Whether you’re using a cheap Chinese branded keyboard or a full-blown custom keyboard that costs you $1000 to build, there will always be room for improvement with some new keyboard mods. So, what are you waiting for? Grab your keyboard, take those keycaps off, and let’s get modding!
There are a couple of routes you can go to when it comes to modding your keyboards. Some mods make your keyboard look better. Some make your keyboard feel better to type on. Some make your keyboard sound better. I recommend that you focus on one goal when doing your first mods, but if you’re a mad lad, you can mod everything at once.
Oh, it’s also great if you mod your keyboard while you’re building it to save some time and effort. But for now, here are some of the essential mods that everyone should do.
Alright, alright, get your dirty minds straight, there is really such a thing as switch lubing, and guess what? It’s arguably the best thing that you can do to your keyboard. Switch lubing is best done for linear switches like Cherry MX Blacks and Gateron Yellows. Since linears are designed to be smooth, using lube will only make things better and it’ll give you that sweet thock as a bonus.
Lubing tactile switches like Cherry MX Browns can be great since lube eliminates the scratchiness of tactile switches. Of course, not all switches will benefit from lubing, clicky switches like Cherry MX Blues will not benefit from lube at all since clicky switches have loose parts inside, and lubing them will just make things inconsistent and make it feel worse.
Let’s talk about the things you’ll need, and we’ll get to lubing your switches right after that.
Things you need:
- Lube (I recommend Krytox 205g0 for linear switches and Krytox GPL105 for tactile switches.)
- A small paintbrush
- Switch opener (you can also use a flathead screwdriver or your fingers)
- Keycap and Switch pullers
- Switch stem holder (you can also use tweezers)
- Switch lube station (optional)
- How to lube switches
Before anything, here are the different parts of a mechanical keyboard switch:
How to Lube Switches
- Take your keycaps and switches off. This step should be easy if you have a hot-swappable keyboard. If not, well, start desoldering each switch early since it’ll take a while.
- Take each switch apart. If you have a switch opener, all you need to do is press the switch on the switch opener and you’ll be able to easily pull the upper housing up. If you don’t have a switch opener, you can use a screwdriver or a sharp flat tool to pry the housing legs up. You can watch this video to help you out:
- Before starting, I recommend that you open all your switches first and put them on a lubing station.
- To actually lube your switches, all you need is to get a bit of lube with your brush and simply brush the sides of the stem, and the inside walls of the upper housing which the stem also makes contact with. Remember to use the thicker Krytox 205g0 lube on linear switches, and use something thinner like Krytox GPL105 on tactile switches. Be careful about lubing the bump on a tactile switch stem, that’s the part that makes the switch tactile. Don’t lube that part if you want to keep as much tactility as possible.
- You can also lube the spring but use a thinner lube.
- After everything’s lubed, reassemble the switches.
- Install switches on PCB. Remember to resolder correctly if you’re not using a hot-swap keyboard.
Lubing your switches might make most of your switches feel significantly better, but there are some keys that require more attention. Those are the space, backspace, shift, and enter keys. These are stabilized keys, meaning they have stabilizers to keep them balanced.
The stock stabilizers that come with the keyboard are usually crappy. They’ll feel and sound scratchy, and they might make rattling noises.
Before going any further here are the parts of a stabilizer:
To solve the rattling noises, you can lube the stabilizer housing and stems the same way we lube switches. You should also lube the wire to prevent it from moving too fast inside the stabilizer stem to produce that rattling noise. Now, tuning the stabs are probably the trickiest keyboard mod so have some patience in doing it, and read the whole how-to guides first before diving in.
Things you’ll need:
- Krytox 205g0 lube
- Dielectric grease (for cheaper stabilizers)
- Syringe (optional)
- Flush cutters (optional)
How to Lube Stabilizers
- Remove the keycap and switch of the stabilized key. As usual, remove the switch according to the PCB you have.
- Unclip or unscrew stabilizers.
- Once you got your stabilizer, hold one stabilizer housing on one hand, and hold the wire on the other. With that, rotate the wire 90° to take the wire and the stabilizer housing apart.
- With the stabilizer housing and stabilizer stem apart, lube each part like how you would lube a switch.
- Take the wire and dip each end in dielectric grease, or you can brush some Krytox 205g0 if you have a higher-end stabilizer. Only put a little, it’s easier to solve under lubing than over lubing.
- Reassemble the stabilizers starting with assembling the stabilizer housing and stem, then put the wire in afterward. Now, let’s go to tuning the stabilizers.
How to Tune Stabilizers
- Install stabilizer, switch, and keycap for the key you want to tune. But don’t solder yet!
- Test by repeatedly pressing the key you want to tune. Listen for any rattling, and observe whether it feels mushy and sluggish.
- If your key is coming back up too slowly, and if it feels mushy to press, that is a sign of over lubing. To solve this, lift the stabilizer stem with a tweezer so that the wire ends are showing through a hole. Take a syringe and suck out some of that grease or lube. If that doesn’t solve it, disassemble your stabilizer and remove the grease on your wire with a paper towel, reassemble it all over again and test.
- If your key feels and sounds rattly, that’s a sign of under lubing. To solve this, lift the stabilizer stem, then take a syringe loaded up with your lube or grease, then inject a very small amount, then test again. Keep injecting small amounts until you hit the best feel and sound. Remember to prevent over-lubing!
- If the stabilizer is still rattly at this point, then there are two things you can do. Clipping or the band-aid mod. To clip your stabilizers, check if there are protruding legs or nubs under the stabilizer stem. If you found nubs, clip them with a flush cutter.
- If your stabilizers don’t have those nubs or if you clipped them, grab a band-aid. If you have plate-mounted stabs, cut little band-aid strips and put them to where the stabs will clip in. If you have screw-in stabs, cut some band-aid strips and put them on the PCB where the stabilizers will rest.
- Once everything is to your liking, assemble everything, and have a cold drink to celebrate finishing this tricky mod.
These are some mods to take your modding further. Most of these will be focused on improving your keyboard’s sound. If these mods don’t bring out that thocky and poppy sound from your keyboard, I literally don’t know what will.
If you don’t like how your keyboard sounds and feels, it may have to do something with your keycaps, some keycaps become slippery over time, some keycaps are thin resulting in a bad “plasticky” sound. If you want to learn more, check out this article about keycaps.
But here’s a quick keycap mod: install your spacebar in reverse to reduce fatigue since these spacebars can feel sharp after non-stop typing.
Typing on a desk without a desk mat is similar to a hardwood floor without carpets, you hear everything louder. If your keyboard still has some unnecessary rattling or clicking sounds you don’t like, then a desk mat will help dampen it.
I recommend getting one that’s made out of wool, or if you’re getting something that’s made of cloth, leather, or any material, at least make sure that it’s lined with rubber or cork underneath.
Tempest Tape Mod
This is weird but cool. The tape mod is very recent, the original video was uploaded on June 27, 2021, by a YouTube channel named oTEMPE5To.
All you need to do this is some tape, either masking, washi, or surgical tape. You can probably use any tape as long as it’s not too sticky. Now, here’s how to do it:
- Disassemble keyboard
- Apply tape on the whole bottom of your PCB
- Reassemble keyboard
I know you might be asking, “Is that it?” Yes, that’s really it!
This quick mod will make your keyboard sound poppier, louder, and deeper in tone. Of course, results will vary depending on the keyboard and tape you use. I don’t exactly know why this works, but it essentially helps reflect the sound, instead of letting the sound resonate inside the keyboard case.
This last mod is my favorite. I have also done it on my cheap keyboard and it brought the biggest sound difference. You can use any foam as long as it fills the gap between the PCB and case. I cut up a non-slip mat since it’s perforated which makes it easy to fit on the screw posts.
It muted a ton of unnecessary noises my keyboard made, and it gave my keyboard a more satisfying sound overall. This mod’s results may also vary depending on your keyboard case and the foam you use. But I recommend this over the tape mod since it’s also easy and fast to do, but it has a more noticeable effect.
I’ll leave you with a video showing some of the deepest thoccs you’ve ever heard on a keyboard, this keyboard uses some case foam together with a shirt as a clever deskmat. Enjoy!
These are, of course, not all the mods you can do. You can find tutorials all over the internet, and who knows? Maybe there’s a mod not listed here that you’ll discover. Do you want us to cover more keyboard mods? Let us know!