Post your Alps questions, Alps boards and projects using Alps switches here… all things Alps or Alps clones in this thread.
What are Alps switches?
Alps Electric Co. is a Japanese company that is known in the keyboard community primarily for the Alps SKCL/SKCM series of mechanical keyswitches. This switch has not been in production for a long time though, but Alps clone switches are still manufactured.
So if you decide to go the cheaper route for Alps board, your best bet is to buy Matias switches.
Matias switches are based heavily on the simplified Alps design. The shell is completely transparent, allowing for LEDs to be mounted directly underneath the switch. Unlike typical Alps clone switches, Matias switches are externally an exact replica of Alps switches including the four wing-shaped plate retention clips.
It’s hard to get a Alps keyboard because of the limited availability of PCBs, cases and original Alps switches that go together. Even when you get Matias switches, you still need to find a PCB and a case for them.
Alps sets just don’t sell. Look at the numbers for the alps throwback set deskcandy is running now. People seem to look at the prices for new alps sets and then look at the price of an aek or aekII. Then they seem to say “whelp if I just use these I can spend that extra $200 on those three panda switches that guy is selling on MechMarket and have me sum suuuupper meme switches.” Then they don’t see any new alps sets run for the next 6 months and wonder why nobody is making new alps sets.
This is totally true, but I also feel like the people that are deep into Alps usually use crazy vintage sets anyway so it’s a non-issue that new sets fail. I think the difficulty people face with Alps is the perceived difficulty of starting out with them.
V80-MTS (with MQC and Dolch Doubleshots)
Infinity Ergodox (with MQC and PBT blanks)
2 X AEK64 (w/ Cream ALPS)
M0110 hand wired to teensy (w/ ALPS SKCC linear)
In general, I like the old dampened cream ALPS the best (from the AEKII). They should be pretty similar to the MQC, but I like the old ones better - it’s possible that the old switches are just worn down a bit and smoother.
I haven’t tried Orange or Salmon ALPS, but some people seem to like those better.
Fortunately the AEKII already comes with dye sub PBT keycaps, so don’t feel a need to replace them with anything else.
I built a bunch of boards after the AEK64, but rotated it back in and seem to like it the best (using the M0110 at home now, although I don’t like the heavy linears much, but they are sort of growing on me).
OK, so I am still on planning phase for my first ALPS board. I have 80 Orange and 100 Damped Cream. The idea is to find or print a 40% plate and do a handwire project.
I also recently got an AEK II from eBay to salvage the caps with homes that it would come with nice ALPS, but it came with the Mitsumi Standard Mechanical switches instead. I played with them a bit and they didn’t feel bad or good. My question is: are there ways to improve those switches my lubing or spring swapping?
Aren’t the Mitsumi switches ALPS mount? If so, you can use the keycaps with your Cream or Orange ALPS switches.
Are the Mitsumi switches pin-compatible with ALPS? I haven’t heard of anyone using them in a project, although if you’re doing a hand wire, you wouldn’t have to worry about whether they fit into an ALPS PCB.
They are indeed 100% compatible with ALPS. I just didn’t hear a lot of information about how they feel. Before desoldering them I tried them for a bit and being very old and dirty, they felt really inconsistent. Some of them felt really good while other had very noisy springs. So I am hoping I can lube spring swap them at some point.
I just wanted to know if anyone here have any experience with them or with general ALPS lubing and/or spring swap.
Some people have taken apart old ALPS switches and put the metal parts into an ultrasonic cleaner. I think that will definitely help with the dirtiness and inconsistency.
Haven’t lubed any of my ALPS switches, but they felt pretty good as-is (I think I got lucky and got clean boards where the switches weren’t dirty). Spring swaps could be a bit tricky because they use different springs from Cherry MX, so you would need a source for the springs. You could take apart Matias switches for the springs, but that would be pretty expensive.
Spirit does Alps springs of various weights. Spirit Alps/MX/Box springs.
People have had problems with him in the past but I’ve not had any problems with him.
And though I haven’t tried it myself. Others have said good things about This lube for use with Alps switches. With Alps switches you don’t want to use a standard lube, as they stay fluid and attract dust. And Alps and dust don’t mix.
@Dolas that is super interesting. As a matter of fact, right after my reply I went to SPRiT’s website and checked the ALPS springs. I had an order that was not yet fulfilled with him so I went ahead and ordered a few of those to test.
About the lube, do you think even thick lubes like GPL205g0 or Tribosys will be a problem with ALPS?
Early Alps came factory lubed yith dry lube. Nobody knows what kind so others have experimented and that finish line dry chain lube seems to be the current front runner for best Alps lube. As for the lubes used on MX style switches (in all their many changing varieties) they stay fluid or semi fluid. Thus when the dust that always gets into Alps switches arrives. It gets trapped in the grease/oil and muves all around the inside of the switch putting small or not so small scratches on the slider housing etc. Making for scratchy switches. Where as with dry lube or no lube the dust/dirt mostly stays in one place, moves to the bottom of the switch or makes the switch feel like ass, encouraging you to clean the switch sooner. Thus lessening the chance that you damage the switch to the point that switch replacement is required instead of cleaning. And as we all know Alps be expensive and hard to find.
I’ll piggyback on the advice for an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner. I used one to clean my SKCM oranges I got in my AEK64 & it worked very well. Although I just cleaned the housings, stems, & switchplates with the ultrasonic & soaked the springs & tactile plates in 90% iso alcohol. The switch plate could soaked as well if you can get them out of the bottom housing easily.
Some good advice and recommendations in here! Always happy to see alps threads. To add my personal experience with the topic of alps lubricants, I’ve had really positive results using 100% PTFE dry powder (commonly used on piano knuckles). The finer powder you can find, the better… I use some that’s 2-3 micron APS and seems to adhere really well.