Author Topic: Cherry MX Spring Measurements  (Read 42439 times)

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Offline rknize

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Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« on: Wed, 31 July 2013, 23:23:15 »
There has always been some debate over the various types of springs that are available for Cherry MX switches and how the spring rates relate to switch actuation force.  Adding to confusion are the aftermarket Korean springs that are sold based on the spring force at the bottom of the switch movement.

I decided to try to build a rig that could consistently measure the force of these springs for the purposes of comparing them.  If we can measure the spring force at the top and bottom of the switch stem movement and assume that the springs are linear (which is mostly the case), we can then plot the spring force and compare different spring designs.  A few Cherry switches were sliced open to accurately measure these two positions and to observe the spring behavior inside the switch.


I do not have access to expensive spring force measurement instruments.  Instead, I used a heavily modified arbor press as a jig to consistently replicate spring compression at the top and bottom of a Cherry MX switch movement.  I then use a digital jeweler's scale (supposedly accurate to 0.05g) to measure the spring force at these two positions.  The large spring at the top of the jig is used to take the backlash out of the arbor press's gear mechanism.  The block on the front of the press shaft provides the top spring position while a pin at the top provides the bottom position.  A removable shim allows the press to be completely lifted off of the spring so that the scale can be calibrated with the spring's own weight before each measurement.  A dial indicator is used to re-verify each measurement position.


The biggest problem was measuring the spring force at the bottom of the movement on the lighter springs.  It turns out that because they have so many coils, the lighter springs are almost fully compressed when the switch is bottomed-out.  Since the coil spacing is not perfectly even, some coils bind-up before others.  This has the effect of increasing the spring rate near the bottom.  Particularly bad samples were skipped, but this effect is still apparent in the variance of those measurements.  To help cope with this, the range of motion was reduced by about 0.2mm for a total of 3.8mm.


Cherry MX "heavy" spring


Cherry MX "light" spring

The press proved to generate reproducible results, once I got the hang of its little quirks.  For a given spring, it reproduced measurements well within 1%.  For each spring type, at least 20 samples were measured and the results averaged.  Where possible, I mixed springs from different batches.

So far, I have measured 6 spring types:
  • Genuine Cherry MX "light" (blue, brown, red)
  • Genuine Cherry MX "heavy" (black, green, white)
  • Genuine Cherry MX "clear"
  • Originative "45g" Korean
  • Originative "55g" Korean
  • Originative "62g" Korean

Others to follow:
  • Genuine Cherry MX "vintage black"
  • Genuine Cherry MX "vintage brown"

The weighted averages were used to generate this plot, which compares the various types.  The center, vertical line represents approximately where switch actuation would occur.


It's important to remember that these plots show the bare spring force, not the switch actuation force.  The leaf spring that makes up the switch contact interacts with the coil spring and other frictional forces to make up the total switch actuation force.  Even linear switches exhibit this interaction; the leaf spring actually works against the coil spring, slightly reducing the return force.  The absolute force values from these measurements are mainly useful for comparing each type to one another.

Cherry MX Light
Cherry MX Heavy
Cherry MX Clear
Originative 45g
Originative 55g
Originative 62g
Position:
Up
Down
Up
Down
Up
Down
Up
Down
Up
Down
Up
Down
Average:
35.2
63.4
45.7
87.8
40.6
89.9
25.8
56.3
32.2
59.2
35.5
66.7
Variance:
0.99
4.59
1.03
2.46
2.22
4.14
0.49
4.08
0.37
1.12
1.05
1.12
Error:
5.6%
6.0%
3.4%
3.7%
5.3%
5.7%
6.9%
6.0%
4.5%
5.0%
6.9%
3.7%
k(g/mm):
7.43
11.08
12.96
8.03
7.08
8.21
« Last Edit: Thu, 10 May 2018, 15:15:25 by rknize »
Russ

Offline JPG

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #1 on: Wed, 31 July 2013, 23:38:04 »
Very nice job!

Next you could add 65g?  ;D
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Offline Photekq

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #2 on: Wed, 31 July 2013, 23:39:42 »
This is brilliant. Great job rknize! :thumb:

Offline kenmai9

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #3 on: Wed, 31 July 2013, 23:52:02 »
Wow thanks for making this!

Offline rknize

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #4 on: Thu, 01 August 2013, 00:34:06 »
I'm glad that it's finally "done".  I'm not sure at what point I'll add more types, but I am taking a break for now.

On the subject of the Originative springs, it looks like they land right about where you would expect, relative to the Cherry springs.  Cherry "light" springs are supposed to come in around "60g" using the Korean method of measuring spring weight.  If you draw a vertical line where the dark blue line crosses 60 grams, the Korean springs are in the ballpark.

I was also happy to see that my previous statements about the MX clear spring were correct.  They start off lighter than MX "heavy" springs up to and after the actuation point, but they have a higher spring rate.  The huge bump on the clear stem makes this difficult to feel, but when I tried clear springs on blue stems, they were definitely lighter than greens.
Russ

Offline WhiteFireDragon

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #5 on: Thu, 01 August 2013, 00:39:36 »
THANK YOU for this. I've been hoarding many types of springs over the years that most people don't have, so if you need any to test, I can send some to you.

Offline nubbinator

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #6 on: Thu, 01 August 2013, 03:02:29 »
I have a 65g and 67g Korean spring I can send you if you want to test some additional springs.

I am kind of surprised by your Black vs Clear spring findings though.  I'm typing on a keyboard with Blacks right now and have a keyboard with Reds and Blacks with Clear springs in them, and the key switches feel heavier with the Clear springs than the Blacks.
« Last Edit: Thu, 01 August 2013, 11:17:01 by nubbinator »

Offline MOZ

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #7 on: Thu, 01 August 2013, 04:41:12 »
Excellent work!

It would be great if you can compare the Originative 80g spring as well.

Offline Soarer

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #8 on: Thu, 01 August 2013, 05:07:53 »
Splendid contraption! :D

I've been saying for ages that black/clear/green springs have different slopes, and that I suspect the red/brown/blue springs do too, in their specification. Trouble is that the difference between the light springs is so slight that it's a) difficult to measure, and b) less than manufacturing tolerances.

Offline MOZ

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #9 on: Thu, 01 August 2013, 05:48:18 »
What was the source for the light and heavy springs? Which switches exactly?

Offline Soarer

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #10 on: Thu, 01 August 2013, 06:05:42 »
My guess is that 'Heavy' is a black spring.

The logic being that a linear switch has more force before actuation provided by the spring, whereas a tactile switch provides that force from the tactility, such that they actuate at roughly the same force in the end.

Offline CPTBadAss

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #11 on: Thu, 01 August 2013, 06:17:14 »
What was the source for the light and heavy springs? Which switches exactly?

It says in the OP what switches.

Rknize this is incredible. I'm going to link this to the Simple Questions thread and now I can bludgeon people with all this knowledge! :P
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Offline WhiteFireDragon

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #12 on: Thu, 01 August 2013, 06:22:24 »
rknize, how consistent were the springs in each batch? Meaning, what's the standard deviation? I hope you saved the data for the 20 springs before you averaged them.

Offline SpAmRaY

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #13 on: Thu, 01 August 2013, 06:56:11 »
Need to add 80g from originative!! ;)

Thanks for putting this up russ.

Offline esoomenona

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #14 on: Thu, 01 August 2013, 08:26:27 »
I was under the impression that most people believed Black springs to be lighter than White/Green springs. Shouldn't they be separated out? Perhaps it would be better (although much more time consuming, I know) to measure each switch's springs on an individual basis?

Another thing I wondered: how do different springs in different switches make a difference? If your machine could be setup to measure a spring inside of a switch, that would be amazing. Then you could measure many different springs in the different switches (linear, light tactile, heavy tactile, clicky, quiet clicky [not sure if the last two differ from each other in any way apart from materials...]).

I know my suggestions are not easy, but I think they would provide some very nice information. That being said, you've done a wonderful job here. Thanks a lot!

Offline Soarer

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #15 on: Thu, 01 August 2013, 09:18:49 »
What was the source for the light and heavy springs? Which switches exactly?
It says in the OP what switches.

I can't see where it does... "Genuine Cherry MX "heavy" (black, green, white)"  sounds more like an assumption that they are the same, which I don't believe they are. So either just one type was measured, or all those types got averaged together.

Offline CPTBadAss

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #16 on: Thu, 01 August 2013, 09:21:51 »
all those types got averaged together.

That's how I read it but I can see how the confusion can arise. Some clarification would be nice.
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Offline rknize

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #17 on: Thu, 01 August 2013, 11:40:24 »
all those types got averaged together.

That's how I read it but I can see how the confusion can arise. Some clarification would be nice.

Ah yes, I forgot about that part.  I have pictures to post about this as well.  Using every method available to me, I can find no difference between modern blue, red, and brown springs.  I measured:

  • Wire diameter using a micrometer
  • Coil diameter using calipers
  • Unsprung length
  • Coil count

The only other variable (besides temperature) that has a notable impact on the spring constant, k, is wire composition.  I don't have a way to measure this, but I am fairly confident that it is not an important variable given the following:

Just look at the variance and error in the data table for clear springs.  These all came from the same batch of MX clears from 7bit last year.  The sample-to-sample variance is very high because the spring tolerance is terrible.  Cherry doesn't care enough about spring tolerance to do better than +/- 5%.  Since I'm able to reproduce measurements within about 1% for a given spring, I am reasonably confident in these numbers.  The tolerance of the "heavy" and "light" set are within that same margin of error.

So here's the thing, guys.  We all know how things work in the corporate world.  Designers may have hopes, dreams, and expectations, but then the bean-counters come along.  There may have been a time where blue switches had slightly different specifications than brown switches.  In fact, I am quite confident this is true since I have seen and felt different springs from old Cherry keyboards (the whole "vintage" Cherry thing).

Today, the story seems to be different.  My guess is that they probably buy the cheapest springs they can find that meet their minimum dimensional and endurance requirements and don't really care what they are made out of or how.  Even if Cherry specified different spring materials for blue, brown, and red switches, the difference is swamped by the sample-to-sample variance and/or is not measurable using the methods that I have.
Russ

Offline CPTBadAss

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #18 on: Thu, 01 August 2013, 11:41:57 »
Thank you ^__^
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Offline mashby

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #19 on: Thu, 01 August 2013, 13:07:33 »

Offline rknize

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #20 on: Thu, 01 August 2013, 13:13:43 »
rknize, how consistent were the springs in each batch? Meaning, what's the standard deviation? I hope you saved the data for the 20 springs before you averaged them.

I do have all of the raw data.  Standard deviation is the square root of variance, which is in the 4th row of the table.
Russ

Offline WhiteFireDragon

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #21 on: Thu, 01 August 2013, 14:01:08 »
oops sorry! Missed that line when first looking at the table. Some springs have a variance of over 4, which is quite high :/

Offline rknize

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #22 on: Thu, 01 August 2013, 14:09:06 »
Yeah, they are all over the place.  Sometimes they even seemed to have higher spring rates.  In one case that was really bad (which I discarded), I noticed the spring was short 3/4 of a coil.  Maybe the machine ran out of wire?  It gets worse at the bottom of the stroke for the reasons I mentioned in the OP.  With the exception of the 45g ones (due to their high coil density), the Originative springs are the most consistent.
Russ

Offline Xenderwind

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #23 on: Thu, 01 August 2013, 14:18:03 »
Wow this thread is a lot more informative than I was expecting.  I thought it was just going to be a guy asking/posting for springs next to a ruler or something.  Really interested if you manage to get a hold of some of those gold springs,  curious as to how much difference there is between an originative and that.
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Offline Soarer

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #24 on: Thu, 01 August 2013, 14:33:28 »
all those types got averaged together.

That's how I read it but I can see how the confusion can arise. Some clarification would be nice.

...

The tolerance of the "heavy" and "light" set are within that same margin of error.

So here's the thing, guys.  We all know how things work in the corporate world.  Designers may have hopes, dreams, and expectations, but then the bean-counters come along.  There may have been a time where blue switches had slightly different specifications than brown switches.  In fact, I am quite confident this is true since I have seen and felt different springs from old Cherry keyboards (the whole "vintage" Cherry thing).

Here's the thing - I know that, and I said that!! It's only for the heavier springs that this design intent becomes more apparent, viz black vs clear.

So is "heavy" is a grouping of black/green/white?

Do you have data that splits out individual spring types from the light and heavy groups?

Offline rknize

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #25 on: Thu, 01 August 2013, 15:15:23 »
I have only a few modern black switches to pull springs from, but they were indistinguishable from the springs that came out of green and white switches, both in terms of physical attributes and force measurements.  These are all from switches that are no more than 2 years old.  I do have a pile of vintage blacks and those are quite different.  I'm sure there are other springs variants out there that I have not seen.
Russ

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #26 on: Thu, 01 August 2013, 15:23:31 »
FWIW when I got my Phantom from DanG it had a green in the spacebar which was heavy as all hell. So I swapped in a black spring from my G80-3700 and it felt much lighter. Side by side there is a big difference in weight, I can post pics tonight if you'd like to see a physical difference.
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Offline rknize

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #27 on: Thu, 01 August 2013, 15:36:52 »
If it was a more vintage spring, then it makes perfect sense.  I have vintage blacks in my Phantom and they are lighter than blacks that were in my first QFR.
Russ

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #28 on: Thu, 01 August 2013, 15:37:41 »
If it was a more vintage spring, then it makes perfect sense.  I have vintage blacks in my Phantom and they are lighter than blacks that were in my first QFR.

Does vintage have anything to do with date or is it just based on age due to use?
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Offline Soarer

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #29 on: Thu, 01 August 2013, 15:51:38 »
Vintage is when they were made.

I've only got one green spring, so I can't be too confident in it being typical, but it was noticably different to black springs in the force measurement. I got the green and the clears from recent G80-3000s, and the blacks from a Raptor K1... so all pretty recent. I've got some whites now, but haven't had time to measure them (with my temporary jig, I'd really have to re-measure the others as well to be sure the results were comparable).
« Last Edit: Thu, 01 August 2013, 15:53:13 by Soarer »

Offline rknize

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #30 on: Thu, 01 August 2013, 16:10:54 »
Since I don't have many modern black springs, I may have made a mistake in lumping them together with green/white.  It may also be that Cherry has used the green spring in blacks when it has suited them (stock issues or whatever).
Russ

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #31 on: Fri, 02 August 2013, 01:20:07 »
Would you be willing to test Originative 80g springs and a few springs I have acquired from other sources for comparison? I am looking for some super strong springs  :D
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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #32 on: Fri, 02 August 2013, 09:14:30 »
Here's a little album I threw together last night comparing Blacks, Greens, and 65g springs (on a black stem)

http://imgur.com/a/nTxQW
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Offline rknize

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #33 on: Fri, 02 August 2013, 11:04:35 »
That looks like the springs in the vintage blacks that I have.  Somewhere I have a pic of the black, green, and white spring but for some reason it eludes me.
Russ

Offline Photoelectric

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #34 on: Fri, 02 August 2013, 20:44:19 »
This is great and very helpful.  This confirms my guess about stock clear and black springs.

To make sure I understand your last table, are you listing percentages of compression from relaxed to fully compressed?  If not, are you accounting for the fact that springs don't get fully compressed when bottoming out a switch?  That wooden shim is at a 4mm depth?  Your fully compressed spring shot looks a lot more squished vs a spring in a fully depressed switch.
« Last Edit: Fri, 02 August 2013, 20:49:02 by Photoelectric »
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Offline mkawa

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #35 on: Fri, 02 August 2013, 21:00:44 »
i think your error is much higher than that, but this is a great start. i think we need to start a new thread for the spring dyno project..

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #36 on: Fri, 02 August 2013, 23:03:48 »

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #37 on: Sat, 03 August 2013, 01:55:08 »
Very nice! I second the request to sample the force curve for the various spring/stem combinations, if you ever fire it up again. :)
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Offline Latin00032

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #38 on: Wed, 07 August 2013, 07:17:44 »
I have a 65g and 67g Korean spring I can send you if you want to test some additional springs.

I am kind of surprised by your Black vs Clear spring findings though.  I'm typing on a keyboard with Blacks right now and have a keyboard with Reds and Blacks with Clear springs in them, and the key switches feel heavier with the Clear springs than the Blacks.

I wish 65g and 67g springs were added to this comparison.

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #39 on: Wed, 07 August 2013, 11:37:51 »
Is there a large difference between 62g and light springs in terms of feel? Obviously the chart says it does feel different, but can someone explain to me how it feels different? I"m using ergo-clears currently.

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #40 on: Wed, 07 August 2013, 11:41:36 »
62g is slightly heavier than the stock blue/red/brown spring. I should've said that in my review.
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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #41 on: Wed, 07 August 2013, 12:00:26 »
just seeing this now, this is amazing rknize! great work! i think i'm going to go for 65 g springs..or 62g. not sure yet

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #42 on: Wed, 07 August 2013, 15:11:26 »
sick work on your diy force measuring actuator

interesting results as well  :thumb:

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #43 on: Wed, 07 August 2013, 23:40:19 »
Very much looking forward to the addition of vintage Black spring data!  Seeing as I'd like to swap vintage Black springs into my ergo-Clears.  Would be neat to see if the curves for stock clears and vintage Blacks line up better than stock Blacks vs Clears.  It's interesting how the latter two intersect after the actuation point, whereas it's generally been said that Clear springs are heavier than Black--it's the opposite from your analysis (if going up to the actuation point and slightly beyond, so basically not bottoming out).
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Offline rknize

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #44 on: Thu, 08 August 2013, 10:54:01 »
As I said, I have set this aside for the moment so I can get on with some other projects.  For example, I still haven't built my LZ-GH.  :(

That said, I have a couple of other sets that I am going to measure as specified in the OP.  If there are other springs that folks would like to lend me for the cause, I can measure those on the same rig.  While its accuracy may be questionable, it has proven to be relatively precise which makes comparing them meaningful.  I'd like to see at least 20 samples to gather meaningful data for a given type.
Russ

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #45 on: Thu, 08 August 2013, 19:33:29 »
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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #46 on: Thu, 08 August 2013, 19:35:44 »
As I said, I have set this aside for the moment so I can get on with some other projects.  For example, I still haven't built my LZ-GH.  :(

That said, I have a couple of other sets that I am going to measure as specified in the OP.  If there are other springs that folks would like to lend me for the cause, I can measure those on the same rig.  While its accuracy may be questionable, it has proven to be relatively precise which makes comparing them meaningful.  I'd like to see at least 20 samples to gather meaningful data for a given type.

Yeah I understand, it's just that Vintage Blacks are the next springs on your list in the OP--I was just saying I'm excited to see the results when they do get posted, because they are of direct relevance to my plans :)
« Last Edit: Thu, 08 August 2013, 19:37:42 by Photoelectric »
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Offline Thimplum

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #47 on: Thu, 08 August 2013, 20:13:55 »
Awesome! Now where is ripster and his nickels hehe
TP4 FOR ADMIN 2013

Offline n0rvig

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #48 on: Sat, 10 August 2013, 23:33:15 »
Awesome! Thanks for all this work. I'm surprised to see how similar black & clear springs are.

Offline TheSoulhunter

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Re: Cherry MX Spring Measurements
« Reply #49 on: Wed, 21 August 2013, 14:11:29 »
Thanks for the testing! Proves my theory that we need 70g springs...
The gap between stock-light (and 62g) and stock-clear (and black) is quite huge, eh?
70g would probably be the sweet-spot between a well defined tactile-bump and not too much stickiness for clears!