The Best Budget Keyboard for Beginners - How to Build Your First Custom Mechanical Keyboard
Building your own mechanical keyboard seems daunting, but it can actually be simple and budget-friendly with the right guidance. This article will walk you through how total beginners can choose, build, and customize their first keyboard in just a couple hours.
Finding Your Preferred Keyboard Type
The first step is figuring out what type of keyboard switches you like best - linear, tactile or clicky. If you can, try out mechanical keyboards at a local store to get a feel for them.
Linear switches have a smooth, consistent keypress without bumps. Tactile switches have a noticeable bump halfway through the keypress. Clicky switches make an audible click when actuated.
Most beginners prefer lighter, linear switches for gaming and typing. But you may find you like heavier, clickier switches - trying them out is the best way to choose.
Choosing the Right Layout and Size
Next, consider the keyboard layout and size you need. Full-size (100%) keyboards have a number pad, while tenkeyless (80%) keyboards omit it. Smaller 65% and 60% keyboard layouts remove more keys for portability.
If you play games, having arrow keys on a 65% or 75% keyboard is useful. For lots of typing, some people prefer a full-size or tenkeyless board. There are also different form factors like columnar stagger keyboards.
Keyboard Sizes & Layouts
Building Your First Switch
Once you get your keyboard kit, it's time for the fun part - building it! For beginners, a hotswap keyboard that doesn't require soldering is recommended.
Opening switches and lubing them is the most time-consuming step. We'll go over the basics, but for full tutorials, check out Hippie Tech's videos.
Use a switch opener to gently open your switches without damaging them. Apply a thin, even coat of lube to the stem and housing to reduce friction and improve sound/feel. Go easy on the lube - more isn't better here!
Reassemble the switches and insert them into the keyboard plate and PCB. Be gentle to avoid bending pins. For stabilizer keys, you can lube them following tutorials.
Customizing Your Keyboard with Keycaps
Part of the fun of building a mechanical keyboard is making it your own with cool keycaps. Most keycap sets support standard layouts, but make sure before buying!
Try out different keycap profiles to find ones you like. Look for durable materials like PBT plastic rather than ABS. Thick, high-quality PBT keycaps have a great feel and signature "thock" sound.
Vibrant color schemes like primary colors, anime themes, or retro looks are popular. But minimalist styles are also nice. Experiment to find your style!
Speedrunning a Pro Keyboard Build
The video showcases building a complete custom keyboard in just 1.5 hours with the NJ80 75% kit. This proves creating your mechanical masterpiece doesn't have to take forever.
By preparing parts beforehand and following guides, first-timers can assemble their own high-quality keyboard with custom switches, stabilizers, layout, and keycaps relatively quickly. Post your completed builds online to show off your work!
The world of custom mechanical keyboards is creative and fun to dive into. Don't be intimidated - with a bit of research and the right parts, building your ideal keyboard is very achievable even for total beginners. What will you create?