You may have a loved one who is deep in the forest of mechanical keyboards. Allow me to lend a metaphorical machete to your intellectual conundrum of how to navigate buying a gift for said folk.
There are lots and lots of terms in this hobby. It’s okay if you don’t even know one! I’ll break things down for you. Let’s get this show on the road, shall we?
Things to Understand
The great joy of this community is its customizability! You may get asked for a specific part your loved one has been ogling.
Pricing: why is some stuff so darn pricey? Because people can be as detailed with their build as they like (and also the tools they build with), it means you’re paying a little more for that one custom item. If you’re thinking of buying a more off-brand part that your friend has asked for, it may be best to inquire as to a different item in a lower price bracket altogether. The difference will be notable to your deep-in-the-forest friend, trust me. Best to opt for a different route if a fallen tree makes something unmanageable for you. And it’s okay if it is!
I’ll break this guide down into what parts your loved one might find helpful for the keyboard itself, what tools might make the building (or fixing) easier, and stuff to help them display their formidable collection.
Parts for the Keyboard itself
Admittedly, while not knowing the jargon, it can be a little challenging to know what you’re dealing with. I’ve got you covered! Here are a few basic items that most in the hobby would find helpful for their keyboard. These are the items that tend to be more pricey, so if you’re looking to still get a meaningful gift but with less of a wallet poke, look to “Help Display the Built Keyboards.”
One of the biggest characteristics of a mechanical keyboard is the switches in the keyboard itself. There are three general types: linear, tactile, and clicky. However! If your loved one has a specific one in mind, be sure to jot down that funny name it probably has. We've got some for you to choose from here: Switches collection.
The thing about a keyboard that catches attention even at a distance is the nicely designed pieces on top! This is what your fingers rest on top of. They come in many different colors, fonts, and sizes. If you want to grab a cool set for your loved one, be sure you check if they have specific sizes needed (like 2.25u). Don’t worry too much about what the ‘u’ means, it just indicates the size unit of a keycap.
Items to Make Building Easier
Ask your enthusiast if they are into soldering or hotswaps, and take the flow chart from there.
If the keyboardist in your life is into soldering, look at these items. If your keyboardist is into hotswaps, jump down a bit. :)
A soldering iron is a big cost besides the keyboard itself! If you want to help your enthusiast trick out their building process, ask them how their soldering station looks and if it is missing anything. Our picks: Soldering Irons
Solder is also an item that tends to run out if someone is making a lot of tech items! Be sure to check the type and size. Our picks: Solder
Solder Sucker: yes, it does sound a little giggle-worthy. But a handy item, nonetheless! It’s mega helpful for the oops moments that happen. …And they do happen. Our picks: Solder Sucker and Wick
Flush Cutters. These are great for cutting the little bits and pieces that need it. Ask your keyboardist if they are in need of one or if their current one is dull. The Keebio office wears these little ones down from time to time… Worth considering! Our picks: Flush Cutters
A soldering mat makes a great zen spot for your loved one to make a mess while they work on the great builds they do. It catches any flicks of solder that may jump, so nothing else gets proof that it was touched by a super-heated tiny piece of metal. Our picks: Soldering Mat
One of the greatest things about hotswaps is the ability to pop the switch of choice into the board or out. Since this process of adding switches is simple compared to soldering (don't get me wrong, I adore soldering!) the rest of the recommendations are below in the 'Both' category. :)
An item helpful to both solder and hotswap boards is the anti-static tweezers. These are helpful in many ways but mainly help in just handling all the tiny parts. Of which there are many. Our recommendations: Tweezers
USB-C cords. These are a must, especially for split keyboards! If you want to go the fancy route, you can get some custom-made. Oooh. Colors!
Artisan keycaps. These are quite the rabbit hole. I personally have fallen into the trap of artisan keycaps on Etsy. There are so many cute Pokemon ones… You could even have a spacebar with most of the Eeveelutions in it!
Switch Opener: This is for a fan who isn’t scared of tedious tasks that last a while. Because golly is this a task if you’re opening the switches for an entire board.
Switch Puller: If someone messed up a solder or wants to change the switches in their hotswap board, this is a must. Save your fingers some frustration! A small note from the author: I have hurt myself with switch pullers that have no grip whatsoever an embarrassing amount of times. It may be worth considering getting a switch puller that has more rubber to its handle to save knuckles some bruising. Or you could make one! (I haven’t tried this… let me know how it goes!)
Help Display the Built Keyboards
If you have someone passionate to the nth degree about this hobby, help them display all their hard work in a collection!
Kind of like a poster, but for your desk! Your mileage (or kilometers) may vary, but it might help your mouse to work a bit better too. (If you recall your Keebio history, Keebio used to sell desk mats!) And also look cool! These come in so many different designs, and from a quick Google search, there are some ways you can make your own too!
Your google search may come up short if you just searched ‘keyboard stand’ because google is thinking you want a stand for a small version of a grand piano. (Which could be useful, I don't know if you have a piano player on your gift list!) However, here’s an inexpensive option that you can evaluate as a potential gift!
Include a DIY Fidget Toy
You read that right! If you snag a cool keychain from us (or buy the whole rainbow because that’s even more fun) your keyboard enthusiast friend can solder their fidget. Whatever type of switch they want can be soldered in, and then they can put a keycap on top of it for all the clicking (or tactile bumping) on the go!
If your loved one is working in a field that requires repetitive tasks (coding, video editing, design, etc) they may be helped by having a macropad. Petite and super helpful, these little ones take up very little desk space but offer many time saving attributes.
The BDN9 or the Chocopad are great options for these folks, as they can bundle many different presses into one. Say I need to take a screenshot copy on my device. I usually need to press: Command + Control + Shift + 4. But with a macropad (or any of the keyboards) it can be one keypress. Talk about saving time, right?
It’s okay! Let’s take a deep breath. Bring those shoulders down. Ah. If you’re spooked by all the things, something Keebio (as well as other mechanical keyboard retailers) offers is a gift card. That way, you’re giving your loved one the key (pun intended) to getting that custom part they’d like for their keyboard.
If all this talk makes you more interested in mechanical keyboards, hey! That's great! Here's the best follow-up article for you! It is specifically meant for wading into the shallow end of the swimming pool.