Building Your Own Custom Mechanical Keyboard From Barebone Kit
For those interested in customizing their typing experience, assembling your own mechanical keyboard can be a fun and rewarding project. With the right parts and some technical know-how, you can build a keyboard tailored exactly to your preferences. In this article, we’ll walk through the process of assembling your own mechanical keyboard from a barebone kit.
What is a Barebone Keyboard Kit?
A barebone keyboard kit contains all the essential components needed to build a working mechanical keyboard. This includes the plastic case, printed circuit board (PCB), mounting plate, and necessary small parts like screws.
Barebone kits allow you to choose your own switches and keycaps to customize the look and feel of your keyboard. The PCB has pre-soldered components and contact points for installing switches. Some soldering may be required for certain PCB designs.
Popular GMK67 Barebone Kit
Parts Needed to Build Your Custom Mechanical Keyboard
In addition to the barebone kit, you’ll need to purchase:
- Switches - These determine the keypress feel and sound. Popular options include Cherry MX, Gateron and Kailh switches. Each has distinct characteristics.
- Keycaps - These fit onto switches to provide the typed characters. Look for quality thick ABS or PBT plastic sets with legending that won’t fade.
- Keycap puller - To safely remove keycaps from switches without damaging them.
- Switch puller - To remove switches from the PCB if needed.
- Soldering iron and solder - May be required depending on PCB design to solder switches.
- Screwdriver - For assembling the case and accessing components.
- USB cable - To connect finished keyboard to computer.
Advanced Keycap Puller
Step-by-Step Assembly Instructions
- Unpack all components from the barebone kit and other purchased parts. Refer to kit instructions for included contents.
- Prepare the keyboard case by installing screws, standoffs and rubber feet as needed.
- Insert stabilizer bars into the PCB and plate for larger keys like spacebar. Clip onto switches later.
- Place plate into bottom case. Line up screw holes. Temporarily install a few screws to hold in place.
- Install switches into designated spots on PCB by pressing firmly into hotswap sockets or soldering pins.
- Fasten PCB and plate into bottom case using all screws. Check alignments.
- Insert keycaps onto switches. Use keycap puller to avoid damaging. Customize layout as desired.
- Connect PCB to computer with USB cable. Test that all keys register properly.
- Snap top case onto assembled keyboard. Add additional customizations like wrist rest.
- Download firmware customization software to program layers, lighting, macros and more.
Troubleshooting Common Mechanical Keyboard Issues
Building a keyboard yourself can introduce potential issues. Here are some common problems and solutions:
- Unresponsive keys - Check switch solder joints or connection to PCB sockets. Examine switch pins.
- Chattering/double typing - Clean debris from switches with air duster. Replace faulty switches.
- LEDs not working - Ensure LED pins are soldered correctly and positioned right.
- Weird key mappings - Flash updated firmware or modify default layout in software.
- Non-functional layers/macros - Verify custom keymaps in firmware editor and flash board again.
Take the time to carefully test each key and component. Seek help from online keyboard communities if you get stuck.
Customizing Your Keyboard with Keycaps, Switches and More
The benefit of hand-building your own keyboard is the ability to fully customize it. Here are some popular customization options:
- Switch choice - Select linear, tactile or clicky mechanical switches based on feel preference. Swap them out anytime.
- Custom Keycaps - Choose color schemes and material. Get custom keycap sets with icons or designs.
- Case mods - Paint or hydrodip cases for unique looks. Add internal padding for acoustics.
- Cables - Coiled or colorful custom cables are an aesthetic addition. With USB-C support.
- Underglow - Diffused RGB lighting underneath for fun effects. Often DIY or kit installed.
- Artisan keycaps - Handmade resin keycaps to highlight certain keys like Esc or WASD keys.
Keyboard with Custom Keycaps Installed
Building your own mechanical keyboard lets you tweak every aspect of the typing experience. From the sound profile to the RGB lighting, you’re in full control. Follow this guide to assemble your custom keyboard successfully. Just get a barebone kit, essential components and dive into creating your ideal typing machine.