Author Topic: Beginner guide to keyboard modding  (Read 42806 times)

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Offline BlueBär

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Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« on: Tue, 30 July 2013, 11:38:24 »
Warning
Some of the things I describe here could harm your keyboard if not done properly and will most likely void your warranty. Be aware of that and handle your keyboard with care.
The following mods are ordered by difficulty. Please read the whole chapter of the desired modification before doing it.


1. Collecting information
Before you start modding your keyboard, you need to know it's specifications. Here's a list of what you need to know:
-Plate mounted or PCB mounted
-Cherry or Costar stabilizers
You can usually find these informations on the site you bought the keyboard from or in the review subforum, just search there for your keyboard's name. You can also find it out yourself when disassembling the keyboard, of which more later. Heres a list with common keyboards:

Tenkeyless/Fullsize:
CM StormPlate mountedCostar stabilizer
DuckyPlate mountedCherry stabilizer
FilcoPlate mountedCostar stabilizer

60%/75%:
KBC Poker/Poker XPCB mountedCherry stabilizer
KBC Poker IIPlate mountedCherry stabilizer
KBT PurePCB mountedCherry stabilizer
KBT Pure ProPlate mountedCherry stabilizer
KBT RacePCB mountedCherry stabilizer
Noppoo Choc MiniPlate mountedCostar style stabilizer
Keycool 84Plate mountedCostar stabilizer


2. Basic disassembly
Remember, some of this will probably void your warranty!
The first thing you should do is removing all keycaps. Even though this is a basic process you can break some switches if do it with force. I would recommend using a keycap puller, if you don't have one you can simply build one yourself, it's really easy. I would recommend a wire keycap puller as this will not scratch your keycaps.
Put the wire around the keycap, PCB mounted keyboard users should watch out that it doesnt pull on the switch itself!

29859-0

Now pull lightly upwards and wiggle on the keycap, it will come off with ease. Do all the 1x1 keycaps first, you will now see on some larger keycaps that they have stabilizers. If your board has Cherry stabilizers be especially careful when pulling off their keycaps as they have to get pulled off of 3 stems instead of one. You can then also try to hold down the stabilizers with a pen or a screwdriver or something similar so you don't rip them out (this happened to me on the backspace even though I was very careful).
If you see the PCB, your board is PCB mounted, if you see a metal plate "surrounding" each switch, your board is plate mounted.
Next step is to remove the PCB/the PCB and the plate from the case (this is not necessary for clipping or lubing stabilizers!). 60% keyboards have a single part case, you should already see the screws, simply unscrew them and lift the board out of the case. If it seems stuck, double check if you have all screws unscrewed. Boards with two part cases are usually held together by some tabs. I recommend this video by litster to see how to seperate the parts:


Make sure you disconnect the USB cable if it is non-removable, take a screwdriver and try to put it in between the two connectors and slowly loosen the male connector.
Congratulations, you are one step closer to your goal.

3. Lubing stabilizers
This mod is as well for Cherry stabilizers. You can use pretty much any lube for this, I personally used some model making lube for RC cars. Simply put a tiny drop of lube on this spot:

29849-1

After lubing it will take some time and use until the lube has spread and you will start feeling a difference, especially on the spacebar.


4. Clipping stabilizers
If you have cherry stabilizers, the larger keys can sometimes feel weird or mushy. This is a known issue. A basic solution is to clip the stabilizers. To remove them from a PCB mounted board, push the tiny tabs on the backside of the board and simply pull the stabilizers out. For plate mounted stabilizers you will need to access the stabilizer from below the plate to remove it, so desoldering is needed. If you aren't going to desolder anyways, I would recommend just sticking to lubing the stabilizers.
Heres another good video by litster that shows how to clip the stabilizers:



5. Adding LEDs
First off, this basically only possible if you have a keyboard that is available with LEDs, too. Examples for this are the Poker II and the Pure/Pure Pro. With a lot of trickery you can do it with non-LED-capable keyboards, too, but that is more advanced and this is a beginners guide.
Be aware that if you use LEDs other than 2x3x4mmm rectangle, such as domed/round tops, you may possibly need to file the top of the LED down depending on the profile of your caps. The voltage of the LEDs should not be less than 3V which will be the case for most 3mm and 2x3x4mm, be aware however that red and yellow LEDs often run at a lower voltage and might break if you use them on your board without adding a resistor.
First you have got to find the correct holes for the LEDs. For this, flip your PCB over and try to find spots like this (photo by WhiteFireDragon):

29847-2

You have to desolder the blue marked spots if they are soldered shut. Here's a video showing how to desolder:


Now you flip over your board again and drop the LED into the switch; there's a little hole for the LED below the slider. Make sure the longer lead of the LED is in the square hole! Now you just solder the LED and do this for every switch you want to have an LED. If you never soldered, here's a short soldering tutorial which should be enough:




6. Swapping switches
If you are using a PCB mounted keyboard or your board has a plate that has cutouts so you can open the switches (these normally come from group buys, see below for identification) please read the next chapter as this step is then unnecessary.

29851-3

Now if you are using a plate mounted board that does not have the cutouts, you will have to desolder all switches. Take a look at chapter 5, this time you will have to desolder the red spots and if your board has LEDs, the blue spots as well. If you desolder a LED you will have to mark which side was in the square hole, this is the positive lead.
If you have done this you will have to pop the tabs on the vertical axis of the switch with a screwdriver and you should be able to pull the switch off the plate. If not, double check if it is completly desoldered, do not use any force as this can damage the switch! Remember the switch orientation (LED hole on top or bottom) and put in the new switch. If the new switches are for PCB mounted boards, you can simply cut the little plastic pins off, see here:

29853-4

When you're done, if you have LEDs, solder the LEDs as well, remember to put the positive lead in the square hole. Connect your keyboard to your PC and test if all switches work, a good program to do this is Aqua Key Test: http://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=34670.msg641440
If everything works, you can put your keyboard in your case again and you're done. If not, don't panic! Double check the soldering on the switches that fail and test again. If it still won't work, desolder the faulty switch and replace it with a new one. Stuff like that happens and is completly normal, don't worry!
Finally I would really recommend this video by WhiteFireDragon, he does it very professionally and explains everything very well.



7. Swapping springs/opening switches
If you have a plate mounted board that has not a "solderless" plate (see the first image in chapter 6 if you don't know what that means), you will have to desolder the switches first, see chapter 6. When you pulled a switch off the plate you can simple ope the tabs on the horizontal axis of the switch with a screwdriver (or anything small and flat) on one side, stick your finger nail between the top and bottom part of the switch and pop the tabs on the other side too. Another helpful tool for opening switches is the housing removal tool from The_Beast (here's a picture of SpAmRaY using them, or watch the video from WhiteFireDragon below). You should now be able to simply pull the switch apart. This works for separate switches from switch test kits, etc. Take care not to lose stems and springs that will easily come out and are easily lost, you might still need them.
If you have a PCB mounted keyboard, good news, you don't need to solder or desolder anything, unless the switches have LEDs. If so, there are a couple options for you to choose from: you'll have to desolder the LED then the switch, and afterwards resolder them (see chapter 6 for more information how to do that) or you can mod the housing to come off around the LED, you can do this by trimming the plastic around the LED with a drill, a dremel, or just a pair of side cutter pliers. Here's a video from WhiteFireDragon using a dremel and The_Beast's switch tools to do this:


If you have a PCB mounted keyboard, good news, you don't need to solder or desolder anything. If you don't have switch opening tools you can make some yourself, here's a variety of ways how to open them: http://deskthority.net/workshop-f7/i-did-a-guide-of-how-to-open-cherry-switches-t2458.html
At this point, springs and stems can be swapped for those of your choice, as well as lubrication of said springs and stems. When closing the switch after completion, make sure the prominent part of the slider points towards the flat golden spring. The top of the switch can simply be pressed on the switch again, make sure that the Cherry logo is on the side of the flat spring as well. Press down on all sides to make sure the switch is completely closed again and test the switch a few times.



If you have any questions, suggestions, additions, corrections, pictures or videos, feel free to post them in this thread.
If anybody is not ok with me using their picture or video for this, please send me a PM.
« Last Edit: Thu, 22 August 2013, 10:50:12 by BlueBär »

Offline BlueBär

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Re: [Work in progress] Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #1 on: Tue, 30 July 2013, 11:38:54 »
Changelog:
2013-07-30 - First version - corrections and additions by jdcarpe and esoomenona - thanks!
2013-08-04 - Removed markings for future improvements - removed "work in progress" tag - added some more info on LEDs - thanks to Topre!
« Last Edit: Sun, 04 August 2013, 16:43:46 by BlueBär »

Offline SpAmRaY

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Re: [Work in progress] Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #2 on: Tue, 30 July 2013, 11:46:57 »
Thanks for putting all this information together!

Offline Moosecraft

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Re: [Work in progress] Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #3 on: Tue, 30 July 2013, 11:59:02 »
Very informative, although as a bit of a lurker I know most of it already  :p
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Offline lcs

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Re: [Work in progress] Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #4 on: Tue, 30 July 2013, 12:19:52 »
This is really useful, BlueBär! Thanks!

Offline jdcarpe

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Re: [Work in progress] Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #5 on: Tue, 30 July 2013, 12:33:46 »
Very nice guide!

One thing I noticed, you said that if you don't use 4x3x2 LEDs, you will have to desolder them to open the switch. Actually, you have to desolder ANY kind of in-switch LEDs in order to open the switch, unless you mod the switch housing to have a hole cut out where the LED is mounted. You can cut the hole with a drill, a dremel, or just a pair of side cutter pliers.
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Offline BlueBär

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Re: [Work in progress] Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #6 on: Tue, 30 July 2013, 12:41:10 »
Glad that you guys like it. I added a few new pictures to show some basic stuff. If you happen to have any questions feel free to ask them, I want to include more modding questions that might come up. Oh and since I'm not a native English speaker there might be spelling or grammatical errors, point those out if you find them.

One thing I noticed, you said that if you don't use 4x3x2 LEDs, you will have to desolder them to open the switch. Actually, you have to desolder ANY kind of in-switch LEDs in order to open the switch, unless you mod the switch housing to have a hole cut out where the LED is mounted. You can cut the hole with a drill, a dremel, or just a pair of side cutter pliers.

Hmm here you said otherwise, I actually took that information from this post: http://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=40501.msg975095#msg975095

Offline esoomenona

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Re: [Work in progress] Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #7 on: Tue, 30 July 2013, 12:42:10 »
That information is in regard to filing for cap clearance, not for removing housings.

Offline BlueBär

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Re: [Work in progress] Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #8 on: Tue, 30 July 2013, 12:49:04 »
Ah I misunderstood that. Corrected it to:

Be aware that if you don't use 4x3x2mm LED's you will have to file down the LEDs a bit, else your caps will hit the LED when bottoming out.

I will add how to mod the switch housing tomorrow or so.

Offline esoomenona

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Re: [Work in progress] Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #9 on: Tue, 30 July 2013, 12:51:32 »
"Be aware that if you use LEDs other than 2x3x4mmm rectangle, such as domed/round tops, you may possibly need to file the top of the LED down depending on the profile of your caps."

Offline BlueBär

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Re: [Work in progress] Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #10 on: Tue, 30 July 2013, 12:57:58 »
Done.

Offline esoomenona

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Re: [Work in progress] Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #11 on: Tue, 30 July 2013, 13:05:04 »
7. Swapping springs/opening switches
If you have a plate mounted board, you will have to desolder the switches first (see chapter 6). When you pulled a switch off the plate you can simple open the tabs on the horizontal axis of the switch with a screwdriver (or anything small and flat) on one side, stick your finger nail between the top and bottom part of the switch and pop the tabs on the other side too. Another helpful tool for opening switches is the housing removal tool from The_Beast [linkneeded]. You should now be able to simply pull the switch apart. This works for separate switches from switch test kits, etc. Take care not to lose stems and springs that will easily come out and are easily lost.

If you have a PCB mounted keyboard, good news, you don't need to solder or desolder anything, unless the switches have LEDs. If so, there are a couple options for you to choose from: you'll have to desolder the LED then the switch, and afterwards resolder them (see chapter 6 for more information how to do that) or you can mod the housing to come off around the LED (you can do this by trimming the plastic around the LED with a drill, a dremel, or just a pair of side cutter pliers [linkneeded].

If you don't have switch opening tools (for example The_Beast's switch opening tools) you can make some yourself; here's a variety of ways to open them: http://deskthority.net/workshop-f7/i-did-a-guide-of-how-to-open-cherry-switches-t2458.html

At this point, springs and stems can be swapped for those of your choice, as well as lubrication of said springs and stems. When closing the switch after completion, make sure the prominent part of the slider points towards the flat golden spring. The top of the switch can simply be pressed on the switch again, make sure that the Cherry logo is on the side of the flat spring as well. Press down on all sides to make sure the switch is completely closed again and test the switch a few times.

Offline BlueBär

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Re: [Work in progress] Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #12 on: Tue, 30 July 2013, 14:04:30 »
Added with slight modifications and a few more links. Thanks!

Offline Narcix

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Re: [Work in progress] Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #13 on: Sun, 04 August 2013, 08:22:24 »
Can i use the soldering iron i bought for electronics lab (EWIG rapid 20/40 W) for modding (adding LEDs)?
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Offline BlueBär

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Re: [Work in progress] Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #14 on: Sun, 04 August 2013, 08:34:17 »
Sure. For such simple stuff you don't really need anything special, just make sure to be careful with the hot tip.

Offline Narcix

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Re: [Work in progress] Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #15 on: Sun, 04 August 2013, 08:35:07 »
Sure. For such simple stuff you don't really need anything special, just make sure to be careful with the hot tip.
Ok, thanks  :thumb:
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Offline Photekq

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Re: Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #16 on: Sun, 04 August 2013, 09:06:17 »
Brilliant.

Offline BlueBär

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Re: Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #17 on: Sun, 04 August 2013, 09:11:11 »
OK I now removed the work in progress tag, added some tiny stuff and removed the comments where improvements where needed.

I also added this passage to chapter 4:
Quote
For plate mounted stabilizers you will need to access the stabilizer from below the plate to remove it, so desoldering is needed. If you aren't going to desolder anyways, I would recommend just sticking to lubing the stabilizers.

I don't know if that is 100% correct, I have never gotten my hands on a plate mounted keyboard, so if somebody could help me out here that would be great!

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Offline BlueBär

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Re: Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #19 on: Sun, 04 August 2013, 11:46:46 »
There is no voltage etc. given and it might vary for different colors, so I don't really know. It is also recommended to get 4x3x2mm LEDs for cap clearance. The voltage should be around 3-3.4V (not lower than 2.8 I think, but please get this stuff confirmed in the simple questions thread) and if you use different colors they should run at the same voltage or you will get differently bright LEDs.

Offline Narcix

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Re: Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #20 on: Sun, 04 August 2013, 12:14:23 »
There is no voltage etc. given and it might vary for different colors, so I don't really know. It is also recommended to get 4x3x2mm LEDs for cap clearance. The voltage should be around 3-3.4V (not lower than 2.8 I think, but please get this stuff confirmed in the simple questions thread) and if you use different colors they should run at the same voltage or you will get differently bright LEDs.
ok thx and sorry for the annoyance
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Offline BlueBär

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Re: Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #21 on: Sun, 04 August 2013, 12:18:19 »
No worries, this thread is about modding after all :D  I'll try to get some more info on it later and add it to the chapter.

Offline MKULTRA

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Re: Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #22 on: Mon, 05 August 2013, 03:10:15 »
Quote
plate mounted keyboard users should watch out that it doesnt pull on the switch itself!

I think you meant to say PCB mounted?  I just skimmed through it cause I am really tired.  Will check this out again tomorrow.

Offline BlueBär

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Re: Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #23 on: Mon, 05 August 2013, 05:38:19 »
Fixed, thanks.

Offline SeriouSSpotS

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Re: Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #24 on: Tue, 10 September 2013, 07:38:42 »
Lots of useful information here, thanks for posting
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Offline MOZ

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Re: Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #25 on: Tue, 10 September 2013, 08:06:21 »
My mind needs this thread to be stickied.

Offline Tarzan

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Re: Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #26 on: Tue, 10 September 2013, 08:07:09 »
My mind needs this thread to be stickied.

+1

Especially the LED info...    :-[

Offline BlueBär

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Re: Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #27 on: Tue, 10 September 2013, 08:20:34 »
This guide will get some changes and expansions when the new wiki-thing rolls out, so not really needed to get stickied imo ;)

Offline MOZ

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Re: Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #28 on: Tue, 10 September 2013, 08:23:20 »
This guide will get some changes and expansions when the new wiki-thing rolls out, so not really needed to get stickied imo ;)

You might not know this, but not everyone is a member of the Keepers of Faith, so we don't have the nitty gritties :P

Offline BlueBär

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Re: Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #29 on: Tue, 10 September 2013, 08:28:28 »
How do you mean?

Offline Dubsgalore

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Re: Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #30 on: Tue, 10 September 2013, 09:05:23 »
This guide will get some changes and expansions when the new wiki-thing rolls out, so not really needed to get stickied imo ;)

You might not know this, but not everyone is a member of the Keepers of Faith, so we don't have the nitty gritties :P

Do you realize that BlueBar is a "Keeper of the Faith"?

Offline CPTBadAss

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Re: Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #31 on: Tue, 10 September 2013, 09:07:00 »
This guide will get some changes and expansions when the new wiki-thing rolls out, so not really needed to get stickied imo ;)

You might not know this, but not everyone is a member of the Keepers of Faith, so we don't have the nitty gritties :P

We (as in the Keepers) don't have all the details either. Don't worry, when we know, you'll know.

Offline MOZ

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Re: Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #32 on: Tue, 10 September 2013, 09:10:51 »
This guide will get some changes and expansions when the new wiki-thing rolls out, so not really needed to get stickied imo ;)

You might not know this, but not everyone is a member of the Keepers of Faith, so we don't have the nitty gritties :P

Do you realize that BlueBar is a "Keeper of the Faith"?

I do.

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Re: Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #33 on: Tue, 10 September 2013, 09:13:22 »
blue bars is keeper of faith but MOZ King of newbies :))
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Offline argyakrivos

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Re: Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #34 on: Tue, 10 September 2013, 16:45:54 »
Amazing thread! Really insightful with lots of details. Thank you for putting everything together. It should be sticky! ;)

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Re: Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #35 on: Tue, 01 April 2014, 23:47:38 »
Thanks for this info, nice to have something clear and to the point for someone whos just learning!
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Re: Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #36 on: Wed, 02 April 2014, 17:29:32 »
Awesome information. I can't wait to use it. Thanks!

Offline domoaligato

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Re: Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #37 on: Wed, 21 May 2014, 15:28:46 »
suggestion. add some information about switch stickers. pros and cons etc. also information about the clear switch covers would be cool.

stickers:
My opinion: I installed stickers in a bunch of ergo clears and I find that they are a waste of time and unless they are installed perfectly they will fall inside the switch and possibly get in the way of the switch actuation.

switch covers: If you want clear switch covers then you have to get the vintage cherry nixdorf clear switch covers.

The switch covers that were part of the recent groupbuy by kinruan that were made by ob studio (something like that) were very brittle and are garbage. I have them break when taking off keycaps and the entire switch stem comes out with the keycap because the material they made the covers with sucks. they also break when you try to remove them from the switch housing to lube springs/stems.

Offline BlueBär

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Re: Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #38 on: Wed, 21 May 2014, 15:37:26 »
This is supposed to be more of a guide on how to do mods, not advice if they are good or not (especially because a lot of that is actually a matter of taste).
I don't really get your cons about switch stickers, I don't see how a sticker could get in the way of the actuation? I agree that they don't change the feel though, but if one wants to use them for the looks then sure go for it.

Offline domoaligato

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Re: Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #39 on: Wed, 21 May 2014, 15:56:06 »
leaving opinions out of this.... information about how to do the mods would be useful.
how to remove the switch tops and how to install stickers.

I should have just said that :p

Offline BlueBär

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Re: Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #40 on: Wed, 21 May 2014, 16:11:14 »
That is of course doable. I already have a video that shows how to open MX switches, you can find it here:
I will add new stuff when the new Wiki gets rolling.

Offline domoaligato

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Re: Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #41 on: Wed, 21 May 2014, 16:14:39 »
nice! and grats btw for becoming a keeper of the faith.

Offline BlueBär

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Re: Beginner guide to keyboard modding
« Reply #42 on: Wed, 21 May 2014, 16:16:54 »
Thanks! :thumb: