The Best Custom Mechanical Keyboards


Building a custom mechanical keyboards is a rewarding process but it can be difficult to pick out which one to build.

We’ll help you walk through all of the great options currently available and you can pick out the perfect DIY keyboard for you.

For a full custom keyboard build guide, you can check out this article.

Our Recommended Custom Keyboard Picks

Let’s take a look at our favorite custom keyboard in each size to give you a wide variety of options. We’re mainly looking at in-stock items that you won’t need to purchase through group buy.

Keep in mind, there are way more options out there, these are simply a good place to start looking. New custom keyboard designs and group buys are always being made.

We’re also looking at mostly hot-swappable builds to make them beginner-friendly, without needing soldering equipment to build.

Planck: 40% Custom Keyboard

Starting with the smallest sized custom keyboard recommendation, is the Planck. Coming in a 40% and with a unique ortholinear layout, this keyboard makes an exciting build.

With a hot-swappable PCB and no stabilizers required, the assembly should be relatively easy as no soldering skills are needed.

The hardest part about the assembly of the Planck is finding keycaps that will fit the strange layout. For that reason, we recommend first looking at keycap sets made for this layout.

With the ortholinear layout, the keys are not staggered like a normal keyboard, instead they are stacked like columns and rows. Many say this style of layout will improve typing speeds and ergonomics, although there is not data to actually back that up.

Only way to figure out if the ortholinear layout is for you, is to try it yourself.

You can purchase the keyboard with a full annodized aluminum frame, making it a heavy and sturdy build that’s sure to impress.

You can the Plank on Drop.com.

GK61X: 60% Custom Keyboard

If you’re looking for a more standard sized custom keyboard, 60% is by far the most common. For that reason, this keyboard should be relatively easy to find in-stock at major retailers.

The build recommend is the GK61X by Epomaker. It’s hot-swappable, so all you need is the kit, switches, and keycaps – then you’re good to go.

A really cool feature is the ability to make a split spacebar, so you can customize this keyboard to new level. You also get full RGB per-key lighting, so if you prefer to light up your keyboards, this one could be a great option.

For an entry into the world of custom mechanical keyboards, this one is an excellent choice.

The only downside to this keyboard is the relatively cheap build and less custom-feel to it. If you’re looking for something a bit more exciting we recommend checking out the latest DIY builds on KBDfans or mechgroupbuys.

If you’re interested, definitely check the GK61X out on Amazon here.

Drop ALT Barebones: 65% Custom Keyboard

The Drop ALT is a keyboard that we’ve constantly recommended due to the fantastic build quality and full aluminum frame.

On the Drop website, you have the ability to buy the barebones kit which comes with a variety of different case designs and colors so you can customize this build even more.

For this reason, this keyboard comes highly recommended by us. Not to mention, the keyboard comes with multiple USB-C power ports, RGB lighting, hot-swappable PCB, and much more.

If you’re tight on a budget, this keyboard might be a little on the expensive side, but the high-quality build make up for the price.

With the hot-swappable PCB, this keyboard should be a relatively easy build as long as you install the stabilizers correctly. You can always reference our custom keyboard build guide.

You can find the Drop Alt Barebones on the Drop website in a variety of different colors and designs.

The KBD75: 75% Custom Keyboard

The KBD75 is a keyboard that I have a lot of experience with, in fact my wife and I both built our own version of this keyboard.

Coming in a variety of different colors, plate materials, and more, this keyboard is highly customizable and is a very fun build.

You will need soldering equipment to build this keyboard, so you can check out our recommended soldering equipment, if you’re interested. This fact alone makes the build a bit trickier as you need to solder the switches on.

The keyboard has a full aluminum frame with RGB underglow and QMK software for full control. Not to mention the 75% is compact but also very comfortable to use.

But if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, this build is worth the time investment.

You can find the KBD75 on kbdfans.com.

Drop CTRL Barebones: Tenkeyless Custom Keyboard

As a bigger sister to the Drop ALT, we have the Drop CTRL.

Coming in at a more standard tenkeyless size, the Drop CTRL barebones boasts many of the same features as the ALT: full aluminum frame, multiple power ports, full RGB lighting, and more.

If you’re looking for a relatively easy hot-swappable build with no soldering required, the Drop CTRL barebones will make assembly a breeze.

You can find the CTRL with many cases and different colorways depending on what style you prefer. The TKL size makes it very comfortable for whatever purpose you plan on using the keyboard for.

Not to mention, almost any keycap set should fit this keyboard due to the standard layout size.

You can find the Drop CTRL Barebones in a many styles and colors.

TOFU96: A 96% Custom Keyboard

Coming up last is a really interesting layout, the Tofu96.

The 96% layout is really interesting because you get the number pad, similar to a full-sized keyboard, but it’s packed into a more efficient size. This layout is ideal for those who do lots of data entry, but want to experiment with something a little different.

However, soldering will be required for this build, so be prepared to bust out the soldering equipment.

The keyboard comes with an aluminum case and a brass plate, making it a super sturdy build.

Due to the nature of a larger sized layout, you will be stuck paying more for switches, so keep that in mind when picking this layout.

You can find the TOFU96 on kbdfans.

Conclusion

Looking for a custom mechanical keyboard to purchase can be a difficult process, there are so many options out there to choose from.

Hopefully, this guide gave you a good starting place so you can really start to figure which board fits your preferences perfectly.

Between group buys, in-stock items, and all of the customizable features under the sun, the sky is the limit when to comes to building a unique custom keyboard.

For your first build, we recommend with going something relatively easy (such as hot-swappable), as you’re guaranteed to make a few mistakes.

Good luck!

Jake Harrington

Jake has been an avid mechanical keyboard user for the past six years. He has a background in Mechanical Engineering and wants to apply his expertise to break down how mechanical keyboards and other tech work to show the world all of the cool aspects of the hobby.

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