Oh man I’ve been lazy lately, well that and nothing has leaped out at me like some previous articles, but here we are. Also, while I’m going to try to be a bit proactive on starting another article or two, my grad school program started back up this week so we will see how that goes. I have had a good few requests to write up some information on JWK, which I have largely ignored because I don’t feel like I have a ton of information, but I did my best to scrounge some up for you guys. Anyway, what do we know about JWK besides “JWK metal bad”?
What Does It Stand For/JWICK/Brief History?
JWK, or the longer abbreviation of JWICK, has been around since around 2016 and stands for JinWeike. Their switches reached western markets as early as 2017 (one year before the Stealios controversy in 2018). These earliest available switches were sold as Gateron Geekmaker switches, with the Stealios switches being sold as Zeal Tealios. To oversimplify some of the events that reportedly took place during JWK’s early history, they were started by one of the co-founders of Gateron (Gaderon at that time) who was ousted from the company.
From there they went to open what we originally knew as Shenzen Durock, who was credited with the production/assembly of the notable counterfeit switches such as Geekmaker and Stealios. It was later revealed through ThicThock during the initial release of their Marshmallow switches that JWK is the OEM level manufacturer, and Durock contracts work through them. This was to my knowledge the first mention of JWK and their relationship with Durock.
Read more about Stealios and this part of the background on ThereminGoat’s site here. https://www.theremingoat.com/blog/t1s
JWK has two particularly close partners in Durock and Everglide. These two brands have the most JWK-made switches out of any brands that I can think of. They each have more JWK switches than any single brand, I believe even beating the “formally” JWICK switches (those advertised as JWICK to the west, not JWK). I’m counting 16 Everglides, not counting the 2 HaiMu-made ones, and 14 JWICKs, which is counting the versions of some like JWICK T1s and Nylon Blacks that come both with and without the actual JWICK nameplate. While I didn’t count Durock’s switches, it must be around 40 or more switches, hell, just in versions of T1s they probably have 10-15. Now, as I mentioned, while Everglide is arguably one of JWK’s closest partners/designers, they do have a couple of switches made by another manufacturer so this is not an exclusive relationship.
JWK’s relationship with Durock is a bit more confusing, to say the least. While the two do seem to be separate companies, there is not a single Durock switch not manufactured by JWK. There are a variety of theories surrounding the brands’ relationship, ranging from Durock being a designer, a plastic supplier, the specific R&D branch of JWK, or even some form of sub-brand/subsidiary. I personally lean toward the two brands being more tightly integrated, if Durock was only a designer, how many other designers are contracted to make someone else’s custom switch? Do we usually contact Everglide to get a switch made, or do we go through JWK? Interestingly, each of the Alibaba pages for JWK and Durock both claim their respective company was started in 2016 and that they have 20 years of experience.
As a matter of fact, so does the Gateron co-founder. Now that could obviously be a coincidence, there are probably plenty of people who have worked in the field for around 20 years, but it’s definitely an interesting note.
So, the Gateron co-founder who went on to produce switches at Shenzen Durock has over 20 years of experience as of the time of the Stealios controversy. Durock claims their main engineers have over 20 years of experience as of writing their company bio presumably around 2016, and JWICK also has more than 20 years of experience in the field around presumably the same point in our timeline. I believe these statements were all written around the same time, as we know the Gateron co-founder’s brand has existed since at least 2017, possibly earlier depending on how long it took them to make their first switches and for Western consumers to find them. On their respective Alibaba pages Durock and JWICK both claim to have been started in 2016, so that about lines up. So, one individual, and two companies, with the same amount of experience, started in the same year, and a seemingly exclusive relationship with each other, what does that say? To me it’s starting to feel like the sub-brand, or R&D branch theories are the most likely. Luckily JWICK seems to agree with me, stating Durock is owned by the same company, JWK.
The Infinite Amount of Designers and Their Custom Switches
JWK Recolors (Goat please read it before you block me)
There was a time when most JWK switches were seen as a “recolor” of previous switches. Now, recolor is not a very accurate term, it would typically imply that the only thing changing between the two switches was the color (or sometimes spring weight) but this is difficult to prove in reality as JWK was making continual updates to their molds. Any given batch of switches, like Alpacas, could have been a new mold. Or maybe the next custom switch would be the first with a mold revision, like Kono’s Midnight switch which was one of, if not the first JWK switch with SMD LED support. But, since these changes happen often and unannounced, we wouldn’t know until we opened them up.
And none of this is to say “recolors” are bad. It can be easier for the designer and factory, as well as potentially cheaper or having a lower minimum order quantity (MOQ) than fully custom switches with new molds or materials. It’s a great way to get more switches into the market with fewer barriers to their production. And to a certain extent, you already knew what you were getting. Maybe I really like T1s but I have a black and red set of keycaps I want to match. PrimeKB had me covered. Maybe a switch I liked sold out since it’s a limited run, well instead of hoping it gets produced again or hunting for it and paying aftermarket prices, I can get something just as good in a different color and maybe a slightly different weighted spring. And with the fast and often unpredictable changes to the molds, maybe we would stumble upon something great in what was originally only designed as a “recolor”.
While the term “recolor” isn’t a perfect one, and gets a fair bit of (deserved) hate from many, this was an easy way for the community to describe the overwhelming similarities between many of the early switches coming from JWK/Durock. After a while, many people in the community even got bored of JWK switches, as they viewed them all as one form or another of a “recolor”. But, as JWK expanded their capabilities and maybe became a little more comfortable taking some risks on truly new products, we now have the opposite problem. At least personally, I have been overwhelmed by the new proprietary blends, continually changing molds and even a significant number more contact leaves than I know of any other brand using.
Oh please, make it stop, I can’t keep track of the acronyms! So, aside from POM, Nylon, and PC which are common to most if not all manufacturers JWK uses UPE, P3, G1, and LY plastic blends. These have shown up largely in the stems of switches, although UPE blends appear to have also been used in some switch housings. UPE is some form or blend of UHMWPE (ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene) and is used more broadly by other manufacturers, although of course, it is likely in different proprietary blends.
P3 was first introduced on Durock Piano POM switches and has been very popular since then, being used in Durock Sunflowers, Prevail Epsilons, Chaosera Kleins, Moyu Hades, Designer Studio Starry, Quertypop Quartz, and a handful of other switches that I either left out or haven’t heard of yet. According to Chaosera, this is a blend of primarily UPE with POM, MoS2, PTFE, and other materials mixed in smaller proportions. Interestingly enough P3 is no longer a single blend as Designer Studio reportedly has a blend of P3 with higher UPE content in their Starry switches. The blend in P3 has been disputed by some who particularly find it unlikely that MoS2 would be included in a switch stem.
G1 was the next proprietary blend developed either by or for JWK, so far this blend appears to be completely exclusive to Designer Studio in their Graphite Gold and Peach Switches. Designer Studio states that the major components of this blend are POM, UPE, and Paraffin in a 1:1:1 ratio (equal parts) with traces of other unnamed materials. Interestingly, Peaches are advertised with stems of “G1 Pivot”. I originally thought this might be a blend revision like they previously did in the P3 stems for their Starry switches but it appears the “pivot” was to change the stem molds to avoid defects that were experienced in some Graphite Gold switches.
LY came next (last for now) and has been used in ESC.HIT SOTCs, Designer Studio Midnights, Creatkeebs Peri’s, and Prevail’s Nebulas. This seems to have some of the least information available, with what I could find so far only noting that it was a UPE blend for smoothness.
Mix and Match Parts (Sometimes Literally)
Alright, JWK has a lot of different parts they can (and have) mixed together to make new switches. Do you know how some brands have a linear and a tactile leaf for their switches, and some only have one style of a leaf? Well JWK has somewhere between three and six depending on who you ask, and they are glad to match those up to different stems too.
Out of the more or less confirmed leaves, there are four. JWK has a linear leaf, which they also use for their light tactiles, a medium tactile leaf, and a strong tactile leaf that is commonly referred to as the T1 leaf. But there are probably a couple more. The problem is that it is hard to definitively measure the leaf of a switch to say it is more or less angled than another without removing it, during which you might accidentally bend it and mess it up. Regardless, it seems like JWK has even more different leaves they use in their switches.
There is supposedly a leaf in between medium and strong tactile based on Pylon’s testing of hand-assembled vs GB Twilight switches. It looks like the recent JWICK Taro Milk switches have an entirely different leaf, as it interacts differently with stems than expected of a T1-inspired switch. The recent JWICK Voyagers have also been suggested to have a different leaf, although it seems there is the least information to back this one up. One distinct possibility is that the GB Twilights and Taro Milk switches could use the same leaf, as both are noted as being between the medium leaf and T1 leaf in tactility.
Now, besides all the possible leaf and stem combinations, sometimes it’s fun to just mix and match all these parts. Hell, one company even took that idea and ran with it. The recently announced Wuque MM Switch series offers customers 3 different materials of top housings, 3 materials of bottom housing, and 4 different materials for the stems, to truly mix and match all of JWK’s new and exciting proprietary blends. I haven’t had a chance to try these out yet, but it is genuinely exciting to see this opportunity to test the different materials back to back and also just to see what material and color combinations end up being popular. I expect we will come out of this in a few months with around 5 to 7 combinations that end up being the go-to or hype switches out of this series. It’s also exciting to have these components available separately for the first time, particularly the stems as some, like P3, have been in high demand previously.
SMD, Dustproof, and Winglatch
SMD LED support was introduced (to the best of my knowledge) around July of 2021 with the Kono Midnight switches. From what I can find JWICK Ultimate Black came out at least a month later, with the earliest winglatch switches, which also support SMD LEDs, coming in November or December of the same year. Other notable switches with this housing include Kono’s Sunrise and Sunset switches, Everglide White and Pink Lotus, FLCMMK Bauhinia Orchids, and JWICK Voyagers. This is still a relatively new/unused mold, having been used fewer than 10 times as far as I can tell in over a year since it was introduced.
Dustproof molds were introduced next on the Everglide White and Pink Lotus switches, using the 4-prong SMD bottoms. These were probably released in November 2021, while the first mention I can find of them is in December, I believe I had the switches from Taobao by then. Following this we also have FLCMMK Bauhinia Orchids, using the same SMD compatible bottoms, and possibly the exact same stem as the Everglide Pink Lotus. To my knowledge, these three switches are the only three to use dustproof stems in a 4-prong housing from JWK. Following these, we got more dustproof switches, but in winglatch housings.
And the winglatch housings came out shortly after the Everglide Lotus switches, with Wuque Onions coming out in December of 2021 and Durock Lupine switches being released the next month in January of 2022. These winglatch housings have not been seen used with non-dustproof stems yet, but have been further utilized with JWICK’s Turmeric Milk, Taro Milk, and Grey Semi-Silent switches.
Wait, what’s SP Star doing in this article? They don’t make or sell any JWK switches. Ah, that’s where you’re wrong (or where I’m wrong, we’ll see). There are a number of similarities between JWK and SP Star switches, between mold markings, stems/bump profiles, and materials used. SP Star also has much less information around their factory/proof of life, they have shown a picture of a building with their logo on it, but that’s about it. So, a lot of people have been wondering about the similarities between SP Star and JWK, and while it’s almost impossible to get any form of confirmation from anyone, let’s take a look at what makes people believe these brands are related.
Aside from specific mold markings, which I will cover later, SP Star makes a pretty convincing case with their Meteor Purple switches. These switches seem to be a T1 style bump and leaf in a switch with the exact same spring weight characteristics. Also notable, but far from proving anything, is that after working exclusively with JWK for their custom switches, TKC either added or transitioned to SP Star for their collaborations. This is small, and possibly a coincidence in the grand scheme of things, but when taken with all the similarities between the brands I feel like it’s one straw closer to breaking the camel’s back.
Okay, now I’m going to get into some more concrete information, mold markings. There are a handful of similarities between JWK and SP Star switches. I’m working mostly with relatively recent releases here to hopefully stay within the same round of mold revisions since it seems these change frequently at JWK, but in older switches, some of these still hold up, or they may also have different similarities. There are also a handful of similarities between these two brands and Gateron, which is where JWK got its start, although many are not shared between all three. I’ll title a marking in bold if it’s shared between all three brands, or underline it if it’s similar between JWK and SP Star but not Gateron.
Through Hole Only bottoms
This is something that is common to quite a few brands but nonetheless is also shared between Gateron, JWK, and SP Star. In the latter two’s case, they have been exclusively through-hole switches up until a few recent releases from JWK including JWICK Ultimate Black and some custom switches through Kono and Chosfox. For Gateron, it has been probably ~80% or more through-hole switches, with notable exceptions being their Pro series of switches and some, but not all, CAP series switches having SMD support.
Upside down 8
This is a fun one that ThereminGoat found first, in his review of Designer Studio Graphite Gold switches, the “8” in JWK’s mold markings seems to be upside down. Well, it turns out this was far from a one-time mistake, and instead is consistent in every JWK switch I have checked so far with an “8” in its number. Not only that, but it has been consistent among my SP Star switches as well. In Gateron switches there is most often a letter marking in this place.
Pictured below are SP Star Meteor Grey (Grey Housing), JWICK Yellow, JWICK Nylon (I forgot if it was the black linear or T1), and HK Gaming MS-1.
Open slot top with a circular dent
This is another one that has been used by multiple brands, but especially in modern switches, it is most common across Cherry, JWK, SP Star, and Gateron. Notably, JWK, SP Star, and Gateron are the only ones I have seen using this mold on their high-end or custom switches.
Diode pictured on the bottom housing
This diode marking is shared I believe only by the four brands above, Cherry, JWK, SP Star, and Gateron in normal production, a few others have used it mostly on their older switches.
Pictured below are SP Star Sacramento, JWK Moyu Green Snake and Gateron KS-3 Red
Protruding outward edge of housing where fixing pins attached
Having a small protrusion on the bottom housing just outside where the fixing pins are attached is not common to many brands, again showing up predominantly on Cherry, Gateron, JWK, and SP Star.
Finned fixing pins
This is more common among many switches but is one more trait all three of these brands share.
Pictured below are JWICK Yellow, HK Gaming MS-1, SP Star Meteor Grey
Rail contact pad “letter P”
We have seen multiple designs of bottom-out pad in switches for the slider rails to contact between different brands and mold revisions, but this “P” shaped pad is one I have only seen on JWK and SP Star.
Pictured below are JWICK Yellow,SP Star Meteor Grey, and Gateron CJ
Fat “T” or rectangle notched at south corners underside of top housing near slot
Another pretty standard mark, mostly between JWK, SP Star, and Gateron, but probably shared with some others as well.
Pictured below are JWICK Yellow, SP Star Meteor Grey, and Gateron CJ
Layers/carveout on the left side of pictures near leaf retention
I don’t know a better way to describe this one, it’s the little ridge on the left in these pictures, it looked notable so I included it, but it’s at least on Gateron if not other brands too.
Pictured below are SP Star Meteor Grey, JWICK Nylon Black, and JWICK Yellow
Tapered slider rails
Tapered slider rails, its not exclusive to these switches by far, but it is one more thing that JWK and SP Star have in common, and one more trait that they don’t share with Gateron.
Pictured below are SP Star Grey, JWICK Yellow and Gateron CJ
Shallow pole hole reducing travel in other stems
This is a fun one, both JWK and SP Star switches have shallow pole wells which reduce travel when using other switches’ stems. It’s difficult or impossible to show this on camera really, but the effect is measurable with stem swaps.
I don’t know man, I don’t get paid to make decisions for you. To me, it seems pretty clear that Durock is a subbrand of JWK in some way. Does it matter? Probably not much. So JWK owns Durock, we already knew they made all of Durock’s switches, and we already saw that Durock has access to new blends like P3 and new molds like their Lupine switches. To me, the difference is purely academic, but interesting nonetheless. And while it’s a little murkier I would venture to claim that SP Star is not their own fully independent manufacturer. I don’t have any reason to specifically claim they are owned by JWK, but they could be a designer working exclusively with them, or they could have purchased molds and related equipment from them. And Even JWICK doesn’t want to give me a meaningful answer, but from this, I would guess they know there is some relationship between the two.