Finding that perfect key switch, and the rest of the anatomy. A beginners call for help!

Good evening fellow keeb warriors :smiley: .

I’m looking for some assistance with the beginning of my build as the title proposes. The most crucial part for me at this moment as some of you would agree is the switches. I love a clicky loud sound with a mostly responsive feel. I don’t want to have a five pound trigger, but I want to feel the activation for sure. I really would love to find a key switch tester that gives me options like how Cherry has the 8 key switch tester you can buy that lets you try all of them, but I know that’s ridiculous with how many different companies and switch types there are. What would you all recommend?

For more reference, I’m not sure on what percentage I’m going to build yet, and I’m not sure on what plate I want to get either. I really like the thought of a Brass plate because the thought of the acoustics against it sounds good in my head, but I have no experience with different materials than pre made mass produced keebs.

One of my biggest questions along with all of this is how to tell what parts fit together. I’m noticing the differences like PCB mount positions, and case sizes. How do I really tell what goes with what?

Other details would be that I plan to do a hot swap PCB for my first build, and I don’t mind getting a lube kit and lubing the switches myself, just worried about screwing up my first go around lol.

Any and all help is much appreciated! And if anyone has extra switches and/or a test board I could buy off them or a recommendation to one that’s not going to break the bank that would be awesome.


Ahoy! So many good questions.

My mind goes straight to Kailh click-bar switches; there are some infamous heavy ones, but quite a few more approachable ones as well - and they’re all super crisp.

There are quite a few, but the easiest to find are the Box Whites and Box Pinks (not to be confused with Silent Box Pinks), and also the Kailh Speed Bronze and Gold switches. These use a plucked metal bar on the end of a short torsional spring to make their click, as opposed to the often rattly plastic stem jacket that most other MX-compatible clickies use.

All other things being equal, this is a general rule about plates: harder materials tend to make higher-pitched, sharper sounds, and softer materials tend to make lower-pitched, er… not sharp sounds.

Brass is one of the hardest plate materials commonly available, and makes for short, punchy sounds - but might take more tuning skill to get the most out of because of how high-frequency sounds (like spring / leaf ping / rattle) carry through it - and unfortunately many of those click-bar switches I recommended earlier do have plenty of spring ring until you lube said springs.

Brass also makes for a very firm foundation for your switches, which might be perfect for maximum crispness.

On the other end of what’s commonly available, polycarbonate plates are very flexible and absorb rather than carry high-frequency vibrations - so they can cut-down on harshness both with sound and feeling. They do carry lower-frequency vibrations, though - so they’re useful if you’re going for a deep-sounding build. They can also help facilitate flex in your keyboard, depending on how the bits are mounted in.

There are a few standard-ish mounting patterns out there, but it’s pretty Wild-West when it comes to compatibility. The easiest form-factor to customize all over the place is 60%, thanks to the wide adoption of the GH60 standoff pattern. Not all 60s use it, but quite a few of them do, especially when it comes to cases, plates, and PCBs you can buy that aren’t otherwise part of some kit or specific other family of parts.

I believe there are also some universal 65% plates and a handful of PCBs that fit in the Tofu65 cases, which come in a few different materials.

There are also more and more affordable kit series boards, for lack of a better term in context. That is, a kit board that has a variety of plate materials, PCB options, and/or case options - but whose parts aren’t really compatible with other kits not in the series and visa-versa. Examples include the KBD67 lite / v3 boards, and the GMMK Pro with its handful of plate options.

I think there’s some amount of cross-compatibility with some 75% plates and such, but that gets into foreign territory for me. As far as I’m aware, most boards bigger than that are pretty much their own thing with a few exceptions here and there.

For example, it’s really easy to hack a bunch of different commercial TKL parts together with minimal modding because tons of them are based on the same measurements - aftermarket cases meant for the Filco Majestouch 2 will fit a bunch of other boards, but you might have to do some minimal clipping and drilling because none of that is intended compatibility so much as a side-effect of an available generic design.

You can get one of these laser cut acrylic plates for like $7, and put nub feet on it if they don’t already come on there. You can also get them pre-populated with a bunch of switches.

Those make for fine testers, as do empty macro pad cases and even really cheap hot-swap keebs. There’s one out right now for $25 (it has a bunch of names including KBM68 and TES68; the PCB says CIY Tester68), but the plate grabs switches too tightly for me to recommend it as a tester - it’ll mangle some kinds of switches if you don’t file the plate down - so the cheapest one I can vouch for out of the box is the GK61x, which is usually around $50.

As for switches, aside from the pre-populated testers, you can get single switches - the only place I can think of off-hand is I also have some extras I can send your way to pop into a tester or hotswap. Let me poke around and see what kind of clickies and crisp tactiles I have spares of and we can figure something out.


@MrBeardicuffs you’re in good hands buddy. Everything mentioned above is top-shelf advice.

Tons of boards now come as a kit so you can be sure everything will fit. YT tends to have a bunch of unboxing and build videos that I lurk if I want to know how a particular plate material will sound with a certain case, switch, or (also important) keycap.


+1 for watching a bunch of YouTube videos, there are so many out there now you can probably get a general idea of how things will sounds with at least similar components to what you’re looking at


I have a lot of the same preferences as you stated when it comes to MX switches (although I do like them heavy) and so I would second any of the click bar switches mentioned above.

I would also highly recommend ruling out Topre, as well as some of the after market runner domes that are available now. Much harder to find “testing” solutions for but if you want to really feel the activation its hard to beat the oneness with cup rubber.

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As far as lubing clicky switches goes you only want to lube the springs, either with the donut dip method or the bag lube method. As far as screwing up the lubing on other parts of a switch, definitely err on the side of less. Reopening switches is annoying, but its way easier to add more lube than it is to remove too much.


I can’t argue with any of the advice above; it’s all good, but I wanted to add two bits of info that took me a year to learn.

The first is that it is super easy and cheap (under $10 for the whole keyboard) to swap out the springs in MX switches to give the switch an entirely different feeling.

The second is that with a hotswap board, it’s easy and fun to try out new switches and a LOT cheaper than buying new keycaps or keyboards. With the exception of a few switches (your Holy Pandas, Zealios, etc), you can swap all the switches on a 60% or 65% keyboard for about $50-60 (edit: or less if you go with common switches like Gateron Yellow).

Basically, don’t sweat the switches. It’s a lot less stressful to pick switches that you think you’ll enjoy for a few months rather than choosing switches you plan to use for life.

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Hoo boi did you give me some goodies to dissect and soak in! I really appreciate this a ton! Had a ton to do today and just now getting a chance to fully go through all of this. (Also about to get to your PM I glanced and holy <3 )

See this is exactly why I wanted some opinions lol. I figured there was going to be some sort of difference in how the switches are made up anatomically too and that explains it. I saw another comment below about changing out springs for different feels even in cheap switches so this gives me some ideas for sure.

So this sounds like something I would like, and if I gather from what you’re saying with the whole comment, it would be really solid for what I want if I lube the springs on the click-bar switches?

Originally I was planning to build a TKL style because that’s what I currently use and am comfortable with, but I realize how much I don’t use the rest of the keys. Literally only the delete key and arrow keys lol. My only concern is having a keeb with a weight to it. I’m really liking the thought of having one of the 60% cases with the plate underneath that seems to add some weight to it in my opinion, but I may be wrong.

This actually pushes me to another thing is I was really wanting to build a macro pad anyways so that would be really dope to go ahead and get one and use it as my switch tester so I’m going to look into that and also the others you recommended for a possibly less expensive and quicker option!

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Thanks for this! I’ll definitely be doing some deep dive on videos for lubing before I try to do it myself on this build. Is it hard to get the lube off? For some reason I expected you would just need to use some water lol.

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After I made this post I saw some peoples benches and man do I plan on collecting switches and doing swaps/builds! If this build goes ok I really want to do a build for a work keyboard and will probably use some quieter linear switches for that. I’ll be testing them on my main keyboard for a bit just to make sure I really enjoy what I get.

I imagine it depends on the type of lube, but I used isopropyl and a cotton swab to remove krytox 205g0. Hot water and soap would probably work, but then you have to wait for things to dry. Taeha Types has a good video on lubing mx switches, that was kind of my starting point for switch lubing info.

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He’s what brought me to this site lol. I started his lube video yesterday but got caught up with something at work so I need to go back and actually watch it to learn what needs to be done.

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Yes. Agreed with @huhsh that pretty much just the springs need lube in clickies, though that’s less of a hard rule with the click bar switches as opposed to the jackets - getting lube on those stops them from clicking, and can also make them feel weird.

As @ListlessLlama pointed out, springs alone can change the whole feel of a keyboard, and different springs will be more or less prone to ping and/or rattle - though most if not all of that can be taken care of with lube.

This is definitely a thing - a very popular thing, in fact. Just about every new custom in the past few years has had an option for a weight, usually brass. Even cheaper keebs will use steel or lead weights inside to keep it planted on the desk.

If you use the delete and arrow keys a lot, the myriad of layouts in the 60% - 65% range are worth a look. A handful of 60% keebs have the option of an arrow cluster squeezed in:


Then there’s this layout, mostly associated with one or two keebs; it’s a 60% plus arrows, Ins, and Del:

Leopold FC660 series

With another two to three keys is the “standard” 65% layout:

KBD67 lite

65% are pretty much my personal fave, and are really popular right now - which means there are a bunch to choose from. There are more variations on the theme than those three above, but that’s a general look at what’s available in the size range.

I totally encourage you to do this! There are a nice handful of macro pad kits out there, as well as a few different ways of making them hot-swappable if they aren’t otherwise designed for it.


When you say jackets are you referring to the casings or is that a whole other switch?

I think 65% after some research and with what you said is what I’m going to go for! I don’t use the arrows a ton but I do coding and that’s when I tend to use the arrows and delete key. The only keys it’s really missing that I use are the tilda and the F12 key (dev tools shortcut) but that’s programmable on the right side or I can just use a macro pad.

Yeah I think with what I’m wanting to do this is 100% going to have to happen. Also want to build a num pad at some point, but that’s not necessary for the moment, it would barely get used lol.

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The “jacket” is a kind of plastic sleeve that gets slammed into the bottom housing to make the click; here’s a .gif that shows one in action - it’s the white part in the middle:

The bendy part on the left is the “leaf” - its main function is as one of the pair of contacts that make the switch function, but it also plays a role in the tactile character of the switch.

The sloped bits of the stem (in this case the sloped bits of the jacket) that interact with the leaf are generally referred to as “legs” or “tactile legs” for non-linears. The shape of that slope also plays a large role in the feeling of an MX-style switch.

Edit: Heh, what that .gif doesn’t show is how the jacket ricochets and rattles on the down-stroke. The animation shows what actually happens when you lube a jacketed stem; the jacket moves downward more slowly, and just comes to rest at the bottom on a cushion of lube, making little to no noise.


all good advice.

  • definitely suggest the Kailh click bar switches
    • do you like heavier or lighter switches? 50-65gr on the lighter side 80ish on the heavier/stiffer side (more effort)
  • if you DON’T want to assemble your 1st board the GK boards are decent hotswap off the shelf boards. also has a handful of hotswap boards but are a bit more pricey.
  • if you want LOUD, steel plate. (period). no flex but very “pingy” (spring “ring”) which, lubing the spring would dampen.

Alright what’s everyone’s opinions on KP Republic? I’ve been looking at different vendors and I found a DNA 65% case I like a good bit for a cheaper first build. I haven’t decided on switches yet until @Deadeye hits me with the testers he’s sending my way, and my test kit comes in Friday with 63 other switches as well, but from recommendations from him, most likely I’m going something click-bar. The case also seems to come with a brass plate I think which I was wanting to go with on my first build.

Is there anything crucial I’m missing out getting this kit, or something that’s going to handicap me heavily?

Also I’m sure I think I know the answer, but if I’m ordering keycaps, I assume order from Drop unless the deal is much better elsewhere so I can get points on the site? I’m looking at getting the Matcha Japanese Plus set even if I don’t use them on this build (most likely will at first at least), and just wanted to double check.

The only thing I can think of is the “North-facing” LED positioning; this has the chunkier part of the switch towards you, which can interfere with some shorter caps including GMK’s. Not all switches will interfere with said caps; stuff with a “long pole” or shorter travel won’t, and neither will any of the Kailh BOX switches with the circular stem shroud, for example. If you use medium to tall caps it’s not a concern at all, but it is a potential limitation to be aware of.

As for Drop (whom we sometimes affectionately call Dorp), they are indeed a fine place to get keycaps, and they do have that new loyalty program thing going on - but if I can get the same set or dodad from a smaller vendor, I tend to opt for that.

As a side note - it’s been exactly one year today since I threw a little DORP sticker giveaway.


Lmao this is fantastic x,D

If I understand correctly, I can use any switch, but if I use standard stem switches, I have to use higher profile caps or ones with the stem shrouds to not have those problems?

Gotcha on the drop vs others! That settles that then.

Any MX-based switch will fit the board, yes. Taller caps will be sure to not interfere.

It’s mostly about the housing shape with the switches; it’s just those circular stem shrouds that are easy to identify by sight. Those switches have a more tapered housing that avoids the issue. Examples include Silent Box Brown and Box Cream.

The ones with the square stem shrouds will still interfere, though, like Box White or Box Navy.

“Long pole” and other shorter travel switches are ones where the inside part of the stem is longer, so it doesn’t go down as far - that also avoids the interference but is less obvious by sight. If you push the stem all the way down and the top of it sits slightly above the housing, it’s a short travel switch and won’t interfere. Examples include Holy Pandas, Ink Yellows, and all of Gazzew’s switches.

They are kind of hard to find but there are spacing washers you can use if you get stuck with a set of switches and caps that interfere.

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