Keyboard DIYing is shifting outdoors hobbyist circles—and that’s factor

Customiznig a mechanical keyboard

Scharon Harding

Final week, I visited a buddy and, for the primary time, noticed a mechanical keyboard on her desk. That is somebody I’ve identified for many years and who’s not into tech, so this was a shock. However her job grew to become partially distant for the reason that top of the COVID-19 pandemic, so she wanted one thing comfy with a numpad to make use of at residence. The keyboard was an inexpensive, fast purchase off Amazon that earned its hold by wanting cute and being “so clicky,” she knowledgeable me.

My buddy is not alone in her newfound use of mechanical switches. Demand for extra tactile and sturdy typing, gaming, and quantity crunching has led to prebuilt mechanical keyboards being extremely simple to search out. And whereas they will nonetheless be extraordinarily expensive, newcomers like my buddy are capable of finding sub-$100 choices that fanatics might scoff at however nonetheless symbolize an improve over a membrane or laptop computer keyboard.

This widespread acceptance of mechanical keyboards has led to a good deeper nook of the interest getting extra consideration of late: DIY customization.

Greatest Purchase on the bandwagon

On Thursday, peripheral-maker Wonderful introduced that its merchandise had hit Greatest Purchase, one of many hearts of world electronics retail. Along with prebuilt keyboards, Wonderful’ Greatest Purchase format contains equipment for individuals fascinated about constructing or tweaking their mechanical keyboard, together with barebones kits, high plates, a rotary knob, removable cables, keycaps, mechanical switches, and even a lube package.

Greatest Purchase has bought prebuilt mechanical keyboards for some time, however this addition provides its stock a DIY enhance that wasn’t current earlier than (save for a number of cables and keycaps) and differs from different big-name retailers. Walmart, for instance, does not promote keyboard kits, cable, or lube or mechanical switches immediately on-line (you may get them off Walmart’s web site from third-party sellers, although); though, the corporate does promote one set of keycaps.

You can now buy a switch lube kit from Best Buy.
Enlarge / Now you can purchase a swap lube package from Greatest Purchase.

This is not about lauding Greatest Purchase. In truth, its stock is clearly constructed round its retail partnerships quite than providing the very best, or perhaps a numerous, choice to keyboard fanatics. However the addition of keyboard customization merchandise like these is an indication of the expansion of mechanical keyboards.

And for these new to the interest and people already elbow-deep in switches, stabilizers, and Krytox lube, this can be a good factor.

From keycaps and past

Greatest Purchase’s Wonderful partnership is only one of some current indicators of keyboard customization shifting past tight hobbyist circles. Extra mainstream corporations promoting prebuilt mechanical keyboards, equivalent to Logitech or Razer, usually do not anticipate you to change their {hardware}. Most of their keyboards have soldered-down switches that might be very laborious to vary, and the distributors do not encourage you to take away their keycaps, until they promote keycaps themselves. In case you determined you need some new colours in your keyboard, they’d be completely satisfied to promote you a completely new board.

In 2021, I noticed a notable signal of keyboard customization getting broader consideration when HyperX, a extra acquainted title for PC avid gamers that is now owned by HP, introduced a homegrown keyboard that got here with two spacebar keycaps: one which was plain black like the remainder, and one with a swirly, etched-in design. Not solely was HyperX encouraging customers to consider altering the look of their keyboard, it was together with the fundamental instruments (a keycap puller and additional keycap) wanted to get the tinkering going totally free.

HyperX's Alloy Origins 60 comes with the decorated spacebar keycap pictured, plus a solid-colored one.
Enlarge / HyperX’s Alloy Origins 60 comes with the embellished spacebar keycap pictured, plus a solid-colored one.

HyperX seemingly acquired the concept for this from Ducky, a extra area of interest however beloved model amongst mechanical keyboard followers. The HyperX Alloy Origins 60 got here out the 12 months after the HyperX x Ducky One 2 Mini, which additionally included an in depth spacebar keycap.

Asus can also be encouraging keyboard customers to get extra finicky about their keyboard. In January, it introduced the ROG Azoth wi-fi mechanical keyboard that comes with a swap lube package with a swap opener and puller, keycap puller, lube station and brush, and bottle of Krytox GPL-205-GD0.

The ROG Azoth with its include lube kit, plus switch testers.
Enlarge / The ROG Azoth with its embody lube package, plus swap testers.


The ROG Azoth product web page says it needs to “get learners began on keyboard DIY.” The keyboard has the potential to get individuals who by no means thought of the smoothness or sound of their switches to begin doing so. It additionally provides homeowners who’ve thought of lubing mechanical switches however weren’t prepared to purchase the instruments free incentive to offer it a go.

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