There’s almost certainly a mechanical keyboard out there for everyone these days. But sometimes, the ready-made options don’t quite fit the bill; perhaps the keycaps are all wrong, or maybe you already have a set of switches that you want to install. That’s when the best DIY keyboard kits come into the picture.
By only purchasing the bare essentials, you can set up a keyboard the way you want without paying extra for switches or keycaps you don’t need. And, of course, assembling a kit is a lot more satisfying than buying something ready-made off the shelf. Want to get in on the fun? Read on.
- Best Full-Size Keyboard Kit: Glorious GMMK features some older tech, but offers a lot of keyboard for a small price.
- Best 96% Keyboard Kit: Drop Shift boasts high-quality construction and full programmability for 96% lovers.
- Best TKL Keyboard Kit: Drop CTRL High-Profile has a matte aluminum finish and rounded edges that make it one of the best-looking TKLs available right now.
- Best TKL Kit Runner-Up: KPRepublic MKB87 is a more modest TKL kit that entices with a low price and Bluetooth connectivity.
- Best 75% Keyboard Kit: KBDFans KBD75 feels great right out of the box and has a wide variety of color options.
- Best 75% Kit Runner-Up: GMMK Pro has a rotary push knob, premium aluminum finish, and an aesthetically pleasing “exploded” layout.
- Best 65% Keyboard Kit: KBDFans KBD67 Lite is an excellent budget-friendly kit that punches above its weight class.
- Best 60% Keyboard Kit: Epomaker GK61XS is lightweight yet rigid, feature-packed yet compact—making it a great portable keyboard.
- Best HHKB-Style 60% Keyboard Kit: Drop + Tokyo Tokyo60 is one of the best and most affordable ways to get an HHKB-style keyboard.
If you’re after a specific layout, feel free to skip ahead using the navigation links below:
Our Favorite Full-Sized DIY Keyboard Kits
|Programming||Macros and lighting|
|Connectivity||Fixed USB cable|
The Glorious Modular Mechanical Keyboard (GMMK for short) is a tried and true design that’s been around for a while. It’s not as flashy as some newer DIY kits, but it’s still the kit to go for if you want a full-size keyboard kit.
The GMMK is a mostly no-frills keyboard, right down to the fact that it still uses a fixed USB cable. The stabilizers (“stabs” for short) aren’t that great either, which may affect the overall typing experience. For $80, though, it’s difficult to complain too much about the GMMK’s weaknesses and slightly outdated design choices.
Do note that GMMK, like the Drop boards on our list, only supports 3-pin switches for its hot-swap sockets. It isn’t a huge deal, but it does mean you’ll have to shop for 3-pin switches if you don’t want to go through the tedium of snipping the legs off of 5-pin switches. Check out the buying guide in our list of the best hot-swap keyboards for more information on that.
Another point worth mentioning is that the GMMK isn’t fully programmable. You can tweak the lighting and program macros, so it’s not too bad, but you’re stuck with the default key layout here. It’s perhaps less crucial on a full-size board, but it does mean you’ll have to rely on software solutions for things like swapping Caps Lock and Control or alternative layouts like Dvorak.
Minor issues aside, the GMMK is a modern classic for a good reason. It’s a tried and tested DIY mechanical keyboard kit that offers a lot of keyboard for a great price. It’s also available in TKL and 60% layouts if you prefer those form factors.
|Lighting||Per-key RGB, Underglow|
Drop’s SHIFT is a solid, high-end keyboard kit that would have taken top spot if it weren’t for its slightly different 1800 (or 96%) layout. As the name suggests, it’s very nearly a full-size board, just with a condensed layout and fewer modifier keys to the right of the spacebar.
It’s close enough to a standard full-size layout that most users won’t have issues with it. But if you’re particularly wedded to a long Numpad “0” or a standard-sized Right Shift, then the 1800 layout might take some getting used to.
Other positives include a rigid CNC-milled aluminum frame and full programmability via Drop’s online configurator. You can remap each key, set up additional key layers, and tweak both the per-key lighting and the surrounding underglow LEDs. There is one small caveat: since it’s an online tool, you will need an internet connection to remap the SHIFT. You’re also out of luck if the site ever goes down, of course.
In addition to the online-only programming, there are a few more issues to be aware of before buying a SHIFT. Firstly, the stock plate-mounted stabilizers are relatively low quality, and you may want to tune or replace them for the best possible typing feel. If you decide to change the stabs, make sure you buy plate-mounted stabilizers like these; PCB-mounted (or “screw-in”) stabilizers won’t work here.
On top of the stabilizer issues, the SHIFT’s aluminum case tends to amplify any pinging or ringing sounds that come from your keyboard switches. Laying some sound-dampening foam between the case and PCB should reduce it significantly.
The Drop SHIFT isn’t perfect, and the stabilizers arguably hold it back from true excellence. But it’s a worthy option if you want a (nearly) full-size aluminum keyboard without waiting for a custom keyboard group buy. Especially if you’re willing to put in the extra effort on the stabs to help it shine.
Our Favorite TKL DIY Keyboard Kits
|Hotswap?||Yes (3-pin only)|
The Drop CTRL High-Profile is one of the best-looking TKL keyboards that you can buy off the shelf right now. Unlike the SHIFT, the CTRL High-Profile’s anodized aluminum frame is more traditional, rising to cover the switches. Combine that with the rounded edges, and you get quite a good-looking board.
The Drop CTRL shares most of its positives with the SHIFT. You have the same fully-programmable firmware via Drop’s online configurator for whatever layout, layer, and RGB configurations you desire. The RGB is equally good, too, with the same per-key RGB lighting and subtle RGB underglow around the chassis.
Like all of Drop’s high-end boards, the CTRL High-Profile has an integrated plate, where the switch plate is part of the case. It offers a very rigid typing feel, which you may need to get used to. There’s also the case’s six-degree angle, which might prove troublesome if you’re used to membrane keyboards or more conventional mechanical boards.
While there’s a lot to like about the CTRL High-Profile’s looks and build quality, it’s not perfect. Rattly plate-mount stabilizers are a common complaint, as is ping coming from the all-aluminum construction. Both are solvable, but you might want to build your CTRL first to see how much either (or both) of those issues bother you.
Despite those flaws, the Drop CTRL High-Profile is worth considering if you want a rigid, heavyweight board that’ll sit solidly on your desk for a long time to come. It’s pricey, but four pounds’ worth of aluminum doesn’t come cheap.
If you want a slightly more affordable option and don’t mind a floating key design, the original non-high profile Drop CTRL is also available. It’s functionally the same as the High-Profile, just with a (to my eyes) worse-looking case.
|Hotswap?||Yes (3- and 5-pin)|
|Connectivity||USB Type-C, Bluetooth|
The KPRepublic MKB87 is almost the polar opposite of the Drop CTRL. Instead of aiming for the top with high-quality materials, it’s a far more modest TKL kit that entices with a low price and dual-mode connectivity.
The MKB87 has a standard 87-key TKL keyboard layout in a low-key black polycarbonate frame. A metal switch plate adds some rigidity, and its silver color helps reflect the per-key RGB lighting for some nice underglow. Nothing special, but it is a nice touch on an affordable mechanical keyboard.
If there’s one standout feature on the MKB87, it’s its dual-mode functionality. Unlike many more expensive kits, the MKB87 has a Bluetooth 5.0 chip for wireless use. KPRepublic doesn’t list the battery capacity, but we’ve read reports of users getting a week’s worth of use from the MK87’s battery. Not too shabby.
Software customization is entirely nonexistent on the MKB87. There’s no key remapping, macro recording, or lighting customization to be had here. It’s not that surprising given the MKB87’s price, so we’re not going to harp on it too much. And software solutions are always an option, even if they aren’t as ideal.
All in all, the KPRepublic MKB87 is a decent option if you want an affordable TKL keyboard kit with a handy Bluetooth 5.0 option. It’s not going to be the sort of keyboard you keep forever, but it’s a good way to get started with DIY keyboard kits on a budget.
Our Favorite 75% Keyboard Kits
|Hotswap?||Yes (3- and 5-pin)|
The KBDfans KBD75, now in its third revision, is the 75% keyboard kit for those of you who want a great experience out of the box. Its squished-together 75% layout is a bit old-school, but it offers one of the best stock typing experiences you’ll find in a DIY keyboard kit.
The KBD75 features a top-mounted aluminum plate and pre-tuned screw-in stabilizers for the basics of an excellent typing experience. The kit from MechanicalKeyboards also includes PCB and case foam that you can install to reduce ping and keycap noise, which is a nice touch.
KBDfans also has you covered if you like heavy boards. Not only does the KBD75 use an aluminum case, but you also get an optional aluminum weight that you can install in the rear of the case for even more heft. The KBD75 can be one chonky boi, that’s for sure.
The KBD75 is fully programmable using VIA, my favorite keyboard firmware. Not only does it have a great user interface, but it’s also usable offline. Being able to remap keys or change LED colors without accessing a website is always a good thing, in my book.
On the topic of LEDs, the KBD75 bucks the trend for per-key RGB lighting. Instead, it only has underglow LEDs that shine through an acrylic diffuser. It’s not as flashy as individual LEDs, but I think it looks a whole lot classier. RGB fanatics may be disappointed though.
There isn’t much to complain about with the KBDfans KBD75 v3.1. It’s the best DIY keyboard kit if you want a 75% that’ll feel great out of the box. It’s is also one of the most colorful keyboards on our list, available in a handful of eye-catching colors like E-White, Violet Purple, and Burgundy.
|Keys||83 (including rotary encoder)|
|Hotswap?||Yes (3- and 5-pin)|
The GMMK Pro was one of the most hyped-up mainstream mechanical keyboards in recent memory, with its all-aluminum body and stylish 75% layout. While it may have failed to live up to all of the hype, it’s still a solid option, provided you’re willing to put in some work.
The GMMK Pro is best known for two things, the first of which is the rotary push knob in the top right. Glorious took the volume knobs from more “professional” mechanical keyboards such as the Das Keyboard 4 and gave them a makeover, with a knurled aluminum look and premium feel. It works as both a knob and a button, too, giving you two extra controls for the price of one.
Second is its more aesthetically pleasing “exploded” 75% layout, with gaps between the main key cluster and the arrow keys, function keys, and nav keys. While I’m a big fan of the KBD75, even I can’t deny that the GMMK Pro just looks better overall. Especially in Ice White.
The biggest issue with the GMMK Pro is the stabilizers, which users often describe as “mushy” and sticky. While the Pro isn’t the only keyboard to suffer from similar complaints, they’re a bit more problematic when they’re supposedly pre-tuned from the factory. The common solution is to simply replace them with a set of Durock V2 stabs, which perform much better.
On a more positive note, the GMMK Pro improves on the older GMMK in one crucial aspect: programmability. Glorious’ Glorious Core software lets you remap keys, program macros, adjust lighting, and update the Pro’s firmware.
The GMMK Pro needs some work to make it shine, but it gets most of the core experience right. Once you sort out the most egregious issues, you’ll have a board good enough to be your daily driver for a long time.
Our Favorite 65% and 60% Keyboard Kits
|Hotswap?||Yes (3- and 5-pin)|
|Dimensions (W x D x H)||12.4 x 4.3 x 1.2 inches (unassembled)|
The KBDfans KBD67 Lite is probably the best deal in 65% keyboard kits you can get right now. It doesn’t have the aluminum case of the Drop ALT, but what it lacks in premium materials it makes up for with value and a great out-of-the-box experience.
The KBD67 Lite is an all-polycarbonate mechanical keyboard with a translucent case and switch plate. This helps keep the price down without impacting the typing experience all that much. The common wisdom is that polycarb has a bit more “give” and is thus more suited to clicky or linear switches.
The included screw-in stabilizers are decent and don’t rattle or feel mushy, which is a big plus. The pre-lubed wires probably help with the stabilizer feel; KBDfans tends to get their stabilizers right, and the KBD67 is no exception. The KBD67’s a board that most people could build and use as-is.
KBDfans includes case foam and a silicone muting pad with each KBD67 Lite. The former goes between the PCB and case, while the latter sits between the plate and PCB. These are great extras to have, putting some pricier kits to shame.
It’s worth noting that KBDfans also makes a Bluetooth version which you can buy directly from them. The Bluetooth version is mostly identical to the wired version, but it lacks per-key RGB and QMK/Via support. Instead, you get a single status LED and TMK firmware. The former is a bigger issue than the latter, at least if you’re an RGB fan.
Overall, the KBDfans KBD67 Lite is an excellent budget-friendly 65% keyboard kit that punches way above its weight. Like its bigger brother, the KBD75, the KBD67 Lite comes in various colors, including Transparent Orange, Transparent Purple, and white.
|Keys||61 / 63|
|Hotswap?||Yes (3- and 5-pin)|
|Connectivity||USB Type-C, Bluetooth 5.1|
There are two reasons to go for a 60% keyboard. One is aesthetics, and the other is portability. If you’re interested in the latter, the Epomaker GK61xs is the best 60% keyboard kit for you.
The GK61xs eschews the fancy, high-weight aluminum of many higher-priced mechanical keyboard kits for a more portable (and affordable) plastic case. The GK61xs does have a metal plate at least, which gives it some welcome rigidity. So it doesn’t feel too flimsy, despite the plastic body.
The GK61xs is one of the few dual-mode keyboards on our list, supporting Bluetooth 5.1 alongside the now-common USB Type-C connector. The GK61xs sports a 1900 mAh battery, which Epomaker claims will offer “250 hours” of runtime. The company hasn’t specified whether this is with or without the RGB, but it’s likely the latter.
The GK61xs’ stock stabilizers aren’t anything special, and you may want to replace them if you intend to use this as your main keyboard. You’ll want plate-mounted stabs like these, so many of the more popular PCB-mount stabilizers are off the table here.
On a more positive note, the GK61xs is fully programmable via the Epomaker/Skyloong software. The only slight quirk is that you can’t remap the Fn key in the lower right, presumably to stop users from accidentally removing access to extra function layers. The GK61xs also offers physical layout customization via an included adapter plate that lets you swap the spacebar for three smaller keys.
Overall, the Epomaker GK61xs is a 60% kit that we like a lot, even if it’s not the fanciest one out there. Still, the combination of a great price, decent quality, and Bluetooth functionality puts it ahead of the competition in our book.
|Dimensions (W x D x H)||11.8 x 4.4 x 1.4 inches (assembled)|
|Weight||1.5 pounds (assembled)|
The Drop + Tokyo Tokyo60 is one of the best and most affordable ways to get an HHKB-style mechanical keyboard without shelling out big bucks for a full custom keyboard. The layout isn’t for everyone, but you’ll love it if you like the symmetrical HHKB look.
The Tokyo60 is an all-aluminum 60% keyboard with an integrated plate and screw-in stabilizers. As with all Drop boards, the integrated plate makes the Tokyo60 quite rigid to use and type on. As with most aluminum boards, you may want to consider adding underneath the PCB if switch pinging and ringing becomes an issue when typing.
The screw-in stabilizers are a nice touch, though. Unlike Drop’s other boards (which use plate-mounted stabilizers), you can easily swap the stock stabilizers with high-quality PCB-mount stabs if desired. That’s a great option to have if the stock stabs don’t work out for you.
The Tokyo60 doesn’t have any visible RGB lighting by default, as the aluminum case hides the underglow RGB LEDs (no per-key lighting here). You’ll need the optional acrylic diffuser if you want to showcase the Tokyo60’s RGB underglow. The diffuser allegedly improves the typing feel slightly, too, so it’s probably worth the extra $20.
It’s worth pointing out that the Tokyo60’s extra-long 7u spacebar (vs. 6.25u on most standard keyboards) and HHKB-style backspace makes finding a suitable key set slightly more challenging. Look for keycap sets like this Domikey Astronaut, which have the 7u Spacebar and R2 Backspace you’ll need.
Overall, the Drop + Tokyo Tokyo60 is a worthy board if you’re after the iconic HHKB layout but with Cherry MX switches. There are higher-quality custom mechanical keyboards floating about, but the Tokyo60 will be solid enough for most.
Before You Buy
As with all keyboards, there are a few factors and specs to consider when shopping for a DIY mechanical keyboard kit. We highly recommend reading this section before committing to a kit, especially any of the more expensive ones.
Hot-Swap vs. Soldered
Every product on our list are hot-swappable keyboard kits, as that’s fast becoming the default for commercially-available kits. But you may find the occasional soldered kit if you strike out on your own, so we thought it was worth discussing this topic.
Hot-swap keyboards are a lot more convenient and easier to put together since you don’t need a soldering iron. Hot-swap sockets also make changing switches easy, as you can just pop the old ones out and insert new ones.
However, the currently available hot-swap sockets have limited lifespans and are rated for only about 100 cycles at most. And, as anyone who browses Reddit will know, they can often fail well before that point.
Soldered switches, on the other hand, are much more reliable. As long as you have a proper soldering technique, the connections are unlikely to fail even after a few cycles of desoldering and resoldering switches.
The downside, of course, is that soldering takes up a lot more time and is far less convenient than hot-swap. You also need a decent soldering iron and some time to learn the proper technique, so it’s not quite as immediate as a hot-swap board.
It’s up to you, but one path I’ve seen recommended is to go with an affordable hot-swap board (something like the Epomaker GK61xs) to start with, swapping switches until you find one you really like. Once you find the right switch, you can buy a high-end soldered keyboard kit and build it with those switches.
If you’re new to keyboards, you may wonder why I put so much emphasis on programmability. It’s simple: being able to remap keys and set up your own lighting schemes (for example) lets you fine-tune your mechanical keyboard exactly to your tastes and preferences.
For instance, I have to have a Unix/HHKB-style layout on my keyboards. For the unfamiliar, this means the Control key is to the left of “A,” and Backspace is where the Backslash (\) key is on most keyboards. So having a programmable board is essential to set a board up just how I like it.
Sure, you may be OK with standard layouts now, but I was too. Tastes change, and you may just discover a particular layout that works for you (as I did when I bought my HHKB). Programmable boards can be remapped to suit your current preferences and won’t be left in the dust due to a non-ideal keymap.
Yes, you can use software like Microsoft PowerToys (Windows) or Karabiner (macOS) to remap keys in software. However, I like to minimize the number of programs running on my computer and prefer keyboard-based remapping over software solutions.
As none of these DIY keyboard kits come with keycaps, there’s an extra thing you need to be aware of when shopping for them.
Firstly, make sure the key set you’re buying has the right keys for your board. This won’t be an issue with conventional layouts like the GMMK or MKB87, but you’ll want to watch out if buying the Tokyo60 or KBD75. These boards feature non-standard key sizes, such as the extra-length 7u Spacebar on the Tokyo60 or the short right Shift on the KBD75.
So, when you’re browsing for key sets, be sure to check the product listing properly and see if it includes the keys you need. This Domikey set, for example, includes everything you’ll need for almost any keyboard layout:
Need help with other keycap-related topics such as ABS vs. PBT or double-shot vs. dye-sub? Check out our guide to keycap types for all the info you need.
We’ve mentioned stabilizers and stabilizer-related issues all through the list. That’s because they can arguably make the difference between a fun keyboard to type on and one with a rattly or mushy typing feel.
If you’re unfamiliar, stabilizers do what they say on the tin and help stabilize the longer keys on a keyboard. These include the ANSI (horizontal) enter, one (or both) Shift keys, and the Spacebar. Without these, the keys would flop over to one side if you pressed them off-center.
Mushy or rattly stabilizers will make these keys feel loose or sticky, which isn’t great given how important they are. That’s why they’re the object of so much focus amongst mechanical keyboard enthusiasts and why you should pay attention to the quality of the stabs on your keyboard.
That said, we think you should build your kit first and try it out before committing to a stabilizer mod or swap. Changing stabs on a hot-swap board is much easier since you don’t need to spend time desoldering switches. Hence, there’s no harm in building a board to try the stabilizers out first.
That said, if you decide that your board’s stabilizers need some work, you can check out Joe Gaz’ video for some great tips and advice:
Buying one of the best DIY keyboard kits means you’ll have to put in a bit more work before you get a usable keyboard. But the potential benefits, such as reduced cost (if you already have keycaps or switches) and the satisfaction of assembling it yourself, arguably outweigh the hassle.
Besides, even that minor hassle isn’t as bad as it used to be because of hot-swap sockets. DIY keyboards are more accessible than ever, so now’s the time to get a kit and put together the keyboard you’ve always wanted. It’s a satisfying feeling and one that we recommend to everyone.