I’m back from a couple of weeks of thinking, writing, and taking pictures. The blog lives again with such new-fangled features as “click on picture to make it big” and a functioning table of contents.
This guide will never be the be-all and end-all list of mold markings and switch identification. Not only will I not have every possible identifier listed, but some brands are inconsistent as it stands today, which says nothing about the fact that it may all change the day I post this. BUT, it will be semi-organized, and will definitely serve as a good starting point if you want to try to identify some random switch you have if you don’t know who makes it. I will try to update it from time to time, but to set expectations I’m thinking every couple of months, not weekly.
The simple lack of a dustproof stem does not help identify a switch as being from any brand, as a matter of fact, every brand has a standard MX variant. There was one exception until recently in that Momoka had released only dustproof stem switches, but they changed this up with their most recent Momoka Shark switches.
There are in fact a handful of brands that have not yet come up with a dustproof variant though, that can be immediately disqualified from consideration before moving onto the different styles of dustproof stems. Cherry, Greetech, NextTime, and Tecsee do not have dustproof stem molds yet as far as I know, and can be ignored if you have a dustproof switch to identify.
This style of dustproof stem is noted by its semicircle cutouts in the walls to closely fit keycap stems. It was first seen on TTC switches to my knowledge, which may still be the brand best known for this style. Other brands that have implemented a rounded dustproof stem include Aflion, Mengmoda/MMD, JWK (JWICK, Durock, etc.), Kailh (in their non-Box design dustproof switches), and Transmit. *Editor’s note - as I was reviewing this post I got my Gateron G Pro 2.0 switches and the silver switches are round dustproof which Gateron has not used yet up until now.
Within this style of dustproof stem, there are a few minor differentiators. While TTC, Mengmoda, and MOST JWK stems are wide and squared-off stems. Exceptions to JWK’s stem design here include the Everglide Pink and White Lotus switches which have a distinct mold mark on the top of the Western leg of the stem, and Wuque Onions which are a thinner stem and have little protrusions which are seemingly the part relied on to contact the inside of the keycap stem. This distinction applies to Transmit’s dustproof stems most directly, to the point they look identical, and Aflion to a lesser extent, who has an external chamfer on the stem in addition to these protrusions.
This style of dustproof stem has the thinnest walls of the different designs and is almost entirely made of right-angled corners. Outemu, Gateron, Huano, and LCET utilize this style of exterior walls for their dustproof stems. Outemu and Gateron are the most standard implementations of this style, with Huano typically (but not always) having a mold marking in the center of the stem. LCET’s walls look the same but the actual stem is taller than the dustproof walls.
This style of dustproof stem features two slightly distinct versions, HaiMu, which looks largely similar to the thin dustproof style, but with a minor angle to the interior corner, and comes to a fine point on the edges. The second style includes KTT and Momoka, which each have a much more distinct 45-degree angle in the interior corners which leads to a point in a similar manner at the edges. One addendum to HaiMu’s dustproof stems is that the silent stems feature a very shallow rail slot on the exterior East and West sides of the dustproof walls.
Fully Closed Dustproof
This currently includes two distinct designs. These are both used on Kailh’s Box style switches, with the original fully enclosed square dustproof stems, and a more recent revision including a circular stem enclosure. While it looked like the round dustproof might replace the square at one point, this does not seem to be the case as each has continued to be produced in recent releases. More recently TTC has also started implementing this fully enclosed circle on some of their more premium switches such as the Year of the Tiger switches and Loving Heart/Titan switches.
This is a prevalent style among brands in that most brands do have a version of a switch with through-hole only compatibility, but it is not overall the most common design as most switches released by these brands will also sell SMD compatible switches. Kailh, KTT/Content, Outemu, JWK, SP Star, Gateron, TTC, Cherry, and Greetech all have one or more switches with only 4 holes for through-hole LEDs.
The brands that can be ruled out by the inclusion of a through-hole-only switch would include Aflion/Golden Orange, Leobog/Aula, HaiMu, Mengmoda, Tecsee, BSUN, Huano, LCET, Momoka, Transmit, NextTime, and ABT.
No slot LED “slots” are still often clear, allowing SMD LED compatibility, but at least one manufacturer has deviated from that with a fully opaque no slot design fully blocking any LED compatibility.
The brands that do have switches with a no slot design currently include Outemu, Gateron (so far only in optical switches and some CAP switches), Cherry, Greetech (assuming Union Best blues are made by them as someone told me when I purchased it from them), ABT, NextTime, Leobog/Aula (with an imprint of a LED slot molded in the solid plastic), Kailh, and Content/KTT (also with an imprint of where a slot would be located), and whoever is making V2 AEboards switches, which I assume is still Tecsee from previous releases.
Some switches, most often older basic “Cherry clone” variants as well as Cherry switches themselves, will have a LED slot comprised exclusively of a nearly circular hole in the center of the slot.
The brands that include this in at least some of their switches include Cherry, Outemu, Huano, Gateron, Greetech, JWK, Kailh, and Content/KTT. Notably, Gateron and JWK are the only brands that I see using this design for higher-end and custom switches.
Many brands also have fully open LED slots without any interruption or additional cutouts. Gateron, Tecsee, Outemu, JWK, BSUN, Kailh, LCET, TTC, Aflion, and Leobog/Aula all feature this unbroken slot design, so if your switches do too, then you can hopefully narrow it down to these few. These often have a circular impression in the center, likely to help with through-hole LED compatibility.
This is about as common as a fully open slot, but with a simple divider down the center, pretty self-explanatory. TTC, Huano, Transmit, KTT, Haimu, Kailh, JWK (so far only on their winglatch switches as far as I can tell), and Gateron in a select few switches including Pro Whites, Pro Browns, Phantom Browns, CAP Milk Browns, normal and dustproof CJs, and Oil Kings (that I have in my collection so far). These may also have a circular impression in the center of the slot.
Circular Divided Slot
This style of LED slot is similar to the divided slot, but instead of one line, it is essentially divided by a pair of parentheses that form a nearly complete circle in the center. This is much less common among manufacturers, in fact, it might be exclusive to MMD/Leobog switches from what I can find at the moment, and their POM switches specifically, to be exact.
Thankfully another rare one, this is different from the Circle because it has corners - okay fine, it’s also different because it’s not a divided slot either. Instead, this is a fully open LED slot with extra cutouts in the center to make a relatively square hole. To my knowledge, this is exclusive to Outemu switches, and specifically, those that Gazzew has designed or worked on.
Alright, those were all best identified by the top housings, now for a couple from the bottom housing. This rounded square design was completely exclusive to Huano and was on every switch I had ever seen from them, and it was a glorious and perfect tell of a Huano-made switch, and the world was at peace. Then Outemu made exactly ONE switch with this same design because they hate me and everything I stand for ….reasons I guess. So now we get to include them on an asterisk. It’s on the Outemu Ocean, but only the clicky one, not the silent linears, please join me in hating its existence for breaking my perfectly good system.
This looks similar to the Round Square, but it’s super small in comparison. This is only found in Cherry switches, and more specifically their RGB housings. These squares seem like they just barely would accommodate an SMD LED, but if it were off-center or on any angle at all I would expect to see some compatibility issues because again, this is a small square. KTT has recently implemented a somewhat similar design on their full POM switches, a bit bigger than Cherry switches, but smaller and less round than the Huano-style square so it will go in this section.
This is also a nice easy and exclusive design located on the bottom housing of some switches. When looking at the bottom of the switch, the LED slot is a rounded trapezoid-type shape. This is exclusive to KTT switches, and only on their “cherry style” housings. This also includes their KTT branded and Akko branded switches, so everything from Matchas and Strawberries to the Akko Jelly Series of switches will have this trapezoid on the bottom.
Covering a couple of potential designs, the Integrated Condenser just describes that there is an LED condenser molded into the housing of the switch. TTC is the most famous for their implementation of this on many of their switches, but recently Aflion/Golden Orange have implemented it, as well as Gateron in their G Pro 2.0 series of switches. All of these brands use a similar round/semicircular clear mold for their LED condenser. One other brand with an integrated style of LED condenser is Momoka, whose condenser is much more pointy like a little LED mountain.
Some brands instead use a removable LED condenser that fits into place in their LED slot. When they do this, it seems like there is a lot of trial and error in finding the right shape. Out of two brands using this removable style of condenser, each of whom started doing so in only the past year or two, there are eight distinct designs. Kailh has at least four, including Round, Trapezoid, Round Trapezoid, and Short Trapezoid. Moving on to TTC, they also have four designs, these are all rounded, the earliest design being full height and a flat bottom, followed by a revision to extend the center of the bottom of the condenser down slightly seemingly in an effort to fully contact an SMD LED, the third version has a more chamfered outer edge on the top of the curve, and while it sits as high as the others has a shorter bottom, and the last version has the extended center of version two but with a shorter overall height to help reduce the potential for interference with some keycap profiles.
This will be the least complete section out of all of them, it’s absolutely impossible to get to every different brand’s mold markings, and some are not particularly useful for narrowing down what brand they are anyway due to repeated changes between mold revisions. So here I will only be discussing the most useful or most consistent markings I can think of.
Bottom Housing Rectangles
These are some of my favorite markings, probably because a version of them shows up on one of my favorite unidentified switches, the HyperX switches. HyperX switches have a full rectangle on the East and West sides of the pole hole on the bottom housing, oriented vertically. These are just a bit different from the more common version of this mold design though, which is TTC, which uses essentially the same rectangles but with semicircles cut out of the outer edges of each rectangle. If you see these marks, it is pretty likely to be TTC, unless it says HyperX on it (which I still think is TTC but has other marks that throw it off a bit).
Oh God, those stupid blurred squares/rectangles, that’s half of what got me started on some of these theories/connections between brands that ended up at least half wrong in the Aflion/Golden Orange article. They come in different shapes and sizes, which mean nothing as far as I am aware since it changes within manufacturers and even seemingly mid-batch sometimes. These fun little textured squares are on most, if not all, BSUN and Tecsee switches, “Cherry style” Aflion, Meirun, Lumia, and Mengmoda switches, as well as old Feker switches before they were made by Huano (it’s easy to tell because of the Huano square LED slot as we discussed earlier). Tecsee also has a fun new revision on this where it looks like part of the square was cleaned off by windshield wipers, it has one corner smoothed over in an arc from an external corner. Also, I had a hard time photographing these so some have a flashlight added off axis to catch the light on the blurry sections.
Yin Yang Symbol
This is a pretty self-explanatory marking, but it’s a yin-yang symbol in between the contact pins. It’s probably one of the most fun mold markings though, so yay for that. Anyway, this is unique to Gazzew and his Outemu switches.
Top Housing Rails
Oh, this is a weird one, which means it’s a fun one. I love to see people thinking outside the box, and LCET literally took part of the MX design and flipped it upside down. Instead of having the slider rails extend upward on the sides of the bottom housing, they extend downward from the top. Why do they do this? Nobody knows, but it’s a nightmare for compatibility of course. At least they didn’t invent the square wheel though, this is a decent design and their switches are pretty smooth, it’s just not compatible with other stuff.
Circle Cut-Out Top
It’s almost like someone made a top housing with no cutout for the stem and the only thing they had laying around to fix it was a drill bit. They didn’t exactly fix the problem, the stem body still doesn’t come flush with the top housing on account of being a square peg in a round hole. But what’s great is that you realize they DID fix the problem, this is their way of making a dustproof switch. That’s what Team Wolf did on their switches, which while innovative, are still pretty poorly performing switches. These are the only switches I have seen with this design, so it should be a dead giveaway if you see it.
This diagonal line on the east and west faces of the top housing over the leaf has led to a lot of research on the switchmodders discord. It seems exclusive to Feker switches that are not produced by Huano like their new products are. The problem is that nobody believes Feker has their own factory, and no other brand matches these markings, so it’s most likely a case of someone selling old/damaged molds to Feker to use for their switches.
Another mark on the non-Huano-made Feker switches. This one is a dent on the buttresses to the sides of the LED slot. It’s symmetrical between the east and west sides of the switch, and to me feels like someone took a bite out of the switch with just one good sharp tooth on each side.
Bottom Housing Holes
HaiMu, for some reason, has used a small hole on each side of the pole hole between the fixing pins on many of their dustproof switches. Nobody knows specifically what it is for yet, but it might be for an effect on the sound, or to reduce air pressure, which Gateron had noted at one point when discussing the hole in the bottom of their CAP switches.
Hole in Pole Hole
This one is a little less clear cut, there are at least three brands who either are currently using, or have used a mold with a hole in the pole hole, wait no it’s four, but thankfully each of these brands’ designs is accompanied by other tells for who makes the switch. Gateron CAP switches have a hole in the pole hole but are easy to tell apart from anything else when you open them as the stem is wide and hollow to go over a central post around the pole hole, almost like a hat or CAP. Kailh’s box switches used to have a hole in the pole hole, but seem to have moved away from this more recently. These are equally easy to identify as they have the internal Box design covering the contact leaf and pins to make the switch more water and dustproof.
LCET switches utilize a hole in the bottom housing on the pole hole, that is much finer, like a pinhole. Thes can be identified by LCET’s top housing rails. And finally, HaiMu has recently started having the bottom of their pole hole only be supported by an “X” shape leaving four holes open in the bottom housing, this is distinctive on its own but can also easily be combined with HaiMu’s other markings like their right-angled leaves or many identifying factors on their stems as I talked about at length in the HaiMu article last month.
This feels like a very unscientific name to me, but then again we did just have a whole section on “Hole in Pole Hole” so I guess the bar is pretty low. Well, at least it’s relatively self-explanatory, some switches have a little raised ridge on the underside of their top housing, that can be seen through the bottom of the LED slot. Those “some switches” are BSUN switches, and some other switches that are either made by BSUN, inspired by BSUN, using some old BSUN molds, or some fourth option I guess. So if it says Lumia or I think some old Mengmoda stuff, I’m not sure what the final answer is on those, but most BSUN has it with some exceptions for 1UP Soft Pandas.
LED Slot Ridge
We touched on this a couple of sections ago, but switches with a stem that is hollow and wide enough to go over the top of a central post instead of fitting inside a pole hole, are CAP switches, which are made exclusively by Gateron. You could probably figure this out because Gateron doesn’t take their name off any of their switches, but I don’t know man, maybe someone sanded it off, maybe you only have a loose stem or a bottom housing, I didn’t ask you why you needed this information - I just provided it.
This also came up a few sections ago, but Kailh’s Box design of switches is superior in its water and dustproofness since it not only features a fully enclosed “Box” for the contact point of the leaf but also has a fully enclosed dustproof stem.
All of them. This helps almost as much as telling me the switch appears to be made from some type of plastic, I mean a couple of brands look slightly more or less round to me, but I don’t have the tools to measure the inner and outer diameter of the curve and I kinda doubt anyone else trying to identify a random switch does either - anyway, on to the couple of weirdos who don’t use this general style of leaf design.
About 3-4% of switches in my collection seem to have a right-angled leaf design. This is down to about three brands, Leobog/MMD, HaiMu, and Momoka. In my case, this number is pretty inflated by the fact that I specifically look for these weird brands
This is a very recent (~May or June 2022) addition to the switch identification game. TTC has started updating some of its switches with silvery leaves and pins. There are probably only three or four switches that have been updated as of writing, but I assume more will continue to come out in the future. So if you somehow miss the TTC logo or their weird rectangles on the bottom housing, or the removable condenser it most likely has, then yeah if it has silver pins/leaves it should be TTC.
This is another one where for the most part everyone has it in one form or another, but there are a few very minor exceptions. If it has a 4 prong latching mechanism it can’t be NextTime, Transmit, or Leobog so far, but MMD has 4 prong molds so it’s quite possible Leobog will use those at some point.
This section would have been much easier to write a year or two ago, but since then winglatch housing offerings from either new manufacturers or brands expanding their offerings have increased quite a bit. I’m not going to get into inter-compatibility here, but maybe that can show up in another article sometime. But first, there are some brands that can be disqualified if it has a winglatch housing including BSUN, Tecsee, Gateron, Cherry, Greetech, HaiMu, SP Star, Huano, TTC, LCET, Feker, and Momoka.
Do They Have Silencing at All?
So far the brands/manufacturers that offer some form of silencing mechanisms include Cherry, Gateron, Outemu, Kailh, TTC, JWK, and HaiMu. KTT is expected to come out with a silent switch soon, hopefully within a month or so, which means this will be out of date quite soon - hooray! Brands that do not have silent switches yet include Huano, BSUN, Tecsee, SP Star, LCET, Momoka, NextTime, Jixian, Transmit, MMD/Leobog, and Aflion.
Silicone on the Stem
For the majority of silent switches, you will see silicone pads at the top and bottom of the stem rails. Cherry, Gateron, Outemu, and JWK follow this principle well. TTC goes their own way here, with what looks like a built-in 0-ring just above the stem rails being used to dampen the top out, and that’s if they silence the top out at all, some of their switches don’t do this.
Silicone in the Housing
Continuing with TTC doing their own thing, the bottom out is silenced by silicone in the pole hole of the bottom housing. Kailh instead puts silicone on the top and bottom housing contact points. There are silicone pads in the pole hole and top housing rails in their Box switches and Kalih Midnights, where the Midnight Pro switches have added silicone pads in the bottom housing rail bottom out.
Integrated Leaf Spring
Speaking of doing their own thing, HaiMu just reinvented the wheel. This is an extra piece of plastic that comes off the rails at an acute angle that is thin enough to compress with the force of depressing the switch, and somewhat on return as well. Of course, it’s better to see in pictures. Some of their switches only have this on the bottom out, while newer offerings include bottom out and top out silencing.