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[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

The Anatomy of Paddles

from Ulrich H. Steinberg, N2DE on June 10, 2014
View comments about this article!

"Editor's Note: Due to the popularity of some of eHam's older articles, many of which you may not have read, the eHam.net team has decided to rerun some of the best articles that we have received since eHam's inception. These articles will be reprinted to add to the quality of eHam's content and in a show of appreciation to the authors of these articles." This article was originally published on: 6/09/2004





The Anatomy of Paddles

WARNING: Don't read this unless you're a key nut or are seriously infected with the paddle bug (bacillus iambicus)! You may also have to show a little patience since this article contains many photos and may take a while to load ...

Since my last article on eHam, where I outed myself as just that, I have received several emails asking in essence in so many words “what do you think makes a great key ?” This is a difficult question because the answer is necessarily subjective, but fortunately there are also some criteria that can be objectively established. Since dual-lever paddles are probably the most popular type of key today, let me attempt a partial answer for “squeeze” keys here.

Let me say something up front: what I am discussing here are some finer points of paddle engineering, and some of the resulting characteristics will only be detected by the most sensitive finger tips, and they matter only at higher speeds. Any old paddle will do if you operate with large contact spacing and a high return force and you really slap it around. That, of course, imposes a natural limit on your speed, but paddles for that type of operation also tend to put less strain on your wallet. (The reverse is not true: spending a lot of money does not necessarily buy you a great paddle) For some of the paddles I'm showing here I would never dare tell my wife how much I paid, though …

A modern iambic paddle is a compromise between several contradictory requirements, and every design tries to find its particular balance. A balanced mix of all elements is the secret of the truly great paddles. There are paddles out there where every single design element taken in isolation is not top notch, but the combination makes the result world class. On the other hand, it usually doesn't help to have one outstanding element, say the best possible bearings, if the other elements don't complement it and let everything live up to its full potential.

What you want in a iambic key are agility, perfect repeatability, excellent tactile feedback, precise adjustments of forces and geometry, zero contact closing resistance, insensitivity to temperature changes and mechanical shock, mechanical robustness, corrosion resistance, a few more points that I keep forgetting, and everything at a price next to nothing. The target price is important - as much as we key nuts are above such petty concerns - because it forces the maker to compromise or totally ignore some of these requirements. So let's take a look at some of the better paddles that I own, and find out how they did it.

Agility is largely a result of the bearings and the effective moving mass or, more precisely, the angular momentum of the arms.

The smaller the angular momentum of the arms the easier it is to accelerate them and to return them back to their original position. Also, lighter arms are usually less prone to bounce and vibration, which actually becomes a problem with some constructions (although you will rarely recognize it as such if you don't know what the effect feels like). You can reduce the mass by either using light-weight material or by reducing the dimensions of the arms, or a combination of both. If the paddle uses magnets for the return force (more about that later) it is important to mount them close to the pivot if you want to keep the angular momentum small.

The Begali Traveler, e.g., uses a light-weight alloy for mass reduction and mounts the magnets as close as possible to the pivot:

0x01 graphic

The WBL V22 is taking size reduction very far - the arms are only 1.5 inches long ….

0x01 graphic

The Frattini Iambic is a picture perfect example of short light-weight arms and magnets mounted close to the pivot:

0x01 graphic

None of the very best paddles that I know have really massive arms, and reducing the angular momentum is probably one of the most important design elements in my experience. The ***** (I don't want to get hate mail …) and its various offspring have massive arms, and that is one of the reasons why they eventually migrated from my desk to my showcase …

Of course the best light-weight arms don't help if your paddle has poor bearings. The purpose of bearings is not only to facilitate rotation of the arms with minimal friction (after all, the arms rotate only by a tiny angle), but also to provide axial stability so that the levers move only horizontally and return to precisely the same position every time without wobbling around.

The simplest bearing, used mostly in home-brew projects, is a sleeve bearing: a hole drilled through the arm or a short tube welded to the arm that rotates around a steel pin. This is easily done without professional tools, but it is obviously far from the ideal frictionless bearing and not a solution that you would consider for a precision instrument.

The adjustable trunnion bearing is used, e.g., by Vibroplex, Schurr, Frattini and many other paddles. It is relatively simple and low-cost, but it can be sensitive to adjustments and temperature changes: tighten it a little too much and you end up with unacceptable friction, loosen it a bit and the levers start wobbling around. Only the very best makers have been able to make this work really well, and how they do it is part of their black magic.

The classical trunnion bearings of the Vibroplex provide instant visual recognition:

0x01 graphic

The frictionless two-point suspension is used, e.g., in the Vibroplex Racers, the ubiquitous Bencher, the G4ZPY. This construction is best visible in a close up of the Hamco Scotia (seems it has grown some moss in the past 25 years…):

0x01 graphic

It is practically frictionless, but the return force for the arms is also used to hold them in place. This implies that, as you reduce the return force, the whole mechanism becomes less stable. The ***** (the censor, again), e.g., requires a sizable tension if you don't want it to fly apart when you bump it. The G4ZPY and others use additional screws to reduce this problem, but they are not as robust as other designs. However, the G4ZPY sure looks like an impressive piece of machinery with all these extra screws:

0x01 graphic

Sealed ball bearings are typical for many modern high-end paddles. They provide near-frictionless rotation and excellent axial stability:

0x01 graphic

One paddle on the market employs flex bearings, a type of frictionless bearing for small rotational angles that uses a special torsion spring. In theory they are ideal, although designed for applications that are far beyond the demands of a paddle, but their cost (more than $100 for a paddle) makes them prohibitive for most designs. And even the most sensitive finger tips at the highest possible speeds could probably not detect a difference compared to high-quality sealed bearings that cost only a few dollars (I have to admit that I could never compare it personally, although I tried to get one). But again, this is one of the elements where a manufacturer has to decide how to spread the cost budget over everything that constitutes a paddle.

The paddle geometry has a major influence on tactile feedback and on temperature sensitivity. The key parameter is the leverage ratio, i.e., the distance between your finger tips and the pivot compared to the distance from the contacts to the pivot. Generally a ratio not too far off from 1:1 seems advantageous, which means that the contacts travel about the same distance as your fingers. If the finger side is much longer then a small variation in the contact gap, e.g. due to temperature variation or mechanical changes, translates into a much bigger variation at the finger side. Such a paddle has to be adjusted frequently, and if it has coarse adjustment screws you have the perfect recipe for a paddle that you can never seem to adjust right for any length of time. (Let me not show examples of that. They are abundant and can be found in all price ranges …) The WBL V22, shown further up, maintains the ideal leverage ratio despite the diminutive size of the mechanism - made possible by the vertical arrangement.

The finger pieces are your human interface and, not surprisingly, they come in every imaginable shape and material. Since they are located at one end of the lever they make a large contribution to the angular momentum - so a light-weight material is important. Usually you'll find plastic or an aluminum alloy, but also wood and ivory and other materials have been used. The finger pieces should be fairly rigid; otherwise you get a “mushy” feeling, but some operators prefer a certain amount of flex over perfect rigidity. Here's a collection of finger pieces from some of my paddles:

0x01 graphic

Perfect repeatability (meaning the levers return exactly to the same position and require the same force every time) requires a solid and near-frictionless suspension of the arms and a means to create a return force of unvarying characteristic. Springs are used in many paddles for the return force, but for very light settings, which many operators prefer for high speed, it is easier to create a finely adjustable return force that doesn't change over time by using magnets. If a paddle uses springs they should be relatively long and weak so that they have to be compressed already a little bit for the lightest return force. If magnets are mounted on the levers, they will increase the angular momentum while springs do not. You can reduce this effect by using very small strong magnets and mount them close to the pivot, as shown in some good examples above. The Hamco Scotia and its modern incarnation, the Vibroplex Square Racer and Brass Racer actually use a ferromagnetic material for the arms, so no extra magnet on the arm itself is required. Many high-end paddles these days use magnets (and I personally prefer them), but there are some notable exceptions like the Schurr, or the Jones, or the WBL. Since your thumb and your index finger have different strength and sensitivity, it is an advantage if you can set the return force for both sides independently. The next two photos show the typical use of springs and magnets in two excellent paddles.

0x01 graphic

0x01 graphic

Contacts should have low residual resistance, resist corrosion, and the path to ground should be perfect. Many paddles use silver contacts which have low resistance but corrode easily, the Begali's use a corrosion resistant alloy, and a few paddles use the best (and most expensive) solution: gold contacts. Also important, and often overlooked, is how the ground connection is made - after all the paddle arms are moving but they should represent perfect ground. Hoping that the current just flows to ground through your bearings without much resistance may be an engineering shortcut. If you look at the close-up of the V22 again you'll see the thin wires that ground the arms. The Jones Iambic uses heavy-duty ground straps (you can also see the open ball bearings):

0x01 graphic

The Begali's employ an invisible approach, using bronze springs that are hidden in the bearing block.

Adjustments: There are several elements you want to be able to adjust in a paddle. Contact spacing and return force can be adjusted in all quality paddles. Of critical importance is how fine an adjustment can be made, and how you lock it in place once you have made it. The first depends on the thread count of the adjustment screws. Your typical hardware store screws have designations like 6-32, where 32 is the number of turns per inch. This type of screw is designed to bolt things together, but for precision adjustment purposes they are too coarse. Metric screws like M3 or M4 are a bit finer than the SAE equivalents, but still they were not designed for adjustment purposes. In a good paddle you want micro-threaded adjustment screws with a tpi (turns per inch) exceeding 40 or so. (some fine Italian makers are using 48 tpi on some of their paddles)

Once the adjustment has been made you want to make sure it stays put, and various approaches are in use for that. Most commonly you will find counter nuts - clearly visible in the Frattini up top. The disadvantage is that as you tighten the counter nut you actually pull the adjustment screw back by the tiny amount of play in the thread - so this takes a little bit of patience for really tight adjustments, but once it's locked it stays very securely in place. The Schurr, e.g., uses a split post that can be tightened to increase the friction to the point where the adjustment screw will not go out of adjustment due to vibration of just casual contact:

0x01 graphic

The Begalis use two different approaches depending on the model. One type uses a spring on the adjustment screw that creates enough tension to keep the screw from turning when you don't want it. His latest models use an invisible technique that is also used in the WBL: a spring inside the hollow post that presses a tiny ball against the adjustment screw. This is better than the friction spring in his older models because the friction force stays constant over the adjustment range.

Another aspect you probably want to adjust is the spacing and the height of the paddles. The spacing can often be controlled by adjusting the back stop of the arms. The Jones uses a nice approach with a rotating cam:

0x01 graphic

The WBL is well known for its total flexibility. You adjust the paddle spacing with washers (spacers) of different thickness as can easily be seen in the photo up top. It also allows you to adjust the paddle height using a fairly elaborate technique with two extension stubs on the arms. I personally think that is taking it a little too far because you obviously pay a price in mechanical stability - and properly shaped finger pieces feel comfortable at a whole range of heights no matter where you touch them, so there is no real pressing need for a complicated height adjustment scheme in many cases. (The upcoming Begali Verticale will use a tremendously elaborate technique, however - but that is justified by other factors)

Here's a side view of the WBL height adjustment (and also of the effects that oxygen has on unprotected brass, no matter how hard you try):

0x01 graphic

Mechanical robustness and corrosion resistance: you can build your paddle like a tank - and something like the Jones paddle feels like it could survive a direct hit by a large caliber. A lot of mass, however, often compromises the agility that you want in the best paddles. But it may well be, if you have a hammer fist steeled by many years with a mechanical bug, that sheer weight is an important factor. You certainly want your paddle heavy enough to stay in place on your desk even during the most agitated moments when you catch that rare DX or that final multiplier in a contest. For me a desktop paddle should weigh at least 2 pounds, and all the good ones do. A specialized mobile paddle like the Begali Traveler is, of course, designed with weight savings in mind, and for that purpose I expect and accept less mass.

Brass is used for the basic components of many paddles because it is easy to machine, it is heavy enough for a solid feeling, and it looks great - at least at first. However, it deteriorates fairly rapidly and develops spots or streaks from oxidation. That's why some makers give it a clear coat of shellac or some other varnish which reduces or delays this problem. However, in the long run even the best varnish develops some cracks or has some microscopic flaws, and oxidation spots invariably develop. You can, of course, just cover the base with an opaque lacquer, like the Kent or the standard Jones paddles do - but the other components remain exposed. The best and also the most expensive solution is to plate the components - chrome has traditionally been used, gold for “Deluxe” models, palladium is a coating that Begali uses, and also various metal oxide coatings can be found (e.g. on the Begali Traveler that is shown up top). While most corrosion does not affect the performance of a paddle it sure is a lot more fun to work with something that looks beautiful even after many years.

While brass is a good material that is easy to work with, it is also relatively soft. Some makers, if they have the required machinery like Begali, use steel components. They are extremely robust, but it is very hard to polish them to a perfect mirror finish. With a good surface coating of gold or chrome, however, you will hardly see any traces of the milling process, and you have a base material that is virtually indestructible and doesn't oxidize.

Fortunately not everything can be cast into fixed rules when it comes to paddle design. There is, e.g., one paddle out there made of varnished brass, using trunnion bearings, and a combined spring to adjust the return force for both sides - not an obvious recipe for a great paddle, but many operators rate it very highly (answer: the Schurr Profi II ) Which goes to prove that the balanced mix of all design elements is what makes a great paddle.

Looking at every design aspect discussed here, you will find that no single paddle on the market combines everything into the ultimate package. The paddle to end all paddles has yet to materialize - and I'm afraid that it will not have a price next to nothing. That shouldn't deter you from buying your dream key today because, no matter how sensitive your finger tips or how fast you are, the best paddles on the market will convincingly demonstrate that your own abilities are the limiting factor.

That's it folks - more than you ever wanted to know. Hope to see you on the bands! Ulrich, N2DE (DJ8GO and a few more)

Member Comments:
This article has expired. No more comments may be added.
 
The Anatomy of Paddles  
by DL8OV on June 10, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Nice article, thanks.

For anybody brave enough to consider building their own set of paddles a source of finger pieces can be a problem. It's only when I saw someone playing the guitar on TV I realized that guitar plectrums are just the right size, they're also available in a wide variety of colors.

Peter DL8OV
 
The Anatomy of Paddles  
by K6RF on June 10, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Paddles are like a good woman. You find one you feel comfortable with, you hang on to it!
Had my Vibroplex Presentation Iambics for 40 years. Tried many others (keys that is), but always came back.
 
The Anatomy of Paddles  
by KB2DHG on June 10, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
I like paddles even if I am not using an electronic keyer... honestly my Bencher is my perfered... I do have a Vibroplex but it loosens up a lot and I have to always tighten it back up.
Great article!
 
The Anatomy of Paddles  
by NY7Q on June 10, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
My question is: When did a "KEY" become a paddle?
Since 1953 I have used "SPEED KEYS" and never once referred to them as paddles. Paddles have alway been, in my mind, the finger pieces use manipulate to make a "key" work. It's only been about 20 years that the name "paddle" has taken over "key"...It is a shame.
A key is a key, a paddle is a finger piece.
I blame manufactures who have bought out original people and really didn't know keys.
 
RE: The Anatomy of Paddles  
by WY4J on June 10, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Nice article. You make a great point that I noticed a long time ago. Long arms as in the Vibroplex Iambic, K8RA and the Begali Simplex are not conductive to good sending. I own these three mentioned and a few more long arm ones. Very pretty to look at and this is why I own them.

My favorites in order; N3ZN ZN-9 and ZN-SL, Kent Twin Paddle, Vibroplex Square Racer and the Bencher BY series. I cannot speak for many more fine paddles out there but all my favorites seem to have very short arms.
 
The Anatomy of Paddles  
by K0CBA on June 10, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Nice article and great pictures.

I am in awe of all the mechanical gyrations and ultra precision machining used over the years to make what is in all reality a momentary contact switch; indeed, some are truly works of art.

I would like to mention that for absolute under engineered and magnificent simplicity mixed with pure genius one need only to look at the Brown Brothers line....that spring steel 'hinge' eliminates all the wiggles inevitable with bearings, pinions, pivots. etc.

Whatever keying setup you use keep enjoying CW.
 
The Anatomy of Paddles  
by N3QE on June 10, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
I know many others like featherweight springs and tiny contact spacings.

But I have been trending towards stiffer springs and wide contact spacings.

Even at 30WPM it is hard for me to point to inertia or mass of any of the mechanics as limiting my abilities. I do struggle at 35WPM though I do not blame that on my paddle mechanism!
 
The Anatomy of Paddles  
by K8QV on June 10, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Any key is about the simplest device that one can devise and build. My wife would have a very difficult time believing that such a device could ever cost more than $50 or so. Let's not tell her and confirm her suspicions about me and hams in general.
 
The Anatomy of Paddles  
by K6JEY on June 10, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Great article. Another aspect of sending is the sender. I am a classical guitar player, so prefer a precision light touch. (Begali) Others may have a different sense of touch and prefer paddles that are different.
However the article gives a great survey of the components of paddles. Much appreciated. 73 Doug
 
RE: The Anatomy of Paddles  
by N6GND on June 10, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
"Even at 30WPM it is hard for me to point to inertia or mass of any of the mechanics as limiting my abilities."

"Any key is about the simplest device that one can devise and build. My wife would have a very difficult time believing that such a device could ever cost more than $50 or so."

Yowser!

The mind of the ham easily wanders into small, dark corners.
 
The Anatomy of Paddles  
by AI2IA on June 10, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Beware of the popularity of over-priced keys and paddles.
Certainly don't take as fact all the sales pitches. If you take care of your keys and paddles, they will no doubt outlast you. The more you stick with one, the sooner you both will become favorite old friends. Forget what the other guy has, and don't collect keys. Put your money to better use. You and your XYL will both be happier.
 
RE: The Anatomy of Paddles  
by WS4E on June 10, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
So.

I am starting to like single levers myself.

What are the best brand of paddles?

//ducks for cover
 
RE: The Anatomy of Paddles  
by N6GND on June 10, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
"I am starting to like single levers myself.

"What are the best brand of paddles?

"//ducks for cover"



Best wishes for your oncoming adventure. The deeper your pockets, the greater the thrill of shopping.
 
The Anatomy of Paddles  
by DL8OV on June 11, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Does anyone here still use a sideswiper or have they now fallen out of fashion? I once experimented by wiring a single paddle key to the straight key contacts on my rig and it was an interesting experience.

Peter DL8OV
 
RE: The Anatomy of Paddles  
by W1JKA on June 11, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Re: DL8OV

Yes, plenty of hams using side swipers (cooties),especially ex Navy/Merchant Marine R/Os. Easy on the wrist and distinct.
 
RE: The Anatomy of Paddles  
by N6GND on June 11, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
I've got a cootie and a single lever paddle that work well as sideswipers. Sideswipers are very easy (for me) to use--took only a little practice to get it down.

And they can and do create high-quality code with a unique character.

There are sideswiper nets (google)--listen in and enjoy!
 
RE: The Anatomy of Paddles  
by K9MHZ on June 11, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
>>>>By AI2IA on June 10, 2014 Beware of the popularity of over-priced keys and paddles.
Certainly don't take as fact all the sales pitches. If you take care of your keys and paddles, they will no doubt outlast you. The more you stick with one, the sooner you both will become favorite old friends. Forget what the other guy has, and don't collect keys. Put your money to better use. You and your XYL will both be happier.<<<<

Just like anything else, bro. Many people collect different things as a subset of their interest in the hobby. I'm always amused a bit when a photo of a guy's shack on his QRZ or eHam page looks like he's very well outfitted with complete Collins, Drake, Heath gear, alongside his Icom or Yaesu. If you look closely, you won't see key or microphone connections, so it's pretty evident that he's just displaying his idea of eye-candy. Keys are pretty cool.....I enjoy the machining precision personally, but have only a couple. Different strokes, it's all good.

 
RE: The Anatomy of Paddles  
by JOHNZ on June 12, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
@K9MHZ

I too am amused by some of the QRZ and eHam photos.

Many hams are well paid professionals, and obviously, their extensive amateur stations are an extension of successful well paid professions.

Then there is the guy who is completely dependent on welfare checks. He too shows photos of his extensive collection of ham radios. Somehow, the irony is almost laughable, a successful full time welfare recipient, with the mindset that he deserves all he has. Then again, I guess it is just an example of our tax dollars at work or in this case, our tax dollars at play?
 
RE: The Anatomy of Paddles  
by DJ0RD on June 12, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
I've noticed a lot of us older guys (70+) Hams going from iambic to single paddles. As you get older your fine movements are not as precise so you make fewer mistakes with the single paddle. I also see this at my Handgun Club. The older guys (like me) can't shoot as tight a group anymore. The young guys are simply steadier.

Vy 73 de Bob DJ0RD/WU5T
 
RE: The Anatomy of Paddles  
by N6GND on June 12, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
"I've noticed a lot of us older guys (70+) Hams going from iambic to single paddles."

Lots of us, older or younger, think iambic keying is way oversold. Many high speed ops, of whatever age, use only single lever paddles. I think single lever paddles are inherently produce less sloppy code.
 
The Anatomy of Paddles  
by W0AAA on June 12, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Great article Ulrich.
 
RE: The Anatomy of Paddles  
by N2DE on June 12, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
W0AAA - thank you! And trust me, I did not purchase my collection with welfare dollars ;-)

73, Ulrich
 
RE: The Anatomy of Paddles  
by NY7Q on June 13, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Im 80 and still use Iambic speed key. Age has nothing to do with it. It's excuses and laziness.
 
RE: The Anatomy of Paddles  
by K9MHZ on June 13, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
So now we're beating each other up over iambic versus straight keys?

Good grief.

 
RE: The Anatomy of Paddles  
by K8QV on June 13, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Real Hams (TM) use straight keys. Rusty ones at that.
 
The Anatomy of Paddles  
by KB2HSH on June 13, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
I use and prefer a side swiper. My favorite is my Ten Tec KR5A keyer. My old Heathkit HD10 is no slouch either.
 
The Anatomy of Paddles  
by K2IZ on June 13, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
American Morse KK2, nothing fancy, just a small hunk of metal for the base with 2 brass arms, paddles have a good feel to them. I bought this paddle after a Field Day where I had brought my Brown Brothers iambic paddle, one person sat down and started opening the adjustments, he said "I'm a paddle slapper, I like to slap the paddles around"!, last time I checked Brown Bros. is out of business and it's kind of difficult to fix them if they break. The settings are locked in with a very small Allen key and it is more than enough to hold whatever they are set for, the footprint is very small and it stays put. Our club operates a lot of Public Service events, we do try to operate CW to please those that claim they never work phone, also for the price I'm not too concerned if they "take a walk" or get dropped on a concrete floor.
 
The Anatomy of Paddles  
by W9KNI on June 18, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
N2DE presents himself as an unbiased reviewer. Unfortunately he is not - he is among other things the website designer for Begali paddles.

The whole article is designed to subtly and carefully promote Begali paddles.

It is NOT an unbiased review. It is a carefully designed advertisement for Begali.

 
The Anatomy of Paddles  
by K3STX on June 19, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
It does indeed read like an advertisement for Begali, however it was written 10 years ago! If this is a sales job, blame the guys at eHam who decided to run the article again after 10 years.

I'm just bitter my Kent TP1 did not get more press!

paul
 
RE: The Anatomy of Paddles  
by N2DE on June 19, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
W9KNI - you obviously have not read the text in this article. It is not a "review" of paddles but an explanation of good design principles, exemplified by paddles of several makers. You see only a small subset of my paddle collection here, which includes keys from many makers and which I have studied to find out what makes them good or not so good. To deflate your conspiracy theories: I am not only the designer of the Begali website but also a co-designer of many of the Begali keys and paddles, although I derive no financial benefit from my association with Piero (but I get to play with many outstanding keys as a reward ;-). It is, therefore, no surprise that the Begali keys implement the principles which I consider the hallmark of good paddle design, and it seems that many users agree that Piero produces great keys. Other makers, some of them shown here, are basing their designs on similar considerations - good paddle design is not an exclusive for Begali, but Piero has avoided poor design decisions, and the market seems to agree.
 
The Anatomy of Paddles  
by K3STX on June 19, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
N2DE,

The fact that you are a designer of the Begali keys and paddles does NOT deflate W9KNI's conspiracy theory, it supports it! Your statement that you design the keys yet derive no financial benefit is bizarre. You must be one of the few engineers on Earth who gives away his designs for free. This also says something about Piero Begali that he is willing to accept your designs but not compensate you for your expertise.
 
RE: The Anatomy of Paddles  
by N2DE on June 19, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
It is not unusual that specialists give away their knowledge without a financial reward - in computer engineering there is a whole movement, the Open Source movement, where programmers of the highest qualification work day and night without getting a penny, and you are probably using some of their products, too ... We just believe in what we are doing, and are proud to make a contribution. My reward is that I can work on and own the best paddles and keys that I can imagine, and the best keyer that I can imagine (the Begali CW Machine) - money could never be adequate compensation.
 
The Anatomy of Paddles  
by K3STX on June 19, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
I don't get it; any comments I have are not directed to the Morse topic but instead to the idea of "Open Source" in a capitalist economic system. My wife would KILL me if I gave away important information (like a Morse key design) with no expectation of compensation.

Maybe she is just a greedy capitalist pig.
 
RE: The Anatomy of Paddles  
by K3STX on June 19, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
"My reward is that I can work on and own the best paddles and keys that I can imagine, and the best keyer that I can imagine (the Begali CW Machine) - money could never be adequate compensation."

Of course money could be adequate compensation: with the $10,000 he owes you it would be possible to buy many of these $50 CW Machines (the parts could not cost more than $50!) AND pay a chunk of your kids college tuition!
 
The Anatomy of Paddles  
by K3STX on June 19, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
What kind of idiot works day and night without getting a penny? I suppose this could only be an idiot who will soon starve to death.
 
RE: The Anatomy of Paddles  
by JOHNZ on June 20, 2014 Mail this to a friend!

Ok, you guys need to take this to the board of arbitrators on 14313.

They will decide who is right and who is wrong.


 
RE: The Anatomy of Paddles  
by NY7Q on June 22, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
I have a very nice speed key that I fitted with homemade abalone shell paddle like finger pieces. Looks killer and works like a speed key should. It's not a begali, it's a cheap ass bencher that works like a million dollars with custom finger pieces.
 
RE: The Anatomy of Paddles  
by K9MHZ on June 25, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
K3STX>>>"My wife would KILL me"<<<<

Oh man that's a weird thing to write. This isn't middle school. Get a pair.
 
The Anatomy of Paddles  
by W3BRF on June 26, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
I just touch two wires together.
 
RE: The Anatomy of Paddles  
by STRAIGHTKEY on June 26, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
"Then there is the guy who is completely dependent on welfare checks. He too shows photos of his extensive collection of ham radios. Somehow, the irony is almost laughable, a successful full time welfare recipient, with the mindset that he deserves all he has. Then again, I guess it is just an example of our tax dollars at work or in this case, our tax dollars at play?"

JOHNZ, where are these welfare recipients living in ham radio luxury? How about some links to their profiles on QRZ? I've never been able to find one, despite some people complaining about it all the time. The truth is it's just urban legend made up by people wanting another thing to be outraged about.

Yes, the irony is laughable.
 
The Anatomy of Paddles  
by W6DE on June 29, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
A nice article about 'paddles' explaining even more than I found out from corresponding with Ulrich a number of years ago.

Before my current paddle set, I had a problem using my Bencher paddle. It seemed it was constantly going "out of adjustment." I eventually discovered it wasn't adjustment, it was dust. After getting a wooden cover for the Bencher, I didn't need to fiddle with it periodically. If you have an uncovered paddle, get a cover and/or periodically swipe a thin sheet of paper between the contacts and see if that doesn't help you.

However I still couldn't get a good "feel" out of the Bencher.

In this funk about not getting the hang of using a paddle I was mooching tests at other stations. Early on I was able to try out a Begali Magnetic Classic. What I immediately picked up on was the feel of the paddles through the finger tips. I felt (incorrectly) I could send without audible feedback. I kept on looking at other paddles though and found a Schurr I liked too.

I waffled between Schurr and Begali. I ended up buying a Begali Magnetic Classic. The tactile feedback sensation was enhanced even more when (at Ulrich's suggestion) I switched from the standard plastic finger tips to a set of the aluminum finger pieces.

If you are interested in enhancing your own CW experience and if you go to Dayton, try all the paddled you see. Also ask around locally and see if you can try out some different paddles, you might be surprised at the differing feel you'll find between various types. Your mileage may vary, but test a few before you decide.

Dave, W6DE
 
RE: The Anatomy of Paddles  
by K1ESE on June 30, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
I had to smile at W9KNI criticizing the article as an advertisement for Begali.

Bob owns Bencher.

 
RE: The Anatomy of Paddles  
by K9MHZ on July 1, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Bencher, Vibroplex, Begali....it's all good.

We've got people giving rave reviews about the Heathkit HD-1410 (YGTBSM), so the brands above are Cadillacs and Ferraris.
 
RE: The Anatomy of Paddles  
by AF7EC on July 2, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
K3STX said on June 19, 2014:
"What kind of idiot works day and night without getting a penny? I suppose this could only be an idiot who will soon starve to death"

Plenty of "idiots" do! Most do not do this as their primary job...it's more of a hobby. There are some outstanding software programs out there by people who do just this...and they are neither penniless nor starving. ;)
 
RE: The Anatomy of Paddles  
by K3STX on July 3, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
You are correct. I take back everything I wrote.

p
 
RE: The Anatomy of Paddles  
by K9RJ on July 6, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
I really enjoyed your article Ulrich, thanks!
 
RE: The Anatomy of Paddles  
by N2DE on July 7, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Thank you, Harris! If you are ever again on Mellish Reef, please let me know ;-) I can trade you 7P8US, 3DA0US, A25US, or a little closer to VK9ML: A35US ;-) I may be DJ5US when I jump into the pile up ...

73, Ulrich
 
The Anatomy of Paddles  
by KB3Z on July 18, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
A very informative article. I have the K8RA paddle and it suits me very well. But to operate a whole contest with it would be a trial at times. I was a bit distressed to see the arguing going on between two hams regarding one's association with a particular manufacturer of keys/paddles. But I guess that's what makes every Ham unique in one way or another. Mark KB3Z
 
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