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Offline BlueBär

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The Keyboard Modding Cookbook
« on: Mon, 26 May 2014, 09:42:40 »
Welcome to the keyboard modding cookboook. In this cookbook I will show and explain various mods you can do to your keyboard. If you are searching for something particular you can find a list of the recipes with links below; if you are just curious and want to see what kind of mods you could do, feel free to browse the recipes, they are ordered by difficulty.
Why recipes or why a cookbook you might ask? What you will notice sooner or later is that with most mods you have to do similar things first to do the mod itself. These things I call the ingredients of the mods, they are mostly basic tasks that you will sooner or later encounter whilst doing mods or reading about other Geekhacker's projects.
If you are an Alps, Topre or Buckling Spring lover I am sorry to disappoint you: for now this cookbook is MX flavour only. I want to include to include some Topre (silencing, MX stems) and BS (bolt modding, dental band mod) stuff sooner or later though.

Any questions or suggestions?
If you encounter any troubles with doing mods or the cookbook itself, feel free to ask in this thread, you will always find help. If you have any suggestions for improvements, additions or even if you find any spelling errors, feel free to notice me.

Warning
Some of these mods can damage your keyboard if not done properly and most will void your warranty.
I will put warnings in the text but even if I don't: handle your keyboard with care.
Please also read the whole recipe of a mod before you actually do it.


Table of contents
Ingredients:
Pulling keycaps
Opening a keyboard case
Soldering
Desoldering
Opening switches

Additional material:
General information for various brands and keyboards
Identifying keyboard parts and features

Recipes:
Dampening case noises
Lubing stabilizers
Clipping Cherry stabilizers
Adding LEDs to a keyboard
Swapping switches
Switch modification: swapping springs
Switch modification: switch stickers
Switch modification: lubing switches
Switch modification: trampoline mod
Making sleeved USB cables
« Last Edit: Sun, 08 June 2014, 16:13:12 by BlueBär »

Offline BlueBär

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Re: The Keyboard Modding Cookbook
« Reply #1 on: Mon, 26 May 2014, 09:42:52 »

Ingredients


Pulling keycaps
-Reminder to myself to make a video-
If you are new to mechanical keyboards the first thing I would recommend you to buy as an accessory is a keycap puller, they will make your life a lot easier. There are three types of keycap pullers: plastic ring keycaps pullers, wire keycap pullers and keycap pliers. The majority of the community seems to prefer wire keycap pullers. The advantage of these keycap pullers are that you can pull up to ~4 keycaps before you need to take them out of the wires which makes you a lot faster in comparison to other keycap pullers. Another advantage is that you can not scratch your keycaps with them which can be an issue with other keycap pullers. You can also make one of these yourself very easily.
To pull the keycaps put the wire around the keycap and simply pull upwards (pulling sideways with force can result in a broken switch stem!). If your are struggling because a keycap sits a bit tighter, try wiggling with the keycap puller a bit as it can help to loosen the keycap.
Please be aware that if you have a PCB mounted keyboard that you don't pull on the switch itself, so make sure that the wire is just gripping onto the keycap. If you have PCB mounted stabilizers, pull the surrounding keycaps first and try to press down the stabilizers base with a screwdriver or something similar as you can pull them out by accident which can break it.

Table of contents ▲

Opening a keyboard case

Two part cases
Most TKL and fullsize keyboard have cases that consist of two parts which are held together with screws and/or tabs. Rarely the screws are all visible and often screws are hidden under rubber feet or stickers, so unscrew all visible screws, search for hidden ones, loosen all tabs with a knife or somthing similar and it should come apart. Note that some cases have screws on the inside, too.
Keyboards that have a non-detachable cable have a small plug inside that connects the cable with the PCB. These connectors tend to be quite tight so have some patience if you want to get them apart.
Here are a few videos and pictures that might help you (note that many keyboards can be disassembled in a similar fashion):
How to open a Filco keyboard
Razer Blackwidow screw locations: * Razer BW.png

One part cases
Most 60% and 75% cases consist of just one part and the keyboard is just lying inside the case. To remove the PCB with the switches from the case you will need to pull all keycaps first. Once you have done this you should be able to see some screws that fix the PCB to the case. Unscrew them (make sure that you don't lose any!) and you should be able to lift the keyboard right out of its case. Be aware that the USB connector usually sticks out a bit so lift from the side of the spacebar first.

Table of contents ▲

Soldering
Soldering is an essential task that you will sooner or later want to learn if you want to experiment with keyboards and electronics. Soldering can be really fun, but also really frustrating - don't let that get you down as a beginner!
To get started with soldering you first off need some soldering equipment. The basic things you should acquire to get you started are a soldering iron, some solder, some flux, a sponge and/or a brass sponge, a desoldering pump and some junk PCBs to train with. Mkawa makes some "Learn to solder kits" which include all the things you need and I would recommend them to you if you're from the US; you can find the kits in the Geekhackers store.
Geekhack also has a living soldering thread which has some soldering equipment recommendations, too and if you need any help with soldering you should ask there.
Now if you want to learn soldering properly you should know a bit about the theory of soldering: why soldering is necessary, what it does and how it works. Here is video that will explain the theory and basics of soldering, it's an old video but I think it is very well explained:
Once you have watched that video basically all you need is some experience. I recommed to read on about desoldering and to experiment with some old PCBs to train your soldering and desoldering skills, once you feel confident with that you can move on to your keyboards PCB.

Table of contents ▲

Desoldering
Once you get the hang of soldering (if you haven't read the chapter about soldering yet, please do it now), desoldering is easy to learn. To desolder a solder joint, you first need to pump your desoldering pump (push on the long stick until it clicks), heat the solder joint until the solder melts, quickly put your pump over the joint and press the button on the side of the pump. The pump now sucks the liquid solder out of the joint into the pump, so if you pump it again, the solder will likely come out of the tip, although now cold and solid. Sometimes you don't get it right on the first time, so try a few times. If you can't get the solder out at all, adding some solder again can help.
Here is a short video demonstrating the use of a desoldering pump:
Solder wick is an alternative to a desoldering pump, it has some advantages but also some disadvantages. I would recommend a desoldering pump rather than solder wick (this also seems to be the general preference of the community), but it should be mentioned as some people prefer it.

Table of contents ▲

Opening switches
Cherry MX switches have 3 main parts: the upper housing, the slider and the lower housing with the leaf spring. The upper housing has four legs which latch onto the lower housing and hold the switch together. If you have a plate mounted keyboard with a stock plate you will have to desolder the switches first to open them, since the movement of those four legs is locked by the plate. Custom plates often have some cutouts which will allow those legs to move and you to open the switches while they still are soldered onto the keyboard, and PCB mounted switches can of course be opened without desoldering, too.
A common tool that is used to open switches are Beast's switch tools, if there is a group buy for them I would highly recommend you to get some. You can also open the switches with bent binder clips and some other tools, and if you have the loose switches you can use pretty much anything that is small enough to lift the 4 legs. I also did a short video demonstrating how to open switches:

Table of contents ▲





Additional material


General information for various brands and keyboards
Before you start modding your keyboard you should note some features of your keyboard, as it might change how to execute a modification. The most important parts that might change your mods are the switch mounting method and the stabilizers of your keyboard.
There are two switch mounting methods: plate mounting and PCB mounting. Most modern keyboards come with a plate, which is just a metal (rarely plastic) plate that surrounds and holds the switches and stops them from moving. It is visible when you remove the keycaps.
Many older keyboards, for example Cherry G80s, and also a few modern keyboards don't come with a plate, the switches have two plastic pins which stop the switch from moving instead.
The advantage of plate mounted keyboards is that they feel more rigid, with the downsides of sometimes making pinging noises while typing and switches having to be desoldered to open them. Plate mounted keyboards also usually are heavier.
There are two basic types of stabilizers: Costar and Cherry stabilizers. There are also copies of Costar stabilizers, but they work the same way, so the differences aren't relevant in this case. While Costar stabilizers are only available in a plate mounted version (meaning they will need a plate) Cherry offers PCB and plate mounted stabilizers. Cherry's PCB mounted stabilizers are known to feel a bit mushy, but especially the Korean communitys prefer lubed and clipped Cherry stabilizers to Costar ones.

Here is a short list of keyboards and their mounting method and stabilizer type:
KeyboardSwitch mounting typeStabilizer type
Cherry G80PCB mountedCherry stabilizer
CM StormPlate mountedCostar stabilizer
CorsairPlate mountedCostar stabilizer
DuckyPlate mountedCherry stabilizer
FilcoPlate mountedCostar stabilizer
KBC Poker/Poker XPCB mountedCherry stabilizer
KBC Poker IIPlate mountedCherry stabilizer
KBP V60Plate mountedCherry stabilizer
KBT PurePCB mountedCherry stabilizer
KBT Pure ProPlate mountedCherry stabilizer
KBT RacePCB mountedCherry stabilizer
Keycool 84Plate mountedCostar stabilizer
Noppoo Choc MiniPlate mountedCostar style stabilizer
RazerPlate mountedCostar style stabilizer

If you couldn't find your keyboard in this list please read the next chapter to identify what kind of mounting method and stabilizer your keyboard uses.

Table of contents ▲

Identifying keyboard parts and features

Table of contents ▲
« Last Edit: Thu, 29 May 2014, 13:42:05 by BlueBär »

Offline BlueBär

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Re: The Keyboard Modding Cookbook
« Reply #2 on: Mon, 26 May 2014, 09:43:01 »

Recipes


Dampening case noises
Ingredients:
Opening a keyboard case
A piece of foam or shelf liner

This is probably one of the most simple mods you can do. Any hollow areas inside your keyboard can amplify any unwanted ringing or pinging noises, and filling these areas with some foam or shelf liner is an effective way to dampen any unwanted noise.
Open your case, cut the foam or shelf liner to size, put it in the case behind the PCB and close the case again. If you use shelf liner you can also try two layers, it might fit depending on the case.

Table of contents ▲

Lubing stabilizers
Ingredients:
Pulling keycaps
Opening a keyboard case
Soldering/Desoldering [for plate mounted Cherry stabilizers only]
Plastic safe grease

First off you need to pull off all the keycaps to access the stabilizers and find out what kind of stabilizers your keyboard uses as lubing differs for each type. If you have found out what stabilizer you have you need to get some grease - grease is preferred to lube because it doesn't migrate and sticks to one place. Because it is thicker than lube you shouldn't apply too much as it will make the stabilizer feel heavier and slow down its movement. As for what grease to use, Superlube gets recommended sometimes; generally you need to look out that whatever you use is plastic safe.
  • Cherry PCB mounted stabilizers:
    The first step to access the spots you want to lube is to remove the whole stabilizer from the PCB. To do this, you need to remove the PCB from its case to access the backside of the PCB. On the backside you can see that the stabilizer bases are fixed to the PCB with one latching pin on each base, if you squeeze it the stabilizer should come right off the PCB. Cherry stabilizers consist of 5 parts: 2 bases, 2 sliders and the stabilizer wire. The wire gets held by some small clips and you can simple pull it out of them, if you have done this the sliders can come out of the bases (make sure to remember their orientation!).
    Take a small brush and pick up a little bit of grease with it, now lube the inner part of the clip that is holding the stabilizer wire and also the inner part of the base and/or the slider (do not lube the stem cross stem of the slider of course). You can now assemble the stabilizer again and put it back onto the PCB or you can also, while you're at it, clip the stabilizers.
  • Cherry plate mounted stabilizers:
    The plate mounted variant of the Cherry stabilizers can be lubed exactly the same way as the PCB mounted version, however you will need to remove the switch of the key that is getting stabilized first. Simply desolder it, take out the stabilizer bases, apply the lube as described above and reassemble everything again.
  • Costar stabilizers:
    Costar stabilizers work similar to Cherry stabilizers but are a bit easier to work with. First off you need to remove the wire from the stabilizer plate inserts, you can do this by pushing it down with a pen or something similar. If you use a sharp object be aware that you could scratch your plate. Now you can take out the inserts by pushing against the bottom side of the plate inserts. Take a small brush, pick up a bit of grease with it and lube the inner part of the clip that holds the stabilizer wire and the inside of the U-shape that acts as a guide for the keycap insert. You can also lube the inside of the keycap inserts.
Table of contents ▲

Clipping Cherry stabilizers

Table of contents ▲

Adding LEDs to a keyboard

Table of contents ▲

Swapping switches

Table of contents ▲

Switch modification: swapping springs

Table of contents ▲

Switch modification: switch stickers

Table of contents ▲

Switch modification: lubing switches

Table of contents ▲

Switch modification: trampoline mod

Table of contents ▲

Making sleeved USB cables

Table of contents ▲
« Last Edit: Sun, 08 June 2014, 16:13:50 by BlueBär »

Offline BlueBär

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Re: The Keyboard Modding Cookbook
« Reply #3 on: Mon, 26 May 2014, 09:43:14 »
-one for good measure-

Offline infiniti

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Re: The Keyboard Modding Cookbook
« Reply #4 on: Mon, 26 May 2014, 11:03:38 »
This is going to be cool! :thumb:

P.S. Want some pics to illustrate the one-part cases?  I can take some tomorrow.

Offline BlueBär

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Re: The Keyboard Modding Cookbook
« Reply #5 on: Mon, 26 May 2014, 11:26:23 »
This is going to be cool! :thumb:

P.S. Want some pics to illustrate the one-part cases?  I can take some tomorrow.

Sure! Any help is appreciated.

Offline rowdy

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Re: The Keyboard Modding Cookbook
« Reply #6 on: Mon, 26 May 2014, 15:05:28 »
Fantastic idea!

Suggestion: lock this thread (and delete the few unrelated posts).  Open a second thread for comments.  Then this thread can be the unmolested master cookbook thread, and people won't have to wade through pages of questions and off-topic banter to find information.
"Because keyboards are accessories to PC makers, they focus on minimizing the manufacturing costs. But that’s incorrect. It’s in HHKB’s slogan, but when America’s cowboys were in the middle of a trip and their horse died, they would leave the horse there. But even if they were in the middle of a desert, they would take their saddle with them. The horse was a consumable good, but the saddle was an interface that their bodies had gotten used to. In the same vein, PCs are consumable goods, while keyboards are important interfaces." - Eiiti Wada

NEC APC-H4100E | Ducky DK9008 Shine MX blue LED red | Ducky DK9008 Shine MX blue LED green | Link 900243-08 | CM QFR MX black | KeyCool 87 white MX reds | HHKB 2 Pro | Model M 02-Mar-1993 | Model M 29-Nov-1995 | CM Trigger (broken) | CM QFS MX green | Ducky DK9087 Shine 3 TKL Yellow Edition MX black | Lexmark SSK 21-Apr-1994 | IBM SSK 13-Oct-1987 | CODE TKL MX clear | Model M 122 01-Jun-1988

Ị̸͚̯̲́ͤ̃͑̇̑ͯ̊̂͟ͅs̞͚̩͉̝̪̲͗͊ͪ̽̚̚ ̭̦͖͕̑́͌ͬͩ͟t̷̻͔̙̑͟h̹̠̼͋ͤ͋i̤̜̣̦̱̫͈͔̞ͭ͑ͥ̌̔s̬͔͎̍̈ͥͫ̐̾ͣ̔̇͘ͅ ̩̘̼͆̐̕e̞̰͓̲̺̎͐̏ͬ̓̅̾͠͝ͅv̶̰͕̱̞̥̍ͣ̄̕e͕͙͖̬̜͓͎̤̊ͭ͐͝ṇ̰͎̱̤̟̭ͫ͌̌͢͠ͅ ̳̥̦ͮ̐ͤ̎̊ͣ͡͡n̤̜̙̺̪̒͜e̶̻̦̿ͮ̂̀c̝̘̝͖̠̖͐ͨͪ̈̐͌ͩ̀e̷̥͇̋ͦs̢̡̤ͤͤͯ͜s͈̠̉̑͘a̱͕̗͖̳̥̺ͬͦͧ͆̌̑͡r̶̟̖̈͘ỷ̮̦̩͙͔ͫ̾ͬ̔ͬͮ̌?̵̘͇͔͙ͥͪ͞ͅ

Offline BlueBär

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Re: The Keyboard Modding Cookbook
« Reply #7 on: Mon, 26 May 2014, 15:08:36 »
Fantastic idea!

Suggestion: lock this thread (and delete the few unrelated posts).  Open a second thread for comments.  Then this thread can be the unmolested master cookbook thread, and people won't have to wade through pages of questions and off-topic banter to find information.

Right now the threads are meant to have comments, when the new wiki is up things will be a bit different. For now 4 reserved posts that will get updated should be enough :thumb:

Offline rowdy

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Re: The Keyboard Modding Cookbook
« Reply #8 on: Mon, 26 May 2014, 15:16:34 »
Fantastic idea!

Suggestion: lock this thread (and delete the few unrelated posts).  Open a second thread for comments.  Then this thread can be the unmolested master cookbook thread, and people won't have to wade through pages of questions and off-topic banter to find information.

Right now the threads are meant to have comments, when the new wiki is up things will be a bit different. For now 4 reserved posts that will get updated should be enough :thumb:

Fair enough :)
"Because keyboards are accessories to PC makers, they focus on minimizing the manufacturing costs. But that’s incorrect. It’s in HHKB’s slogan, but when America’s cowboys were in the middle of a trip and their horse died, they would leave the horse there. But even if they were in the middle of a desert, they would take their saddle with them. The horse was a consumable good, but the saddle was an interface that their bodies had gotten used to. In the same vein, PCs are consumable goods, while keyboards are important interfaces." - Eiiti Wada

NEC APC-H4100E | Ducky DK9008 Shine MX blue LED red | Ducky DK9008 Shine MX blue LED green | Link 900243-08 | CM QFR MX black | KeyCool 87 white MX reds | HHKB 2 Pro | Model M 02-Mar-1993 | Model M 29-Nov-1995 | CM Trigger (broken) | CM QFS MX green | Ducky DK9087 Shine 3 TKL Yellow Edition MX black | Lexmark SSK 21-Apr-1994 | IBM SSK 13-Oct-1987 | CODE TKL MX clear | Model M 122 01-Jun-1988

Ị̸͚̯̲́ͤ̃͑̇̑ͯ̊̂͟ͅs̞͚̩͉̝̪̲͗͊ͪ̽̚̚ ̭̦͖͕̑́͌ͬͩ͟t̷̻͔̙̑͟h̹̠̼͋ͤ͋i̤̜̣̦̱̫͈͔̞ͭ͑ͥ̌̔s̬͔͎̍̈ͥͫ̐̾ͣ̔̇͘ͅ ̩̘̼͆̐̕e̞̰͓̲̺̎͐̏ͬ̓̅̾͠͝ͅv̶̰͕̱̞̥̍ͣ̄̕e͕͙͖̬̜͓͎̤̊ͭ͐͝ṇ̰͎̱̤̟̭ͫ͌̌͢͠ͅ ̳̥̦ͮ̐ͤ̎̊ͣ͡͡n̤̜̙̺̪̒͜e̶̻̦̿ͮ̂̀c̝̘̝͖̠̖͐ͨͪ̈̐͌ͩ̀e̷̥͇̋ͦs̢̡̤ͤͤͯ͜s͈̠̉̑͘a̱͕̗͖̳̥̺ͬͦͧ͆̌̑͡r̶̟̖̈͘ỷ̮̦̩͙͔ͫ̾ͬ̔ͬͮ̌?̵̘͇͔͙ͥͪ͞ͅ