Keyboards and modding, where to start…

Keyboards and modding, where to start…

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Let me begin by explaining that I have only very recently become interested in keyboards, other than using them for gaming.

Since I became a regular office user, the requirement, nay, necessity to have a decent keyboard became paramount. The world of keyboards is a massive one, with a large amount of personal preference.

If you ask most people, they see a keyboard as a keyboard. Well, I had my eyes widened, big time. Not only is the keyboard world a large one, but it is also a very complex one. When choosing a keyboard there are multiple considerations that come into play…

Keyboard Size: This area is broken down into full size (regular boards), Ten Keyless (TKL) with the number pad missing, 75%, 65%, 60%, 40%, and lastly 20%. And this is a very important decision! Do you require the number pad, do you use the page up keys, do you need the F keys?

Layout: Do you use the American ANSI standard or the European ISO standard (and all its subforms)?

Do you want RGB?

Wireless or Bluetooth: This makes a difference depending on what you want to use the board for. For office use, Bluetooth is fine, for gaming you want the 2.4ghz wireless to ensure connectivity and low latency.

Keycaps: This is seriously a whole article just on its own! Did you know there are multiple keycap profiles? Cherry, DSA, KAM, KAT, MT3, OEM, SA! Keycaps are usually made from 2 different types of plastic: ABS and PBT. Both have pros and cons, and the community loves to debate which are better! Keycaps can come in different colors for near-infinite customization. If you have a board with RGB you will want shine through or pudding keycaps to show off your effects.

Key Switches: this is where it gets juicy! Again, the list is nearly endless, but it can be broken down into 4 main groups: Linear, Tactile, Clicky, and Optical. Your choice of the switch is very, very personal and to me, important. I like Tactile switches because they give you a nice bump feeling when you press them.

There are some other smaller varieties of switches out there but the 4 mentioned are the main. In each of these categories, you can find endless examples of switches. There are different spring lengths, actuation pressures, compounds.

The housings have a variety of different materials as well. They all add up to a unique feeling and sounding key. I tried a top-end linear switch and hated it. So, I lubed each individual switch and added a switch film. Now I love them! It was time-intensive as it took me 3 nights to complete 87, but wow, was it worth it!

ymdk keyboard
First go at the YMDK 75 V3

Modding: If all the above doesn’t make your brain spin, then there are ways to make each component sound better. It is mostly about the sound with custom boards, then the stabilizers, with the feel of the keys next. RGB usually comes in last in the list of priorities. Modding involves lubricating the stabilizers and switches with a suitable grease – in reality, this is Krytox 205g0.

The rest of the mods are actually quite fun and involve everyday items. It’s hugely amusing to think that the stabilizers in a £1000 board are made to sound better because they have a part of a band-aid underneath them.

Foam, silicone, packing tape, rubber, can all be placed inside a keyboard to make it sound less hollow. Some people use blue-tac in the space bar to make it sound less hollow! Really your imagination is your only limit in the materials you can try out.

gmmk keyboard
My GMMK compact 60% board with lubed Glorious Panda switches and a mixture of black – Razer Keycaps and Red Corsair Keycaps

So, what does this all add up to? Fun and satisfaction. It’s immeasurably satisfying to take something and make it better. Now, I am not a pro at building these boards, but you don’t need to be.

There are plenty of beginner kits out there that are very simple to put together. Then you can select what switches you want, chose some tasteful keycaps, and away you go. There is something in the fact that the board you built is unlikely to have a sibling elsewhere. It is unique to you.

YMDK 75 V3, lubed and filmed Durock purple linear switches, lubed plate mounted Durock stabilizers, AKKO ASA Double-shot PBT keycap set.

I have used keyboards from most of the big players in the field; Logitech, Razer, Roccat, Durgod, Ducky to name a few. None of them had the feel of the boards I have built myself.

None of them felt unique. None of them felt as good as the ones I created. I will never go back to a stock keyboard ever again.

Show us your keyboard mods and projects in the comments below!

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