How to Desolder Keyboard Switches: Tips for Beginners

Hey there, fellow keyboard warrior! Are you ready to learn how to desolder keyboard switches? Whether you’re fixing a broken switch, upgrading to a fancy new set, or just satisfying your curiosity, I’ve got you covered.

Desoldering might sound like a task for tech wizards, but trust me, with a bit of guidance, you’ll be doing it like a champ in no time!

First up, you’ll need some tools: a soldering iron, desoldering pump, and some patience. Start by unplugging your keyboard – safety first! Then, gently press the tip of your heated soldering iron against the solder you want to remove.

Wait a few seconds for it to melt. Now here’s the cool part: use the desoldering pump by placing it right over the melted solder and press the button.

It works like a little vacuum cleaner, sucking up the melted mess in a snap. You might need to repeat these steps a couple of times for each switch, but it’s important not to rush. Rushing can damage your keyboard, and we don’t want that!

Remember to keep the soldering iron clean and to let everything cool down before you try to take out the switch.

If you’ve followed these steps, the switch should come out easily, leaving you ready for whatever you’ve got planned next.

Whether that’s popping in a new switch or just admiring your handiwork, you’ve now got the know-how to do it. Nice job!


What You’ll Need: The Desoldering Toolkit

Before we dive into the steps, let’s make sure you have your toolkit ready. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Adjustable Temperature Soldering Iron: Your main tool is a soldering iron that lets you adjust the temperature. This is crucial because different jobs need different amounts of heat. Make sure it’s one that fits comfortably in your hand and heats up quickly.
  • Soldering Stand with Brass Cleaner: A soldering stand isn’t just a convenience, it’s a safety necessity. It holds your iron when you’re not using it, preventing accidents. The brass cleaner is a bonus, helping you keep the iron’s tip shiny and clean for the best connection.
  • Solder Wire: The right solder wire makes all the difference. A 60/40 or 63/37 tin-lead blend is a good choice because it melts and flows nicely, making your job easier.
  • Solder Sucker: After melting the solder, you’ll need to clear it away. That’s where the solder sucker comes in. It’s a simple device that vacuums up the molten solder when you trigger it. Quick and neat!
  • Ventilation: Soldering can create fumes that aren’t good to breathe in. So, make sure you’re in a space with good airflow. If not, a small fan can help blow the fumes away from you.
  • Your Keyboard: Naturally, you’ll need the keyboard you plan to work on. It might be helpful to take a photo before you start, so you remember where each key goes!
  • Switch Puller and Keycap Puller: These tools are like a helping hand. The keycap puller gently lifts off the keycaps, and the switch puller does the same for the switches. This helps you avoid bending or breaking anything.
  • Precision Screwdriver Kit: Sometimes you need to take things apart to reach the heart of the keyboard, the PCB. A set of precision screwdrivers will have you ready for any screws you encounter on the way.
  • With these tools in hand, you’re all set to start the process of removing old solder from your keyboard. Remember, taking your time to do things right can save you from making mistakes that are hard to fix. So, breathe, prepare, and let’s get started!

Getting Ready: Prep Work

Before you dive into the task of refreshing your keyboard, a little groundwork can make all the difference. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Learn About Your Tool: Your soldering iron is your main gadget for this job. Each one is a bit different, so take a moment to read the manual that came with it. It’s packed with useful info on how to handle it safely and efficiently. Knowing your tool well means you’re less likely to run into surprises.
  • Keep Things Tidy: As you take your keyboard apart, remember to keep all the bits and pieces in order. This could be as simple as snapping a quick photo before you start, or arranging the parts on a tray. This way, when it’s time to put it all back together, you won’t be scratching your head wondering where each piece goes.
  • Choose the Right Spot: Since you’ll be dealing with heat, make sure your workspace can handle it. A heat-resistant surface is best, but if you don’t have one, a protective mat or even a large ceramic tile can do the trick. This helps prevent any accidental scorch marks on your table or desk.
  • Breathe Easy: Soldering can create fumes that aren’t great to breathe in. So, open a window or make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area. If you can, use a small fan to keep the air moving. Keeping fresh air circulating is key to a safe and comfortable working environment.
  • Eye Protection: Safety glasses are a must. When you’re soldering, tiny bits can sometimes fly off unexpectedly. Wearing safety glasses means you won’t have to worry about any stray splatters making their way to your eyes. Better safe than sorry!

With these steps, you’re now set up for a smooth experience. Remember, taking a bit of time to prepare can save you a lot of hassle later on. Happy tinkering!

Desoldering Step by Step

Now, let’s get to the fun part! Follow these steps to remove your keyboard switches:

  • Identify the Switch: First, figure out which switch you need to work on. If you’re only fixing one, put a little mark on it so you won’t mix it up with the others.
  • Heat Up the Soldering Iron: Power up your soldering iron and adjust the heat. You’ll want it hot, but not too hot – about 350-380°C is just right. This will melt the solder without damaging the parts.
  • Prime Your Solder Sucker: Before you start, prepare your solder sucker. This tool removes melted solder. Push its plunger down to get it ready for action.
  • Heat the Solder: Gently press the tip of your hot iron against the solder that’s holding the switch in place. This is usually found on the backside of the circuit board.
  • Remove the Solder: Right after you heat the solder, quickly place your solder sucker near the iron’s tip and hit the button. This will vacuum up the liquid solder. Be fast to catch it all!
  • Check Your Work: Take a close look to see if all the solder is gone. If some stubborn bits remain, you’ll need to repeat the heating and sucking steps to clear them out.
  • Add More Solder if Needed: If you’re having trouble, adding a bit of new solder can actually help. It sounds odd, but fresh solder can mix with the old and make it easier to remove everything in one go.
  • Repeat if Necessary: If the solder’s still sticking around, don’t worry. Just go through the process of heating and sucking again. With a bit of patience, you’ll get it.

And there you have it! With patience and care, you’ve successfully taken out a switch. High five!


Clean Up and Safety

Once you’re done, don’t forget to:

Turn off your soldering iron and let it cool in its stand.

After finishing your project, it’s crucial to switch off the soldering iron. Wait for it to cool down before you even think about touching it.

The stand is there to keep the hot iron away from materials that could burn, so make sure you use it. This step isn’t just about being neat; it’s about preventing accidents and keeping your workspace safe.

Clean up your workspace and store your tools safely.

Cleaning might seem boring, but it’s part of the job. Sweep away any debris and put away all your equipment.

Make sure sharp tools are out of reach if younger siblings are around. Organizing your tools properly means you can find them easily next time, and it keeps them in good condition. Plus, a tidy space is a safer space for everyone.

Wash your hands thoroughly to remove any lead residue.

Some solder contains lead, which is a toxic metal you don’t want on your skin. Scrub your hands well with soap and water to get rid of any traces.

It’s a simple step, but it’s very important for your health. Remember, eating or touching your face with lead-contaminated hands can be harmful, so make sure your hands are clean before you do anything else.

By following these steps, you’ll ensure that you end your project as safely as you started it. Safety should always be your top priority, not just for you, but for everyone around you as well.


Troubleshooting Tips

Hit a snag? Here’s what to do:

  • Switch Still Not Working? If you’ve replaced a switch and it’s still not functioning, it’s time for a little detective work. First, double-check your work to make sure the new switch is properly installed. If that looks good, take a closer look at the printed circuit board (PCB). Sometimes, the issue may not be with the switch itself but with the PCB. Look for any signs of damage like scratches or burns. Also, ensure that the solder joints are smooth and shiny, indicating a good connection. If they’re dull or cracked, reheat them with your soldering iron and add a touch more solder if necessary.
  • Handle Heating Up? If you feel warmth in the handle of your soldering iron, it might be signaling a break time. Excessive heat in the handle could mean there’s an internal problem with the tool, or it might just be overworked. Let it cool down for a while before you continue. If the problem persists, it could be a sign that the iron is failing and it’s time to consider a replacement. Always remember, working with tools that are in good condition is not only more efficient but also safer.
  • The Right Tools Matter. Ever heard the saying, “A craftsman is only as good as their tools”? Well, it’s true! When you’re working on de-soldering components from a PCB, having the right equipment can make the job way easier. Invest in a high-quality solder sucker—a tool used to remove melted solder. It helps you clear out old solder without a mess. Additionally, using a premium solder wire is crucial too. It flows better and creates stronger, more reliable joints. With the right tools at hand, you’ll find the task smoother and the results more satisfactory.

You Did It!

Congratulations on mastering the desoldering process! Now that you’ve got the hang of it, you can tackle any keyboard switch issue with confidence. Happy typing!

Leave a Comment