31 July 2017
Custom Cherry MX Keyboard
You have probably heard of mechanical keyboards and keyboards with Cherry MX switches in particular. These keyboards are often very high quality and last you for decades if not for a lifetime. Considering how much time I spend in front of the computer, I wanted to buy one years ago. However, what irked me was that there weren't any keyboards with Cherry MX brown switches and Swiss layout, which is the exact setup I want. I settled for a Das Keyboard with completely black keys - better no layout than a wrong one, right?
As soon as I got it, I realised how much I still looked down at the keys, even if I was under the impression that I got my typing completely down to muscle memory. The black keys were a tremendous help to truly make me able to write blindly. I also realised how important the little bumps on the 'F' and the 'J' keys were - without them, my fingers couldn't orient themselves once I put them on the keyboard. Other problems cropped up: There was no way to make sure I typed the right password because I could neither see the keys nor my input inside the password field because the characters are just turned into black placeholders. I typed the passwords out in Notepad and pasted them over into the browser if I had to make sure I got it right to avoid being locked out of my account because of too many login attempts. Programming, of course, uses many special symbols and these are all over the keyboard - not easy to keep in muscle memory and I often made typos.
After a few years, I had enough of the blank keycaps and wanted to get keycaps with Swiss layout - but the problem remained, there was no keyboard with brown Cherry MX switches and Swiss layout (I think this type of keyboard has slowly started to appear in our shops now). That is when http://www.wasdkeyboards.com/ came to the rescue, a company that sells custom Cherry MX keycaps. You can just order your preferred layout and even choose the colour of each individual key and the symbol that is printed on it! I think this is a fantastic company, and that is not a sponsored message, that is how I genuinely feel about it. I ordered a set of 105 Cherry MX keyboard keys from their website, along with dampener rings. The order arrived surprisingly quickly for a transatlantic one. I couldn't wait to install them on my keyboard.
The keys came packaged in the corresponding rows of the keyboard. All the pieces were without fault. To the left, there is a keycap puller which was included in the package. With this tool, it is much easier to remove the old keys from the keyboard. The red rings are dampener rings, they are pushed over the stem of the keycap and reduce noise and make the key bottom out softer.
Removing the all-black keys, exposing the Cherry MX brown switches (and a lot of dust that accumulated over the years)
All the keys are removed and the keyboard is cleaned. Notice the 7 bigger keys Space, Shift, Enter (left), Backspace, 0, +, Enter (right) which require wires to be held in place properly. These were a bit delicate to remove. The easiest way seems to be to pull them carefully with the keycap puller until the stem is disconnected from the switch and they are only attached to the keyboard through the wire, then it is possible to pull the key to one side of the wire and slide the other side of the wire out of the hole.
I did the 7 large, difficult keys first because without the other keys, I had the most space to put them onto the wire safely. I noticed that it is really difficult to remove one of the new keycaps once they are firmly pushed onto the switch because it is such a firm fit. I read up on this and the official response of wasdkeyboards was that this is normal when the keys are brand new - as time goes on, they will loosen up a little and this effect will disappear. I can confirm this, that is exactly what happened after a few months of using it. Overall, I am impressed by the tolerances.
Almost done! I chose Tux, the Linux mascot, as the icon on the start buttons, isn't that nice?
The final layout of my custom Swiss layout Das Keyboard! I am happy with how it turned out. This is what a proper keyboard should look like.
(no comments yet)