Author Topic: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard  (Read 4624 times)

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Offline Volny

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advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« on: Sun, 11 April 2021, 04:36:10 »
Hi, first-time poster here (and new to the world of keyboard customisation in general). I'm looking for some advice about putting together a feature-heavy keyboard.

So I've got a Corsair K100, which is a 104-key layout plus some extras (6 macro keys, a volume wheel, some media keys...). It's marketed as a gaming keyboard, and has Cherry MX Silver Speed linear switches. I'm a game developer, and I use it first and foremost for productivity (so typing, coding, macros). I'm a macro junkie, to what could probably be described as an almost pathological degree - alongside this keyboard I have several Stream Decks, several little Macro pads, and my mouse has 15 buttons  ^-^. And yes, I actually use all those keys and buttons all the time!

I guess I'm a heavy and somewhat clumsy typist, and so I often make mis-hits on the K100 because of the very short actuation distance on this keyboard. Unfortunately, it's not hotswappable, and I've never soldered anything in my life, so I guess I'm stuck with these switches. I suspect I'd be much more comfortable with something like a tactile brown switch.

I've wondered whether I could one day make my own dream keyboard, using a similar featureset to the K100 but with different switches. These would be my requirements:
-RGB is a must for me. Because I use so many macros and hotkey combinations, I use RGB lighting to help me remember it all - ie. keep different functionality grouped logically, or dynamically change per-key lighting depending on what modifier keys are pressed or what applications are open. This is currently possible because of Corsair's powerful iCue software, though I assume that there are 3rd party programs out there that can similarly control a DIY keyboard's RGB lighting?
-I love using a roller wheel for volume control, so it'd have to have at least one wheel, or at least a small turnable knob or something like that.
-Designated Macro keys are a must. I guess if I found a PCB that supported an extra row of F13-F24 function keys at the top it might suffice. Though ideally I'd be able to have at least a few macro keys in easier-to-reach areas at the front or sides of the keyboard.
-I guess the ability to add a few more rarely seen keys (eg. VK_LAUNCH_MEDIA_SELECT, VK_LAUNCH_APP1 etc.) would be nice.

Though from what I've seen, the DIY keyboard enthusiast community seems to lean towards the 'less is more' philosophy, with the PCBs I've seen on stores maxing out at 104 keys, and often fewer. Is building a keyboard like what I've described likely to be a pipe dream? Am I better off going for a simpler keyboard with an extra separate macropad to cover the missing features? Is replacing the switches on my K100 by desoldering them worth considering, or would it be madness for a novice like me to try that?

Thanks in advance for any advice
« Last Edit: Wed, 21 April 2021, 06:37:54 by Volny »

Offline suicidal_orange

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #1 on: Sun, 11 April 2021, 04:54:30 »
Welcome to geekhack, sounds like you have a good setup :thumb:

Swapping the switches would be way cheaper even if you had to pay to ship it to someone to do.  As long as your 'gaming' keyboard doesn't have LEDs going through each switch you could do it yourself in an afternoon, you might need a couple of jumper wires to fix the odd break but you wont see them with the case on.  Is it worth buying a semi-decent soldering iron (soldering switches is very easy and any iron will do, removing factory lead-free solder is harder) and sucker for one job?  Maybe not.  Also if you have LEDs under each switch you will need to make sure the new switches will fit over them.

Making a custom with everything is going to take loads of time and money - have a look for others asking about one offs and Leslieann will probably have given them a detailed breakdown, then add some because you want everything and bigger.
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Offline Leslieann

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #2 on: Sun, 11 April 2021, 17:34:30 »
There's very few keyboards with all of these features, as SO said, fixing what you have may be a good option, especially if you're happy with it in every other way.

What you may want to actually consider is a pair of keyboards, you said a macro pad was a consideration but why not two entire keyboards, with the second one being completely programmable (maybe a modest sized ortho linear?). For that you could even order up custom caps from WASD with the labels you want or get some caps you can change the labels on yourself. By splitting your features between two boards it might open you up to more options for your primary board and give you far more macros.


As for a custom...
A custom will cost you tons in time but the money depends on a few factors.
If you have a 3d printer it can be really cheap, I did mine for probably less than $100 for everything including lcd and rgb but, I have a lot of experience with 3d printing and have custom built large scale printers and cad experience. Had I no experience and wanted that done in solid aluminum that keyboard could have easily gone over $1000 or even $2000 by the time I was happy with it while various other methods (outsourced 3d printing or laser cut acrylic plates, etc...) falling somewhere in between my cost and those numbers.

As for what you want, per key RGB is possible in a DIY but if you plan on hand wiring I do NOT envy you doing it on a full size. RGB is relatively easy with QMK, though with so many of them power can be an issue (there is workarounds). The one difficult part is altering the layout based on running programs, someone here figured that out in an easier method but I forget how, probably a macro, however with so many switches memory and programming becomes a very real concern but again, not insurmountable. If you want to build your own I HIGHLY recommend building a smaller simpler board first as it's a somewhat daunting project and getting the basics first will help you a lot, even if it means just buying the cheapest 60% case and plate you can find.
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Offline Volny

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #3 on: Sun, 11 April 2021, 18:01:30 »
Thanks for the responses. Very helpful.

Would it be possible to at least replace the springs for heavier ones in my k100, without having to resolder? And if possible, is that trivial/tricky/worthwhile?

Offline Leslieann

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #4 on: Sun, 11 April 2021, 18:14:00 »
Nope, anything switch related requires switch removal.
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Offline Volny

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #5 on: Sun, 11 April 2021, 23:10:45 »
To my untrained eye, it looks like someone is changing springs and stems without having to desolder or remove the switch (leaving the bottom part of the switch as is) here. Or are they using a hotswappable board?

Offline Leslieann

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #6 on: Mon, 12 April 2021, 01:08:21 »
To my untrained eye, it looks like someone is changing springs and stems without having to desolder or remove the switch (leaving the bottom part of the switch as is). Or are they using a hotswappable board?
That keyboard has no plate, yours does and if it has a plate the switches get locked in place and locked shut.

You can get away without a plate on smaller keyboards, not larger ones.
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Offline yui

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #7 on: Mon, 12 April 2021, 02:28:27 »
soldering is rather easy, and the higher the iron quality the easier, for cheap but decent i would recommend a 936 clone, or the legit thing if you find one cheap, with a 900M-T-2C or 900M-T-3C tip.
to de-solder a whole keyboard i would either get a decent quality pump or a few cheap ones, as on the cheap ones the tip tend to melt and the clip holding the body together to break.
all of that is assuming you'd want to get into soldering after that, if you only wish to get the switches replaced find someone who is willing to do it near-ish you (for shipping cost i say that), likely cheaper than all the tools and may get a better result (as someone offering this service may have a bit more experience with that :)).
saying that i would be willing to help you, although i never de-soldered a full keyboard, only a few switches and capacitors in power supplies to fix them, and i am in France, so likely a bit too far to make it viable.
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Offline Volny

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #8 on: Mon, 12 April 2021, 19:43:50 »
Thanks for the offer. I live in Australia so postage would probably be a killer. If I find no other options I might still take you up on your offer though!

A further difficulty is that as this video shows, taking apart this keyboard is not trivial. Certainly possible, but fiddly and with a risk of breaking something. (knowing me, a pretty high risk  :rolleyes: )



Offline tp4tissue

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #9 on: Mon, 12 April 2021, 21:52:02 »
You take whatever it is you're thinking.  Cut it in Half. Then add Tenting, and it becomes Awesome.


Offline Volny

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #10 on: Wed, 14 April 2021, 01:56:38 »
Well, it looks like I'm going to try to replace the keycaps myself. I really can't stand these linear speed switches, but I'm happy with basically everything else about the keyboard. It's not even garish and ugly, which is a rare bonus in a gamer-marketed peripheral  ;) Sounds like it's going to be a somewhat painful and expensive process, though possibly less so than most of my other options. (I think in the distant future, I might take LeslieAnn's suggestion and look into building two medium-sized keyboards - that idea makes a lot of sense). After a little research I'm pretty confident that Glorious Pandas will suit me well, so I've ordered a set.

I spoke to a friend of mine, and he suggested the Hakko 888D as a minimum, which seems to be more or less what yui said (I believe the 888D is the newer version of the 936 or something like that?). I figure I should probably own a soldering iron as I doubt this will be the last time I'll have need for one. But that Hakko 888D is pretty expensive. It's ~10 times more costly than many of the soldering iron kits my local hardware superstore sells. What's the likely outcome if I used a cheap iron? Would it just take a little longer, with perhaps a chance that it'll break half-way and cause me to go out and buy an 888D anyway? Or is the difference likely to be more drastic: eg. it'll significantly increase the chance I ruin the board, or the job will take me 10 times longer?

My friend (who is a longtime expert at soldering, though hasn't done keyboard soldering per se) also mentioned that I'd be using a wicking braid to desolder the board. I looked up a video of what that meant, and it looks like a real drag. I can imagine it taking hours to desolder 100 switches like that, and it seemed like a somewhat clumsy and/or messy process, trying to hold a hot, dripping rope in a precise place without touching anything else, while waiting for solder to slowly soak in. Was he wrong to suggest the braid, and using pumps will suffice, or will I need to use using both?

Offline yui

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #11 on: Wed, 14 April 2021, 02:58:15 »
so yes the hakko 888 is pretty much the decedent to the venerable 936, of whom you can find plenty of clones on ebay, aliexpress etc. the 888 will be faster and better quality though, but i have no complains about my 2 yotecs 936P (one for my place and one at my mother's place).
the cheap irons are likely to grossly overheat, thermally balanced iron tend to heat to about 450C while solder melts at around 350C or a bit under, that will degrade the bond between the copper and substrate much faster and you will be much more likely to lift a trace, although they often have more mass and higher temperatures so it would actually go faster, just going to be harder for you to not damage anything.
as for your friend comment on de-soldering braid is valid, but i would only use it for cleanup and use a solder sucker for majority of the job, or even better if your budget allows a de-soldering gun, although i always managed with cheap solder suckers in the past, just once more something that would make the job a bit easier.
what the braid will allow you to do is to clean the extra solder on the holes if the switch legs can't go through but the sucker can't get more of the solder out, rarely used but when you need it pretty much irreplaceable, much easier then redrilling the holes by hand :)
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Offline Volny

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #12 on: Wed, 14 April 2021, 03:28:36 »
So just something like this for the pumps?

Offline yui

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #13 on: Wed, 14 April 2021, 05:49:46 »
looks a lot like mine, with a bit more metal, should be less likely for the back to shoot out when releasing the trigger :) (the ones i usually buy the back with the pusher is made of plastic and the ears keeping it as one piece with the metal body tend to break, and send the plastic part flying)

TL;DR: yeah this is good.
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Online Maledicted

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #14 on: Wed, 14 April 2021, 16:21:22 »
You don't need a Hakko, or clone, to get a fine soldering Iron. I have a few of these kicking around. Mine are an earlier model without the integrated helping hands (those would be ... helpful, though not for your current application). Anything that supports Hakko tips is a plus, because so many people make them in various sizes, for cheap.

I have never purchased a hardware store iron that didn't end up being garbage, not that that means that good ones don't exist. Even if they aren't, they usually use proprietary tips that are typically pretty fat and cumbersome.

If you use a cheap manual pump like that, you've got to make sure that the tip is close to perfectly horizontal when you release the plunger or it may not have enough suction to remove enough of the solder for the braid to finish the job in one go without adding solder back and trying again. This turns into a delicate balancing act. They sell some with little silicone sleeves that go over the tip to help seal at odd angles and/or over the tip of the iron so that you can still be applying heat when you release the plunger. I have heard good things about those setups. Either way with the manual pumps, you may need to spend half of your time clearing clumps of solder out of the action of the pump when things either clog up or start to seize entirely. If you're only tearing apart one board, this is probably fine. If you think you may end up doing a lot of desoldering, the Hakko FR-301 is wonderful. I can desolder a whole board in 10-15 minutes with no braid, if the original solder is relatively decent.

Keyboards are one of the best things to pick for learning to solder. They're very forgiving, with giant solder pads that are pretty much impossible to bridge. This should help for the overall process.

If you're going to go through all of this trouble, you may want to get a relatively comprehensive switch tester and/or try out as many different switches as you can in a cheap hot swap board before you commit to a permanent modification like this. I have never taken apart a newer Corsair, but I have taken apart a few K65s and K70s. I imagine they're the same in that you just need to take your time and be patient with the fiddly bits like the ribbon cables for the media keys.

Good luck, and I'm sure people will be interested in seeing your results.

Offline Leslieann

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #15 on: Wed, 14 April 2021, 17:34:38 »
You don't need a Hakko, or clone, to get a fine soldering Iron. I have a few of these kicking around. Mine are an earlier model without the integrated helping hands (those would be ... helpful, though not for your current application).
I too had an earlier one, it lasted for about 45 minutes of actual use.
It used to be you could get a decent Weller pen for $35 but they cheapened those to the point they are horrible.

My advice is either go buy a couple of the cheapest dollar store ones you can get and just burn through them, research models on a place like EEVblog, or buy something new or used like a Hakko.
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| Das Pro
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Offline yui

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #17 on: Thu, 15 April 2021, 02:30:44 »
Counterfeit Hakko Tips are a big problem
maybe for the 888 because the heater is in the tip, but on the 936 not such a big problem, i have both clone and genuine hakko tips and although the clones last about a third as long, they do the job rather well.
as per the comments on getting cheaper irons, yes they work and are plenty powerful enough, they just make the job harder, as you have less time before degrading the pcb and lifting pads.
and either way when you have all the switches out take a photo of the switch side of the pcb, so that if a trace is broken tracing it would be easier try to orient the light so that you can see the traces though :) just in cases, often if you can trace it back fixing a lifted pad is rather easy anyway.
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Offline Volny

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #18 on: Thu, 15 April 2021, 05:41:56 »
Thanks for all the great advice, everyone. I think it's going to help a lot. Though - and don't take this the wrong way - reading about all the little things that could go wrong is making me really dread this experience.  ;D

I decided to replace my Ducky Pocket today because I've hit a wall with its macro limitations, and it's super annoying to use to boot. So I ordered a DIY macropad kit to replace it. This will be my first experience with soldering. And once I build it, maybe I'll desolder it and start again, to get some desoldering experience.

Offline yui

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #19 on: Thu, 15 April 2021, 09:07:59 »
Thanks for all the great advice, everyone. I think it's going to help a lot. Though - and don't take this the wrong way - reading about all the little things that could go wrong is making me really dread this experience.  ;D

I decided to replace my Ducky Pocket today because I've hit a wall with its macro limitations, and it's super annoying to use to boot. So I ordered a DIY macropad kit to replace it. This will be my first experience with soldering. And once I build it, maybe I'll desolder it and start again, to get some desoldering experience.
that is a good idea, although even better for learning de-soldering is dead stuff, i mostly learnt on dead computer psu, although the transformers are rather hard to remove, they offer a lot of good components to salvage and are often free when dead. and starting by soldering is a good idea.
and there isn't much to dread, even if you lift a pad there are a rather high chance to be able to fix it rather easlyly
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Online Maledicted

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #20 on: Thu, 15 April 2021, 13:08:46 »
You don't need a Hakko, or clone, to get a fine soldering Iron. I have a few of these kicking around. Mine are an earlier model without the integrated helping hands (those would be ... helpful, though not for your current application).
I too had an earlier one, it lasted for about 45 minutes of actual use.
It used to be you could get a decent Weller pen for $35 but they cheapened those to the point they are horrible.

My advice is either go buy a couple of the cheapest dollar store ones you can get and just burn through them, research models on a place like EEVblog, or buy something new or used like a Hakko.

The same model? That's interesting. Both of mine have been used quite a bit. I have been using the one I have at home heavily for years.

Counterfeit Hakko Tips are a big problem
maybe for the 888 because the heater is in the tip, but on the 936 not such a big problem, i have both clone and genuine hakko tips and although the clones last about a third as long, they do the job rather well.
as per the comments on getting cheaper irons, yes they work and are plenty powerful enough, they just make the job harder, as you have less time before degrading the pcb and lifting pads.
and either way when you have all the switches out take a photo of the switch side of the pcb, so that if a trace is broken tracing it would be easier try to orient the light so that you can see the traces though :) just in cases, often if you can trace it back fixing a lifted pad is rather easy anyway.

I have lifted two pads in all of the keyboards I have modified (I don't know the number of boards I have pulled every switch and swapped them in, sometimes including an in-switch diode or LED. It is quite a few). One was a Unitek K151L which had literally the worst pads I have ever seen in anything (including dollar store USB LED fans) and another was a Matias controller trying to finagle through hole resistors onto SMD pads. I have never used a cheap hardware store Weller with keyboards, but I have used that cheap Chinese iron/station for all of them. I don't think I lifted a whole lot on other random electronics with even the Wellers (or Radioshack branded irons) either once I had gotten the hang of it.

I just make sure not to set the iron too hot for the application. \_(ツ)_/

These tips seem to work great for me. I don't think I have replaced one since I bought them a year and a half ago. I just make sure (when I'm not lazy) to clean the tip a lot and leave a blob of solder on the end before I shut the iron off. Well, that and the 3020 irons I use go to sleep and cool down the tip if it hasn't been used in a few minutes.

Thanks for all the great advice, everyone. I think it's going to help a lot. Though - and don't take this the wrong way - reading about all the little things that could go wrong is making me really dread this experience.  ;D

I decided to replace my Ducky Pocket today because I've hit a wall with its macro limitations, and it's super annoying to use to boot. So I ordered a DIY macropad kit to replace it. This will be my first experience with soldering. And once I build it, maybe I'll desolder it and start again, to get some desoldering experience.

If you're referring (at least partly) to all of the warnings I put in that post from another thread I linked, I mostly put them there for efficiency's sake. If you're rushing through it and not thinking of how everything will line up, you're going to end up wanting to redo a lot of it. Even then, anything else is easy to avoid if you're careful. Don't heat a pad hotter than it needs to be to flow the entirety of the solder, don't keep the solder hot longer than you need to do the job, and don't tug anything around when the pad/solder are hot but the solder isn't totally melted. If you think you're already applying a lot of heat but nothing is melting, try hitting it with some fresh leaded solder and/or flux before turning it up. With a clean tip and a decent iron, this should be easy, even for a novice. Whatever you get, you could wet any old sponge to clean the tip if you have nothing else.

Yui's suggestion of playing with dead electronics is a good one. Solder is cheap and having to run jumpers only because you haven't practiced first would be a shame.

Offline Volny

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #21 on: Thu, 15 April 2021, 22:14:08 »
OK, could someone please help me figure out what I should buy (eg. using the products on a this store as a guide, or whichever storefront you prefer). So I gather that apart from the Soldering Iron/Station, I'll also need to buy some braid, and a coil of solder (leaded or unleaded?). And also a solder sucker pump. Do I need to buy spare tips as well? What about this Chip Quik stuff - it's affordable and it claims to make removing stuff from PCBs easier - is it of any relevance?

While I'm at it,  maybe I can improve the stabilisers on my modifier keys - they seem very wobbly, and when I bottom out it feels almost like a rubber dome. The guy on the video I linked to earlier mentioned he applied some tape to them to firm them up - what sort of tape?

Also, will one of my daughters' cheap, small size art & craft paintbrushes do for lubing?
« Last Edit: Fri, 16 April 2021, 01:57:13 by Volny »

Online Maledicted

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #22 on: Fri, 16 April 2021, 12:01:34 »
OK, could someone please help me figure out what I should buy (eg. using the products on a this store as a guide, or whichever storefront you prefer). So I gather that apart from the Soldering Iron/Station, I'll also need to buy some braid, and a coil of solder (leaded or unleaded?). And also a solder sucker pump. Do I need to buy spare tips as well? What about this Chip Quik stuff - it's affordable and it claims to make removing stuff from PCBs easier - is it of any relevance?

While I'm at it,  maybe I can improve the stabilisers on my modifier keys - they seem very wobbly, and when I bottom out it feels almost like a rubber dome. The guy on the video I linked to earlier mentioned he applied some tape to them to firm them up - what sort of tape?

Also, will one of my daughters' cheap, small size art & craft paintbrushes do for lubing?

I have heard good things about this desoldering pump, if you were going with a cheap manual one. I have never had one, but I would try to get one that has one of those silicone sleeves for the nozzle (or make one).  I couldn't find any of the manual pumps on your website.

MG Chemicals Rosin Flux works well, but I'm still using an old tub of Radioshack paste flux at home that must be like 10 or more years old now. It literally resembles melted fruit snacks now, it does the job all the same. I can't comment on anything on your website. I know Kester is a good brand, in general. There's debate over no-clean vs regular flux and paste vs liquid. I don't think it really matters. Either way, it gets everywhere once you apply heat. Unless I'm feeling particularly lazy, I usually clean up all of the flux residue with some Goo Gone (also helpful for removing old/crappy thermal paste) and clean up the Goo Gone with some 70%+ isopropyl alcohol.

I like the X-tronic irons partly because of the Hakko tip compatibility, generous wire length, digital temperature display, included sponge, tip cleaner and that little rod on the left you can use to put your solder and braid spools on and because they go to sleep automatically if you walk away (or fiddle with something else) for an extended period of time. Everyone will recommend something different. The most important things are Hakko tip compatibility and temperature control, if you ask me. I couldn't comment on any of the ones on your website.

I have used the same brass tip cleaner for years but they're available for cheap on their own or in a holder if you get an iron/station without a spot for one. I couldn't find any on your website offhand. You can use a regular sponge too. I like to use both. A damp sponge is maybe a little better for getting flux and contaminants off than brass, but with brass you can just stick the tip in there a few times and it scrapes just about everything off from every angle.

If you're only doing one board, spare tips don't matter. If you plan on maybe doing more in the future and/or maybe some finer soldering work (like individual SMD LEDs, diodes, etc) you might want to get a pack of finer tips either way if your iron has Hakko compatibility and doesn't come with a particularly fine tip in the box. The tips I linked are for Hakko 900 series irons. I'm sure the Hakko brand tips on your site are fine, so any of those should be good based on what you feel you need. I wouldn't know about the rest myself.

For desoldering braid/wick, Chemtronics works well. I like this one because I can mount the spool on my irons. Your website doesn't have any meant to be mounted like that, unfortunately.

You always want leaded solder. It is a lot easier to work with than lead free. 60/40 is often regarded as the best for electronics. You can also get solder with or without a rosin flux core. If you get it without, that just means you might need to apply more of your own flux manually. This Kester 60/40 solder should do the job well. Or this, on your website. I wouldn't get picky about that either. I still have some ancient rosin core Radioshack solder as well. You just don't want to get it thicker than you need it, because then you're applying more heat than you would otherwise need to melt it. If you go too small, then you just need to feed more of the spool in than you would otherwise (the preferable disparity in my mind).

That Chip Quik stuff looks like it is just flux of some kind. I have never used it. I can't imagine it does things significantly better or worse than any other decent flux. It has good reviews on Amazon. \_(ツ)_/

I can't help with the stabilizers. I don't bother modding them and prefer Costar anyway.

Offline Leslieann

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #23 on: Fri, 16 April 2021, 17:41:58 »
Maledicted covered it pretty good.
I've used desolder pumps, they sometimes work good, sometimes work bad, just insanely fickle. And that's if it works at all, there is a LOT of junk ones, my first broke 3rd time I used it. I have one of these (the link), works great however it can burn through a tip desoldering an entire board or so, the flux just eats them up. I have spare tips and reserve it for big jobs, otherwise I use use the 888D and a pump or braid, mostly because it takes forever to get hot and costs more to use due to tip wear.
https://www.amazon.com/ECG-J-045-DS-Electric-Soldering-Temperature/dp/B00068IJSG/ref=sr_1_7?dchild=1&keywords=desoldering+bulb&qid=1618611492&sr=8-7

On flux I think it depends on what it was designed for, while the older stuff meant for leaded solder (rosin) wasn't terrible to clean or even leave sitting some of the stuff meant for lead free solder can be pretty brutal on parts, I've even heard some say the no-clean is worse than the stuff that needs to be cleaned (I blame China for that issue, sellers will say anything). I just use rosin based, but you can only get away with only that if you use leaded solder, which is what pretty much every hobbyist uses because lead free is a nightmare to work with if you're not a manufacturer.

Any 60/40 solder should be fine, I never worry about brand, I just grab cheap stuff.
Chip Quick is just easy spread solder with extra flux, I think, I've done similar with solder before I even knew this stuff existed.
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Offline Leslieann

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #24 on: Fri, 16 April 2021, 18:06:54 »
I usually clean up all of the flux residue with some Goo Gone (also helpful for removing old/crappy thermal paste) and clean up the Goo Gone with some 70%+ isopropyl alcohol.
You can always spot the Youtuber who's never actually been a tech in the computer industry by how they deal with thermal paste.
I have never, ever, met anyone in the computer industry who does that, you wipe it off with whatever is handy, add fresh stuff and go, we'll even re-use it if it's not bad or we have none handy.

Yes, you want it clean if you're breaking records at overclocking but for general purpose it makes zero difference. It's the same with special brand paste, most of it is the same stuff in a different tube. At best all that high end stuff might change a degree or two but again, unless you're breaking records or de-lidding it doesn't really matter.
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Offline yui

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #25 on: Sat, 17 April 2021, 04:23:53 »
OK, could someone please help me figure out what I should buy (eg. using the products on a this store as a guide, or whichever storefront you prefer). So I gather that apart from the Soldering Iron/Station, I'll also need to buy some braid, and a coil of solder (leaded or unleaded?). And also a solder sucker pump. Do I need to buy spare tips as well? What about this Chip Quik stuff - it's affordable and it claims to make removing stuff from PCBs easier - is it of any relevance?
leaded solder has a lower melting point, and as long as you do not try to eat it is safe, if you do not think you can prevent yourself from eating it then go unleaded.
the braid, flux and extra tips are optional, although i personally find conical tips harder to work with than the slanted ones, but that part is up to preference of the user, well flux if only optional if you use flux core solder, if you get pure solder then you will need the extra flux on the side (it cleans the surfaces you solder to to allow a good contact)
the chip quik stuff seems rather overpriced for what you are doing, could be useful for salvaging sensitive and expensive electronic chips but switches are neither those things.
and the only things i would disagree with Maledicted on is the usage of Amazon, and maybe goo gone. as some flux are conductive it is a rather good idea to clean after yourself, most flux will dissolve in alcohol or water so maybe goo gone is a bit overkill. and my solder spool holder at home is a wire mesh post-it holder with a bamboo chopstick going across it, works rather well :)
sadly the stations i bought years ago is no longer made...
https://fr.aliexpress.com/item/32582194284.html
although those looks identical, just not branded
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Desoldering-SMD-Welding-75W-220V-936-Electric-Rework-Soldering-Station-Iron/284248639026?epid=14009521852&hash=item422e8a0632:g:LVQAAOSwHRRgbVdD
that i bought with a cheap set of tip to try what i liked best
https://www.ebay.com/itm/5pcs-936-Electric-Brass-Soldering-Irons-Tip-Solder-Station-Conical-Bevel-Ti-es/233824796979?hash=item36710b4133:g:8tkAAOSwzHRbG6R0
the last solder suckers i bought were those:
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Solder-Sucker-Desoldering-Pump-Tool-Removal-Vacuum-Soldering-Iron-Desolver/222768733005
they fails rather quick though
and for solder i have some 0.8mm from the hardware store and some 0.2mm from e-bay that i bought 6 years ago, both leaded but the 0.2 is not flux core.
and i use an old computer fan as my extractor (actually salvaged from a dead atx psu), plugged into a repaired atx supply that also happen to power my lights, an extractor may be useful if you are planning on doing a lot of soldering in an area with very little ventilation, the fumes are not that toxic but better safe that sorry.
with soldering, as with most hobbies, you can do with very cheap, but the more money you put into it the easiest it becomes, if you can find some trash electronics to train on i would not go for very expensive as skill will compensate for cheap :) and you may do the planet a favor if you reuse some components of it. those are not the tools i started with either, i started with only a 5 euros thermally balanced iron and de-soldering braid.
and yeah i do hate amazon and vowed to never use it if i can help it.
vi vi vi - the roman number of the beast (Plan9 fortune)

Offline Leslieann

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #26 on: Sat, 17 April 2021, 16:49:37 »
as long as you do not try to eat it is safe
Wash your hands after touching it, cross contamination is an issue.
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Online Maledicted

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #27 on: Mon, 19 April 2021, 18:20:19 »
I have one of these (the link), works great however it can burn through a tip desoldering an entire board or so, the flux just eats them up. I have spare tips and reserve it for big jobs, otherwise I use use the 888D and a pump or braid, mostly because it takes forever to get hot and costs more to use due to tip wear.
https://www.amazon.com/ECG-J-045-DS-Electric-Soldering-Temperature/dp/B00068IJSG/ref=sr_1_7?dchild=1&keywords=desoldering+bulb&qid=1618611492&sr=8-7

I always thought about trying one of those. I never did pick one up. Have you used one of the Hakko FR-301s? I have always been curious how they would compare, considering the massive price difference.

I usually clean up all of the flux residue with some Goo Gone (also helpful for removing old/crappy thermal paste) and clean up the Goo Gone with some 70%+ isopropyl alcohol.
You can always spot the Youtuber who's never actually been a tech in the computer industry by how they deal with thermal paste.
I have never, ever, met anyone in the computer industry who does that, you wipe it off with whatever is handy, add fresh stuff and go, we'll even re-use it if it's not bad or we have none handy.

Yes, you want it clean if you're breaking records at overclocking but for general purpose it makes zero difference. It's the same with special brand paste, most of it is the same stuff in a different tube. At best all that high end stuff might change a degree or two but again, unless you're breaking records or de-lidding it doesn't really matter.

Who does what? Use Goo Gone? It was my own idea, years and years ago (not that I was necessarily the first). I use it if the old stuff is literally no longer even a paste, primarily. Ever tried to take the CPU cooler off of an old mid 2000s Dell's 775 socket P4? I have literally lifted entire towers off of the ground trying to unstick that stuff. I call it thermal concrete. Once that stuff is totally fossilized, sometimes your choices are a chisel or letting some Goo Gone soak in. I figured the latter was a better idea. There's no wiping anything in those situations. Some of that OEM stuff is terrible after only a few years. Thermal paste that isn't fossilized gets literally everywhere too, and some of it is tacky enough to never let you read the markings on the lid if you're pulling from dead systems that you can't just power up and boot to the BIOS to find what treasures lie within. If I weren't using Goo Gone to clean some of that stuff off of my hands and/or CPU lids, I would probably have to resort to mineral spirits otherwise if I didn't want my hands looking metallic and/or sticking to everything.

I have even had systems overheating for literally no other reason than paste that belongs in the Smithsonian.

I like to use Arctic Silver #5 partly because I have literally never seen it fossilize before. It even seems to be softer than new if it has recently been heated. Piece of cake to clean off. Otherwise I often use whatever happens to come with a cooler. It is all a lot better than that garbage OEM stuff in prebuilts.

The same goes for flux though too, and a great many other things. Goo Gone is great for getting that stuff off of your hands when soap and water will not. It is a great solvent.

OK, could someone please help me figure out what I should buy (eg. using the products on a this store as a guide, or whichever storefront you prefer). So I gather that apart from the Soldering Iron/Station, I'll also need to buy some braid, and a coil of solder (leaded or unleaded?). And also a solder sucker pump. Do I need to buy spare tips as well? What about this Chip Quik stuff - it's affordable and it claims to make removing stuff from PCBs easier - is it of any relevance?
leaded solder has a lower melting point, and as long as you do not try to eat it is safe, if you do not think you can prevent yourself from eating it then go unleaded.



You gave me an excuse to think about Tommy Boy again.


the only things i would disagree with Maledicted on is the usage of Amazon, and maybe goo gone. as some flux are conductive it is a rather good idea to clean after yourself, most flux will dissolve in alcohol or water so maybe goo gone is a bit overkill.

I know that Goo Gone will dissolve any flux I use it on, and I know it won't hurt anything. I have found even 91% isopropyl to be pretty hit and miss. I know that MG Chemicals rosin stuff just laughs at it. Practically turns into hard candy once it has been heated. I can leave some Goo Gone to soak for a few minutes while I work on something else and flush it with isopropyl while cleaning with q-tips and it is sparkly clean with minimal elbow grease. I have never tried water, but I'm also impatient.

and my solder spool holder at home is a wire mesh post-it holder with a bamboo chopstick going across it, works rather well :)

That's a good idea.

and i use an old computer fan as my extractor (actually salvaged from a dead atx psu), plugged into a repaired atx supply that also happen to power my lights, an extractor may be useful if you are planning on doing a lot of soldering in an area with very little ventilation, the fumes are not that toxic but better safe that sorry.

I forgot completely about ventilation. That can't be understated. I'm too lazy to use it often. When I do it is either an old beast of an air hockey table fan or just a ceiling fan.
« Last Edit: Tue, 20 April 2021, 11:41:55 by Maledicted »

Offline Leslieann

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #28 on: Mon, 19 April 2021, 23:49:28 »
I always thought about trying one of those. I never did pick one up. Have you used one of the Hakko FR-301s? I have always been curious how they would compare, considering the massive price difference.
I haven't used the Hakko, but I can tell you it would be a step up.
The bulb is fantastic, no fiddling trying to get the nozzle over the joint like with a pump, but once the bulb is exhausted it can be a bit messy trying to "reload" it. If you aren't paying attention you can blow solder all over the part.

Hakko>bulb>pump>braid.
Though braid still has it's place.



Who does what? Use Goo Gone? It was my own idea, years and years ago (not that I was necessarily the first). I use it if the old stuff is literally no longer even a paste, primarily. Ever tried to take the CPU cooler off of an old mid 2000s Dell's 775 socket P4? I have literally lifted entire towers off of the ground trying to unstick that stuff. I call it thermal concrete. Once that stuff is totally fossilized, sometimes your choices are a chisel or letting some Goo Gone soak in. I figured the latter was a better idea. There's no wiping anything in those situations. Some of that OEM stuff is terrible after only a few years. Thermal paste that isn't fossilized gets literally everywhere too, and some of it is tacky enough to never let you read the markings on the lid if you're pulling from dead systems that you can't just power up and boot to the BIOS to find what treasures lie within. If I weren't using Goo Gone to clean some of that stuff off of my hands and/or CPU lids, I would probably have to resort to mineral spirits otherwise if I didn't want my hands looking metallic and/or sticking to everything.
I was reffering to people (particularly Youtubers) who think you need to get everything clean room style spotless before applying fresh paste. If it's dry most just flake it off, brush it with a rag and move on with fresh paste.

Lots use Goo Gone to clean up when it gets on other stuff, you're right, it's like glitter and never goes away but I've never heard of it used on cpu.
BTW, dish soap and laundry detergent usually works for your hands.
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Offline Volny

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #29 on: Tue, 20 April 2021, 05:19:39 »
I'll be doing this in a small room. But I can have a table fan next to me blowing in the direction of an open window. Not what I would call ideal ventilation, but I guess it'll be good enough?

BTW I can feel the rabbit hole vortex sucking me in. Since taking apart this kb is going to be fiddly and risks breaking things, I figure I have one shot to get it right. So I've bought a few different switch samples to try some different options. The Glorious Pandas seem great, but the Dragonfruits feel crunchy, so tried some aftermarket springs with them. At first I thought it was a massive improvement, but I realise now that it removed so much of the crunch that they basically now feel like linears, which I dislike............I just noticed that one of my novelty backlit keycaps has its legend blocked by my opaque stems, so have also ordered some clear stem switches to see if that helps................Figure I might want linear switches for mods, extra-heavy tactiles for certain macro keys, and regular tactiles for everything else, but I need to plan it well so it doesn't feel like a random mess...................With the few switch variants I have, a set of heavier springs, and lube added to the equation, I'm already getting option-fatigue  :) ) ..........And I don't like the stabiliser feel, so also reading about modding those...........

.....I can see how the endless permutations could make this process never end (or rather, it does end when your keyboard's built, and it's good but not quite perfect, and also you need a new dopamine high.......................I think I understand now why some of you people have 100+ keyboards ;)
« Last Edit: Tue, 20 April 2021, 05:44:59 by Volny »

Offline yui

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #30 on: Tue, 20 April 2021, 06:56:25 »
I'll be doing this in a small room. But I can have a table fan next to me blowing in the direction of an open window. Not what I would call ideal ventilation, but I guess it'll be good enough?
what you want is enough ventilation not to directly breath in the fumes, pretty much any airflow will be enough
as per the rabbit hole thing, i only have 3 board that i built and feel like i have experienced all of what i wanted so for some it is not that deep, next to that i have 4 PC122, one M122, one fujistu peerless board, one FK-2001 and 2 FK-9200 and the 9200 seems to be pretty much all i want.
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Online Maledicted

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #31 on: Tue, 20 April 2021, 12:31:30 »
BTW I can feel the rabbit hole vortex sucking me in. Since taking apart this kb is going to be fiddly and risks breaking things, I figure I have one shot to get it right. So I've bought a few different switch samples to try some different options. The Glorious Pandas seem great, but the Dragonfruits feel crunchy, so tried some aftermarket springs with them. At first I thought it was a massive improvement, but I realise now that it removed so much of the crunch that they basically now feel like linears, which I dislike............I just noticed that one of my novelty backlit keycaps has its legend blocked by my opaque stems, so have also ordered some clear stem switches to see if that helps................Figure I might want linear switches for mods, extra-heavy tactiles for certain macro keys, and regular tactiles for everything else, but I need to plan it well so it doesn't feel like a random mess...................With the few switch variants I have, a set of heavier springs, and lube added to the equation, I'm already getting option-fatigue  :) ) ..........And I don't like the stabiliser feel, so also reading about modding those...........

If you take your time and don't force anything, you won't break anything. You're most likely to lift a pad and even that should be easy to avoid with a little practice on something broken first. K65 and K70 PCBs seem to have pretty solid pads, so I could only guess the K100 is similar. Just be sure you've got something you'll want to type on every day before you commit to switches if you don't plan on tearing the whole thing down again to swap them.

I don't like Cherry style stabilizers at all myself. I wish Corsair used Costar.

.....I can see how the endless permutations could make this process never end (or rather, it does end when your keyboard's built, and it's good but not quite perfect, and also you need a new dopamine high.......................I think I understand now why some of you people have 100+ keyboards ;)

I have more vintage and/or unmodified boards than I do anything I have customized. I do have a lot of I have frankensteined, but that was mostly just to yank out MX and clones to put box thick clicks in them.  ;D

9200 seems to be pretty much all i want.

You're one of the most active people on here and yet you've settled on some crusty old dome with slider board most people have never heard of.  :thumb:

I may have asked this, but have you tried NEC blue ovals?

Offline Volny

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #32 on: Wed, 21 April 2021, 02:59:35 »
If you take your time and don't force anything, you won't break anything. You're most likely to lift a pad and even that should be easy to avoid with a little practice on something broken first. K65 and K70 PCBs seem to have pretty solid pads, so I could only guess the K100 is similar. Just be sure you've got something you'll want to type on every day before you commit to switches if you don't plan on tearing the whole thing down again to swap them.

I don't like Cherry style stabilizers at all myself. I wish Corsair used Costar.

Apparently taking apart the K100 is in itself destructive. The guy in the video I posted earlier explains how you have to hack or snip some bits off to get it open. And there are several components that can't be opened without breaking them, so I guess you need to be careful around those too. Maybe once you destructively open it once, it becomes a breeze to open/close again after that. But in case subsequent opens make the whole thing weaker/wobblier, I'd rather get it right the first time.

I'll definitely need to plan/experiment well with switches before I commit. I'm sure there'll ultimately be things I'm not 100% happy with, as I'm like that. But fortunately, I really can't stand these speed linear switches on the K100! I feel like I make three typos every time I blink too forcefully. My other main gripe with the K100 is that the RGB underglow is excessive, which largely negates the benefit of per-key lighting. More light bleeds out from under the key than through the backlit legend. So instead of guiding the eye by color-coding keys, you just end up flooding the whole board with rainbow-colored 'noise'. I expect that using replacement switches with opaque housings will improve this noticeably.

So unless I make a total mess of things, I'm bound to end up with a significant upgrade from my current situation. As to the soldering/desoldering process itself, I feel pretty confident, due partly to the excellent help I've received in this thread.

Online Maledicted

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #33 on: Wed, 21 April 2021, 08:19:31 »
If you take your time and don't force anything, you won't break anything. You're most likely to lift a pad and even that should be easy to avoid with a little practice on something broken first. K65 and K70 PCBs seem to have pretty solid pads, so I could only guess the K100 is similar. Just be sure you've got something you'll want to type on every day before you commit to switches if you don't plan on tearing the whole thing down again to swap them.

I don't like Cherry style stabilizers at all myself. I wish Corsair used Costar.

Apparently taking apart the K100 is in itself destructive. The guy in the video I posted earlier explains how you have to hack or snip some bits off to get it open. And there are several components that can't be opened without breaking them, so I guess you need to be careful around those too. Maybe once you destructively open it once, it becomes a breeze to open/close again after that. But in case subsequent opens make the whole thing weaker/wobblier, I'd rather get it right the first time.

If that's the case, that's getting ridiculous. I'll have to watch a video on the process maybe tonight. I've never had to cut or break anything on earlier iterations of their boards.

Offline Volny

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #34 on: Thu, 22 April 2021, 00:02:18 »
oh, and I've already damaged the keyboard by trying to swap out the media keys. My muscle memory was used PLAY and  STOP being in different positions on my previous keyboard, so I thought I'd swap the keycaps. Once I took them out I discovered that (a) they break when you take them out, and (b) they're slightly different sizes, so you can't swap them anyway. So they're back in the default slots now, but wobbly and jutting out at slightly weird angles, because their legs are broken  :rolleyes:  It's my fault, though it didn't exactly take a lot of force to break them, which is why I'll need to be careful when I try and open up the whole thing.
« Last Edit: Thu, 22 April 2021, 00:04:57 by Volny »

Offline yui

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #35 on: Thu, 22 April 2021, 01:36:10 »
9200 seems to be pretty much all i want.

You're one of the most active people on here and yet you've settled on some crusty old dome with slider board most people have never heard of.  :thumb:

I may have asked this, but have you tried NEC blue ovals?
well it is a rather strange switch, not too noisy but with a hard bottom out and a sharp feedback, in term of switches the M is much better no doubts. but there is the features, and there nothing ever come close to it, with my very limited desk space the trackball is a godsent and as my windows 10 clock is bugged out the integrated clock makes sure i do not forget the time, and no modern keyboard makes macro as easy to program as this. true my perfect board would be an M with all those features, but i doubt Unicomp will make that :) and no i have not tried blue ovals, kinda expensive to try every vintage switches :)

and to answer Volny, with wire keycap pullers you do reduce your chances of damaging keycaps and switches, although you can build one out of a few paperclips from what i have seen online, so it is rather cheap and likely you do not need to go out and buy an other tool :)
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Offline Volny

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #36 on: Thu, 22 April 2021, 08:05:59 »
Except these media keys aren't normal keys. They're more like....'buttons', I guess? They don't just slide off like keycaps do; they have long 'roots' or 'teeth' that slot into the housing and are not supposed to come out. They prevent the key from coming out unless you pull hard enough for them to bend some 90˚ or so, and almost to breaking point. Actually I didn't break most of them when pulling them out, but they were so weakened that they broke when I reinserted the key.

I don't think there'd be a way to remove them safely without first opening the case - at least not easily. And definitely not if you're clumsy and impulsive like I am  :rolleyes:



As for keycap pullers, I've heard a few people say that wire ones are safer. I'm sure it's true, even though it seems counter-intuitive to me that plastic could scratch more than metal. I guess it's because the plastic ones are more rigid and can potentially press harder than the wires, which have more give? I have both a wire one and a plastic one, and I personally prefer using the plastic one. It feels way less scratchy to me, and it seems to more reliably spread the force evenly on both sides of the pull.
« Last Edit: Thu, 22 April 2021, 08:19:06 by Volny »

Online Maledicted

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #37 on: Thu, 22 April 2021, 10:50:20 »
9200 seems to be pretty much all i want.

You're one of the most active people on here and yet you've settled on some crusty old dome with slider board most people have never heard of.  :thumb:

I may have asked this, but have you tried NEC blue ovals?
well it is a rather strange switch, not too noisy but with a hard bottom out and a sharp feedback, in term of switches the M is much better no doubts. but there is the features, and there nothing ever come close to it, with my very limited desk space the trackball is a godsent and as my windows 10 clock is bugged out the integrated clock makes sure i do not forget the time, and no modern keyboard makes macro as easy to program as this. true my perfect board would be an M with all those features, but i doubt Unicomp will make that :) and no i have not tried blue ovals, kinda expensive to try every vintage switches :)

I don't particularly like any membrane buckling spring boards I have tried myself. I think I prefer Focus dome with slider to membrane buckling spring. I do think Unicomp could pull off breaking buckling spring into the modern mechanical market if they started adding modern features and hipster layouts. I don't know that too many people care about having a clock on their keyboard though. Unicomp is doing just fine doing things like letting GE re-badge their boards for random/obscure medical equipment, which is good because I don't know that they would keep the doors open based on enthusiast demand alone.

Fujitsu Peerless and Focus dome with slider just remind me of NEC blue ovals, though the blue ovals are ... musical. You would probably like them.


As for keycap pullers, I've heard a few people say that wire ones are safer. I'm sure it's true, even though it seems counter-intuitive to me that plastic could scratch more than metal. I guess it's because the plastic ones are more rigid and can potentially press harder than the wires, which have more give? I have both a wire one and a plastic one, and I personally prefer using the plastic one. It feels way less scratchy to me, and it seems to more reliably spread the force evenly on both sides of the pull.

I think the plastic ones slip off pretty often when trying to pull a cap, so they can scratch up the sides of the cap (maybe). The right way to use the wire ones makes slipping off basically impossible. I still like using the plastic ones for stabilized keys since the wire pullers really only work well on smaller caps without any stabilizers in the way.
« Last Edit: Thu, 22 April 2021, 10:56:42 by Maledicted »

Offline Volny

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #38 on: Fri, 23 April 2021, 10:19:17 »
So I did my first bit of practice soldering tonight, on a ducky pocket, a cheap 6 key macropad, and an old broken toy. I was really hoping to fix the toy for my daughter, but unfortunately I wasn't able to, even though the fix looked simple enough. I successfully desoldered the ducky pocket though, which was quite satisfying. I think I might have lifted one pad though. It looks like there's a pad there still, but it's shiny silver, while all the other ones are copper. Is it done for?

 Surprisingly, I wasn't able to desolder a single switch from the cheap macropad. I had no issues melting the stuff, but no matter how many times I applied the pump and/or braid, the hole always seemed to fill back up once it solidified. I guess the success of the k100 will depend on whether it's more like the ducky or more like the macropad.

The evening ended on a sour note though as I spilt half a bottle of rosin flux. I kept thinking to myself 'gee, this soldering business stuff stinks', then eventually looked over and realised that the bottle was turned over and rosin was all over the bench and the floor. I had a face mask on at the time so it took me a while to really notice it. I cleaned it up reasonably well with alcohol-based nail polish remover, windex and water (in separate stages). Though I'm sure it'll still stink in the morning. Any tips for cleaning that stuff?

Online Maledicted

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #39 on: Fri, 23 April 2021, 10:49:12 »
So I did my first bit of practice soldering tonight, on a ducky pocket, a cheap 6 key macropad, and an old broken toy. I was really hoping to fix the toy for my daughter, but unfortunately I wasn't able to, even though the fix looked simple enough. I successfully desoldered the ducky pocket though, which was quite satisfying. I think I might have lifted one pad though. It looks like there's a pad there still, but it's shiny silver, while all the other ones are copper. Is it done for?

If there were no pad, there would be nothing metallic at all as solder does not stick to solder mask or silicone. You may have removed all of the solder from every pad other than the shiny one. If you plug it in and short the two pads for that switch together with some tweezers or a bit of wire, and it registers a press, then nothing should be amiss.

A pad could be lifted but still attached to the trace, in which case there would still be continuity. You would usually see that the pad is no longer flush with the board in that case.

Surprisingly, I wasn't able to desolder a single switch from the cheap macropad. I had no issues melting the stuff, but no matter how many times I applied the pump and/or braid, the hole always seemed to fill back up once it solidified. I guess the success of the k100 will depend on whether it's more like the ducky or more like the macropad.

What kind of pump did you end up getting? The manual ones (especially without a silicone sleeve for the nozzle) are hit and miss, even if you time everything just right it can be hard to get enough of a seal to have enough suction to remove all of the solder. Did you try adding fresh leaded solder and trying again?

The evening ended on a sour note though as I spilt half a bottle of rosin flux. I kept thinking to myself 'gee, this soldering business stuff stinks', then eventually looked over and realised that the bottle was turned over and rosin was all over the bench and the floor. I had a face mask on at the time so it took me a while to really notice it. I cleaned it up reasonably well with alcohol-based nail polish remover, windex and water (in separate stages). Though I'm sure it'll still stink in the morning. Any tips for cleaning that stuff?

Any relatively effective solvent should break the flux down for easy cleaning. If you're dealing with a lot of it, mineral spirits or naptha would probably be the cheapest thing to try. Goo Gone has already been mentioned, and it works well for breaking down every flux I have ever used. I imagine naptha will take care of the smell too since it evaporates pretty fast, otherwise you can clean up the resulting gunk with rubbing alcohol.

I can't imagine any of those besides the Goo Gone is all that healthy for you.

Offline Volny

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #40 on: Fri, 23 April 2021, 21:31:32 »
What kind of pump did you end up getting? The manual ones (especially without a silicone sleeve for the nozzle) are hit and miss, even if you time everything just right it can be hard to get enough of a seal to have enough suction to remove all of the solder. Did you try adding fresh leaded solder and trying again?

This one. It has a hard nozzle (I guess not silicone then), and it is indeed hard to make a seal. Yes, I tried adding new solder repeatedly. But I think I probably just need to keep practicing at getting a better seal (and quickly) before I press the button.

Quote
Any relatively effective solvent should break the flux down for easy cleaning. If you're dealing with a lot of it, mineral spirits or naptha would probably be the cheapest thing to try. Goo Gone has already been mentioned, and it works well for breaking down every flux I have ever used. I imagine naptha will take care of the smell too since it evaporates pretty fast, otherwise you can clean up the resulting gunk with rubbing alcohol.

I can't imagine any of those besides the Goo Gone is all that healthy for you.

I've never seen Goo Gone here in Australia (though obviously anything can be imported online) but I see that it's citrus-based. I have some citrus-based cleaner which is like magic with adhesive stains and the like, so perhaps it's similar. I didn't think of using it in this case, but I'll give it a go. Actually, my office aired out nicely overnight and doesn't stink at all, so I guess I cleaned sufficiently last night.

Thanks again for all your great advice  :thumb:

Offline Volny

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #41 on: Sat, 24 April 2021, 05:53:59 »
Well, I successfully desoldered and resoldered my 25-key Ducky Pocket. In roughly the same amount of time, I failed to desolder a single switch in the cheap 6-key macropad, even after working at 450˚C, which all the guides say is too high. The closest I came was pulling one out of an almost-there hole in frusstration, leaving behind one of the pins embedded in the pad. If the K100 is anything like this cheap macro pad, the party's over.

Offline Volny

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #42 on: Sun, 25 April 2021, 00:17:10 »
I'm finally getting there. I managed to desolder the x6 cheap macropad, another x3 macropad, and a second identical x6 macropad, each with increasing ease, and eventually at a temp of 400˚ (rather than the 470˚ I was resorting to in some initial stages). I think the pads on these cheap macropads might be extra narrow, making separating the pin from the pad extra difficult even when you've removed 90% of the solder. Any remnants you leave behind after pumping/braiding immediately seem to solidify around the tiny gap between pin and pad. Actually, often there was no gap at all, but the pad was tightly pressed against the rim of the pad/

What finally got me there was a combination of a few techniques I picked up on various youtube tutorials - in particular on JuJu's channel. One was pressing down the plastic foot of the switch with a screwdriver while soldering the pads, until the switch pops out the bottom - so I didn't need to remove the solder, just get both pads melted at the same time. Pushing the pin around with the iron tip helped to get the pins unstuck from the pad rims. The other was the 'slap' technique where you hold up the PCB, melt the solder, then slap the PCB against a hard surface to dislodge the solder and hope that the resulting blob of flying molten metal doesn't burrow itself into your retina. I wore glasses and did it over/into the metal receptacle at the back of my soldering station, so it felt pretty safe.

The other technique which helped a lot, but differed from any of the tutorials I've seen or read, was to press the button on the pump while the soldering iron was still working on the pin & pad. All the tutorials say to get the pump almost into place, then move the iron away and swiftly move the pump over the hole to make a seal or near-seal, and press the button. For whatever reason, this method just never seemed to work with these particular macropads. Even when I got the timing down to a small fraction of a second and worked at 470˚, the solder always seemed too solidified to move once I released the pump. But once I started pumping adjacent to the iron, while still ironing, it actually tended to suck it up effectively.

And for any Australians googling this, Planet Ark Orange Power works wonderfully to clean up Rosin (both directly on the PCB and on work surfaces, tool handles, etc.). I'm guessing it's functionally very similar to Goo Gone.

I feel ready to tackle the K100 now. Though I need to wait for switches to arrive in the mail first.

Offline suicidal_orange

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #43 on: Sun, 25 April 2021, 05:02:14 »
I think the pads on these cheap macropads might be extra narrow, making separating the pin from the pad extra difficult even when you've removed 90% of the solder. Any remnants you leave behind after pumping/braiding immediately seem to solidify around the tiny gap between pin and pad.
The hole size is not always the same and you're right, even the smallest bit of solder attaching the side of a pin to a hole is too much and needs removing.  I guess bigger holes need more through plating so small ones are cheaper - hopefully the K100 is nice.
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Online Maledicted

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #44 on: Tue, 27 April 2021, 09:19:03 »
And for any Australians googling this, Planet Ark Orange Power works wonderfully to clean up Rosin (both directly on the PCB and on work surfaces, tool handles, etc.). I'm guessing it's functionally very similar to Goo Gone.

I wouldn't be surprised if it is the same stuff in another package, or a copy of it. Is it relatively oily stuff with a pleasant orange smell?

I feel ready to tackle the K100 now. Though I need to wait for switches to arrive in the mail first.

Good luck. The K65 I swapped box jades into seemed to have pretty high-quality solder, but now that you say you had to break parts of the K100 to even get it apart, I can't say your experience will be the same.

Offline Volny

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #45 on: Thu, 13 May 2021, 00:51:18 »
So the desoldering and resoldering went pretty smoothly. But now several keys are dead, even without the switch, with tweezers held to the pads.

The pads appear intact and I've cleaned them with citrus cleaner. My next planned step is to strip naked and run through the streets in a mad panic wailing about how I've bricked a terribly expensive keyboard. Is there anything else I should try before I do that?

Offline Volny

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #46 on: Thu, 13 May 2021, 07:54:17 »
ok, so here are three of my dead keys (the ones with empty pads in the pic), compared to a working one (in the green square on the left). Click the image (and click again once on imgur) to zoom. Those pads look kind of normal to me to the naked eye. Seeing them zoomed up in the photo makes them seem a little rough-looking, but still not too much different from the working one.

I've only just learned that the keys are on a grid system, with one of the pins corresponding to a row, and the other to a column, as you guys obviously know. These 3 keys are the ]}  '"  and  /?  keys, and it seems that their column pins aren't working. I can trigger the correct keys if I wire their 'row' pin with the column pin of F11 or, in one case, of F12. So does this suggest that there is a damaged trace that connects this column(s) of keys? If so, how do I find it? All the traces look as they do in the picture - kind of half-buried and barely visible underneath that white enamel or whatever it is.

Where should I go to from here? Should I do jump wires to connect the broken keys to F11, F12 and so on? Should I try to fix the pads in case they're broken (if so, how do I do that)? Could the problem have something to do with those tiny pin-prick holes you can see in the pic (vias?) They're minuscule and everywhere, so I can imagine a globule of stray solder or rosin could easily do something to them.

One last thing. As I was soldering, I occasionally noticed tiny globules of transparent stuff - I guess flux - involuntarily spitting off my solder wire and landing on the PCB. They would form very tiny, barely visible little white/transparent balls, about 1/10th the size of a pad or smaller. When I noticed them, I would scratch them off with my fingernail. But I'm sure there are still plenty around the place unseen. Could they potentially cause a short or blockage or something? I assume I needn't worry about them, but thought I'd mention it. 

Thanks for all your help thus far, and I hope you can help me get over the finish line with this damn project that has consumed the past month of my life!  :-\ :confused:


Offline suicidal_orange

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #47 on: Thu, 13 May 2021, 13:59:37 »
The flux balls will be fine, you could give it a rub with a stiff brush (an old toothbrush?) to knock them off if they look bad.

The pads on SWG5 aren't shiny so they were burnt or pulled off, it happens.  Traces are just wires stuck on the PCB so doesn't matter where the originals run, the ones from the right pins are on the other side but at least you can see the diodes are on the left pins.  Jumpers from the right pin of Fxx to the right pin of the dead switches would be the fix, or from the top of the diode to the left switch pin if that pad is missing.
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Offline Volny

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #48 on: Thu, 13 May 2021, 20:30:45 »
The flux balls will be fine, you could give it a rub with a stiff brush (an old toothbrush?) to knock them off if they look bad.

The pads on SWG5 aren't shiny so they were burnt or pulled off, it happens.  Traces are just wires stuck on the PCB so doesn't matter where the originals run, the ones from the right pins are on the other side but at least you can see the diodes are on the left pins.  Jumpers from the right pin of Fxx to the right pin of the dead switches would be the fix, or from the top of the diode to the left switch pin if that pad is missing.

Actually, SWG5 (SW65) is fine. It's not shiny because it's soldered. The problem ones are SW48, SW66, SW81. So those pads seem good to you?

So what's likely to be the problem? Broken traces on the other side of the board?


Offline suicidal_orange

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Re: advice for building a very feature-heavy keyboard
« Reply #49 on: Fri, 14 May 2021, 06:37:06 »
Oh dear, solder should be shiny otherwise it's called a cold joint and isn't as reliable.  Might not be a problem but if it stops working you know why and it's an easy fix (melt the joint and add some flux) or maybe your shirt is dark and the pic is showing a reflection of that...

It's hard to tell on white boards but the bottom right 'corner' of the left pad of SW81 might be damaged, exactly where the trace to the diode connects.  Short the right pin to the diode and if that works solder left pin to diode.  No harm checking the others in the same way, you could be really unlucky.

Given the pattern it does seem likely that the column connection on the right pins is broken on the other side of the board though, so the jumper from Fxx is probably needed.
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