Like many during however long this pandemic has been going on for we have found other interests and hobbies to either drain our money away or at least entertain us and sometimes both whilst we are not or were not allowed out and about. My lockdown started with a tech refresh which grew into creating a home studio to create content and generally make life a little easier whilst working from home for extended periods, then I found mechanical keyboards!
The first cut is the deepest
As I was refreshing the systems at home, I purchased a new Logitech G915 mechanical keyboard, pretty much an off the shelf keyboard that looks sleek and smart (don’t hate on me I was coming from the Apple ecosystem) The noise thing makes is amazing and I still use this keyboard daily, but this would start something, someone call it an obsession.
Ok, you start with one and then naturally you go hunting for another, right? You start to join subreddits and follow some out there YouTube content creators that review only mechanical keyboards and build them. (we were in lockdown for a long time) You learn that you have different size of keyboards, full keyboard > tenkeyless (TKL) > 65% > 60% > 40%. Then you have the different switches and keycap sets. It is a whole world and if you are reading this and you have not taken the blue pill then pull back because you will end up with more keyboards than you have systems to use them. (But it is fun)
There becomes a time though that you just want to build something yourself, and by build, I mean buy the parts and put them together, I mean some people build their complete keyboard and there are some crazy steampunk looking stuff out there. I quoted the budget term in the title because I am massively aware that not everyone has the luxury of being able to do this and I am extremely lucky to be able to, I also used it because budget is a great term to use with the better halve when justifying your spend on something like this.
My First Custom
I was dubious about shopping on AliExpress as I had never used the service before, but it doesn’t seem the same as something like Amazon, but it was really the only place I could gather up the parts at a reasonable price vs spending almost double on places like Etsy and eBay. Apart from the switches I was able to source everything on AliExpress which did take a few weeks to arrive but overall everything was very good. The switches I got from Amazon on a next day once I decided the right ones for the build.
The case & PCB
The choice of The Case, PCB, positioning board was the TM680 or sometimes known as the TOM680. You can find out more information about what you get in the box here as well, the link is also where I purchased it from and everything went well, packaging good etc and it was timely considering it was coming from China. I had seen a few mentions of this kit on a few YouTube channels about this being a budget keyboard kit, so it was the right starting point on this custom build journey.
You can get the unit in various colours and not just the ones I found below now, but I chose black because of the colour scheme I was working towards.
Now I am not going to get into why I chose switches because everyone is going to have a different opinion which is fine but I went with the Gateron Yellow Linear switches from here. My advice here is watch some YouTube videos and find out which one you would like, and if you are serious then maybe a switch tester is in your future where you could get a tester with all variants of switches in.
Customising your keyboard is the fun part, it’s no longer just a black or a beige keyboard we can get very creative when it comes to keycap sets but you can also spend a lot of money, so I went and found a clone copy of some keycaps in the colour scheme that I wanted. AKKO NEON Keycaps Set Cherry/ASA Profile Double-shot PBT 108 Full Keycaps Set, with 49 Extra Novelty Keycaps from here.
I also went a little silly on some custom ideas for the space bar some of the options are below.
I will save the one I went with till the end.
Although I went with the Bluetooth, wireless and cabled option I also wanted to complete the setup with a nice, coiled cable that matches the colour scheme. Again, Aliexpress had an affordable selection again I was dubious, but all came through good. And I went with this one.
The finished article
With that we have our new custom keyboard that joins the collection along with all the other boards that don’t have a device but it’s the thought that counts. In this house we will never have a shortage of keyboards that’s for sure.