So you have your custom keyboard for a while now, and you’ve decided to swap out the switches for a different kind. Surely, with a switch puller, it won’t be that hard to remove the switches from your keyboard? Well, while the whole process may seem straightforward, it can actually be a frustrating experience.
Trust me, I’ve actually damaged quite a number of switches before I figured out how to pull them out more effectively. If you’re in a similar situation, here are a number of tips and tricks to make it easier to remove switches from your keyboard with a switch puller – this is especially important if you’re trying to pull out more expensive switches.
Get a High-Quality Switch Puller
This is really the most important point to consider; it doesn’t matter how skilled you are if your tool isn’t up to the task. Take it from me: I purchased a dirt cheap switch puller before, and as a result, I ruined a fair bit of switches because of how soft the tips are.
Not only does the soft tips make it difficult to get a good grip on the switch, it’s also much harder to hook onto the clips of the switch to release it from the plate. Needless to say, you run the risk of damaging the switches with cheaper switch pullers with soft tips. This is one tool you do not want to cheap out on.
Switch pullers that I can personally recommend is the one from Rama Works you see above. It has served me very, very well, and if you’re not a fan of the yellow colourway, you can get the white one instead from iLumkb. If you want something a bit fancier, Wuque Studio’s titanium switch puller should be good too.
Oddly enough, this is not talked about very often. Whether you’ve got a keyboard with south- or north-facing LEDs, make sure that the logo/leaf of the switch is facing towards you. Basically, you’ll have to rotate the keyboard around if it has south-facing LEDs.
Once you’ve done that, hold onto the two clips of the switch with the switch puller, and gently squeeze on the puller to grab onto the clips. Then, apply slightly more force to the front of the switch (the logo/leaf part) first as you push away (not up) with the puller; you should be able to release the clip this way.
When you feel or hear the clip being released, you just need to do the same to the clip on the back of the switch.
This is the orientation you want to be looking at
Now, this is my personal method to remove various switches from different custom keyboards, and it has worked very well. That being said, your mileage may vary, and this is definitely not the only way to remove switches with a switch puller without damaging them.
Don’t Use Too Much Force
It can be frustrating when you can’t budge a switch out of the plate, but it is absolutely important to not forcefully pull the switch out. If you do so, you run the risk of damaging the top housing of the switch. How do I know this? Well, that’s exactly what happened to me. Thankfully, those damaged switches weren’t particularly expensive.
If you’re still having trouble releasing the switch clips from the plate, wiggle the switch back and forth until you feel the clip releasing. While you do this, do not apply more force than necessary, and do not forcefully pull upwards; that’s how you run the risk of hooking onto the top housing instead and damaging it in the process.
You do not want this to happen
Once you do manage to release the two switch clips, you can pull the switch out of the plate without much force. If you’re launching the switch 10 feet away from you as you’re pulling it out of the keyboard…well, that’s how you know you are using too much force.
Some Switches Are Just Harder to Pull Out
Unfortunately, some switches are just notoriously hard to pull out, such as the Gateron Ink Black and NovelKeys Cream. The method I outlined above can still remove them without damaging the housing, but it will be markedly more difficult to do so.
It’s also worth noting that some custom keyboards have tighter plates, which makes it even more difficult to remove switches. But, again, take your time pulling out the switches – you wouldn’t want to damage the switch (or scratch up the plate) by using more force than necessary.
Hopefully, with these tips and tricks, you’ll be able to remove switches from a keyboard more effectively and efficiently. Of course, if your switches are soldered to the PCB, make sure you desolder them first before you try to pull them out; the switches won’t go anywhere if it’s still soldered to the PCB.
If you have a hotswap PCB instead, you don’t have to worry about this – that’s the beauty of a hotswap keyboard.