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 caseTwo 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.pngOne 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 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 ▲
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 ▲
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 ▲
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
Cherry stabilizers to Costar ones.
Here is a short list of keyboards and their mounting method and stabilizer type:
|Keyboard||Switch mounting type||Stabilizer type|
|Cherry G80||PCB mounted||Cherry stabilizer|
|CM Storm||Plate mounted||Costar stabilizer|
|Corsair||Plate mounted||Costar stabilizer|
|Ducky||Plate mounted||Cherry stabilizer|
|Filco||Plate mounted||Costar stabilizer|
|KBC Poker/Poker X||PCB mounted||Cherry stabilizer|
|KBC Poker II||Plate mounted||Cherry stabilizer|
|KBP V60||Plate mounted||Cherry stabilizer|
|KBT Pure||PCB mounted||Cherry stabilizer|
|KBT Pure Pro||Plate mounted||Cherry stabilizer|
|KBT Race||PCB mounted||Cherry stabilizer|
|Keycool 84||Plate mounted||Costar stabilizer|
|Noppoo Choc Mini||Plate mounted||Costar style stabilizer|
|Razer||Plate mounted||Costar 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 featuresTable of contents ▲