Consoles are complex monsters, despite their simple appearance. Once you open your case of Worms Custom Mechanical Keyboards, you will quickly become an expert on the subtle differences between keycaps, switches, and everything in between. If you want a keyboard that can put the best mechanical keyboards to shame, you need to create your own.
Building your own keyboard is not expensive
There’s one reason most people stick with mainstream consoles: building your own is very expensive, or at least that’s how the story goes. While it’s hard to make a keyboard for the same price as something like the HyperX Alloy Origins Core, it’s nothing more than buying a high-end gaming keyboard.
The personal keyboard (above) cost me about $250. That’s a lot, but no more than the wired Asus ROG Strix Flare II Animate, and for the same price as Logitech’s popular G915 TKL. and you get Much More for your money. If a mainstream brand like Corsair, Logitech, or Asus released a keyboard that could go from finger to toe with one you built yourself, it would be $400 or $500. easy.
But in this way, building a keyboard is not the same as building a personal computer. It’s not about making something cheap and incomplete. Building your own keyboard is all about putting together something unlike anything you could find in the keyboard world – from the amazing customization that is offered to the high-end build quality.
There are more options than ever to build a keyboard now, too. For years, we’ve been limited to Cherry MX switches and derivatives, as well as groupsets that cost several hundred dollars on their own. The influx of new brands such as Akko is selling spare parts at a much lower price, which significantly lowers the entry barrier. There has never been a better time to dive in.
Choose your base
The construction of the keyboard begins with a base. If this is your first time, I highly recommend starting with a DIY kit so you can get your keyboard up and running right away. These kits come with all the basic components you need, and they always allow you to customize the kit with your own parts after you’re done.
Here are some of the groups I recommend:
- – A go-to DIY kit to design your own keyboard with premium features and build quality. This is what I use.
- Akko ACR Pro 75 – An excellent DIT kit with an acrylic frame, much less than the GMMK Pro.
- Drop CTRL – Well built and will last for years, but more expensive than it should be.
- – Basic version of GMMK Pro with fewer features but the same excellent build quality.
From about $50 to about $200, DIY kits cover the entire price range. And for good reason. Before purchasing your DIY kit, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind.
The first is how to install the board on the frame. Most of the cheaper kits and almost all mainstream mechanical keyboards use a pad mount – that is, the keyboard is attached directly to the frame. More premium groupsets like the Akko ACR Pro 75 and GMMK Pro use a gasket holder instead, which places a small gasket between the switch plate and the frame. I prefer the gasket fitting because it provides a slightly softer typing experience. You may come across a few other types of easel, but most of them are variations of the standard plate stand.
Otherwise, consider your desired form factor. I don’t like full size keyboards, so I gravitate towards 60% or 70% of the options, but it all comes down to personal preference. you have Much More options when creating your own keyboard, so take some time to research the form factor you want.
Finally, look at the material your keyboard uses for the board. You can usually swap out the board later, so don’t worry too much about getting it right right away. You can find aluminum, copper, and even acrylic plates, all of which provide a slightly different sound and writing experience.
Once you have your kit of tools, it’s time to turn your keyboard into a keyboard with some keys.
Keys make the difference
The switches you use are very important when creating your own keyboard, so it’s important to find the right ones for you. Find writing examples on YouTube, read reviews, and try not to get too involved in the specs. You can usually order testers for a few dollars to try the switches before you buy them as well.
In general, switches are divided into two types: linear and tactile. You’ll need a linear key for gaming and a tactile key for typing, although you can certainly switch between playing and typing with either one. It comes down to preference, as it usually is.
Here are some of the switches I recommend for gaming:
- Perfect replacement for Cherry MX Red switches.
- Ultra-lightweight, hand-lubricated linear wrench.
- – Much heavier key which is great for gamers and typewriters.
And for the writing fanatics:
- Hand-oiled touch keys have a very satisfactory tone crash sound while writing.
- Heavier keys that have a noticeable bump early in the press. Definitely for heavy-handed writers.
- Very loud key click. Great if you like tap keyboards, but bad for the office.
Hand-lubricated keys are the way to go if you can get hold of them. Factory lubrication is very inconsistent, so you’ll need to manually look for wrenches that have been lubricated if you can. You can also buy a kit to do it yourself, or you can ditch the lubrication altogether. Some people prefer to try typing with the loose keys anyway.
The main thing to pay attention to is the number of pins that the key has. You’ll usually find 3-pin and 5-pin switches, but they’re basically the same. 5-pin switches add a pair of plastic posts to hold the switch, but you can cut these bits if your keyboard only holds a 3-pin switch.
Make it your own
Now for the fun part: making the keyboard for you. Style points are important when building your own keyboard, so take some time to find the keycaps you want, the cable to match your theme, and the lighting that brings it all together.
Keycaps are a personal endeavor, and many of the sets are limited edition versions that you only have a short time to purchase. Rather than recommending specific combinations, here are a few places I recommend shopping for your keycaps:
- Drop – Expensive, but cool keys with lots of unique themes and shapes. If you have the money, this is where you want to shop.
- Osume – Simple keycaps are only available in limited editions. It looks great and feels a little pricey.
- Akko – Akko keycaps are inexpensive and not quite as beautiful as the first two options, but you will find many unique designs that you won’t see anywhere else.
- Amazon – Amazon is a great place to shop for inexpensive keycaps, but you may have to deal with quality issues such as fuzzy legends or durability depending on which kit you choose.
There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing your keycaps. First, try to find PBT keycaps if you can. ABS keycaps have a better color, but they wear out over time. PBT keycaps will last longer, but feel free to use ABS if you want something a little more glowy. Try picking up thicker keycaps if you can find them as well.
Outside of the article, look at how to attach keycap legends. You want either dyed or double-fired Legends, if possible, as they provide the best protection for Legends over a long period of heavy use. Laser-etched keycaps are also an option if you want RGB lighting to shine through, although it will wear out faster.
Finally, look at the keycaps you will need for your keyboard. Lots of combinations have different form factors for function keys like control And the alternative , So you may need to purchase a separate set if your set is not the right size.
Outside the keycaps, the cable brings the look of the keyboard together. Nothing special here to be noticed outside of picking up the right cable for the keyboard. Glorious and Drop both have several coiled cables in different color options, although they are a bit pricey. If you are trying to save, you can always use any old cable.
A journey, not a destination
You’ve only scratched the surface of your keyboard building world. Just like building a computer, you can keep upgrading, swapping, and customizing your keyboard over time. This is the idea. Build something now to your budget and needs, but know that you can always make changes in the future.
Nothing you do is fixed, which adds great value to your up-front purchases. Again, you’re not just buying one product – it’s a platform you can build on in the future.