How to build your first Mechanical Keyboard

I built my first mechanical keyboard from scratch! Learn how I did it.

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Tools and Materials

You don’t need to use these exact tools and materials. This is just to give you a starting point for your own designs and to alleviate the pain of deciding what to use. I’ve also added Amazon links to products to make it even easier

Keycaps and Switches

Get whichever keycaps and switches you prefer. There are many sites that sell them, so look around.

  • 1976 Keycaps
    • Find a set that matches your style
  • Cherry MX Profile Switches
    • I went with Brown because I love the feel of my Blue’s but don’t need to make any enemies while I’m at work
    • Get whichever switches you prefer, and don’t let anyone tell you they are the wrong ones
    • You can probably get these in bulk somewhere else for a better deal (I had a box of 120)
  • My ‘Daily Driver’ for work
    • This is a great compact keyboard
    • Also makes an excellent introductory mechanical keyboard
    • I plan on building a replacement next

Tools

Hopefully you have some (or all) of these tools. If not, ask your friends if they are willing to let you borrow theirs in exchange for a cold drink.

Woodworking Supplies

If you are using Acrylic pieces instead of wood, you might need all of these.

  • Sandpaper
    • ~100 Grit
      • For taking material away
    • ~150+ Grit
      • For smoothing everything out
    • Make sure to get similar grits for your belt/disk sander
  • Wood Glue
    • For repairing accidents
  • Masking Tape
    • To help with repairing accidents
    • Also useful for marking wires
  • Wood Finish
    • Make sure to pick one that compliments your wood
    • Use a clean, lint-free cloth for cleaning and application
    • Follow the instructions
  • Balsa Wood
    • Only if you need it for making a faceplate brace

Case Materials

I chose to use Hardwood for my case, as I really enjoy the look and wanted more experience woodworking. I sourced mine from Ocooch Hardwoods. The faceplate is Walnut where the rest of the body is probably Alder which I got from the 20# box of random wood pieces.

Make sure you get enough material for all your cuts, as well as extra for when you ultimately make a mistake!

  • Faceplate
    • 1.5mm thick
      • This is so the switches will snap into place
      • If it is too thick, you will have to glue them into place
      • Gluing them is a terrible idea, don’t do it. Just get the right thickness
    • 1/16 inch worked for me, but is not perfect
  • Center and Bottom
    • 3mm thick
    • Thickness doesn’t matter too much
      • Make sure your laser cutter can cut that thickness
        • The laser I used was struggling a bit at 3mm, but got the job done
      • The thickness determines how many center layers you’ll need, and therefore the length of the standoffs

Electronics and Assembly

Here is where you’ll find the bulk of the items you will need, and the part I found to be the most intimidating. This list should make your build a lot easier.

  • Microcontroller
  • USB Cable
    • Will depend on your microcontroller
      • Teensy 2.0 uses Mini USB
      • So do many other keyboards
    • Make sure it’s long enough
      • With this design, you can’t plug it in without unscrewing the faceplate
  • Solder
  • Wire
  • Diodes
    • P/N 1n4148
    • Can probably use most diodes
  • Screws
    • I used M3 screws
    • Make sure you have the appropriate countersinking bit
    • Make sure your standoffs match
  • Standoffs
    • Make sure your screw holes match the size and shape
      • Read the guide for more details
    • Make sure they are the right size for your screws
    • Make sure they are the right length for your build
    • These will determine how many middle sections you will need, as they sit between the faceplate and the bottom

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