Preferred Build Process

I was just curious what your process is when building a keyboard? I try and follow an order of operations that prevents having to do scuffy redos if something doesn’t go per usual. For example, you’d want to test your solderable PCB before installing switches – stuff like that. Everyone has a different way of doing things and I think that’s cool.

I thought this might help the hobby’s old timers refine their own ways of doing things while laying down some foundation for the newcomers.

This all starts after all the parts have been sourced, purchased, and delivered. In my case, this is for a hotswap so I can piecemeal the stab installation.

  1. Flash PCB with latest firmware
  2. Test PCB
  3. L/F enough switches for all stabs needed; usually four or five
  4. Tune stabs
  5. Install a single stab, switch and keycap, then test
  6. If good, remove switch and keycap, and install the remaining stabs
  7. Test stabs with switches and keycaps
  8. If good, remove switches and keycaps
  9. Retighten stabs
  10. Reinstall stab switches and keycaps with plate, then test
  11. If good, key test stab keys
  12. If good, L/F remaining switches and install
  13. Key test all switches
  14. If good, retighten stabs
  15. Install PCB into case
  16. Install remaining keycaps
  17. Do a few typing tests and tune any rogues switches

I usually never need to redo much if anything by following these steps, but time will tell.

  1. Lay out all the pieces and confirm I have everything I need
  2. Test PCB
  3. Balance wires and lube stabilizers
  4. Assemble switches, plate, and PCB
  5. Solder switches
  6. Test PCB
  7. Assemble board
  8. Plug-the-butt technique
  9. Keycaps
  10. Monkeytype/

^^ I’m usually zoned out at this point, so I make a note of any adjustments and tune/fix them later. But usually it’s pretty good the first time around. I’ve only ever used Durock/Everglide V2s** for stabilizers, and I’ve never had to redo or troubleshoot them :crossed_fingers:t3:. I don’t bother testing them before soldering because syringes :upside_down_face:.

**Except one C3 build and one Staebies build

  1. Test the PCB
  2. Lube stabilizers and install
  3. Put all the switches in (not soldered, just a “dry run” as I call it)
  4. Install keycaps
  5. monkeytype
  6. decide I don’t like the sound and put another set of switches in the alphas
  7. monkeytype
  8. decide I don’t like those switches either
  9. day is over so I put the build back in the closet
  10. walk over to the keyboard every few hours thinking “I know… THIS switch.”
  11. insert 1 or 2 of said switches, decide it sounds nice but now realize I need to lube them
  12. put off the build for a day or two b/c I don’t want to lube switches
  13. lube switches
  14. install switches and solder
  15. monkeytype for hours as I find every single thing I don’t like about the board
  16. realize I don’t hate the switches but they’re not that special
  17. make note of switches that need work
  18. use keyboard for a day or two and then swap it out for something else that grabs my attention
  19. rinse and repeat!


Note: For variation, I often insert a few weeks to a month of the unbuilt keyboard sitting in the closet while I wait for the next “perfect” switch to arrive. That switch never works out, but it’s part of the process.


Let me know if you can relate:

  1. Buy parts for build
    1.2 Let parts sit in drawer for 4 months

  2. Go back and forth about lubing switches for build or sticking to the factory lube.

  3. Lube a quarter of the switches
    3.1 decide it’s not worth it, count to make sure I have enough unmodified switches to continue

  4. Let project sit for two weeks while I start other projects

  5. Tune stab(s) to perfection then question whether id rather go with a different layout to avoid stabs altogether (40s club)
    5.1 decide to go with stabs

  6. Solder

  7. Try different keycaps, monkeytype

  8. Keep trying different keycaps

All the while other builds are happening between and behind the above build. Any other ADHDers out there? Lol. It’s fun, it’s just frustrating fun.


Here is my process:

  1. Buy parts for the build

  2. Receive parts for the build (Wait until all parts have arrived before starting process)

  3. Test pcb on keyboard tester. I typically place the pcb on a box and go through each set of pads on the pcb and make sure that there are no issues.

  4. Change my mind on:
    - Which Keyset I will be using
    - Whether or not to powdercoat the board, paint the board or keep the factory color.

4.1. If I choose to change the color, I will either paint it myself, or drop it off to\at my local powdercoater. Then I traditionally need to wait a month or so to begin the build.

  1. Test lube a few switches if I have not used them before:
    - If I prefer them lubed, I will finish all of the switches in one go
    - If I prefer them unlubed, I will move on to the next step

  2. Lube all stabilizers thoroughly and install them on the pcb

  3. Test the stabilizers by installing switches. Check for creaks rattles etc. If there are issues, I return to step 6 until I get it right.

  4. Begin soldering switches (Rarely use hot-swap, I do NOT like using hot swap pcbs)

  5. Boot up keyboard tester once again and make sure everything is working still.

  6. Open up the keyboard programming software (Typically QMK configurator), and flash the keyboard.

  7. Assemble the keyboard.

  8. Enjoy my new board

  1. buy topre
  2. type
  3. lube stabs when putting in aftermarket case

For mx it goes something like:

  1. join groupbuy
  2. source switches and stabs (potentially from GB)
  3. l/f switches before shipping notification
  4. test PCB
  5. tune stabs
  6. test board with stab keys only
  7. solder switches
  8. test board
  9. build and flash firmware
  10. type on topre instead

For those who prefer soldering over hotswap, what’s the attraction there?

I totally get that soldering lets you rebuild and/or mod just about any board as well as pick your own key layout, but with PCB’s like the Cascade offering options like split backspace and the availability of top-shelf in stock hotswap kits, is there still a reasonable return on investment with soldering?

I’m only asking because I’d like to learn to solder, but continue convincing myself it’s not worth it. I’m sure I’m mistaken …

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You will end up having some south-facing and some north-facing switches with pcb like this no? With that being said, I prefer hotswap.

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Honestly, I view each build as a snapshot of my hobby at the time. I like the relative permanence of the build choices. I like that it feels like a more involved build. I like soldering. I also use it as an excuse to buy and mod fewer switches, as that is far and away my least favorite part.

But it’s all preference. Unless you have specialty use cases that necessitates solder vs hot swap (half plates and flexy builds for example), it just comes down to what you prefer.


Cool. So there’s not a perceived “phoniness” to hotswap only builders? I just dig this hobby and don’t want to sell myself short.

Imo, if someone sees hotswap as phoney, that’s a “them problem” and not a “you problem.” I don’t appreciate that outlook, personally.


So for me its a couple things.

First off, I love soldering. I find it super relaxing and I learned to solder when I was very young, so it just comes naturally to me. More importantly for me though, is the issues I often have with hotswap. When installing switches I frequently bend pins and sometimes have to remove / reinstall switches several times before getting them to work. I have never experienced this issue with a non-hotswap pcb.

The other reason has only happened to me a few times, but it is extremely frustrating. Sometimes if a plate is slightly warped or if the hotswap sockets are loose, the pcb will pull away from the switches after a short time of general use. This typically happens with switches on the outside of the board and I will often notice first that they occasionally disconnect before they just simply do not work at all. This means I need to open the keyboard up and re install everything.

Ultimately I would rather have something ridgid that I know will not come apart as opposed to switches randomly popping out / disconnecting when I do not intend for them to.

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That’s a terrific point and a pretty convincing point of view.

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Don’t get me wrong though, there have been times where I really wished I used a hotswap, especially when trying a unique switch. De-soldering is not fun. Even with a de-soldering gun I can’t stand taking switches out.


Soldering is easy peasy and one of the quickest steps in the build process. I’ll find the KT thread with old PACE training videos: More than you need for keyboard soldering, but enjoyable and educational.

Soldering is satisfying, a useful skill generally, and personally it feels good when I make clean joints and the board looks 10/10 on the pinside :smiling_face:.

So, as far as picking up soldering goes…do it!


Preferred Build Process:

Getting it Right


  • Accidentally soldering on switches for win key on a WKL board
  • not realizing a stab isn’t fully in after clipping in switches (but thankfully before soldering)
  • Wondering why your plate won’t fit over your stabs then realizing your stabs are facing the wrong way on the PCB :man_facepalming:
  • spilling RO-59 lube
  • realizing 3/4 through lubing your switches you don’t have enough to build the board with the switches you are currently lubing
  • Getting the Dremel out because… you know

Nice. I appreciate the words of encouragement and info. I think I’ll give it a go.

The other day I chuckled when I realized how much I value L/F my own switches, but don’t have the same view in soldering them myself. Maybe I should …


Holy $#@!, you too? Lol.


Most of the pros are covered but soldering gives you the feeling of ‘I built this’ instead of ‘I assembled this’


Can you solder switches into a PCB with mill-max sockets? Apologies in advance if that’s a stupid question. Lol.

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