Modding mechanical keyboards have become integral in the custom keyboard hobby. Keyboard enthusiasts encourage modding pretty much all types of keyboards. These tweaks and modifications allow any keyboard to perform to its full potential.
Keyboard modding is an extra step that users can do to make their keyboards sound and feel better. These can range from simpler mods such as lubing and filming switches to more advanced mods such as the Tempest and PE foam mod. You can do keyboard mods to both pre-built and custom keyboards.
Newer members of the keyboard community may initially be overwhelmed with the number of possible keyboard mods available. They may also find these mods too complex and daunting. However, there are plenty of mods that beginners can do. All these small tweaks and adjustments can open up a brand new world for any keyboard enthusiast.
In this article, we will discuss the different modifications we can do to a keyboard. Furthermore, we will also talk about the effects of these modifications on different types of keyboards.
Why Mod Mechanical Keyboards?
Keyboard enthusiasts usually modify their keyboards to suit their preferred sound and typing feel. To modify a keyboard is to make partial or minor changes, typically to improve its quality as some keyboards are not in their best shape out of the box. Some modifications, however, are more necessary than others.
For example, most stabilizers provided by keyboard manufacturers are not of good quality, which leads to enthusiasts buying after-market stabilizers that are more durable. It is also recommended to mod your stabilizers before installing them, using popular techniques such as Holee mod and Epsi mod.
The one stated above is simply an example of how components can sound better if modded. In terms of stabilizers, most enthusiasts modify them to remove the ticking and rattle sound. For switches, users mod it to increase the smoothness and reduce the scratchy-like sound it produces. For keyboard cases, they are modded to either lessen the hollowness of the keyboard or to increase or decrease the flexibility in typing experience.
Identifying What Type of Keyboard You Have
Before we proceed to our discussion of keyboard mods, let us first help you determine what kind of keyboard you have. The type of keyboard will determine what kinds of mods you can perform.
Pre-built keyboards are ready-to-use keyboards out of the box. The manufacturer has already installed all components, meaning no further assembly is required.
Some pre-built keyboards even feature pre-lubed stabilizers and case dampening foam. Gaming mechanical keyboards and consumer-grade mechanical keyboards fall under this category.
Despite the efforts of manufacturers, most pre-built keyboards are not perfect. Most of them still have rattly stabilizers and an overall less desirable typing sound.
Users can still opt to do some basic modifications. However, opening up these keyboards will be significantly harder than custom keyboards.
For more daring and demanding users, you can still do several different mods with pre-built keyboards. These include lubing switches, fixing stabilizer rattle, and adding additional case foam.
Some examples of pre-built keyboards are boards from Keychron, namely Keychron K6, Keychron K8, Keychron K2, and more. Glorious PC Gaming Race has also provided its own pre-built keyboards such as the GMMK and the Glorious Modular Mechanical Keyboards. Another popular pre-built keyboard is the 60% Anne Pro 2.
On the other hand, custom keyboards can be compared to DIY projects, and this entails that you will buy all the keyboard parts on your own and customize your board based on your preferences.
The good thing about custom keyboards is that they are fully customizable and moddable. In short, you can curate the typing feel, sound profile, and the aesthetic you want freely. Also, these keyboards are designed to be easily disassembled by the user.
Most users that buy custom keyboards modify their boards on the spot upon opening the box, specifically basic modding such as tuning the stabilizers, lubing and filming the switches, adding foam at the bottom of the board, or PE foam between the plate and the PCB, and tempest modding.
Some examples of custom keyboards are the KBDfans Tofu series, the Glorious GMMK Pro, the Keychron Q1 and Q2, and many more. There are also many high-end keyboards such as the Jelly Epoch and Mr. Suit from Owlab, Cyberboard from Angry Miao, and keyboards from Keycult.
Custom Pre-built Keyboard
Custom pre-built keyboards are hybrids of pre-built keyboards and custom keyboards. These are for users who would want to purchase a higher-quality keyboard that is ready to use out of the box.
Custom pre-builts (sometimes referred to as barebones keyboard kits) come preassembled. Most even come with switches, making them very similar to pre-built keyboards.
However, what makes these keyboards special is the ease of access to their internals. Many crucial components, such as the switches and stabilizers, can be easily accessed, and many components, such as the case, can also be replaced by the user.
While they are still not of the same caliber as high-end custom keyboards, custom pre-builts allow users to experience custom keyboards without paying a hefty price tag. Some examples of custom prebuilts include the GK series from Epomaker.
Beginner-Friendly Keyboard Mods
The following mods that we will be tackling are basic mods that you can do on most keyboards, these are mostly done on custom keyboards to boost performance.
Lubing and Filming of Keyboard Switches
As stated above, lubing your switches will improve the sound quality and smoothness of the feel of your switches. On the other hand, Filming switches lessens the wobble of the housing of your switch. This mod will require you to open your switch, lube the different parts inside it, put a film, and close the switch again.
You will need several materials, including a switch lubricant, switch opener, a sable brush, and switch films. Optional materials include a lubing station and switch oils for the spring. For those interested, we have written a more in-depth article about switch lubing and filming.
Tuning Keyboard Stabilizers
Tuning your stabilizer is a key process in modifying your keyboard. Doing so will lessen the rattle of the stabilizers, resulting in a better-sounding keyboard. There are different ways to tune your stabilizers, and these include basic tuning, Holee mod, and Epsi mod.
Modding stabilizers will require materials such as dielectric grease and a sable brush. Like switch lubing and filming, we have a more in-depth discussion regarding keyboard switch stabilizers.
Keyboard Case Foam Mod
The final beginner mod that we will be tackling is the use of dampening foam. Adding these will essentially remove unwanted noise and the hollowness inside a keyboard case. This mod has different variations, including using regular case foam and using a silicone mold as a dampener.
Installing keyboard case foam will require disassembly, and we highly recommend doing this during the initial assembly of a custom keyboard before installing the other components.
The following mods are optional and are not necessary for every custom keyboard build. We highly recommend users experiment with these mods after trying out the basic mods suggested earlier.
Tempest Tape Mod
The Tempest tape mod provides a deeper and richer sounding keyboard. It is a very straightforward mod as you will apply tape at the back of your board’s PCB. However, it is included in the advanced mods as you will have to use the appropriate kind of tape and apply 1-3 layers only to maximize the mod.
Some recommended tape includes painters’ or white masking tape since these are less sticky and will not damage your PCB in the long run.
PE Foam Mod
The PE Foam keyboard mod is accomplished by layering polyethylene foam (also known as packing sheet) between your keyboard’s switches and PCB and then poking each switch socket, ensuring that the switches have a room when installed. This modification produces the trademark “poppy” or “creamy” sound profile.
Will Modding Void My Keyboard’s Warranty?
The coverage of the warranty of keyboards will differ depending on the manufacturer. But for most pre-built/gaming keyboards, opening the keyboard will usually void the warranty. To be on the safe side, always check the warranty policies of your keyboard’s manufacturer before opening them up.
On the other hand, users will not have to worry about custom or custom pre-built keyboards since these are designed to be opened up and modified. So with these in mind, we highly recommend custom keyboards and custom pre-built keyboards if you plan on extensively modifying your keyboard.