Why a Freestyle Edge?
One of the first boards I bought when I got back into the mech keyboard scene was the Kinesis Freestyle Edge. It had appeard to me that Kinesis had finally saw the light on their Freestyle line and introduced a variant with real MX switches. It seemed like the perfect marriage between the Advantage line’s good switches and the Freestyle line’s more standard layout.
But because I was coming back from a long absence from mech keyboard world, I somehow convinced myself that I wanted MX Blue switches. While the tactility and sound were a novelty at first, I quickly tired of them, and though I liked the layout and the ergonomic configurability of the board, I soon stopped using since my whole house could hear me typing.
Fast forward two years, and many experiments of different switch types on my Drop hotswap board, I was ready to take the plunge in rewiring this Kinesis with a different switch. I purchased my first soldering setup and went about desoldering the blue switches, and soldering in the Everglide Oreos, which so far are my favorite light spring + tactile switch.
First step was to remove the case (8 screws) and detach the pcb from the case (another 8 screws).
Next came the most painful part: desoldering. This board unfortunately used older style LEDs that mount _through_ holes on the switches. To remove the switches means that you have to remove the LEDs first. Each LED has two solder joints, but these joints were much smaller than the joints for the switches themselves. So small that it was quite challenging to melt the solder and suck it up with a cheap vacuum pump tool. In many cases I had to add solder to the joint to create a large enough blob that the vacuum would be able to suck the melted solder out.
Desoldering the first switch took me an entire 30 minutes. Through practice, I was able to get the average time for a single switch down to 3-4 minutes. Desoldering ~70 keys took on the order of 4-6 hours.
Thankfully, soldering in new swiches (without LEDs) was much easier. Instead of 6 hours to desolder, soldering took 45 minutes total. I ended up replacing all the keys except the function row and the macro keys.
Put the PCB’s back in the case and reassemble the case parts and all done. Now most of the keys don’t light up, but the LED color on this board was tacky to start with, so no big loss.
Not bad for a first soldering project, and now I have a version of this board with switches that I love, a combo that I can’t find anywhere else.
In case anyone is looking to get started with similar mods, here’s all the equipment that I ended up buying for this project: