When browsing the internet I’ve been finding a lot of really cool mechanical keyboards on various blogs and websites such as Reddit and Pinterest and had the wonderful idea of – Why don’t I build one for myself?
So I dove into research-mode and found out everything I could about building your own keyboard. The main question I had was how much does it cost? It was very difficult to get an accurate estimate for the price, but after lots of research I now have a pretty good idea of how much it will cost to build your own.
The cost for a custom mechanical keyboard wildly ranges. There are so many options to choose from and the price depends on how much you’re willing to spend on upgrading the different features. However, the average cost comes out to be around a $100-200 per board. But don’t worry if this price scares you, it is possible to build a mechanical keyboard for around $60 although this will require a lot of shopping around and searching for deals. If you’re a big spender the price can increase exponentially depending on how customized everything will be and how much you’re willing to spend on the switches, stabilizers, PCB and keycaps.
Let’s go over some of the main questions and concerns people have when deciding to go on the adventure of building a custom keyboard.
Do you need a soldering kit?
Well based on my research, you will need a soldering kit… sometimes. If you’re building your keyboard from a kit, most of the time a soldering kit will not be required.
If you choose to go down the route with hot swappable switches, a soldering kit is usually not needed for that as well. Overall, hot swappable switches can make assembly much easier and does not require you to figure out how to solder which would save a lot of time.
However, if your switches are not hot-swappable and you are not building from a kit, chances are you will need a soldering kit because the switches will need to be soldered to the PCB during assembly.
The average cost for a good soldering kit usually comes out to be around $100. If this additional price is beyond your means, it may make sense to order your keyboard through a kit to circumvent the extra cost.
Which are the main components I need to purchase?
For building a custom keyboard there are several components required for assembly.
This list may have a lot of components you never heard of before and if you’re confused that’s okay- we have a lot of resources that you can reference to help you better understand how everything works together.
This may seem overwhelming at first but once you dive in and get a better understanding of how everything works it can be interesting and exciting.
The parts are listed as follows, assuming 60% keyboard size:
- PCB (Printed Circuit Board), $35-60
- Switches (whole keyboard set), $40-100
- Stabilizers (for 60% keyboard), $10-40
- Case, $6-50. Depending on if plastic or aluminum
- Aluminum plate (optional), $15
As you can see the price of each individual part varies depending on the quality and overall effectiveness of the part – and of course, how much you are willing to spend.
If these prices seem a little on the expensive side, keep in mind it is possible to order knock-off parts that are very similar functionally and are much much cheaper.
How do I decide what size keyboard to build?
Well a lot of this comes down to personal preference as well. Some people have a tighter working space so a smaller keyboard is easier to use. In addition, if you want to take it with you when traveling to a coffee shop or commuting to work and back, a smaller keyboard is also nice in those situations.
In general, the smaller keyboards are cheaper and easier to build because there are less keys and switches and overall material to order.
The majority of people think that smaller keyboards are aesthetic because they have more symmetric shape, but keep in mind- these are only opinions. Do whatever makes you excited.
If you really enjoy using a numpad and arrow keys, a smaller keyboard might not be for you.
Perhaps a larger size that has all those extra keys might be a better fit. Or maybe you want to deck out your keyboard with several extra programmable keys. The larger sizes allow you to get quite creative with all the extra button space available.
I would recommend exploring all of your options before you determine what size works best for you. Check out this post where we go over all of the different keyboard sizes and explain what they all mean.
Why should you build a custom keyboard?
Perhaps you’re getting bored of your current keyboard or you’re sick of that mushy membrane feel of your crappy office keyboard. Or maybe you drove your old keyboard in the ground and your keys are stuck and won’t spring back anymore.
Well, by building a custom keyboard you have the ability to make something unique and creative that expresses who you are through your keyboard.
A well-built mechanical keyboard is something that is built to last and is tailored specifically to you. Nobody else on the entire planet will have the same keyboard as you.
In my opinion, it’s worth the extra time and effort to build one for yourself.
Plus you can show it off on the internet, that’s the reason I want to do it.
We talked about how much it would cost on average to build a mechanical keyboard from scratch and learned that the pricing wildy varies, but on average it costs around a $100-200. In addition, we went over the components required and some of the average costs associated with each part.
We also went over some of the situations when a soldering kit is not required, such as when you are building from a kit or using hot swappable switches. It’s understandable if the idea of learning a new skill such as soldering is intimidating, in which case those options are your best bet.
I hope the research put together here helps you with your build. I would recommend researching your own build by looking at some of the different designs currently out there on the internet and choosing something that resonates with you.
If you find one that you like, you can look into the keyboard further and figure out exactly what parts are required to build. That will give you an idea of where to start, and from there you can tweak to personalize the keyboard to your own specific needs.
Don’t feel like reading? Check out the video on YouTube.