One of the biggest strengths of a mechanical keyboard is the sound and overall feel it provides, outside of the typing experience, of course. Compared to a cheaper membrane keyboard, using a mechanical keyboard with just about any switch is a whole other experience.
That said, mechanical keyboard enthusiasts often customise their keyboards down to the exact switches they use. Switches can also be modified and lubed to control their sound and feel.
In this article, we’re looking at how you can lube switches, what supplies you need, and why you would want to do so in the first place.
Why lube switches?
Most off-the-shelf mechanical keyboards come with factory-lubed switches that’ll last the entire lifetime of the keyboard itself. A lot of custom switches also come factory lubed.
Lubing a switch itself is a rather time taking process considering you have to take every switch on your keyboard apart and put them back in after lubing. If your keyboard isn’t hot-swappable, the entire process becomes far riskier as you have to desolder switches from the keyboard and solder them back again. Any mistakes during this process can kill the switch or the entire keyboard.
Considering everything, lubing switches does have some advantages as well. It’s one of the most popular aftermarket mods that keyboard enthusiasts do. The process can make your switches sound and feel better by getting rid of any internal friction, scratchiness or clacking. If you’re gaming on your keyboard, the process is even more effective.
What switches should you lube?
There are hundreds of different kinds of mechanical switches on the market and not every switch requires lubing. Generally speaking, mechanical switches can be divided into the following three categories:
It’s recommended that you don’t lube clicky switches as doing so can accidentally end up making your switches quieter, and even if it doesn’t, it can cause inconsistent sounds between switches.
Also read: Optical vs Mechanical switches
The supplies you need
You’ll need to following tools to get started
- Lubricant: there are many options available for these, all producing different end results. If it’s your first time, you can try out the Krytox 105. If you’re looking to dampen the switch sound, the Krytox 205G is also a good choice. Overall, make the decision based on what you want your switches to be like in the end.
- Brush: You need a small brush to apply the lube to your switches. We recommend using a 5mm paint brush.
- Soldering iron/Switch puller: If you have a hot-swappable keyboard, you need a switch puller to remove the switches. If not, get your soldering iron ready to remove switches from the main board.
- Flathead screwdriver: To pull apart the switches.
- Tweezers: To handle small parts such as springs and stems.
Lubing your switches
There’s no set way of lubing switches; everyone just does it according to their preference. However, there’s a general process that you need to follow.
Remove the keycaps and switches
The process’s first step is removing all keycaps and switches from your board. Removing the keycaps at least should be easy as you must pull out the keycaps using a puller.
Once you’re done, depending on whether your keyboard is hot-swappable or not, you can either pull out switches using a switch puller or open your keyboard and use a soldering iron to remove the switches.
Opening the switches
Next up, you need to open individual switches to get to the parts you need to lube. Each switch contains the following four parts:
- Upper housing
- Lower housing
Switches can be pulled apart using a specialised tool that you can find online or you can just use a flathead screwdriver to pull down on the side tabs to loosen the upper and lower housings. Keep in mind that different switches have different numbers and placements of tabs so pay attention not to break anything.
Lubing the internals
Once inside the switch, take a small amount of lube on the brush and apply it to the upper and lower housings. Pay attention to applying lube to the floor, the outside and inside of the cylinder and where the rails hit the stem when it comes to the lower housing. For the upper housing, you must apply lube where the stem rails rub.
On stems, apply lube to the spring contact area, the rails and if you’re working on linear switches, to the legs as well. As for the spring, you can either lube it as a whole using a brush or collect all of them and drop them in a bag of lube.
Putting everything together
Once you’re done lubing everything, the final step is rather easy. You just need to rearrange the switch and push it down on the upper and lower housings to shut it completely. Once you’re done assembling your switches, pop them back into the keyboard or older them carefully if you don’t have a hot-swappable keyboard
Don’t forget to test all the keys once you put everything together.
Is lubing your switches worth it?
As you can probably make out, lubing switches is a lot of work, even if you have a hot-swappable keyboard. However, depending on the end result you’re looking for, it can be worth the effort.
However, not all switches require lubing, so pay attention to what kind, make and model of switch you have in your keyboard before you go through all this work.