Using hotswap sockets? Before you insert the switches into the hotswap sockets, make sure to straighten the switch pins. You can bend them back with a fingernail or by carefully using tweezers. Try not to bend them many times, bending them back once is sufficient. It’s possible that pins are bent, which can happen at any point between being manufactured and arriving to you.
Installing switches with a case
If you’re building a caseless keyboard, please skip to the next section on this page.
Whether you’re using hotswap sockets or not, make sure the legs of the switches are straight, and bend them back carefully if they’re not. Pushing a switch in with bent legs is likely to damage the switch or hotswap socket.
Using plates with protective foil. Acrylic plates and some other material plates might use protective foil. Acrylic usually has both sides covered: one side with white or blue foil, and the other with transparent foil. Make sure to remove it at this point, as it’s hard to remove after installing the switches, especially if you’re soldering them. The transparent foil may be hard to see on some acrylic colours.
Put a screw through one side of a mounting hole and thread a spacer onto the screw from the other side.
You should use the following spacers:
- If you're using MX switches with a thin top plate (thickess of less than 2mm), such as an aluminium, brass, copper or FR4 plate, you should use 8mm spacers.
- If you're using MX switches with a thick top plate (thickness of more than 3mm), such as acrylic, you should use 6mm spacers.
- If you're using Kailh Low Profile Choc Switches with any top plate, you should use 6mm spacers. When using acrylic plates with choc switches, you may be able to get by with 4mm spacers too, but they're not included by default.
Both plates are symmetrical, so make sure to do it the other way around on the other half so you get two unique halves.
Put a switch into two opposing corners of the switch plate, and align the plate with your PCB. Carefully insert the switches into their respective hotswap sockets or solder pads.
Then, one by one, insert the switches. Bend their legs back into shape if need be, check if you've got it lined up with the hot swap socket or pads, and push down.
When using hot swap sockets: It can help to push on the back of the hotswap socket while you press the switch into the plate with your other hand, to prevent the socket from dislodging from the PCB which may damage it.
Due to tolerances and their surface finish, metal plates can require switches to be pressed into the plate with significant force before staying seated. Especially with Kailh low profile choc switches, it can help to push the side clips in with your nail or with a tool if pressing them into the plate proves to be difficult.
If you have a kit without hotswap sockets, solder the switches from the bottom of the PCB. Insert a few switches through the switch plate into the PCB at a time, solder them from the bottom, and repeat until all switch positions are filled.
Confirm the switch is seated: Make sure that the switch is pressed in all the way before soldering, as it's awkward to reseat a soldered switch later. The plastic of the switch should be touching the PCB.
Using Kailh Low Profile Choc switches and acrylic plates: This combination can sometimes cause the switch legs to not poke through the solder pad entirely, or sometimes at all. You'll still be able to form a solder joint by heating up the leg and the pad at the same time, and applying solder as usual, but it can be more finicky.
Installing switches without a case
If you just installed your switches with a case, please continue to the next page.
Not using a case? We recommend using a case to improve the longevity of your keyboard, but if you decide to not use one, here are some tips to install the switches.
Keeping the switches aligned. Without a plate, you’ll want to spend some effort to align the switches, as you’ll easily see any misalignment after installing the keycaps.
To align the switches, solder only one of the switch pins first. Then, after soldering a column of switches, you can heat up the soldered joint and slightly turn the switch into alignment. Solder the second pin after you’re happy with how it looks.
There are tools that can help you align switches in a caseless build, like a switch comb.