Smooth ALPS

IKSLM

15 Apr 2016, 11:58

I have this 27 years old alps keyboard (AEK) which was full of dust when i bought it. I took it apart and cleaned it with detergent + warm water. Did the same for all the switches (springs, housing, plunger, metal leaf...) in the end i bathed them in the distilled water. But still, the switches do not feel as smooth as i think they should.

I do not want to lubricate them (because reasons) and i'm looking for a "mechanical" way to make the surfaces more smooth (polishing, "sanding"...?). Is that even possible? Has anyone tried this?

If this is not possible, which lube would be best?

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Chyros

15 Apr 2016, 13:47

Alps used an unknown type of dry lubricant on their first-generation switches. As a cost-cutting measure, they appear to have used a slipperier type of plastic later instead, as lubricant is expensive.

I wouldn't use water to clean these, myself, especially not soapy water as soap doesn't actually dissolve fully in water. For this reason, in my previous lab, we used detergent-free cleaning agents to clean our glassware, as soap leaves a small film of residue insoluble in water. Soapy water will also wash off any lubricant that was applied on the slider, so all in all I'm not surprised your keyfeel still doesn't feel good.

I've found just cleaning out these switches with compressed air works best. Dirty switches can usually be salvaged fairly well with this. That said, heavily used switches, especially if the switches have been used when dirty, will never be the same.

Alps switches' single biggest weakness is a disproportionate vulnerability to dust and dirt. Unlike other switches, which only start to feel rough when a lot of dirt and dust is present, Alps switches go almost linearly bad even at very small amounts of contaminant. For example, a 99% clean Alps switch might feel 99% as good as a clean one, while other types of switch might start to feel bad at <20% clean (and drop off very quickly after that). As such, condition is EVERYTHING when it regards Alps switches. Try to only find immaculate specimens because even ones that look really clean will probably not feel as good as a brand-new one.

IKSLM

15 Apr 2016, 14:24

Well, i did use the compressed air, but some sliders were so dirty that the only solution was a good wash. Switches feel much better than before, but still... i want more :D

I guess i'll try different things to see what (if) works best.

andrewjoy

15 Apr 2016, 14:58

You could try dome dry lube like PTFE , i found that helps with smoothness of many plastic surfaces even when dry.

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seebart
Offtopicthority Instigator

15 Apr 2016, 15:30

Yes Chyros sums it up very well, dirt is such an issue with Alps SKCM (Alps SKCL less so) that with a little experience the particular condition becomes very obvious in useage. I've said this many times; I have encountered massive differences in the feel different Alps SKCM in various stages of dirtyness and deterioration. I'm lucky enough to be typing this on a nearly unused Monterey K104 with Alps SKCM White and let me tell you it's damn nice. With some patience you don't need to pay a milliontrillion for one either. Cleaning is very much possible but quite a task with Alps SKCM, there are quite a few Alps SKCM based keyboards where this would be worth the effort. Yes dry lube for sure, which one is best is what I'm still trying to find out myself.
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jbondeson

15 Apr 2016, 15:39

A liquid suspension dry lube is what I use to recondition old alps switches.

I've had good luck with teflon lube and I've also played with a few gun lubricants -- one based on molybdenum disulfide and another proprietary "dirt displacing" dry lubricant. The teflon and MoS2 are my favorite.

Some people swear by powdered MoS2, but it can be a real mess if you're not supremely careful.

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seebart
Offtopicthority Instigator

15 Apr 2016, 15:41

Cool thanks for the info, I'll try to get some teflon lube then.

jbondeson

15 Apr 2016, 15:54

Fair warning it makes the switches really snappy. I have a few Salmons that I tested it on and they sounds darn near clicky after lubing them with teflon. MoS2 will give you a smooth, but less snappy result.

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seebart
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15 Apr 2016, 15:58

jbondeson wrote: Fair warning it makes the switches really snappy. I have a few Salmons that I tested it on and they sounds darn near clicky after lubing them with teflon. MoS2 will give you a smooth, but less snappy result.
Elaborate "snappy" please! Snappy in a good way?

IKSLM

15 Apr 2016, 15:58

Thanks for the info!
A liquid suspension dry lube is what I use to recondition old alps switches.
Got any exact product names?

terrycherry

15 Apr 2016, 16:54

The alps switches are hard to clean because of many small parts. I advice you clean it in the Ultrasonic cleaner if you have much keyboard or switches to clean.

jbondeson

15 Apr 2016, 16:56

seebart wrote:
jbondeson wrote: Fair warning it makes the switches really snappy. I have a few Salmons that I tested it on and they sounds darn near clicky after lubing them with teflon. MoS2 will give you a smooth, but less snappy result.
Elaborate "snappy" please! Snappy in a good way?
I've tried the lubricant on Oranges, Salmons, and Creams. The lube doesn't change the oranges a whole lot, but with the Salmons and Creams I've found that it makes them significantly smoother on the upstroke as the resistance between the slider and tactile leaf is reduced. A consequence of that is that the slider impacts the top of the housing faster and it makes more noise.
IKSLM wrote: Thanks for the info!
A liquid suspension dry lube is what I use to recondition old alps switches.
Got any exact product names?
Teflon: DuPont Teflon Non-Stick Dry-Film Lubricant (the liquid squeeze bottle not the spray).
MoS2: Sentry Solutions SMOOTH-KOTE (get the needle applicator).

Applying the Teflon is a pain. I got an empty needle applicator that I use because the default packaging is used for coating large metal objects like blades. It's designed to be applied to metal but I have seen it work well with plastics as well (I'm typing on a keyboard that I did this to currently). But only time will tell how it will hold up longterm.

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seebart
Offtopicthority Instigator

15 Apr 2016, 17:07

jbondeson wrote: I've tried the lubricant on Oranges, Salmons, and Creams. The lube doesn't change the oranges a whole lot, but with the Salmons and Creams I've found that it makes them significantly smoother on the upstroke as the resistance between the slider and tactile leaf is reduced. A consequence of that is that the slider impacts the top of the housing faster and it makes more noise.
Aha very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

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keycap

15 Apr 2016, 17:42

Make sure that you thoroughly cleaned out the top shell. Dust builds up in there over time. Linear Alps don't really need lube, but tactile and clicky Alps most certainly do. Look for dry, grey strips of residue on the slider's front and back face, near the bottom. If there aren't any visible grey patches, you'll need to apply lube. The only lube I've ever tried on Alps is DuPont Teflon Silicone lube. But we all know how dust ruins how Alps feel, and liquid lube is pretty much a magnet for dust. As far as I'm concerned, you either use dry lube or none at all for Alps. They're not THAT scratchy.

jacobolus

16 Apr 2016, 06:32

There’s friction between slider and tactile leaf, but that’s not the part causing the severe scratchy sound/feel.

The part to clean is the inside tracks in the top housing, where the slider is in contact with the housing as it goes up and down. If there’s dust in there, the smoothest slider in the world is going to still have friction.

It’s not super accessible, so compressed air only gets you so far. You can do a bit better by swabbing each one out with a q-tip or similar. Best would probably be to use an ultrasonic cleaner.

If the switch was gritty/scratchy and then someone used it for a while, the plastic of the top housing may be physically abraded instead of just coated in dust. I’m not sure there’s much you can do to fix that. Lubricant will help, but only to a point.

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Redmaus
Gotta start somewhere

16 Apr 2016, 06:40

We should update the wiki with a guide on lubing alps switches if we don't have one already. I completely cleaned as in took apart every piece, soaked in oxiclean/laundry detergent water and put them back together after washing again back with hot water. They felt much better when I put them back together compared to before. These are also the dirtiest alps switches I have ever tried. Cleaning is effective to an extent but I wonder if lube would make them like before they were dirty. Chyros could very well be right in which the dirt scratches the slider but if he is wrong then that means we can make any alps switch good as new by cleaning and lubing.

orihalcon

18 Apr 2016, 13:38

I tried some teflon grease on some blue alps today and it seems to work fine. Not sure if I can really tell the difference since they weren't bad to begin with. I do have some gritty yellow alps somewhere that I'll have to try it on and see if there's any difference. I kind of worry about the dry lubes disbursing into the air over time and pushing out of the areas that they are needed Probably isn't a big issue in reality though. Best experiment would probably be to do a board sectioned off in quadrants with dry versus wet and teflon vs MoS2.

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keycap

18 Apr 2016, 14:52

I'm still wondering what dry lubricant was used for Alps.. RO-59? I would love to be able to fully restore Alps by totally cleaning them and re-applying their original lube. I know that you can just dust them out and keep their original lubricant intact but it's not the same :P

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seebart
Offtopicthority Instigator

18 Apr 2016, 15:03

Yeah if I knew exactly what dry lube Alps Electric used I'd lube some of my white Alps SKCM just out of curiosity.
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bricomaz

18 Apr 2016, 16:38

seebart wrote: Yeah if I knew exactly what dry lube Alps Electric used I'd lube some of my white Alps SKCM just out of curiosity.
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I guess some of you Alps aficionados already tried to ask them ;)

https://www4.alps.co.jp/inquiry/inqcatalog?lang=en

Nobody at Alps couldn't remember or was it strictly confidential?

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Redmaus
Gotta start somewhere

18 Apr 2016, 17:00

Lol I just threw motor lubricant in some orange alps and as a result they just felt less tactile. I little smoother but not as effective.

Not really an honest try to make them better, more of something to sate my curiosity till I order some dry lubricant.

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seebart
Offtopicthority Instigator

18 Apr 2016, 18:09

bricomaz wrote: I guess some of you Alps aficionados already tried to ask them ;)Nobody at Alps couldn't remember or was it strictly confidential?
I bet someone did already ask, the employees that did work on those projects probably don't work there anymore and Alps Electric probably won't open their books for us. It's not really critical to now exactly which dry lube they used but rather what kind so that we can now try something similair. How they applied it would be good to know also.

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keycap

16 Jun 2016, 16:06

I take back my statement about not lubing Alps. I've had lubed Black Alps for a few months now and absolutely no dust has entered the switches... yet. And they're still butter smooth :)

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Chyros

16 Jun 2016, 17:12

Has it actually helped them in the first place though?

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Crossfire

07 Aug 2016, 07:58

I've used krytox gpl 205 and with combination of bending the 4x teeth on the leaf, the dampened cream alps feel amazing! Smooth, clicky switch. I've only lubed the contact patches between the slider and the housing and it improved the feel drastically. Completely other switch tbh.
Last edited by Crossfire on 07 Aug 2016, 15:02, edited 1 time in total.

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seebart
Offtopicthority Instigator

07 Aug 2016, 14:23

Crossfire wrote: I've used krytox gpl 205 and with combination of bending the 4x teeth on the leaf, the dampened cream alps feel amazing! Smooth, clicky switch. I've only lubed the contact patches between thevalider and the housing and it improved the feel drastically. Completely other switch tbh.
Thanks for sharing that.

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Crossfire

07 Aug 2016, 16:08

A quick sound check. That F1 (F5) is stock dampened cream alps switch, others are lubed and tuned.
Love that clickyness, kind of smooth mx blues feel...only so much better :)

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seebart
Offtopicthority Instigator

07 Aug 2016, 16:14

Sounds awesome, I need to get started on lubing tests with some of my Alps boards, I got some serious candidates.

How much krytox gpl 205 did you need for lubing one keyboard? I found 10g for € 20, that'll probably go a long way.

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Crossfire

07 Aug 2016, 16:42

They sound really pleasant...10g's are more than enough for all the switches and stabs. Krytox did improve mx blacks, topre, now alps...it's basically my go to lube :)

To be honest, tuning and lubing is one hell of a job...it really takes time to get it right, lots of trial and error until it's perfect, really.

AEK II has just so much potential if one's ready to play with it a little (more) :)

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seebart
Offtopicthority Instigator

07 Aug 2016, 16:58

Yeah I know it's gonna be a lot of work. I do know how very different Alps SKCM can feel since I have different boards in various conditions from smooth ones to horrible feeling ones. I think I'll give that krytox gpl 205 a try.

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