Adding LED lights to a Pok3r keyboard

So you want to add LED lights to your Pok3r? Luckily I have a tutorial right here that will guide you through the process. The basic steps are: Remove key caps and open up board, desolder existing holes, insert and solder your LEDs in.

I am a beginner at this so I know my technique isn’t very good, but I’m sure it will improve with time, also the soldering iron I used wasn’t the best, I think it is worth spending a bit more in that regard, mine didn’t get very hot.

What you will need:

  • Soldering iron
  • Desolder pump
  • Solder
  • Cutters
  • Philips screwdriver
  • LED lights

Something simple to start with, upgrade your Pok3r to the latest firmware so that it has LED light functionality in the software.

Firmware Upgrade

Download the Pok3r 1.1.5 firmware — or whatever is newest — from this website here. Once you have it, run the program and follow its steps. Nice one, now your keyboard can display your fancy LED lights!

Buying LEDs

But first, we need to add them. So, purchase some LED lights, I went with 1.8mm ones from http://switchelectronics.co.uk. I have heard that 3mm ones can cause the key caps to get stuck due to sitting too high. You will need about 61 LEDs, but perhaps make it an even 100, they are cheap and mistakes happen, or don’t, live life dangerously.

Disassemble

Now that you have received your LEDs you can start taking apart your Pok3r. You will need a small Philips head screwdriver and a keypuller. Remove all the keys with the key puller, making sure to wiggle them slightly so you don’t straight up tear the stems off — especially important in Cherry MX Clear switches I’m told.

You have a naked keyboard, you should see six screws that need removing, use your Philips to take them out and place them somewhere safe.

Gently slide the plate and PCB out from the casing, the only thing you need to be careful of is the USB port, if you pull it out in a slight upward motion it should come easy.

Desoldering!

This is where the fun begins, Vortex have kindly soldered all of the holes for the LEDs. That may sound good but it isn’t. You need to remove that solder, we don’t want it. You will need a desolder pump to suck that solder away after it has been gently heated, and a solder iron, to do the gentle heating. This isn’t as hard or scary as it may sound, you may want to look up a video on YouTube to get a basic idea but simply you apply your hot solder iron to the solder you want to remove, and once it is liquid you quickly place the desolder pump over it and click the button. It may take a few tries to get it right, but after a few keys you will find a rhythm and it should be smooth sailing. If you hit a problematic one try adding some of your own solder to it and then pump it out.

Ok, so now you have an idea of how to remove the solder, lets have a look at where exactly you will be doing this. Flip the keyboard over so you can see the PCB. Now you are looking for two silver circles sitting next to each other horizontally just above the center of each key. I have highlighted some in the image below, they will often have a “+” next to one of them but sometimes this has been obscured by something else.

You will need to remove all of these from the board — well there are a couple where the support switches are on the long keys (Backspace, Enter, Shift) that don’t need doing as there is no place for an LED. So start removing the solder from them and check back here when you are done.

All finished? That was the hard part, mostly because it is tedious and sometimes you get stuck on one switch where the solder doesn’t want to leave. But you are done now, you made it.

Soldering!

Adding in your LEDs! This is the fun part, well slightly more fun than the previous bit. The LEDs slot into the switches, so flip your board over again, and check out the top part of a switch, there is a gap, and if you look through it you should see two holes — you desoldered those holes! Your LED will slot through here and a leg of the LED will go into each hole. There is a correct way that the LEDs go, although on the Pok3r it is incorrectly labeled. Look at the bottom of the board and find one set of holes you desoldered, you will notice a “+”, this is incorrectly marked. So keep that in mind when I tell you that the longer leg on your LED is the positive leg, but it should not go in to the one marked “+”, you need to reverse the polarity.

So, place the LED in via the switch, making sure the long leg doesn’t go into the hole marked “+” on the other side. If you are using the same LEDs I did then you can fit them into the switch quite nicely, otherwise you may need to place a bit of tape over it to hold it there as the next step is flipping the board over so it is PCB side up and you can start soldering the legs.

With your hot soldering iron apply some heat to the leg by the PCB and start adding a small amount of solder so that it secures the leg into the hole and closes any gaps. I haven’t soldered much before, and not at all in the last 8 or so years so excuse me if I have poor technique. It works, and that’s all I want.

Now, go plug in your keyboard while it’s naked and check if the LED works (Push Fn + X to turn them on and cycle through the modes), if it doesn’t, double check that you put it in the right way, remember the shorter leg should be in the “+” hole. Otherwise you may not have made a good connection while soldering, try heat it up again and get a nice even coating around the leg.

If it is working then clip the legs off the LED and then do this with every other hole you desoldered, I found that inserting all the LEDs for a row, soldering that row and then testing it worked was a good method. I didn’t have any issues with them not working but it was nice to know and see how they looked as I went through the process.

We Will Rebuild

Well, now you are finished. Let’s put the keyboard back together, slide the keyboard plate back in, paying attention to the alignment of the USB port. Use those screws you safely stored to fix it to the case and put your key caps back on in the correct positions.

To control the LED lighting you can use:

  • Fn + X: Turns them on and cycles through the modes — On, Off, Heartbeat and a mode which lights up keys after you tap them.
  • Fn + C: Dim the lights
  • Fn + V: Turns up the lights.

I found that the default dark gray key caps didn’t let much light through but I swapped to some pale green ones that look much better.

Bonus Content

While taking the photos for this tutorial a package arrived with DSA Dolch key caps so here are some extras.

And here you can see how they don’t let as much light through as the green ones — although the room was brighter while taking these photos, so I will see how they look tonight.

And here are some more photos of the Pok3r with green keycaps shining.

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