This is the second entry in our Series on Mechanical Keyboards. We’re continuing the series in an order roughly identical to the order in which the parts were purchased.
I’ll admit that I should have paced myself, but with FOMO and the unmitigated thrill of jumping into entirely new yet seldom talked about hobby of custom mechanical keyboards, I didn’t (at first) take the time to fully and properly understand components of keyboards and why certain parts are compatible with each other. I just sort of found something exciting, spent half an afternoon deciding that some component was cool enough to get, and then got it. And with the switches out of the way, I had time to gather everything else I needed for the internals.
I would heavily advise starting out smaller than I did, purchasing more “entry-level” or practice kits, testing out different switches with with a switch tester, and experimenting with hot swap boards over something solderable if you’re going to be responsible for the assembly. It is overwhelming to learn so much about a new hobby at first and easy to justify expenses for a truly unique board. But hindsight taught me that it’s good to start small. I made silly mistakes along this year + long commitment, but I’m grateful that this community has strong secondary markets if you just so happen to not need the thing you purchased on a whim that ends up incompatible with your build . There’s always someone willing to pay for parts you don’t need or want.
After the switches were purchased, I started collecting stabilizers (from Durok because they require no “band-aid” modding like other stabilizers), the internal rubber mat for sound dampening, a lubing station for the switches (from Gray Studio), and switch film (from both Deskeys, which are rubber, and TX). Other board specific electronics and PCB came with the Matrix Noah 2.0 kit, so I didn’t have to purchase those separately.
For the accessories, I picked up a switch puller, a lube station, and a desk mat (that I won in a raffle).
Stabilizers: “Stabs,” as they’re commonly referred to as, are screwed into the PCB and typically lubed to produce a more full sound. They prevent the larger keys from wobbling and help to connect those certain keycaps to the switch. They are configurable around the layout and size of your keeb and usually taken into account with the spacebar size (the popular 7u or 6.25u). Traditionally, certain brands would require an additional modification known as the “band-aid” mod to really have a board that produced more solid sounds, eliminating switch wobble and internal reverberation from just typing. But a popular brand, and the brand I went with, is Durok.
PCB: The circuit board that is essentially the brain of the keyboard. One mistake I made early on, thus leading me to resell through the r/MechMarket Reddit, was not realizing how big or small of a keyboard I wanted at first. I originally purchased a really good quality PCB board for a 60% build from Mekanisk. Mekanisk is a quality Norwegian brand popular for their Fjell and Klippe keyboards. They produce excellent and very high quality PCBs. Ultimately, I got a PCB that came in the kit with my case. Shown below is my unopened PCB from MatrixLab that came with the Noah 2.0 kit. While being far from the worst PCB ever, there are most definitely some higher quality ones out there. Namely, Mekanisk, Keycult, and Zeal.
More Electronics : Also included with my case (the keyboard skeleton), came a small box of electrics. In the box is a daughter board that allows me to connect my board to a computer and the wiring to connect the LED wires to the PCB for RGB effects. A lot of acronyms, I know. The white box shown under the example daughter board are the electrics components included with the MatrixLab Noah 2.0 kit. I also had to purchase a cable. The cable I got went with the Cool Kids keycap set. It is a custom coiled cable from Space Cables. You can find out more about them here.
Switch Film: Switch film comes in different widths materials (rubber and polycarbonate), and colors. Switch film is put in switches to reduce wobble and help produce a better sound, reducing reverberation and the occasional thin ringing from typing. Some switches, however, have tighter housings, eliminating the need for switch films. You can see a more detailed breakdown and comparison here as well as a general overview here. I purchased two different popular brands of film (TX and Deskeys), and will be using the Deskeys film in my Alpaca v2 Linear Switches.
Rubber Mat: Internal Rubber Mats, or even dampening foam, is usually placed under the plate of the keyboard and screwed into the PCB. They just are supposed to do the most to help dampen, and deepen, the sound from typing and provide a smooth typing experience. I purchased the internal rubber mat that goes with the Noah 2.0 kit. You can find it here.
Lubing Station: The lubing station seemed liked a good idea at first. But realizing that I would commission someone more experienced than me to build my board (since I don’t have a soldering tool), I would ultimately not purchase any of the popular Krytox lubricant thus not needing a tool to lube my switches. Since I am sending my keyboard to be built for the Mechs on Deck stream, I won’t need the lubing station. However, I won’t sell it because it is very hard to find and one of the better quality tools you can buy. So I’ll hang on to it for potential future use. If not, it’ll remain a fun collectors’ item. My lubing station (shown below) is by Gray Studio.
Switch Puller: From Prime KB found here. It’s just a little tool that helps separate the housings on key switches because they’re usually tight (which is good). There are some more fancy ones that run in Group Buys, but this was all I needed for the time being.
Desk Mat: I also won a desk mat in a raffle! From the GMK Pono set. It ships next month.Those little “dots” are also cats!
While switches are technically part of the “internals,” they were an important first step for me when I started building my custom keyboard. I wanted to give them their separate space to be highlighted. Switches themselves are driving daily discussions in several Discord channels, chats, and streams. Each of the aforementioned internal keyboard components could justify its own separate post, but I didn’t feel like anything was really worth going into detail just as much as the switches (even though I didn’t really even scratch the surface) because the switches are more fun and have thousands of combinations.
We hope you enjoyed the second post in this series on mechanical keyboards as much as we enjoyed putting it together! See you next time for the Case and the Unboxing Experience breakdown!