Why you need to create a custom mechanical keyboard

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Keyboards are our interface with the rest of our computers and if you are something like the crew of WePC towers, it can either be something you really like or you don’t really care about. Gaming keyboards are a key pillar of computer gaming from the “original” Razer Blackwidow gaming keyboard. Mechanical keyboards have been around for years, but despite their relative decline after being replaced by cheaper membrane boards in offices around the world, the gaming market has seen a resurgence in the popularity of mechanical keyboards, with patents running out for them. switches housed inside them, the mechanical keyboard scene has since exploded, with niche communities like / r / mechanicalkeyboards now having over 1.1 million members.

Computer games and mechanical keyboards now go hand in hand, and there is a distinction between the two. Gaming keyboards focus on the response of the keys, with room for things like analog controls on certain titles and how the switches are turned on. Mechanical keyboards on the other hand have to do with the overall feel of the board.

Companies like the aforementioned Razer, Corsair, Logitech and others all have their own unique offerings in the gaming console market, but as this battlefield for the PC grows, a new front has emerged. Custom mechanical boards, made from the beginning with the user in mind.

What does a mechanical keyboard do?

It’s easy to look at a keyboard and say, “Well, it’s just a keyboard, isn’t it?” but, there is much more going on under the hood with a mechanical keyboard. The case, the switches, the key covers, the plate base, the stabilizers and much more play a key role in giving the overall feel of a keyboard. You can choose to optimize your board for games with the switches of your choice or if you are like us, you will want something more tactile, with a hint that tells you that you have actually pressed the button down. This is what separates the standard “linear” switch found on most gaming keyboards, which are typically equipped with Cherry MX Red, and touch or click boards, which are generally Cherry MX Brown and Blue respectively.

But these are not the only factors to consider, the construction and construction of the boards themselves are incredibly important, as are the interiors of the keyboard itself. Many stock game keyboards do not have many of these features, many of which came as modifications to the keyboard scene.

Big brands need to consider the custom keyboard community

One of the most popular things on keyboards today is the presence of foam on the board, not only does it radically change the sound coming from the board, but it can also affect the typing experience. Over time, we have seen game keyboard makers take some notes from these mods and apply them to their own board designs. Take the Mountain 60 for example. It comes with enthusiastic features, such as a heat-shifting PCB, foam dampers and pre-lubricated switches. All of these factors create a fantastic gaming keyboard, which is also great to use. The bar is slowly rising for the larger manufacturers and if they want to keep up with the latest developments in keyboard technology, they will need to get in touch with the community of custom mechanical keyboards to keep innovating.

We tried a new keyboard recently, and as it slid under my fingers and I typed it, I was amazed at how hollow, cheap, and generally economical the board felt. Then I realized I had just broken down my first custom board I had made just a few weeks earlier.

Making your own keyboard spoils every other board for you

While most other custom mechanical keyboards are definitely passable, there is an undeniable connection you have to something you make yourself. Just as you would assemble your own computer, a custom keyboard is unique for everything you want, from size to function and price. It is possible to build one at a competitive price, thanks to brands such as AKKO and Ajazz. The rabbit hole for keyboards is deep enough, but it can be simplified to know what set of barebones you want, which should accommodate all the key features you may want. This dictates the form factor of the board, the type of hot-swappable pins, how the PCB is placed on the board and much more. Some kits even come with flange and foam bases. Others may not have these premium features, opening the door to custom modification. I’ve recorded my own journey into the world of custom keyboard modifications below, with exactly what I have to make my keyboard truly my own.

Barebones Kit

Personally, I chose the Keychron Q1, which also housed a rotary knob. The board itself had all the flange mounts you might need, except for improvements like the silicon between the top and bottom shell, which initially started as a community modification and eventually came in later versions of the board itself. This is a microcosm of how large manufacturers can take notes from their custom keyboard to make their own tables.

Switches

Epomaker Kiwi Switches

Armed with the Q1 kit, which was a great place to start my custom journey with the keyboard, I then needed switches. I have been a supporter of “blue” click switches for a long time as someone who spends a lot of time typing professionally on a keyboard. The Cherry MX Blue was my favorite, except for the Razer Green I used in the office, which was in the Razer Huntsman Mini. I had tried the Reds, and while the line switches were great, I needed something with a little kick that I could feel to improve my typing accuracy. However, a click switch is considered a bit like a faux-pas in the keyboard community, it’s a bit like combining Nike and Adidas together. However, Cherry’s iconic “tactile” MX Brown did not give me enough feedback and I just felt like a scratched Cherry MX Red.

Fortunately, with the community exploding and manufacturers making their own switches, I was looking for an alternative. I looked at the incredibly popular Holy Panda switch, which seemed extremely expensive, except for the Gazzew Boba U4T, which was also extremely popular and happened to run out. So, I came up with ideas, and to see them flush it out, it’s really fun. Armed with an Amazon voucher in one hand and forced charts in the other, I agreed with the Epomaker Ajazz Diced Fruit Kiwi. For the uninitiated, this sounds like nonsense, but Kiwi switches have a strong tactile hit, in addition to being slightly heavier to power than a Cherry MX Brown. Pre-lubricated and in some wonderful packaging, I was immediately pleased with my choice, which did not break the money, as so many “designer” keyboard switches tend to do.

Keys

akko keycap min

Finally, I had to get some keycaps. This was an equally difficult thing to decide. What will it look like? Will they feel good? What material should I choose? Through all of this, you have extremely expensive keychain sets, but in the end they are all just colored pieces of plastic. Having almost destroyed the covers of my previous keyboard, which used glossy ABS caps, I chose to look for a PBT set, which was supposed to be a little rougher and more durable. After that, I started thinking about colors when I looked at my feet.

You really can not go wrong with white, red and black. My Jordan 1 Chicago sneakers would dictate what I was looking for and, thankfully, AKKO makes PBT coupons in that exact color. In addition, they were also made with PBT materials and also came with an extra case for your keychains and a key extractor located in a high quality box. This is above and beyond the price point for which keycaps are sold and honestly makes some of the most premium offers from larger companies seem a bit annoying. It’s so good for your money here, and putting it on the board made it sing. They feel great on typing and the key profile also gave the board a very deep overall sound profile. AKKO makes some great keyboards on its own, so it was no surprise that their keys were also some of the best I have ever used. One problem, however, is the profile of the keycaps pronounced a slight “ping” in the case of Q1. Fortunately, the community also had a solution to this, and it was a cheap solution.

Modding

I searched the internet and realized what exactly I had to do. Named the Tempest Tape Mod, this mod changes the way sound is reflected from the board when you type on it, and instead forces the sound to resonate through the PCB, instead of sounding through the metal construction of the board itself. This is done by wrapping the low-adhesive tape under the PCB in three layers. Well, I did the natural and got some tape and a pair of scissors and went to work. The issue had disappeared. But, my switches were always so much noisier, which was not a problem for me. However, he stressed how inconsistent some of the factory lubricants were. Well, I have already planned my next step on the custom keyboard – to remove all my switches and melt them all for a smoother typing experience. But, as I have already bitten a considerable amount with the construction of the board from the beginning, I can wait for a rainy day until I go through this arduous process.

This is not only accessible, it is also affordable

With the price of gaming keyboards ranging from budget to premium, the same can be said for making your own. But with budget builders like AKKO, you do not have to worry about spending a lot of money building one that has premium features that simply do not exist anywhere else. In addition, with a simple repair, you can expect it to last much longer if you have a heat-exchange PCB. There is very little reason not to do so, and the process is simpler than building a computer and leading to a keyboard that is simply better than most of the options you have on the market today.

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