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Disclaimer: It might sound like it.. but I am not directly sponsored by Drop.com for this article. I just really like them. That being said, I am affiliated with them and the links in this article are affiliate links. That means that if you use my links and buy something, I may earn a couple pennies.
By now, Drop.com has really established itself as one of the best go-to stores for ready-to-ship custom mechanical keyboard parts as well as highly anticipated group buys. I was first introduced to Drop back in ye olden days when it used to be called Massdrop. I was very impressed with their CTRL line hotswappable keyboards – very well constructed and packed with some amazing features. I still have not found a keyboard with better looking RGB.
Drop is also well known in the community since it was one of the first larger companies that adopted a group buy model to crowd fund exclusive and limited keycap sets and cases. These days Drop is still going strong with group buys but also carries a wide variety of custom keyboard parts and accessories, ready to ship. They are now also available on Amazon. I personally believe that they are a key player in bringing custom mechanical keyboards into the mainstream. So… I wanted to revisit Drop and do a complete Drop mechanical keyboard build log! All of the parts were purchased from Drop and you can purchase them too through my affiliate links throughout this log!
I decided to build this keyboard in exchange for an awesome aquarium setup by Hooked Reefs (their site is still in development so I will come back to link them!). Hooked Reefs specializes in breeding rare coral for saltwater aquariums – Hurray! Another expensive hobby… Of course, since he is the ocean man, I decided to go with an “ocean”-themed keyboard. I chose a smokey translucent case that can show the onboard LED clearly and some translucent switches to go along with it. You get it? Because water is clear, right?
And of course, would it really be an ocean/reef themed keyboard without a CORAL keycap?! The keycap was created by Dwarf Factory, one of my favorite artisan keycap makers. In my opinion, they are very underrated considering the craftsmanship and creativity they put into their keycaps. More details to follow!
Phenomenal. Looks beautiful, sounds amazing, and feels very well built – true to the description on Drop. At the time of writing, this keyboard is currently sold through but you can always put in a request for a restock. I was lucky enough to pick one up and I do not regret it – I was almost too sad to part with it.
The FLESPORTS MK870 comes prebuilt with a hot-swappable PCB. No screw drivers, no soldering, no mess. Just the pure joy of plugging in your carefully selected switches (read: Switches Matter) and putting on your favorite keycap set. I was able to put everything together in under 45 minutes as opposed to the 1.5-ish hours it would have taken me if it was not hot-swappable.
The keyboard also comes with pre-lubed stabilizers (very well done) and with a dampener installed for a satisfying clack that is not obnoxiously loud.
After installing switches and keycaps, this $60 dollar keyboard easily feels like a $120+. In fact, I found that it not only types similarly to the RAMA Kara that I built October but I actually found myself enjoying typing on the MK870 more.
Switches: Everglide Aqua King Mechanical Switches
Aqua King – a fitting name for a reef expert’s keyboard, don’t you think?
Although Everglide is not as widely used in the hobby (compared to Cherry and Kailh switches), I have found them to be reliable. Like myself, Hooked Reefs enjoys heavier linear switches so we went with the 62g option.
My favorite feature of this switch that sets it apart is the longer travel* distance. Although it is extremely subtle, the 4mm travel of these switches made them feel bouncy and typing on them felt like my fingers were treading water. Treading water in a i’m-in-a-pool-in-las-vegas-this-is-great sort of way, NOT a wow-this-is-exhausting-i-might-drown sort of way.
*’Travel’ is the distance between the point where the switch is not pressed (no tension) to the point where the switch is pressed all the way down (“bottoms out”). For more info on why this might be important to you, please check out my article on switches: Switches Matter.
Keycaps: Drop MT3 White-on-Black Keycaps [ABS]
For the keycaps, I went with MT3 which is a favorite of mine and also because the client had requested sculpted keycaps. I have raved about MT3 in many of my previous posts so I will save the fanboy-ing and cut to the chase. It is good. It is worth it. Your fingers will thank you.
Though it seems my own keyboards get smaller and smaller every year (I use 40% layouts), really, nothing beats seeing and feeling all of the rows of a sculpted keycap profile on a full sized board.
The Centerpiece: Dwarf Factory Gaea’s Crown – Atlantic Heart
Drop also carries tons of high quality artisan keycaps – ready to ship. While these won’t be your fancy-pants made-to-order artisans like Keyforge (which are also VERY nice – I have a few), they are ready to ship and there are a few diamonds in the rough.
With my several years now in the hobby, I have found Dwarf Factory to be one of the most creative, precise, and high quality artisan designers around. I am always impressed when I stumble upon some of their beautiful miniature works like the Terrarium and even some of their weirder (but charming) ones like the Curiosity Bottle. I would highly recommend checking out Drop’s exclusive collection of Dwarf Factory group buys and ready-to-ship collectible artisans.
I was also very surprised to learn something today.. the Dwarf Factory also came with detailed ILLUSTRATED instructions on how to properly mount resin based keycaps. If you ever had an artisan keycap that never fit properly, I would highly recommend this method:
- Clean your artisan keycap and drop it in a glass or cup of hot water – not boiling but warm enough to very slightly soften the material.
- CAREFULLY remove the keycap after 20-30 seconds and get as dry as possible with a soft cloth.
- While the keycap is still warm, mount it onto the switch.
- Hold down firmly for a few seconds.
I’ve tried this on a few Jelly Keys I had in the back of my drawer and it worked very well! Before, the keycaps would come off too easily but using Dwarf Factory’s method, they were much more secure on the switches.
And… Here it is. An EPIC fully Drop mechanical keyboard in all of its glory. Thanks for sticking around for this build log and be sure to consider them when building your next keeb! They consistently stock all sorts of cases and you can easily get all the parts you need for a great custom keyboard, all in one place.