Part two switches

The construction of a Planck

A journal of my first mechanical keyboard build.

Part two

Switches

OK, this is where it gets interesting (and complicated).

You are going to want to get one of these.

It’s called a switch tester, and you guessed it, it’s a device for testing switches. This one is for 6 different Cherry MX switches. Two clicky, two linear and two tactile.

The Cherry switches are named after the color on the stem of the switch.

The blue switch is a clicky switch, the brown is a tactile and the red is a linear switch. The green is the same as a blue but with a stiffer spring. The black is a stiffer red and the white (it’s name is “clear”) is a stiffer brown.

Right around here my head started to hurt.

But it gets worse. A lot worse.

Apparently Cherry, the company who produces these switches, lost the patent rights to the design of the switches and now anyone can make a switch that both looks and funktions the same. But I’ll get back to that in a little while.

The Blue switch is a "clicky" switch. It has a loud click when you press it. It's claim to fame is that it's really loud and apparently you get a keyboard with blue switches if you want to drive your coworkers insane. 
The Brown switch is a tactile switch. You can feel a "bump" when you press it, but you can't hear the "bump".
The red switch is a linear switch. There is no click or bump. You just press it until it bottoms out. Apparently this is a favorite amongst gamers. 

In these GIFs you can see how the different switches work. You would think with that little difference between the different models there wouldn’t be much room for improvement.

You could not be more wrong.

I’ve come across more switches and manufacturers than I can count. Like 20 or 30 different variants on both the clicky and the tactile switches. And every company has their own take on them. It’s insane. This is a board I found online with a different switch in every position. And these are just a small sample of what’s out there.

There are a number of manufacturers that produce these switches and everybody on the forums seems to swear by a different switch by a different manufacturer. They all have slight differences like a stiffer or softer spring, or louder click, or a more pronounced bump. Some even modify the switches, “mods” are combinations of parts from one switch and other parts from another switch. Picking the switch apart so you can lube different parts of the switch seems to be another way of reaching switch euphoria.

And these are just the different variants of the cherry MX switch. There are a lot of other variants of switches as well, but I have no interest at all to learn about them. At least not right now…

The keyboard I’m writing this on right now is a Vortex race3.

There are a lot of things I like about it, like the keycaps and the switches. I love the keycaps, but I only like the switches. I hate the staggered layout. But more on that later.

When I bought the Vortex I had no clue about all the different options when it came to switches. I read online that the brown switches was a good middle ground. OK for most tasks but not the best at anything.

I have a bag of brown switches sitting in my drawer, but those are only there as a backup. The other two switches I’ve ordered are in the mail and they are a clicky and a tactile switch. I’ve gone with the Zealios 65g as my tactile choice and the Kailh box white as my clicky choice. I haven’t tried any of them but that’s part of the charm for me. From what I’ve read on the internet they both come highly recommended. I’ll put the switches on my tester when they get here and I’ll just solder on the ones I like best. The rev6 PCB of the Planck lets you switch the switches without soldering so I’m going to get my chance at experimenting with different switches later.

So if you’re just getting started with your first build and have stumbled on to this article locking for help, I’m sorry, but its impossible for me to say what you will find pleasant to type on, and you’re going to have to find out what it is that you like all by yourself. Buy a switch tester, try a friends keyboard, go to a store that has keyboards on display or if you’re lucky, there might be a keyboard meet up near where you live.

I find this search for the perfect switch equally frustrating as fascinating. Hopefully I’ll be able to write more on the subjekt when the Planck is built and I’ve gotten some experience with different switches.

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