- Switch mod (remainder of this post)
- LED mod (continued in next post)
To make this keyboard, I removed springs from MX brown, black, and clear switches. Combined with MX blue switch stems, I made the following key switches, in order of increasing stiffness:
1. Blue stem + brown spring (equivalent to MX blue switch)
2. Blue stem + black spring (equivalent to MX green switch)
3. Blue stem + clear spring (shown below in yellow)
The keys were to be laid out according to the following picture: The layout is such that keys pressed with the index finger are yellow, middle finger are green, and last two fingers are blue.
In the process of assembling the key switches, I lubed the springs and stems using a PTFE dry lubricant. Here are the springs after their bath: To lube the stems, I held the clicky slider (white part) away from the stem base (blue part) using one of those component grabber things (not sure what they're called, looks like a syringe): Then I brushed on lubricant and let them dry. You can see the lube dries with a chalky color: After the parts were prepared, I assembled the key switches and sorted them into bins, so as to not get them confused:
To install the switches, first the existing switches were removed from the PC board: Next, I set up some switches for a practice typing test before soldering them on. This was important because I originally started with clear springs for the middle-finger keys and black springs for the ring finger keys, but then realized they were too stiff and switched them to the final layout shown above. Finally, here is how the keyboard looked with all the switches installed: Impressions:
I've spent a week with this keyboard so far. At first, the keyboard felt great but the clear spring keys were a little hard to press. Part of the reason is obviously the springs have higher resistance, but I think another part is because my fingers have adjusted to not bottoming out on my other keyboard, which uses lighter MX black springs. After a week, I am adjusting well to the keyboard and don't notice the variable weighting much at all. I think the whole point of variable force is that you don't notice it, whereas on a uniform-force keyboard it may seem like the outer keys are too stiff or inner keys too weak.
Ideally I would prefer a spring with strength between browns and blacks, which would allow black springs for the index fingers, hypothetical in-between springs for the middle finger, and brown springs for the two smallest fingers. For me, I think that would be a more comfortable overall keyboard stiffness.
I tried a few different springs for the space bar. I settled on the weakest (brown) spring partly because the Deck space bar key cap has a weird angle on it and can be uncomfortable to press when using stronger springs.
I think the lubricant has helped eliminate any rough/frictiony/scratchy feel that Cherry keyboards sometimes have. I'm not sure how much it helped since I never used MX blues before this mod, so have nothing to compare it to. When I first completed this mod, the blue stems required some breaking-in, as they wouldn't give a good discernible click at first. I think applying less lubricant would help with this problem, but it goes away fairly quickly so it's not that big of a concern.
The idea for a variable-force MX board occurred to me after modding my Filco to use modified Cherry MX ("ergo") clear switches for the main typing area, and MX brown switches for the outer-most keys. When I switch back to the Filco, I find the ergo clears smoother and more enjoyable to type on than this variable blue keyboard. However I do notice the additional force required for pinky and ring fingers, and miss the click of the blue stems. Overall I like the ergo clears best, but the variable force blues are nice for a change.