As we publish more articles in the "Mech Keys How-To" series currently ongoing, navigating the various topics and finding previous articles will only become more difficult. This thread will serve as a table of contents to help add some structure to the whole project.
Feel free to also suggest future topics in this thread, as it will surely be easier to identify gaps and opportunities for further exploration when viewing everything as a whole.
Mechanical vs Membrane
Sizes and Layouts of Mechanical Keyboards
Short Intro Into Split Keyboards (dovenyi)
Staggered and Ortholinear Layouts
Low-Profile vs High-Profile Keyboard Designs
Build Materials and Other Case Design Considerations
Selecting Your First Mechanical Keyboard (The_Manic_Geek)
In Defense of MT3 (StoryBoardTech)
How To Design a GMK Keycap Set (GMK_Andy)
The GMK Color Matching Process (GMK_Andy)
Introduction to Mechanical...
Figure 1: While this is a good start from user destohfaeda, this isn't anywhere near complete...
After having collected switches for almost five consecutive years now, I can say with confidence that everything switch related comes and goes in ever-looping cycles. Strong tactile bumps towards the start of the downstroke were once novel and popular, faded out of the limelight over the past few years, and are only just now starting to make a comeback. Huge leaps in housing aesthetics happened back when the first custom colored MX-style switches began being offered in 2018, and now five years later these massive leaps in design capabilities are surging again. Even things contextually related to switches rotate around and around in cycles. One such switch-related phenomenon which repeats in a (much faster) loop is that of people wanting to make a complete list of “every switch ever”. Almost on a monthly basis for every single month since I started collecting, at least one new...
Getting good backlighting with CSTM and other south-mount keyboards
Drop's had a pretty good history of creating RGB-friendly keyboards. But even with the new south-mount CSTM keyboard line, it is possible to set up a reasonable backlit solution.
Just to get everyone on the same page, "north-mount" LEDs refers to LEDs positioned at the top of the switch socket, which requires mounting the switch with the LED "window" on top and the pins towards the bottom of the keyboard. With certain switches and keycaps, the keycap can contact the top of the switch, resulting in a bad typing feel.
"South-mount" switches have the LED on the bottom, allowing the switch the be rotated 180 degrees, with LED window on the bottom and pins on the top. This avoids the contact problem. These days, many switches have a shortened or hollow LED window, sidestepping the contact problem, but there is still a general preference towards south-mount.
Due to its "g4m3r" keyboard history, RGB backlighting has long had a bad rep with serious...
In defense of MT3, the most misunderstood and possibly greatest keycap profile.
Offices are tense spaces, there’s no way around it. Whether they’re silent, museum-like tombs or raucous zoos filled with energy. In this place of distraction, and often discomfort, it’s important to have tools that make you more efficient, comfortable and focused. Personally, I am lucky to work in a happy, healthy work environment with amazing coworkers, but my office is filled with distraction and on my best days it’s a challenging ecosystem in which to create.
I’ll be honest, I’m no gamer, and it wasn’t the speedy, silent linear switches or 8000Hz polling rates of gaming boards that drew me to this hobby. It was the spirit of clickety-clackety typewriters of the past and a desire to craft my words on a surface that deserved them… one that amplified my ideas and provided a comfy ambience that encouraged creativity.
I don’t feel old, and certainly don’t act old, but I’ve been a designer for 25 of my 43 years and in that whole time I’ve hated the keyboards I’ve used. With the...
Figure 1: A fantastic Kailh switch photo from Blitzenx51!
There’s any number of different details people look into when they’re trying to pick out switches for their next keyboard build. However, arguably none of them are as vague and mysterious as the materials used to make housings and stems. Yes, even as manufacturers are iffy about their spring weights and newer brands are sketchy about who actually made their switches, differentiating POM from Nylon from Polycarbonate remains to this day the least understood parts of mechanical keyboard switches. For what it’s worth, I don’t have a fix for that either. As someone who has completed a master’s degree in chemical engineering focusing on polymer science, I understand full well that attempting to reverse engineer the formulas of even the most simple keyboard switch materials would take months on end and nearly free-range access to numerous analytical instruments that companies simply won’t hand over to you. However, that...
As someone who has been writing documentation in the mechanical keyboard hobby space for many years now, I can say with utter confidence that there’s a lot of misinformation still floating around the hobby today. While some portion of these claims and community-wide thoughts can be traced back to dubious videos or posts that may as well have been carved into stone line by line, a good amount of the strange ideas still permeating throughout the hobby have come passed down in the form of community wisdom. Surely you recall your friend who got you into keyboards telling you to ‘Just do X’ or ‘Stay away from Y because of Z’, right? More likely than not, that is the same wisdom that their friend who got them into the hobby first shared with them several years ago. As you can probably put together, this mechanical keyboard-themed telephone game has led to quite some prolific ideas being spread over the years that are completely detached from reality. These tall tales, blatant lies, and...
In case you didn't catch it, we at Drop are about to launch our very first reverse dye-sub keycap set, Extended 2048 Dark (Studio Story). This is an exciting new process to add to the portfolio and opens up a lot of doors for colorways that weren't previously a possibility for us. In order to fully communicate what to expect when the keycaps hit your doorstep or mailbox, we wanted to create this thread to detail realistic expectations for reverse dye-sub keycap sets.
We have stringent quality control in place to ensure that defective or sub-standard products are not shipped to customers. However, due to the unique nature of the reverse dye-sub process and challenges that it presents (see the Story post), there may be inherent qualities to the product that appear to be non-perfect but are within the bounds of acceptable quality standards.
Here are some examples of what may be observed
Wall scratches may appear if keycaps rub against each other during transit. Note that we will...
If you think keyboard customization is mostly about switches and keycaps, let me draw your attention to the extraordinary – and often extraordinarily overlooked – split and ergonomic keyboards.
Splits may look weird and scary for the uninitiated, but the scene is thriving for a good reason. The fact that split keyboards are all over nowadays makes it even stranger that many people, myself included, may discover them only after typing on classic keyboards for decades. On my blog I've been featuring them for years, literally hundreds of them, so I'm very excited to have the opportunity to be your guide into the world of split keyboards.
One obvious answer would be ergonomics, but this could be misleading. Sure, people with existing health issues (RSI, carpal tunnel syndrome) may try to alleviate discomfort or pain developed on classic keyboards by turning to splits, while some others use them as a preventive measure. However, an even larger segment of split...
One of the most time-honored traditions of the mechanical keyboard community are the in-person meetups hosted all over the world each year. Unlike video game communities or trading card games, there’s neither a regular weekly meeting schedule nor a large, once-per-year type convention hall that packs every keyboard enthusiast together under one roof. Instead, usually once per year people at a state, regional, or even country-wide level gather for a grassroots organized keyboard meetup bringing keyboards, artisans, and nearly everything they have keyboard related to show off and share with other people in the hobby. Whether its organized by a few outstanding, well known community members or put on by a keyboard vendor, these meetups are almost always an amazing opportunity to get to meet other people you only know from behind a screen and to try out a bunch of keyboards, keycaps, and switches you’d otherwise have to sink money into trying out. And for those of you who have never made...
Image Credit: @Tracipang
For being one of the big three types of mechanical keyboard switches, clicky switches are often incredibly underrepresented in discussions about switches at large. Whether this is a function of them seemingly being sought after more by beginners or because of clickies’ less than stellar performance notes historically, this lack of adequate discussion often leads to newer users having a complete lack of understanding of what actually makes a clicky switch clicky and how to differentiate them. Pile on the fact that the recent year or so of releases have seen a massive uptick in the variations in clicky switch designs, and even just clicky switches on their own can be a daunting challenge for people to pull apart. In order to help establish a decent base of knowledge for people interested in clickies to start out with, I figured a brief overview of the two main types of clicky switches would be useful. (As for the other half dozen or so types, I’ll...
Admittedly, I’ve not covered much in the way of ‘frankenswitches’ either here on Drop or over on my own website where I do full length switch reviews. While part of this is because there’s already way too much variety in factory-made switches out there that I still need to cover, a much larger part of this is due to the fact that the number of frankenswitches is borderline endless at this point. Frankenswitching, for those of you who don’t know, is the act of mixing and matching parts between various types of switches in order to provide a unique combination of aesthetics, performance, or a bit of both that you simply couldn’t get elsewhere in a stock switch. Combine this idea with the fact that there are well over a thousand different MX-style switches which in theory have interchangeable parts, and you can see why I refer to this list as practically endless.
Figure 1: Not quite the monster movie that goes with 'frankenswitch', but ol' Dracula and his frankenswitches just...
Okay, so you got a new macro pad, it’s working fine, but now you want to customize the keymap/layout a bit. Where do you even start?
Image credit: @HoffmanMyster
“Mapping” refers to the relational ‘map’ between the physical keys on a keyboard and the signals sent to the computer or device when a key or key combination is pressed. For most non-mechanical keyboards, this mapping is rigid and cannot be modified. Custom keyboards and most popular mechanical keyboards can be remapped using keymapping software—sometimes proprietary, especially for the latter category of brands like Logitech or Razer. We are more interested in custom boards and other offerings that do support more keymapping customization.
Arguably the “default” and most common software solution for custom keymapping is QMK, with QMK Toolbox as their software interface to flash custom mappings. QMK is incredibly powerful, but it does have two fairly major drawbacks—it’s not newcomer-friendly...
New Feature—Product Tagging in Photos (+ Giveaway!)
Hey everyone! After a successful pre-launch for Keyboard Club members, we are ready to roll out a new feature site-wide (with a bonus giveaway for those who contribute!).
Check out all the Battlestations submissions thus far! Mech Keys Battlestations
What’s this about a giveaway?
More details can be found at the end! The short version: we will be giving away two $100 Drop Rewards credits to participating users who contribute and tag their Mech Keys photos using the Battlestations flair! In order to be eligible for giveaway prizes, your photo must include at least two tagged items (not required to be Drop products—see Tagging Non-Drop Products below).
▪️ Random - selected in a raffle format; each Battlestation post submitted grants one entry into the raffle
▪️ Best Photo - selected by a committee of community members known for their incredible photography work as well as contributions to the community; criteria is ultimately up to the judges, including...
Keyboard switch lubricants. If you thought people’s variation in opinions on switches was too wide to pin down a cohesive idea of what is good and what is bad, then you clearly have never tried asking people about their favorite lube for switches. Since the very beginning of modifying mechanical keyboard switches, everyone and anyone who has ever done this, even once, will have the most detailed, intricate, and sworn-too response as to what lubricant goes with what switch, why Brand A is better than Brand B, and so on. As someone who cares way too much about switches and has spent more than his fair share of time modifying them as well, I can with confidence say that 95% of these opinions, deep articles on comparing lubes, and all the niche cases people ascribe to them are actually useless. The vast majority of people wanting to read an article or watch a video about lubing switches likely haven’t spent enough time with them to develop a super informed opinion on them, and I think...
The Three Categories of Prebuilt Keyboard Switches
While many people joined the mechanical keyboard hobby over the course of the past couple of years, I’ve been lucky enough to have been around to see all of the changes that have followed this surge in popularity. One of the undeniably best changes that has come about as a result of the COVID-based surge in mechanical keyboards is the sheer quality and number of prebuilt options that are available on the market today. Whereas back when I first started the hobby, you’d pick up something like an Obins Anne Pro, DAS Keyboard, or maybe even a Leopold, there are now at least a dozen different brands I can think of off of the top of my head besides these three which are still around as well. However, it’s at least evident to me that not all of these mechanical keyboards are created equally. Knowing full well that the hobby can be daunting to those just now joining, I suspect that the nuances between some of these brands may not be the most evident. So, let’s go through a quick rundown of...
If you’re in this hobby long enough, you’ll eventually encounter a set of stabilizers (stabs) that, for reasons you can’t quite explain, will not stop rattling or ticking! Even if you followed all of the best practices we previously outlined, and memorized our stabilizer tuning guide, you may still run into a set of stabilizers that doesn’t seem to want to behave. Today, we’re going to clarify the specific functionality of a stabilizer, and demystify what can cause stabilizer issues, split into the three main things that can cause them: the keycap, the switch, or the stabilizer, itself. Bear in mind that while many of these things CAN cause an issue, not all of them are curable through traditional means, so stay with us as we walk you through what can cause stabilizer tuning issues! If some of these don’t seem to be happening with your keyboard, or you’ve encountered SEVERAL ISSUES AT ONCE, we’ll cover that at the end as well.
As always, if you have anything...
Let’s face it – everything in the world today revolves around brand names. The clothes have to be Supreme or Gucci, the cars have to be Lamborghinis or Porsches, and the cereal better have Toucan Sam on it, or I will go hungry all day. While a lot of these brands have become ingrained into every facet of our lives thanks to social media, television, etc., many people don’t realize just how foreign the appeal of some of these brands would be if we weren’t overly invested in fashion, cars, or breakfast cereals. In much the same way, when people begin stepping into the mechanical keyboard scene they lose complete bearing on what brands represent what. The matter is only further compounded with switches, which have nearly exploded in popularity and number of releases in recent years. So, while I may not be able to give you all of the ins and outs of every single manufacturer out there, here’s an arbitrary amount of the most common brand names in switches that you should be aware of...
One of the most important aspect of designing a keycap set is the color selection and subsequent color matching process. Without a solid combination of colors that resonates with the community, a set is almost certainly destined for obscurity, or even at risk of not being manufactured at all. The entire process is also one of the few steps that can really derail a set’s production estimate. In this post I hope to shed some light on the color selection and matching process from start to finish and give plenty of tips along the way to ensure that this step will go as smoothly as possible for anyone that plans on designing a GMK keycap set.
The first, and often overlooked step, is to calibrate your monitor(s)! If you’re like me and not a graphic designer by trade, chances are that you leave your monitor in some kind of gaming mode, or eye comfort mode, and not setup to give the most accurate color reproduction. Another good thing to do is check your work on multiple devices or...
I don’t like the phrase “it should go without saying”; if that were the case, there would be so many things that never got mentioned, and a lot of things we’d get wrong because of it. This is also true when building your custom mechanical keyboard: there’s a multitude of best practices out there that can, and will, help guide you towards a cleanly built, good-sounding board and an overall positive experience, provided someone *tells* you what those are. Here are some that “should go without saying”, but will be said anyway for those who are new to the hobby, or just getting back in after some time away!
We’ll be focusing on hotswap mechanical keyboards, as those are by and large the most popular kind of PCB for newcomers and veterans alike, though many of our practices will still apply to soldered builds as well. As always, if there’s anything you feel we missed and would like to add, or need further clarification on, feel free to leave a comment below!
Check All Parts Before...
Springs. There’s countless instances of these simple machines all over the place in our daily lives, and even in the nightmares of those who have braved physics courses in their times. Unlike some of the more obvious day to day appearances of springs, I think that many people newer to the mechanical keyboard hobby would be shocked to hear just how important of a role springs play in their custom builds. While switch springs are capable of affecting all sorts of characteristics such as stem wobble, switch sound, and even the tactility in some switches, at the most fundamental level springs are what are responsible for giving each keystroke its weight and heft. You can radically change your keyboard’s feeling just by swapping to springs just a few grams lighter or heavier.
Image Credit: @Miroboru
Typically, switch springs are sold already pre-installed with only a few numbers to denote them on a switch’s sales page. While it is fairly common to find switch springs sold...
When considering which aftermarket keycap set to get, there can be many different factors to consider. We’ve already discussed the different materials that keycaps can be made from, and of course there is the obvious colorway consideration, but what about the shape of the individual keycaps themselves?
In the early days of the enthusiast keyboard hobby, there were extremely limited options available for aftermarket keycap sets. Unicomp was making replacement keycap sets for buckling spring keyboards and Signature Plastics was making keycap sets compatible with MX switches (GMK had not yet become an option to the enthusiast market - that would come a couple years later).
Now, though? You’d be easily forgiven for being overwhelmed by the number of options available on the market at this point.
Let’s walk through the characteristics that define the various profiles, and cover some of the major profiles you’ll come across.
▪️ Keycap Shape (Spherical, Cylindrical, Flat)