Planning the Kinesis Advantage2 with Cherry Blues

I'm apparently mildly Internet-famous for my page Changing the Key Switches in a Kinesis Advantage Keyboard. In a very small circle of people with very specific interests.

One of my two Kinesis Advantage keyboards is beginning to show its age. So I emailed Kinesis to ask about getting empty keywells so that I could solder in Cherry Blue keyswitches, as per that article. It's an odd request, and I wasn't surprised to find myself sent on to their tech support. And the tech support guy wrote "You know, over the years I've emailed your blog to quite a few people who inquired about converting their keyboards to Cherry Blue (or whatever else they may prefer). Dozens upon dozens of times! It's been very helpful since we've had a number of people take on the DIY project and with your blog they can see exactly what they need to do." Nice! It's also inspiring me to update that page as I work through building the next keyboard.

Next blog entry on the subject

Page on the build process for this keyboard

Cherry Key Switches

The gentleman at Kinesis Tech Support kindly sent me a picture of a Cherry Brown and a Cherry Red switch off their production line:

The undersides of two Cherry key switches

The switches I buy will have only two of the four metal pins because the Cherry Blues are never (or rarely) available with diodes built in ... and when they are, the minimum order seems to be 1000. At more than a dollar a switch and only 68 needed for a keyboard, this isn't viable for the home builder. So I buy the diodes separately and solder them on myself. Most important are the three plastic pins: we have one big central column, and to the left and right we have what are apparently (according to Cherry's spec sheet) called "fixing pins." The fixing pins are the distinction between the two readily available models of the switch, the one with fixing pins being the MX1A-E1NW. Kinesis has built some of the older model keyboards without holes for fixing pins, so if you're retrofitting an older keyboard you need to look closely before ordering.

The Shopping List

  • Kinesis Advantage2 keyboard (standard model KB600) from (good company - I've dealt with them in the past, and they were extremely helpful with very reasonable prices - they sell expensive products, but their mark-up is remarkably low). $475CA before tax and shipping.
  • Kinesis "KIT-ADVANTAGE2:" "includes the empty keywells, thumb boards and ribbon cables." This is "off the menu" at Kinesis, you need to contact them directly as it's not on their website. $40US plus tax and shipping.
  • a set of Kinesis key caps for the Dvorak layout - I could pull they key caps from the soon-to-arrive keyboard, but it's easier to buy a new set. $40US plus tax and shipping.
  • 100 512-1n914 diodes, very cheap (~$3, see next item)
  • 70 Cherry Blue key switches, type MX1A-E1NW. Mouser has the parts slightly cheaper, but their shipping charge ate up the difference from . And after listening to a friend who's an electronics tech who's ordered from both many times, I chose Digikey as being more reliable. With the diodes, $93CAN (includes tax and shipping).
  • I'd be buying WASD's O-Ring Dampers but I have a lot left over from last time - . Listed price is $15US, but tax and shipping to Canada will double that.

For all the costs, some assembly is still required. <sigh> If you're thinking I'm off my cams to pay that much for a keyboard, read this rant.