it’s quite important.

USB Port Type: For this section, we recommend that you choose the Type C port feature, because the ports before Type C are too old.

If you want 2.4ghz or bluetooth wireless features, you can also do that by choosing a PCB that supports these features. But let’s start with something simple. We will discuss it in another discussion.

Once you’ve determined the features and layout size you want, let’s move on to the next step.

Important: For the purchase of mechanical keyboard parts that you want to build, we recommend that you choose IN STOCK PART. This is the fastest way to get the parts you need. These parts are widely available in the marketplace and the restock is also very fast. Unless you want a rare and unique part, you should use Group Buy, but it can take months for the part you want to get to you.

Pick Out the Custom Mechanical Keyboard Parts

Here are some parts you need to build a custom mechanical keyboard along with the details and types:

Parts RequiredThe Options
Keyboard CasePlastic, Aluminum, Acrylic, Brass, or Polycarbonate Material
PlateAluminum, Steel, Brass, Carbon Fiber, POM…
Circuit Board (PCB)Sizes: 40%, 60%, 65%, 75%, TKL, 1800-Compact, or Full-Sized
StabilizersOptions: GMK, Durock, Everglide, ZealPC
SwitchesCherry MX, Gateron, NovelKeys, ZealPC, and more
KeycapsMaterial: ABS or PBT   Manufacturer: GMK, Tai Hao, Drop, and more

In the table above are the main components to build a mechanical keyboard. You have to choose the right components with materials and quality according to your needs. The better the quality of the components, the higher the cost you need. Here is a brief explanation of the custom mechanical keyboard components that you should know.

  • PCB: The most important thing that will determine your keyboard can work or not. PCB of a keyboard has a memory that determines the function of each key on the keyboard. On this PCB, USB, RGB, and switches will be connected. The PCB also determines what features your mechanical keyboard can do.
  • Case: Is a container or a place where all the mechanical components of the keyboard are installed together. PCB is placed inside this case. The mechanical keyboard case consists of several types of materials such as aluminum, thick plastic, and transparent plastic.
  • Plate: This component is an optional component, you can use it or not. But in my opinion, this plate should be used so that your keyboard is more solid and sturdy.
  • Mechanical Switch: This is an object that is covered by a button that you will press that has a different sound in each color. Switch is a mechanical button that is used to send instructions to the PCB for processing and proceed to the computer.
  • Stabilizer: This component serves to provide balance to the mechanical keyboard keys and can make the keys not shake or shift because they are pressed continuously. This is a very important component.
  • Keycaps: Keycaps are objects made of ABS or PBT plastic that are attached to switches. This is the cover of the keys you type that have writing and markings on them. We recommend that you use PBT keycaps which are stronger and thicker.

Let’s dive deeper into each section and explain some of the different aspects to help you choose the right one. Next, we will explain how you choose the components above in depth.

1. PCB Mechanical Keyboards

PCB is the most important component in a mechanical keyboard. PCB works as a center for the operation of all functions and features in a mechanical keyboard.

A mechanical keyboard PCB sits on the casing and instructions are sent via switches connected to the metal on the PCB and the PCB is tasked with processing these instructions to provide input to the computer.

There are 3 kinds of PCBs for mechanical keyboards, namely Hot Swappable PCBs, Normal PCBs, and Through Hole PCBs. Here’s the explanation.

Hot-Swappable PCB

For those of you who don’t want to be bothered and trapped in the world of soldering, this is the right type of PCB for you. Installation of switches on this type of PCB is only plug in play. you just push the switch into the switch hole on the PCB and it can be used. Likewise, if you want to replace a switch, you just need to pull out your old switch and replace it with a new one. Unfortunately this type of PCB only supports ANSI layout.

Normal PCB

Normal PCB is a PCB that requires soldering skills when you want to install your mechanical switches. The advantage is that this type of PCB is very flexible for the installation of switches, although it requires soldering.

Through-Hole PCB

This is the most difficult PCB to use, all PCB components must be soldered by yourself, such as USB, resistors, controllers, RGB, LEDs and more. This is for experts only. We do not recommend beginners use this type of PCB.

We highly recommend you to choose Hot Swappable PCB, because it is very easy to use and you have the freedom to change the switch any time you want. You can even use a different color switch on each of your buttons.

2. Mechanical Keyboard Case

As the housing of all mechanical keyboard components, the case is a very important item in assembling the mechanical keyboard of your dreams.

Fortunately, there are many cases for mechanical keyboards on the market with various types of materials. You can choose from aluminum, transparent plastic, or thick plastic with a variety of color choices.

Here we explain about the types of mechanical keyboard casing materials so that it is easier for you to make your choice:

Mechanical Keyboard Case Material Type

Mechanical keyboard cases made of solid plastic and aluminum are the most commonly used and have the most affordable prices. If you want a solid and durable plastic material, choose a mechanical keyboard case with PBT plastic material, but an ABS casing is also quite good.

  • Plastic: This type of case is perfect for those of you who have a minimal budget, but a plastic mechanical keyboard case doesn’t have good durability, you have to prepare a budget to replace the case every 2 to 3 years.
  • Aluminum case: If you want your keyboard mechanical as strong as Iron Man, this is our recommended mechanical keyboard case material. The price is also not too expensive. The aluminum case feels heavier and solid.
  • Acrylic Case: This is a mechanical keyboard case material if you want to have an aesthetically pleasing keyboard, and you can show off your PCB and other components inside the acrylic case. Cases made of acrylic are a bit fragile, but they can last up to 3 years.

Mechanical Keyboard Case Installation Method

There are several methods of installing a mechanical keyboard casing that are important for you to know. Among them are tray mounting, top-down mounting, sandwich mounting, plate mounting and plate mounting methods, the last one being, gasket mounting methods.

With so many methods of installing a mechanical keyboard casing, you must be very confused which one to choose. the most commonly used mounting method is the tray mounting method, as it is inexpensive and very easy to manufacture. Then for the best installation method is to use the gasket installation method.

We recommend that you choose an installation method that you can. We suggest the tray method as the best choice for you.

3. Mechanical Keyboard Plate

The mechanical pad plate of the keyboard serves to hold separate components together and lock them in a single pattern. This will make your mechanical keyboard more rigid, solid, and strong.

But the plate is only an optional in assembling a mechanical keyboard. But there is a risk if you assemble a mechanical keyboard without plates, your switches will often shift and your keyboard will be a little flexible because the function of the plate is to strengthen and hold the components so they don’t move.

We strongly recommend that you use a plate on your mechanical keyboard. Usually you can buy PCB and Plate in one package. We recommend that you use aluminum or carbon fiber. This is a pretty good material to use.

4. Mechanical Keyboard Stabilizers

To maintain balance on the mechanical keys of your keyboard, then you need a stabilizer. The stabilizer can keep your keys from shifting and minimize vibration when pressed so you will be happier when typing.

For the stabilizer, there are several installation methods that you should know. Additional information, you can also modify the stabilizer for specific purposes. Here are some methods of installing stabilizers on a mechanical keyboard:

  • Mounted on the plate: This method is usually used on keyboards that are ready for sale in the market. The stabilizer is attached to a metal plate that sits on top of the PCB. But for the results, it’s not good for maintaining the balance of the button.
  • Screw-in: This is a stabilizer mounting method using screws on the PCB, obviously this is the best stabilizer mounting method that is widely used. This is a method that results in a secure, non-shaky button.
  • Snap-in: This method can only be used on certain types of PCBs, and is quite rare nowadays. This method is where the stabilizer is inserted directly into the PCB, usually found on older mechanical keyboards.

We strongly recommend that you use the screw-in stabilizer installation method. This style is often called Cherry style, for some brands we recommend are GMK, Durock and Everglide.

5. Mechanical Keyboard Switches

For switch, there are many choices of types and voice characters. You can also read our article on mechanical keyboard switches, which will help you find the right switch for you.

  • Linear: The clicking sound is quite quiet, not noisy.
  • Tactile: This type of switch is responsive and quiet.
  • Clicky: This type of switch has a character and a loud clicking sound.

We recommend that you buy Cherry MX Brown or gateron Brown switches, these are only our recommendations. You can find a switch that suits your taste. We also recommend that you have a switch tester when assembling a mechanical keyboard to find out which switch is best for you.

6. Keycaps

Keycaps for mechanical keyboards are available in the market with many different types and prices. But there are things you should pay attention to when choosing keycaps namely keycaps material, Keycaps Profile, design, and manufacturing method:

  • Material: In general, keycaps are made of 2 types of plastic materials, namely ABS and PBT plastic. ABS has a slippery, thin character. While Keycaps with PBT plastic are known to be thicker, solid and stronger, suitable for long-term use.
  • Profile: This relates to the shape of the keycap, there are 2 types on the market namely uniform keycaps and sculpted keycaps. For height, these two types have the same height but there are different sculptures between the two. The advantage of the sculpted keycap is that it is very comfortable to use for typing. We recommend Profl keycaps with Cherry profiles.
  • Design: It deals with the design, dimensions, color and shape of the keycaps. Because the keycaps that are sold today are very many shapes, colors and variations. It all depends on your taste.
  • Manufacturing methods: There are 2 most popular keycaps manufacturing methods, namely single shot and double shot. The best result of several methods of making keycaps is the double shot method.

The Best Place to Buy Custom Mechanical Keyboard Parts

Here are some websites that we recommend for you:

For parts that are in-stockFor group buys
Kebo Store
Kono Store
Drop
Keebio
KBDfans
Mechgroupbuys.com
Keycaplendar
NovelKeys
KBDFans
The Best Place to Buy Custom Mechanical Keyboard Parts

But you can also use amazon for a little hunting for the mechanical components of your keyboard.

Equipment Required

The next stage is that we will reveal the secrets of what tools you need. There will be many tools that you will find below according to their needs and functions, Let’s get started.

Essential Tools

Tools NameFunctions
Adjustable Soldering Iron: TS100The TS100 is great for soldering switches on as well as helping you desolder switches in case mistakes are made. This is essential unless you have a hot-swappable board. It’s extremely portable and has a temperature reading screen.
Solder Sucker: Engineer SS-02The Engineer SS-02 is easy to use, easy to maintain, doesn’t break the bank, and helps in those moments when you know you messed up.
Solder Wire: Kester 63/37 SN/PBSolder is essential. Having lead solder makes it much easier to desolder switches. It’s a good size and easy to store when not in use.
Switch Puller: Antistatic Extractor ToolMuch easier to use than the metal switch pullers you get with hot-swappable boards. And it comes in a pack or two, so you can do keyboard-related work in more than one place. Also don’t worry about misplacing one.
Precision Screwdriver KitHaving a screwdriver kit with different bit varieties will come in handy when opening up cases, opening up switches without a switch opener, and putting your keyboard together.
Wire Keycap Puller
A wire keycap puller won’t scratch your keycaps and will let you change keycaps quickly without trying to manhandle them with your fingers.
Essential Tools

Recommened Tools To Have

Tools NameFunctions
Soldering Stand
Keeps you safe when your soldering iron is not in use, highly recommended despite not being essential. Also comes with a place to clean your soldering iron’s tip.
Heat Insulated Mat

If you’re working on a surface that can be burned or unprotected, this mat is highly recommended. The soldering iron’s temperature usually exceeds 300 degrees Celsius. It also keeps all of your screws and small materials in an easily accessible space.
USB CablesHaving a USB cable that can fit multiple different ports is extra convenient, especially one that is stylish and matches your setup.
Magnetic Holding TraysThis might seem a little extra, but when you’re dealing with small little screws that could roll around and get lost in the cracks, this will be a lifesaver.
Precision Screwdriver KitHaving a screwdriver kit with different bit varieties will come in handy when opening up cases, opening up switches without a switch opener, and putting your keyboard together.
Wire Keycap Puller
A wire keycap puller won’t scratch your keycaps and will let you change keycaps quickly without trying to manhandle them with your fingers.
Essential Tools

Tools for Lubing & Filming Switches

ToolsFunctions
Switch OpenerHaving a switch opener makes your life a million times easier and saves time too. Rather than breaking your nails trying to open each one, just press each switch and then separate them. Easy peasy.
Switch FilmsSwitch films help tighten up your switches and prevent switch wobble, which makes them sound and feel crispy and thocc-y.
Switch Lube for SwitchesHaving the right switch lube makes the job much easier. For the type of lube, 205g0 is a great all-around lube for linear and tactile switches. This is usually a more viscous lube.
Lube for Bag Lubing SpringsSprings are much easier to lube via throwing them in a bag with a few drops of lube in it. Then shake it all around. You need a thin lube for this.
Ziploc Bags (for Bag Lubing Springs)To bag lube, you need bags. These bags fasten to a close and let you shake all of the springs around without worrying about any blowouts, because that could get messy real fast.
PaintbrushesSize 00 is perfect for reaching all of the crevices to lube your switches. There’s enough to lube switches for many years, and they are reusable if you wash them thoroughly enough.
Antistatic TweezersHaving a nice pair of tweezers lets you pick up the springs easier without lubing up your fingers in the process. Tweezers are always handy when dealing with tiny objects.
Pronged Pick-up ToolIf you got clumsy fingers, this tool makes lubing the switch stems much easier. Pick them up, then spin the stem as you lube it without worrying about your fingers or dropping it.
Tools for Lubing & Filming Switches

Tools for Modding Stabilizers

ToolsFunctions
Fabric BandaidsThese are great for the bandaid mod and to protect your fingers in case you get cuts, I suppose.
Flush CuttersGreat for clipping the small feet of your stabilizers as well as serve as a wire cutter for adding LEDs onto your keyboard or working on through-hole builds.
Stabilizers LubeStabilizers need a thicker lubricant, usually Krytox 205g0 is used. Adds extra smoothness to your stabs, making them sound and feel much better.
ScissorsA reliable pair of scissors to cut your fabric and to open boxes and packages.
Tools for Lubing & Filming Switches

Tools for Sound Dampening

ToolsFunctions
Neoeprene SpongeA thin layer of sponge material that can fit inside your keyboard case to reduce reverb.
Desk MatA quick and easy fix, just place the deskmat underneath your keyboard to look cool and reduce noise echo against your desk.
SorbothaneA rubbery material that is well-known for sound dampening and reduction.
Tools for Sound Dampening

Combining All Mechanical Keyboard Components

Do the following step 2 carefully, don’t miss anything until the last step. let’s do it

1. Test PCB to Make Sure it Works

The important thing you have to do is make sure the PCB you have purchased works or not. To test a mechanical keyboard PCB, the method is quite easy. Here are the steps you need to do:

  • Make sure you use a computer that is connected to the internet.
  • Connect the PCB with the computer using a USB cable.
  • Go to the website Keyboardtester.com to test the keys.
  • Touch the lead at the point your switch connects with tweezers or a screwdriver.

2. Install Stabilizers Into PCB

As a note, the Stabilizer installation does not need to be done on all keys, prioritize the stabilizer on large keys such as Space Bar, Enter, Left and Right Shift, depending on your keyboard layout. You can also read our article on stabilizers.

See in the picture above, I installed the stabilizer on the PCB with a 60% layout. I installed the stabilizer on the PCB for 5 points, namely the left Shift key, Space Bar, Enter, Right Shift, and the top right is Backspace.

3. Install Switches Into Plate & PCB ( For Hot-Swappable PCB)

Pay attention to the following steps when you install the switch on the PCB. I will make the steps in the form of a list below:

  • Place the plate on top of the PCB, according to the switch hole.
  • Push the switch until it beeps (tikkk!)
  • Because I use a Hot Swappable PCB, I don’t need to solder the switches on the PCB.

4. Install and Solder Switches (On Standard PCB)

For standard PCB, after you install the switch on the PCB you have to solder the switch. If you don’t know how to solder, watch the video below before you continue.

After all the switches are soldered properly, wait until the soldering tin is completely glued to the PCB and switch.

5. Add Foam and Rubber Feet to The Mechanical Keyboad’s Case

Add foam or rubber as a base before you install the already installed PCB and Switch. It aims to protect components from accidental impact.

In addition, the installation of foam can reduce the sound of pressure on the switch and make the keyboard a little heavier (Doesn’t feel sloppy)

We recommend that you use Sorbothane Acoustic & Vibration Damping Film, but if you have another solution to replace foam or rubber as the base case you can use whatever you believe will muffle the sound. Because this is optional.

Make sure you cut the foam to the size of the mechanical keyboard case.

6. Install Assembled PCB Into Case

Install the PCB that has been fitted with a switch and stabilizer to the casing that has been added with foam or rubber. You just need to put the PCB into the mechanical keyboard casing.

If there is a hole that supports mounting screws on the casing and your PC, make sure you install it completely so that the PCB does not wobble. This is the final stage, but there is still a bit of work left to do.

7. Install the Keycaps

The last stage is the installation of the keycaps set on the switch. As the happiest last stage, is installing the buttons on the switch so that the PCB, Casing, and Siwtch, are united into a mechanical keyboard by keycaps.

Once the installation of all the keycaps is complete, this means that you have finished assembling your custom mechanical keyboard to perfection. Eeeehh,,, there is still a testing stage that you have to do after this.

8. Testing the Mechanical Keyboard

At this testing stage, you only need to connect the keyboard to a computer that is already connected to the internet. Go to the KeyboardTester.com website and try all the keys on your keyboard, whether they all work according to their position.

After you make sure all the buttons are working properly, the next step is to test the sound of your switch and the keycaps set that you have purchased.

After all these stages are complete. Safe!! you have successfully built the mechanical keyboard of your dreams!!!

Why Build a Custom Keyboard?

You may find it strange to see people building their own mechanical keyboard. building a mechanical keyboard is not the goal to save costs, because now we can buy a mechanical keyboard at a very affordable price.

But building a custom mechanical keyboard for yourself is a form of art and a satisfying hobby for a mechanical keyboard. Building your own mechanical keyboard is the freedom to build a unique keyboard, which no one even sells. This is a priceless satisfaction!

Conclusion

Building a mechanical keyboard on your own is a hobby and a form of art that is rarely done by many people. This is an amazing process! You can tell that a mechanical keyboard has many components that you may not have known before doing this.

Having a custom mechanical keyboard from hard work itself is a satisfaction for some people. Of course, only you own this keyboard, there’s nothing like it out there, and no one is selling it. Uniqueness is the main goal of a mechanical keyboard cutom.

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