Custom Keyboard Construction

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Custom Keyboard kits can have different construction concepts. To help describe and compare various Custom Keyboard kits, this article is listing some common construction concepts. The concepts listed here can be combined in a single kit or part of an option.

Mount Options

Tray Mount

A very simple and versatile mount construction is the Tray Mount. The keyboard case has stand-offs into the case bottom with screw holes. The PCB is sitting on the stand-offs and fixed by screws into the stand-off screw holes. This construction can be combined with plate mounted and with PCB mounted switches. Both the PCB and the plate need matching holes for assembly. Many 60% designs share identical hole locations which were introduced by popular Vortex 60% keyboards.

  • Advantages
    • Allows PCB and plate mounted switch placement
    • Huge choice of standard 60% components (PCBs, plates, cases)
    • Allows the construction of very cheap keyboards
  • Disadvantages
    • Placement of standard 60% stand-offs offers very inconsistent stability
    • Non-standard stand-off placement limits the choice of PCB
    • Keycaps must be removed to disassemble the keyboard
    • Overall less rigid/solid construction compared to a Case Mount kit

Case Mount

A very solid high-end construction is the Case Mount where the switch plate is directly mounted on the keyboard case. This mount construction is used in many of the more expensive high-end kits and is the de-facto standard for modern Korean custom kits. Different types of Case Mount can be found:

  • Top Frame Mount (Switch plate screwed into the top frame of the keyboard case)

This variant requires a three piece case construction and is commonly used in modern custom kits (ie. TX75)

  • Bottom Case Mount (Switch plate screwed into the bottom case)

This variant allows floating keys construction and doesn't require a top frame. Famous example is the WhiteFox kit.

  • Sandwich Mount (Switch plate held tight between top frame and bottom case)

This variant is much more complicated than it sounds since plate and case can be slightly profiled around the edges to make sure the plate is centered and still offers a little bit of flexing. Famous example is the OTD 356 mini.

  • Plate Tray Mount (Plate is resting on stand-offs from the bottom case)

Similar to the Tray Mount construction, this variant rests the switch plate on the tray stand-offs delivering a very different typing experience. Famous example is the Planck kit. The important difference to the PCB Tray Mount is the fact the switch plate is resting on the case here. This allows a much more direct transmission of the typing force into the keyboard case.

The Case Mount construction allows various types of plate material (acrylic, aluminium, steel, brass etc...) to influcence the typing experience significantly thus most kits of this design offer various plate materials. Other advantages and disadvantages include:

  • Advantages
    • Very study and solid construction
    • Plate material has a strong effect on typing experience
    • No screw holes required in plate & PCB
  • Disadvantages
    • PCB mounting of switches not really an option
    • Plate must be custom-made for the case (very few established standards)

Component Options

Two Piece Construction

The basic variant of a keyboard kit is a Two Piece Contruction. Such a kit consists of a case and a PCB/Plate combo. PCB and plate are only counted as ONE piece since the plate is potentially optional. Most Two Piece Construction kit also use Tray Mount assembly. Examples for Two Piece Construction keyboards are the Vortex Pok3r (Tray Mount) or the WhiteFox (Case Mount).

This is the most simple variant of a keyboard kit. Anything less than a two piece kit is just individual components.

Three Piece Construction

Keyboard kits containing 3 main components can be referred to as Three Piece Construction kit. On top of the Two Piece Contruction content (Bottom case, PCB/Plate), these kits usually include a top frame for the case. The frame is commonly held in place by screws through the bottom case. Some mounting options like the Sandwich Mount and the Top Frame Mount require a top frame.

Additional kit components

Keyboard kits can include additional components that do not count for the Two/Three Piece Construction classification:

  • Acrilic spacer/diffusor
  • Screw-in weight
  • Logo/brand plates