Changing the Key Switches in a Kinesis Advantage 2 Keyboard

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Kinesis only sells the Kinesis Advantage2 keyboard with Cherry Brown or Cherry Red key switches. The Browns are fairly good, but I prefer Cherry Blue key switches. I've done this previously with a Kinesis Advantage, I wanted to document it more thoroughly this time as I went through the process with a Kinesis Advantage2. You could of course use any Cherry-compatible switch, any colour. Be warned that the process is expensive and time-consuming. Photos of the process near the end of the page (if you're going to do this, go through the photos as well: there are some added notes). It's also possible to do this to an existing keyboard by desoldering the whole assembly: that's what I did previously, but I don't recommend it. If you've spent the bucks on the Advantage2 and are willing to fork over $100CA for Cherry key switches to populate it, spend the ~$50US to get the Kinesis key well kit.

UPDATE 2020-04: I paid $50US for the keywell kit, but Kinesis is now charging $100US. Doubling the price is a bit harsh, but honestly I'd be quite willing to pay it if I do the project again.

(Prices are quoted in both US and Canadian dollars - as I paid them.)

What You'll Need

If you're serious about this, you should probably also read my blog entry on the planning phase.

Item Price Notes
Kinesis Advantage 2 keyboard $565CA Price includes tax and shipping from ergocanada who I highly recommend. Kinesis recommends them for Canadian buyers, and I've dealt with them at least a couple times.
Kinesis Advantage 2 keywell kit ~$50US Price includes tax and shipping, must be ordered direct from Kinesis
Kinesis Advantage 2 key cap set ~$50US Price includes tax and shipping, must be ordered direct from Kinesis. Not strictly necessary, but it saves you pulling the keycaps out of the existing key wells - I recommend it.
70 Cherry Blue key switches (MX1A-E1NW) $104CA Price includes diodes (below), plus tax and shipping from Digikey - who I'd also recommend. The key switch type you need is the one with the extra fixing pins.
100 512-1n914 diodes ~$3CA, see above From Digikey. You only need 70, but it's cheaper to buy 100 (at least from Digikey).
WASD O-rings ~$30US From WASD Keyboards. Optional.
soldering iron and solder $25 and up A cheap one should do for this.
Side cutters $5-$20 Again, a cheap pair will do.
Hot glue gun Borrow one from a friend - or buy one, they're cheap
Phillips screwdriver For disassembling and reassembling the keyboard


This was four to five hours of work for me ... I'm not a fast solderer, but I'm reasonably competent with an iron.

Kinesis buys their key switches in bulk, and that allows them to buy the switches with built-in diodes (the switches have four pins). But consumer-grade Cherry switches don't have diodes built in (they have only two pins), so we have to solder the diodes on ourselves. They need to be on the opposite side of the board from the key switches because otherwise they would interfere with the positioning of the switches. The diodes are small and the case has a lot of extra space, so this doesn't cause interference with anything else inside the case.

Image Advantage2Blue.20170304.1340067.GO.FZ1000.html, size 425129 b
Image Advantage2Blue.20170304.1340068.GO.FZ1000.html, size 469362 b
Image Advantage2Blue.20170304.1340069.GO.FZ1000.html, size 435662 b
Image Advantage2Blue.20170304.1340070.GO.FZ1000.html, size 337462 b
Image Advantage2Blue.20170304.1340071.GO.FZ1000.html, size 424148 b
Image Advantage2Blue.20170304.1340072.GO.FZ1000.html, size 344159 b
Image Advantage2Blue.20170304.1340073.GO.FZ1000.html, size 420220 b
Image Advantage2Blue.20170304.1340074.GO.FZ1000.html, size 316948 b
Image Advantage2Blue.20170304.1340075.GO.FZ1000.html, size 515517 b
Image Advantage2Blue.20170304.1340076.GO.FZ1000.html, size 519679 b
Image Advantage2Blue.20170304.1340077.GO.FZ1000.html, size 320891 b
Image Advantage2Blue.20170304.1340078.GO.FZ1000.html, size 561076 b
Image Advantage2Blue.20170309.1340090.GO.FZ1000.html, size 607860 b
Image Advantage2Blue.20170309.1340091.GO.FZ1000.html, size 644956 b
Image Advantage2Blue.20170304.1340079.GO.FZ1000.html, size 406174 b
Image Advantage2Blue.20170304.1340080.GO.FZ1000.html, size 442045 b
Image Advantage2Blue.20170304.1340081.GO.FZ1000.html, size 471107 b
Image Advantage2Blue.20170304.1340082.GO.FZ1000.html, size 418320 b
Image Advantage2Blue.20170304.1340083.GO.FZ1000.html, size 497608 b
Image Advantage2Blue.20170304.1340084.GO.FZ1000.html, size 594320 b
Image Advantage2Blue.20170304.1340085.GO.FZ1000.html, size 568827 b
Image Advantage2Blue.20170309.1340093.GO.FZ1000.html, size 213282 b
Image Advantage2Blue.20170304.1340087.GO.FZ1000.html, size 519310 b
Image Advantage2Blue.20170304.1340088.GO.FZ1000.html, size 647082 b
Image Advantage2Blue.20170304.1340089.GO.FZ1000.html, size 327725 b


To help you decide which key style you want and where to order them: 
by giles