Many keyboards and keycap sets include a plastic keycap puller. These work in a pinch, but are not recommended.
In this guide, we’re going to show you how to make a better wire keycap puller with paper clips and a twist tie.
We tried to keep this guide as simple but effective as possible. You will only need the following 5 items to make a great DIY wire keycap puller.
Let’s break down all of the steps required to make a keycap puller on the spot with minimal equipment.
Step 1: Get The Required Materials
- 2 x Paper Clips (size #1)
- 1 x Twist Tie (plastic preferred)
- 1 x Needle Nose Pliers
- 1 x Ruler
Tips before we start:
- Go for #1 size paper clips because they happen to be the same width as common wire keycap pullers. They should be just under 1mm thick.
- Plastic-coated twist ties are preferred for the added strength and comfort. Paper ones are commonly free at your local grocery store, next to the rolls of plastic produce bags. It’s always a good idea to keep some of these around when you get new electronics or visit the supermarket.
- Ruler and needle-nose pliers are not necessarily required but will make your life a lot easier. Apply some tape to the ends if you don’t want to mar up the paper clips.
Step 2: Straighten your Paper Clips
You will need to straighten out your paper clips. The #1 paper clips we’ve chosen are roughly 3.75 inches (~9.5 cm) long when straightened out.
You can use either your fingers or the pliers to straighten them out section by section. The last bend may require the pliers. Use your pliers to straighten out any kinks.
Try to make sure your paper clips are straight by checking against a flat surface or straight-edge.
Step 3: Bend the Arms
A wire keycap puller is about 3/4″ wide (~1.9 cm) or roughly the width of a finger. Make sure your bends are accurate and centered on the wire so that you end up with two arms of equal length.
When bent, each arm should be about 1.5 inches (~3.8 cm) long. If your finger fits between the arms, you have probably succeeded. You don’t want it to be too wide or else it won’t fit between the keys.
Step 4: Bend the Pegs
For these last bends, just make sure you don’t use more than the tip of the pliers. The pegs only need to be long enough for the twist tie to secure them. Try to preserve as much length in the arms as possible. Each peg should ideally be no longer than 0.5 centimeters.
Step 5: Do the Twist
Grab your twist tie and center it under your clip pegs. Fold over each section across the arms so you have equal lengths on either side. Twist them up and around the pegs we bent from Step 4. This acts both as a retainer and a handle for pulling.
This is the last step and you now have a completed DIY wire keycap puller!
Next-Level Keycap Pulling Tips
If you made the legs long enough, you should be able to pull two keycaps before needing to unload. Not as many as a traditional wire puller, but certainly more efficient and effective than a plastic one.
The easiest method is to make sure the clips are opened a bit. Lower it around the sides of the keycap.
When you have slipped under the keycap, twist or turn the puller slightly so that each edge is now under an opposing corner of the keycap. Now pull gently and slowly pull straight up. The keycap should come up easily. Repeat for another keycap. Once you get used to the force required, you can move faster.
Again, you should be able to pull 2 caps before you need to unload them. If your switch comes out too, it means the sockets may be loose or the plate may not be tight enough.
Avoid Jumbo Paper Clips
The wire on a large or jumbo sized paper clip may be thicker, which means in order to squeeze under your cap, you may have to press down the two keys immediately to its left and right to fit between the spaces.
If you can find a longer paper clip with a wire of the same width as a #1, or if you don’t mind having a thicker wire, then by all means use it.
Avoid Plastic Keycap Pullers
Most of the time if you purchase a hot-swap board or keycap set, they provide you with a plastic “ring” style puller. At first glance they seem fine. In reality they may be a nightmare for you.
The smaller issue is that they make the process take longer than it needs to be. You have to be careful sliding the plastic legs around your keycaps, wait for the prongs to click, then pull straight up. You will have to go one at a time and pop the keycap out after every pull.
You have to be perfectly centered on your shorter keycaps for this to work well. For longer keys that are stabilized, it is best to start on one side, then slide the puller over the other side and repeat. You can imagine this is annoying on a spacebar.
This leads to me to the bigger issue: keycap damage. Depending on your keycaps, they may have either come with your keyboard or have been purchased separately.
They could be anywhere from $20 keycaps to $200 keycaps. The last thing you want to be doing is sliding a rough plastic keycap along the surfaces and in the case of improper use, risk damaging the switch and PCB underneath.
Plastic keycap pullers honestly serve better as keychain accessories.
Other Options for Keycap Removers
Some other common items you can use to remove keycaps are floss, guitar strings, steel wire, armature wire, and pipe cleaners. If you get crafty, you can secure them with glue or epoxy to a handle, like a drilled wooden dowel or hollow plastic/metallic tubing.
If you have a low profile case with floating keycaps, you might be able to pull them off with your bare fingers, but it will probably be quite difficult and somewhat painful.
Don’t rip keycaps off as they can damage the switch underneath; Gently pull them off in a vertical motion. This method is not recommended, but we can’t keep you from trying!
Consider Purchasing a Wire Keycap Puller
“Real” wired keycap pullers are generally inexpensive, usually a few dollars each for a generic one with plastic handle that will allow you to pull multiple caps before unloading and speed up your workflow.
Often times they are even included with aftermarket and third-party keycap sets. If you plan on removing more than a few keys, it really is recommended to get yourself a wire puller, such as this one.
Chances are if you read this guide, you are planning on removing more than a few keycaps.
You may have spent all of your money on a nice set as well as some other essentials to customize your board. The last thing you need is a plastic puller ruining your caps, another expense, or more time waiting for something to be delivered.
Hopefully with this guide, you are able to make a DIY key puller that might not be the most ideal long-term solution, but will make your life a lot easier for now.
It’s a great solution especially if you don’t see yourself changing keycaps more than once. If you plan on it being more of a regular thing, we definitely recommend purchasing a proper wire puller.