Keyboard DIYing is moving outside of hobbyist circles—and that’s a good thing

Sharon Harding

Last week, I visited a friend and, for the first time, saw a mechanical keyboard on his desk. This is someone I’ve known for decades and who’s not into technology, so it was a surprise. But his work has become partially remote since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, so he needs something comfortable on a numpad that can be used at home. The keyboard is a cheap, easy Amazon buy that has earned its keep by looking cute and “clicking a lot,” he informed me.

My friend is not alone in his newfound use of mechanical switches. The need for more tactile and stable typing, gaming, and number crunching has led to prebuilt mechanical keyboards becoming increasingly common. And while they can still be extremely expensive, newcomers like my friend can find sub-$100 options that can be scoffed at by enthusiasts but still represent an upgrade to a membrane or laptop that keyboard.

This widespread acceptance of mechanical keyboards led to a deeper corner of the hobby that has gained more attention of late: DIY customization.

Best Buy on the bandwagon

On Thursday, peripheral maker Glorious announced that its products have hit Best Buy, one of the heartlands of global electronics retail. In addition to prebuilt keyboards, Glorious’ Best Buy layout includes accessories for people interested in building or tweaking their mechanical keyboard, including barebones kits, top plates, rotary knobs, detachable cables, keycaps, mechanical switches, and even a lube kit.

Best Buy has sold prebuilt mechanical keyboards for a while, but this addition gives its inventory a DIY boost like never before (save for a few cables and keycaps) and sets it apart from other major retailers. Walmart, for example, doesn’t sell keyboard kits, cables, or lube or mechanical switches directly online (you can get them from Walmart’s site from third-party sellers, though); however, the company sells a set of keycaps.

You can now buy a switch lube kit from Best Buy.
raising / You can now buy a switch lube kit from Best Buy.

This is not about praising Best Buy. In fact, its inventory is clearly built around its retail partnerships rather than offering the best, or even a diverse, selection to keyboard enthusiasts. But the increase in keyboard customization products like this is a sign of the growth of mechanical keyboards.

And for those new to the hobby and those already elbow-deep in switches, stabilizers, and Krytox lube, this is a good thing.

From keycaps and beyond

The Glorious partnership with Best Buy is just one of several new signs of keyboard customization moving beyond tight hobbyist circles. Many mainstream companies that sell prebuilt mechanical keyboards, like Logitech or Razer, usually don’t expect you to modify their hardware. Most of their keyboards have soldered-down switches that are very difficult to change, and vendors don’t encourage you to remove their keycaps, unless they sell the keycaps themselves. If you decide you want some new colors on your keyboard, they’ll be happy to sell you a new board.

In 2021, I saw a notable sign of keyboard customization gaining wider attention when HyperX, a name more familiar to PC gamers now owned by HP, announced the a homegrown keyboard with two spacebar keycaps: one plain black like the rest, and one with a swirly, etched-in design. Not only does HyperX encourage consumers to think about changing the look of their keyboard, it includes the basic tools (a keycap puller and additional keycap) needed to get tinkering free.

HyperX's Alloy Origins 60 comes with the decorated spacebar keycap pictured, and a solid color.
raising / HyperX’s Alloy Origins 60 comes with the decorated spacebar keycap pictured, and a solid color.

HyperX probably got the idea for this from Ducky, a very niche but beloved brand among mechanical keyboard fans. The HyperX Alloy Origins 60 came out the year after the HyperX x Ducky One 2 Mini, which also included a detailed spacebar keycap.

Asus also encourages keyboard users to be more flexible about their keyboard. In January, it announced the ROG Azoth wireless mechanical keyboard with a switch lube kit that includes a switch opener and puller, keycap puller, lube station and brush, and a bottle of Krytox GPL-205-GD0.

ROG Azoth comes with a lube kit, plus a switch tester.
raising / ROG Azoth comes with a lube kit, plus a switch tester.


ROG Azoth’s product page says it wants “keyboard DIY beginners to get started.” The keyboard has the potential to get people who never thought about the smoothness or sound of their switches to start doing so. It also gives owners who are considering mechanical lubing switches but are not yet ready to purchase the tools a free incentive to pursue them.

Leave a Comment