The more time you spend in the custom keyboard hobby, the more likely you’re going to encounter the term “Frankenswitches.” This term will certainly come up in the mechanical keyboards subreddit, keyboard YouTube channels, and custom keyboard Facebook groups. And given the scope and lack of coverage on Frankenswitches, some users may find this concept a bit daunting.
Frankenswitches (or Frankenstein switches) are switches composed of two or more components from other switches. These are not mass-produced but instead created by enthusiasts looking for a unique typing feel or sound.
However, Frankenswitches aren’t very complicated to make. As you might have guessed, the name comes from the famous novel written by English author Mary Shelley “Frankenstein” which tells the story of a mad scientist who made a monster using parts from various human corpses. The name is very fitting since keyboard hobbyists make the switches using individual parts of different mechanical switches.
Creating Frankenswitches can be one of the most fun aspects of the keyboard hobby since there are no rules for Frankenswitches. This technique also allows users to come up with their own unique combo based on personal preferences based on the switch’s feel and sound.
This article will everything you need to know about Frankenswitches: how and why they are made, along with some of the most popular combinations currently being talked about in the keyboard community.
Introduction to Enthusiast-Grade Keyboard Switches
Before going more in-depth on what Frankenswitches are, we have to draw the boundary between enthusiast-grade switches and mainstream ones. Enthusiast-grade switches are considered a step above more basic and standard switches on the market right now. Mainstream switches are mostly found in pre-built or gaming keyboards, including Cherry MX, Gateron, Kailh, and Outemu switches.
Enthusiast-grade switches are designed and manufactured to appeal to those who look closely at the customization of a keyboard, as they take into account things such as actuation force, travel, reducing pings, and aesthetics. These are mostly bought through group buys or sold at a higher price from retailers.
What are Frankenswitches?
The ability to customize keyboards to your liking makes the custom keyboard hobby attractive to many. More than just the aesthetics of a keyboard, there are many ways to modify or change a keyboard’s sound and feel. Frankenswitches are a part of the experiments that enthusiasts do to customize their keyboards further.
Frankenswitches are created using different components (the housings, stem, or springs) from different switches to create a new sound, typing feel, or look. For example, Creamsicles, a popular Frankenswitch, are created by using the housing of C3 Equalz Tangerine and the stem of Novelkeys Cream switches.
How Are Frankenswitches Made?
Most Frankenswitches are made manually. This is because a lot of Frankenswitches are created through experimentation with different switch parts from mass-produced switches. Some Frankenswitches, such as the Creamsicles and Holy Pandas, only merge parts from two switches (housings and stems). However, others such as the Sojus, are composed of parts from 3 different switches (the stems, top housing, and bottom housing).
There is no set limit on what kinds of Frankenswitches you can make, and many enthusiasts are discovering for themselves new combinations through different experiments. Those who have already created their own almost always share their “recipes” of how to replicate them at home. So if you’re not sure where to start, then you can always try making your own versions based on existing recipes.
Why Make Frankenswitches?
While Frankenswitches are not a requirement to build a custom keyboard, these add a new layer of customization to the building experience. Some enthusiasts like experimenting for many different reasons, from achieving a certain aesthetic to combining the best parts of different switches with matching their preferences. Some like experimenting with switches to match the colors or aesthetics of real-life objects and those who want to create a distinct feel or sound that they can’t find in the market today.
Creating Frankenswitches is also a good practice for those who want to learn more about how switches work and what makes them produce different sound profiles. Enthusiasts have relatively free reign when designing and conceptualizing their perfect switch. It can also serve as practice for those who want to design their switches in the future, as it gives them more background on what to consider when making a switch.
Downsides of Creating Frankenswitches
While customizing your switch is attractive, it does come with a few downsides. Firstly, conceptualizing a Frankenswitch takes a lot of time, and not all switch stems and housings are created the same.
You have to consider stem pole measurement and the fit of the top and bottom housing to make the switch usable. These factors limit your options, especially if you’re looking to combine three switches.
Secondly, creating Frankenswitches can be very costly, because most of these switches are hand-made and individually produced, you have to source the materials yourself at retail cost. Thankfully, some popular Frankenswitches are mass-produced, like the Holy Pandas, Harimau, and Penyu switches. However, it doubles the already expensive cost of buying switches for the most part.
Thirdly, there is a tendency to damage the switches during experimentation. As stated before, not all switch stems and housings are created the same. One of the most common problems experienced by enthusiasts is damage on the leaf of the stem, which makes the switch not actuate.
Another common problem is the bottom and top housings of the switch not locking into place. This incompatibility issue makes it difficult to type on the switch because it unlocks when there is pressure.
There’s a lot of trial and error that comes with Frankenswitches, and you may end up with some switches that are completely unusable. However, if you have the time and you’re willing to take the risk to create a unique switch, Frankenswitches are the way to go.
Popular Examples of Frankenswitches
- Switch Combination: Novel Keys Creams + C3 Equalz Tangerines
- Actuation Force: 55g
Creamsicles are currently one of the most popular Frankenswitches in the community. These use the Novelkeys Creams stems and springs with the C3 Equalz Tangerines housings. Because the Creams have a longer pole compared to the Tangerine stems, the Creamsicles have a reduced travel time when pressing down on them. The Creamsicles also add a deeper and rounded sound than normal Tangerines.
Holy Panda Specifications
- Switch Combination: Halo Trues/Halo Clears + Invyr Pandas
- Spring weight (as seen on Drop): 67g
Holy Pandas are tactile switches that you can get from Drop as ready-made switches, saving time procuring the materials and assembling the switches. These are extremely popular and boast a snappy and sharp tactile bump compared to other tactile switches.
- Switch Combination: Zealios + Invyr Pandas + Halos
- Spring weight: 62g, 65g, 67g, 78g (Depending on your Zealios springs)
Zykos are similar to the Holy Pandas but have a slightly higher pitched tone. Compared to the Pandelios Frankenswitches, these have a more rounded-out feel and sound.
You should note that because these are Frankenswitches, users can swap out the springs or poles of a stem to their liking. However, due to the costs of making these hybrid switches, some try to make “budget” versions.
For example, a YouTube commenter on the Soju Frankenswitches build opted to make a cheaper version by replacing the C3 Equalz Kiwi stem with a Lumia stem instead of the original Soju build swaps the top housing for the Boba U4Ts.
While this changes the sound profile from the original build, you can constantly adjust this to preference. These notes are based on the most popular versions in the community right now.
In general, Frankenswitches are a great way to experiment and explore your preferences in a custom keyboard. This adds another dimension to the standard modifications or materials that help you achieve your perfect endgame keyboard.