Replacing mechanical keyboard switches is a great skill to learn for the custom mechanical keyboard hobby. It can renew old keyboards that may have been deemed broken and can also open up new doors for customization.
To solder your switches, you’ll need a good soldering iron and wire. It’s best to use a wire that is 60% tin and 40% lead (63/37 Sn/Pb).
1. Soldering Iron
A soldering iron is a device that allows you to join metals together using a filler material with a low melting point, usually made up of an alloy of tin and lead. This method of joining metals is used for many different applications, including electronics, plumbing and roofing.
A good soldering iron should have a temperature control and an adjustable tip to ensure you can use it with ease. It should also have a safety stand and a cleaning sponge to make the work more efficient.
You can find a variety of soldering irons on the market, all with different features and price tags. However, it is important to choose a model that is designed for electronics. This will help you avoid having to waste time or money on replacing tips when they become faulty.
It is also a good idea to invest in some soldering wire and desoldering braid. These tools can save you time and hassle later on as they make the process much easier.
You can then test the keyboard again to ensure that it works properly. This will help you to determine if any switches need to be removed or replaced.
2. Soldering Wire
The key to soldering wires is to apply a small amount of heat and then carefully guide the wire into place so that it melts over each electrical contact. You want to make sure that there is enough solder melted onto the contact to completely surround it, but not so much that it spills out onto the circuit board’s non-conductive material.
The soldering process is incredibly important to any project that involves electrical connections. It allows for a smooth, reliable connection between the two metal pieces, and it keeps the wires from getting shorted when they’re not connected properly.
First, it’s a good idea to remove the insulation from the ends of the wires you’re going to join together. This will prevent the wires from becoming too hot, which could damage them or cause the insulation to melt away altogether.
Once you’ve removed the insulation, position the wires on your work surface so they’re elevated. If you have a handy alligator clip or household metal spring clamp, these are great tools to help hold the wires in place.
Next, use a small dab of rosin flux (an adhesive material made from synthetic resin or pine tar) to tin each wire. This will help the wires stick to each other better and will also reduce oxidation.
3. Solder Sucker
A solder sucker is an excellent tool for removing unwanted solder from circuit boards. These can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but all feature a small cylindrical frame that houses a mechanical pump.
A good solder sucker should be durable and resistant to heat. This is especially important because you’ll be using it to suck off hot solder from your circuit boards.
The best solder sucker for this task is one that has a durable frame and a dependable pump tip. This will ensure that it’s easy to use, and won’t warp after coming in contact with hot solder or a soldering iron.
Another thing to consider when selecting a good solder sucker is whether it comes with a replacement tip. This will help you save money by avoiding having to buy new solder suckers.
Plunger solder suckers are the most popular type of desoldering sucker and feature a spring-loaded suction system that sucks heated solder into a reservoir. These pumps can be operated with a single hand and are generally the best pick for home-based soldering stations.
Vacuum solder suckers are the most expensive and are used in professional soldering situations. They also have a vacuum feature that sucks heated solder into the sucker’s reservoir. These are often more expensive and have more complicated mechanisms than plunger suckers.
4. Keycap Puller
If you are a mechanical keyboard fan, you probably want to change your switches and keycaps from time to time. This can be a great way to improve your typing experience, and it also gives you an opportunity to try out new switches that you may not have been able to otherwise.
To do this, you need a few tools. One of them is a keycap puller. This tool will help you remove the keycaps of your keyboard so that you can lubricate them properly.
Next, you’ll need a solder sucker. This is an important tool because it will allow you to remove the solder that holds your switch in place.
Start by heating up the solder with your iron, and then press the tip of the sucker onto the joint. The sucker will heat up the solder and liquefy it, making it easier to remove.
This will take about a second or two, so be patient and repeat this process for each joint and switch. If the solder isn’t sucking up, you’ll need to add more leaded solder or heat it for longer to get it to melt and suck up.
Once the solder has sucked up, you can replace the switch and plug it back into your keyboard. Then, you can test it to ensure that the switch is working properly. If it doesn’t work, you may need to go back through the entire process again.
A keyboard is a combination of a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) and key switches. The PCB is responsible for converting the analog inputs of the keys into electrical signals for the computer, while the switches allow for different key assignments.
For the keys, there are two main options: “hot-swappable” and “soldering.” Initially, users may lean toward hot-swappable keyboards since they can easily test various kinds of switches, but enthusiasts will often recommend soldered models as they allow for more freedom in switch customization.
The first step is to de-solder the old switch from the PCB. Then, place a new switch in its place, and solder it to the PCB using a non-leaded soldering wire.
If your keyboard uses plate-mounted switches, you’ll also need a “switch puller” to remove the switch from the plastic or metal plate it rests on. You can find these pullers at any hardware store.
Once you have the switch pulled off, you’ll need to clean the switch of any residual solder. If you fail to do this, the solder will be stuck in the key’s electrical contact and will not come off.
If you notice any bent pins, they’ll need to be straightened out with tweezers. This is a necessary step for any mechanical switch because the pins won’t go all the way in if they’re bent.