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MadCast: Kitty Stark

How do I change keyboard switches?

Question

So after rediscovering and disposing of my old broken Razer keyboard, I was curious about changing the switches on my current Corsair keyboard to be a bit more tactile and "clicky" like the Razer ones. I'm not sure what Cherry switches (or any brand, as I don't know which is considered best) are most similar to the Razer green switches, but I'd like to buy enough . I did find this guide which has great instructions for the actual process, but I have no experience with soldering and the starter kit they recommend in the article is sold out on Amazon. At this point I have a few questions;

  • Is soldering a high-difficulty skill or something relatively simple to learn/hard to master?
  • Do you have any recommendations for a budget-friendly starter kit for electronic soldering?
  • Is it important to get a soldering iron with  precise temperature setting VS just on/off?
  • Do you have any advice other than what the article instructs?
  • What type of switches should I buy that closely resemble the Razer green (very clicky and with a noticeable button pressing feel)?
  • Is this a good project to learn soldering on, or should I do something more basic first to practice?

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  • Is soldering a high-difficulty skill or something relatively simple to learn/hard to master?

Soldering is a mechanical/chemical process involving the use of a solder ( a metal alloy), and a flux (a chemical solution) to create a small joint. You may think of it as tiny welding (though it is a different process than welding). The most important thing about soldering is to understand what is happening, prepare properly for what you are going to do, and then to perform the task quickly (but without haste). Solder can sometimes be forgiving depending on the material/job you are doing, but you need to have a clear picture of what you are attempting before you do it. Basic jobs can be learned how to do well enough for home hobbying with some videos, guides, and practice in an afternoon. Doing precise, masterful work is the work of years of practice. The kind of soldering you are talking about-replacing a connection on a circuit board- is relatively straightforward and doable by someone new to soldering. I would suggest practicing with it just to understand how it works before attempting however, as you can easily damage your keyboard irreparably if you make a major mistake.

  • Do you have any recommendations for a budget-friendly starter kit for electronic soldering?

I'm not familiar with some of the brands for the starter kits I see on amazon- the kit linked (and many of the kits) have nearly everything you can ever need, often of budget quality, and you probably won't touch half the kit on this particular job. If you are interested in a budget kit in general, I would perhaps suggest this- https://www.amazon.com/ANBES-Soldering-Iron-Kit-Electronics/dp/B06XZ31W3M/ref=sr_1_5?dchild=1&keywords=soldering+kit&qid=1592777276&s=hi&sr=1-5

 

The brand I always stood by in the shop was Weller though. Building your own kit is going to cost a bit more, but you can avoid things you don't really need, or get better versions of those things for cheaper. Out of everything in the above kit though, the soldering iron itself is probably the thing that is most 'budget.' If you get into doing your own solder repair at home more often, I'd be happy to help you upgrade it piecemeal. Regardless, the kit does not contain flux, so don't forget that either- its necessary. 

 

  • Is it important to get a soldering iron with  precise temperature setting VS just on/off?

Precise temperature setting is more of an extra feature than a necessary feature outside some very specific uses. The hotter the iron, the faster the metal melts. If its not hot enough, the job is very hard to do. If its way too hot, its very hard to do. The typical temperature setting though (Around 650F) for a one temperature unit is fine for most standard electronics work. 

  • Do you have any advice other than what the article instructs?

The article is very narrow in its focus, which can be an issue in that you aren't learning much about soldering in general. Here's a reasonable article to introduce everything about soldering more generally, to use in tandem- https://www.makerspaces.com/how-to-solder/

I strongly suggest that you read that article, perhaps watch a youtube video, and play with the solder in a well-ventilated area. Take the included wires and solder a few pieces together, and then desolder them, rinse and repeat. Just to get a feel for how it works. 

  • What type of switches should I buy that closely resemble the Razer green (very clicky and with a noticeable button pressing feel)?

No comment I'm not a switch bro.

  • Is this a good project to learn soldering on, or should I do something more basic first to practice?

I think this is a reasonable first project after the above practice and tutorial work. The skills required to perform this work aren't particularly difficult, but you need to practice some and understand the process before you just dive in to do this work specifically. 

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47 minutes ago, MadCast: Kitty Stark said:

First I have to say that I love mechanical keyboards so if you ever want to talk about them hmu. I have 7 mechanical keyboards, one coming in September from a kickstarter and I am going to build my own this summer. I think if you are just wanting to get a keyboard with the switches that you are looking for you would probably end up paying less in the end, even more so when you factor in the cost of the soldering equipment. You can get some really fucking great mechs now for cheap, like 50 bucks. I still think its a great project if you are wanting to use the experience to learn a new skill or even better if you want to reclaim the switches from a cheap or free broken donor board. I would recommend installing hotswap sockets as well, the cost isn't much more, the process is 100% the same but instead of soldering the switches to the board you solder hotswap sockets and then just plug in the switches to that. this way you are able to swap the switches at will just like keycaps.

  • Is soldering a high-difficulty skill or something relatively simple to learn/hard to master?

I learned to solder when I was 8 and I have 20 years of experience in electronics manufacturing. It is not a hard skill to learn.

  • Do you have any recommendations for a budget-friendly starter kit for electronic soldering?

I love the TS-80 and TS-100 and there are these really nice cheap stations build on the T12 tips that I really like also.

TS-100

TS-80

KSGER T12

  • Is it important to get a soldering iron with  precise temperature setting VS just on/off?

I like variable temperature is important but it doesn't need to be precise.

  • Do you have any advice other than what the article instructs?

Well ventilated area, use flux and wick to remove the solder from the existing switches as cleanly as possible.

  • What type of switches should I buy that closely resemble the Razer green (very clicky and with a noticeable button pressing feel)?

Razer Greens are their version of a Cherry MX Blue type switch, any blue switch should have a close feel. I personally like the price to performance from gateron.

  • Is this a good project to learn soldering on, or should I do something more basic first to practice?

I think this could be a great project to learn soldering on, its all going to be basic ass thru hole on a multilayer board.

 

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