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[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

My Quest for the Ultimate Key

Ulrich H. Steinberg (N2DE) on February 3, 2004
View comments about this article!

I have to make a confession right up front, and I have the vain hope that it doesn’t kick off one of those perpetually pointless code/no-code discussions: Ever since I got started in ham radio, more than 40 years ago, I have been working 99.9% CW on HF. The way CW is produced has changed so much over time, from straight keys to bugs to single levers to Iambic paddles, keyers with and without memory features, various keyboard designs, that there was enough novelty to keep me busy searching for yet another, better way to create dits and dahs, and I never took a serious look at other modes of operation.

My first key, living in Germany then, was a Junker straight key. I remember it well because I still have it sitting on the top shelf in my display case. It made a major dent into my pocket money budget, but although I couldn’t have guessed it then, even after all these years it is still one of the best straight keys that I have ever worked with. I have tried a couple of candidates to take its place, but none of them survived as long.

Using a straight key meant that I could copy faster than I could send, and to draw even I bought the then ubiquitous Hi-Mound BK-100 bug which was sold under various brand names, like Lafayette, Skillman, or Midland. For a while after that the hand was faster than the ear. Although I would have liked a Vibroplex, those were well outside of my financial reach, and the BK-100 was not bad for the money. It, too, has survived to this day. (Meanwhile there are two Vibroplexes in the showcase, too, but I bought them after electronic keyers and paddles had become main stream, and they never saw as much actual use.)

My first exposure to electronic keyers and Iambic paddles was the ETM-3, a combined keyer/paddle. I still remember the discussions whether the Schurr "Wabbler" mechanism would be a worthwhile replacement for the built-in paddles. (If you have ever wondered how the Schurr Wabbler acquired its "upside-down" finger pieces: it was designed as a plug in for the ETM keys and their construction mandated this shape) To this day, when I take the ETM-3 off the shelf, I am surprised how well it was built mechanically even compared to some stand-alone paddles that you can buy today. But the electronics, built with TTL logic chips, can of course not compete with a modern keyer and is a lot less forgiving when you make minute timing mistakes in your keying.

Eventually I decided to use a separate keyer in combination with a Hamco magnetic paddle, which is still available today as the Vibroplex Brass Racer (although mine was lost along the way). The Hamco settled the paddle issue for quite a while, until about 10 years ago. I also went through a few electronic keyers, until I finally hit upon the AEA MM-3, which I still consider the best memory keyer on the market today.

When the N2DAN Mercury paddle appeared it spawned, and does to this day, many similarly designed offspring, like the Hensley and the N5QVF paddles. They provided a level of precision and stunning looks that surpassed the old Hamco, and I bought and tried quite a few of them. Since I really couldn’t afford keeping expensive designer paddles around just for the pride of ownership, I sold most of them to make financial room for the next one. (In hindsight I wished I hadn’t done that, considering the prices that some of them fetch on eBay these days.)

About two years ago I finally found my ultimate Iambic paddle in Italy, made by Piero Begali. His keys are manufactured on expensive computer controlled machinery and embody a level of precision and beauty that seems virtually impossible to top. His Magnetic Classic key, and especially the brand new “Signature” key that incorporates some ideas that I discussed with Piero, represents everything that I ever wanted in a Iambic paddle, and he keeps refining it in subtle ways that only very experienced operators would notice.

So I could have lived happily ever after, except, of course, that that’s a pretty boring state of affairs. I knew that, in terms of precision and workmanship in Iambic paddles I had probably reached the pinnacle with the Begali keys. So, where can you go from there? -- Back to the roots of manually created CW?

When you listen to signals on the bands you’ll sometimes hear incredibly fast operators with a perfect fist. Most of the time you realize pretty quickly that the other guy is using a keyboard - the errors they make, which are very different from errors you make with a key, give them away. But sometimes you’ll hear signals that obviously don’t emanate from a computer. And that is how I found my latest challenge in the quest for the perfect key...

Alberto Frattini, I1QOD, is one of the fastest operators on the planet. And I’m not talking 599 contest exchanges here, but rag chewing with his rarefied group of EHSC buddies at speeds in excess of 60wpm. (It goes without saying that they don’t use electronic CW readers.) As impressive as that is, what left me totally awestruck was when I learnt that Alberto mostly shuns the electronic crutches that mere mortals like myself have to use even at far slower speeds, and that he does much of his operating with mechanical keys.

Let me make another confession: I’m a lousy golfer. But, like most of my golf buddies, and despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I have this unshakable conviction that, if I would only buy the clubs that Tiger Woods uses, I could somehow perform like Tiger Woods. I guess in that same spirit I set out to determine what kind of miracle key Alberto is using. My search turned up photos of some incredible keys that he made for himself. I’m showing two of his keys here, a variation of the “Swedish Pump” straight key, and his incredible dual-lever magnetic bug. Both are works of art that appear to come out of a jeweler’s shop. (Although Alberto was an aircraft mechanic before his retirement.)

I knew that I just somehow had to get these keys - which is easier said than done. Alberto makes them for his own use, and he has produced only a few for his friends. So you can’t just reach for your wallet and order one. I tried to contact him by email without much success. Eventually I resorted to plain mail and solicited the support of Piero Begali, and I was able to elicit a response and work out the details about pricing and shipment. (Let me keep a few secrets here for now… If you really want to know, send me an email: ulrich@steinberg.cc). Today these two keys are sitting on my desk, and they are the most stunning combination of precision and beauty in mechanical keys that I have encountered so far -- truly on par with the Begali Iambic keys. I have actually gone back to my roots and use these mechanical keys quite often, although I have to admit that I’m still better with my Begali Signature and my MM-3 keyer. Meanwhile I have -- sort of -- convinced Alberto that he should offer his keys for sale and you may be able to order them one day...

I suspect that Alberto could probably still outrun me by touching two bare wire ends to produce CW, but I’m pretty sure that in any CW shootout with mechanical keys Tiger Woods doesn’t stand a chance against me now.

Keys and paddles these days have far transcended what they originally meant for me. They are not just a means to produce code but, at their finest, are affordable technical sculptures that embody workmanship and beauty in their own right. You could collect and admire them even if you are not a CW operator, although the subtle differences in construction can probably only be appreciated if you actually use them. After a while you begin to realize that a great key is more than a collection of parts. There are quite a few keys out there that use many of the right ingredients and are nevertheless mediocre at best because their creators didn’t understand what makes a great key or compromised in the wrong places. And there are a few rare keys that are far better than a look at their technical specs would lead you to believe. The best keys that I own these days leave no doubt that my CW abilities are the limiting factor, but I have found satisfaction in understanding and admiring their artful design that will make this a never-ending quest for perfection.

Member Comments:
This article has expired. No more comments may be added.
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by KA4KOE on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
That bottom bug looks like a beaut. I WANT ONE.
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by K0CBA on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Great article!!
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by ZL1TLT on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Absolute Works Of Art!
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by KZ1X on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Isn't it great to know there are skilled machinists / craftsmen like these still about? And, thank heavens they are associated with our fine hobby. My hope is that they are passing their skills along to a new generation, lest their gifts be lost to time.
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by WA2JJH on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
vERY nice collection. I like the bottom one as well as Philip. Looks like a futuristic vibroplex

73 DE MIKE
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by W0UCE on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks for sharing. Very nice post.
73,
W0UCE
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by K8KS on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Lieber Ulrich,

Donnerwetter! Solch ein grossartiger Artikel! Fuer diese gute Erinnerungen, ich bedanke mich sehr.

73,

Kaz (ex: JA1YGN, W1MX)
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by KX2S on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Very nice post. The article was most enjoyable.
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by NG1I on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
When Heathkit was around I enjoyed so much putting those kits together....now my most treasured items are the HD-1410 paddle keyer and it'd newest version the capacitance metal paddles.

Glad CW is still appreciated as some from what I've read on some of these discussion groups don't.....there is room for everybody..maybe even more room for CW ops and I NOT an old timer (nothing wrong with that thoght). I learned CW in 3 weeks have have it up to about 25WPM by throwing the paper out...the paddles help in all this somehow. Nice peice done on this. Thank you!!!!

73 NG1I
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by TF3MM on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
A fine article. Thank you
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by K0BG on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Ah, the Holy Grail of keys. I recently met a gentleman who has some 500 in his collection. I wonder if he's as gung ho as you are? Nice story.

Alan, KØBG
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by KE4MOB on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Wow. That's a heck of a piece of equipment at the bottom...that puppy looks lethal!!

I, too am using a venerable BK-100 right now, although a 1941 Vibroplex Champion should arrive anyday now to the QTH and (hopefully) take a hallowed place of honor next to it and the Speed-X straight key.

My next acquisition: a Vibroplex Lightning, followed maybe by an original Blue Racer if I could round up the funds!

I think I may have gotten bit by the bug bug!!



 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by NA4IT on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Very well written article. Enjoyed the story line and the pics!
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by K3UD on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
The Key as a work of art!

I started to read this with mild interest and ended up getting more enthusiastic as I went along.

Well Done!

73
George
K3UD

(My all time favorite is a WW2 flame proof US Navy straight key)
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by AD5X on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Great article! I have a March paddle that is my favorite key of all time (see http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/137). But I've never tried the Begali.

Phil - AD5X
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by K1CJS on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
A very nicely written (and illustrated!) article. You have some very nice pieces of mechanical near perfection, and some nice stories and memories to go along with them. If only everyone could realize the pleasure that comes with the hobby, ham radio would again become the technical (or geek--whatever you would) mecca it once was. 73!
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by K3ESE on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
I just wanted to mention on this very fine thread that my Begali Magnetic Classic paddles are also a masterpiece...and very affordable. Fabulous to use and adjust!

dit dit,

K3ESE/Lloyd
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by G7HEU on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
A nice article and a good read. I'm still trying to speed up with a straight key and have yet to touch an iambic. Your experiences were of great interest.

Steve / M0HEU.
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by NE1RD on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Very nicely done! Thanks for a great article. The pictures
were fantastic, too!

It is funny how these simple mechanical devices can engender
such affection. The set of Bencher paddles I have now were
bought at a ham swap-meet from a fellow who had broken them,
threw the parts in a box, and let it mildew in his basement for
about a decade. I bought them (for a song!), took them home,
cleaned, polished, adjusted, smoothed, and almost "loved" these
things back to life.

It felt like animal rescue work. :-)

I can't imagine ever getting rid of them... but like you I'm on
the lookout for new things to try.

Thanks again for the great story and the smiles it brought.

-- Scott (NE1RD)
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by KA2LIM on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Thank you for a most interesting article and sharing with the rest of us.

Ken
KA2LIM
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by W0FM on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Bravo Ulrich! A very nice representation of your passion for one historic aspect of our diverse hobby. Your passion and enthusiasm kept my interest throughout the article. Great reading. Thanks for sharing.

73,

Terry, WØFM
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by WD9GCO on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
My first key was a generic J-38 clone. I then built the WB4VVF Accu-Keyer, and since I didn't have money for a real paddle at the time, took two RadioShack straight keys, mounted them back-to-back vertically on a steel angle bracket screwed into a wooden base. Fabricated two paddles from plastic. Wired posts together as common, wired one side as dot, one as dash, plugged it in and it worked. Not pretty, a little crude, but it did the trick for a novice.

My Elmer had a Brown Brothers BTL-A that I had learned to send on. I wanted one. Badly. Finally got one for Christmas that year (1978) and I still have it. I've remounted the mechanism on a machined steel "hockey puck" with a non-skid base, painted black. Still looks pretty, and now the sucker just plain doesn't move. I've had several offers to buy it over the years, but I'm pretty attached to it.

Those keys in the picture are beautiful -- obviously a very talented machinist made them.
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by WB2WIK on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
What a great treatise, and really good English from someone from a non-English speaking country!

Bravo, Ulrich! I look forward to working you on CW and hearing how those keys sound...

Auf Wiedersehen,

WB2WIK/6
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by KB3KKT on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
WOW

73

Lynn
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by WS4Y on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
A great read. I feel warm and fuzzy.
Thanks & 73, Bill WS4Y
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by W3DCG on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Super, love the pictures...The Begali is absolutely gorgeous, I bet it works at least as good as it looks. That would be my Ultimate Key, too. Somebody toss me a towel so I can clean up the puddle of drool in front of my monitor.
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by CWTITAN on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
In 1955 I purchased my first vibroplex with carrying case. Since then, I have purchased each new model and over the years kept them nice and good operating condition. You have the nicest collection I have seen. I doubt I could afford one of them. I would love to hear or work you to see how they do. I hang out around 14.014 daily. 73
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by K9ZF on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Great article!

I rarely operate CW, usually just 599 em78, etc... But I can still apreciate the artistry of a well made key. I currently have a couple of cheap straight keys, but I mostly just use the computer. I've been planning for some time to homebrew a single lever paddle. Guess I'm going to have get to it now!

73
Dan
Dan Evans K9ZF
Scottsburg, IN 47170
{EM78}
K9ZF /R no budget Rover
ex-N9RLA
Check out the Rover Resource Page at:
http://www.qsl.net/n9rla
QRP-l #1269
Central States VHF Society
IN-Ham list administrator
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by W0FM on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Somehow Ulrich has uncovered the elusive formula for a perfect eHam article. How do I know that?

No Flames! Not one! Zero!


Terry, WØFM

(I'm looking for those Tiger Woods' clubs too, Ulrich)
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by VK4JAZ on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
G'day and thanks for a fantastic article. I am new to Ham radio and have only been licensed for a year but already have thrown my mike away. My key is a 100 year old GPO straight key that I love but I already find myself hankering for another. My dream is a Junkers! Maybe one day I'll progress to paddles and the like because this article has whet my appetite!

Grant
VK4JAZ
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by NI0C on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Ulrich, congratulations and thanks for the splendid article and the great photos. The ETM-3 combined keyer/paddle reminded my of the Eldico keyer and the Mon-Key, both of which I used in the early 60's.

73 de Chuck NI0C
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by DK3QN on February 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
For sure I am fond of Ulrich's article on the 'Quest for the Ultimate Key'. Well written and it reminds me a lot of my past experience and my personal 'Quest'. Up to some point Ulrich's quest is pretty similar to my quest and I am sure many of you out there share the same experience.

However at some point it looks like I took a different approach.

I am just not sure if Ulrich's 'My Quest for the Ultimate Key' is a valid value proposition these days.

This has nothing to do with Ulrich's post in particular but addresses the matter of CW and tools from a different point of view. As a matter of fact, Ulrich's post was more like a 'snow-ball-effect' for my post than anything else. So I am going to focus more on our behavioural aspects re. CW, which may not be liked by some or many. But that's our real 'Quest'.

Do we have a 'quality' problem in general with the tools (i.e. paddles etc.) which prevents us from exercising and enjoying CW? Are there too few offers on the market not allowing for price/performance competition?
What kind of value does the 'Quest' generate for different audiences?

I am not sure. Frankly. My view.

And now it's going to be a little 'unpleasant', at least for some of us.

Frankly speaking, maybe just blunt or provocative, we as CW operators - or let's call us CW fans, 'cause it just sounds a little more polite and nice - are a fading away species. You can judge on the importance of CW as an entry 'ticket' prerequisite into an HF license by the fact that CW expertise has been cancelled at all over here in Europe in many countries last year.

No need to pass a CW test any more. Zero.

So, here we're sitting at the age of 50 (or more) and are contemplating ourselves and our achievements (I am now talking of myself of course, I don't dare to pull someone other's leg at all):

- diplomas
- contest achievements (CW of course)
- piles of bad, semi-bad, mediocre, decent or excellent examples of beautiful workmanship paddles, keys, bugs whatsoever.

So, what's our problem, really, honestly?

Guys: we will just fade away! We are out! We are somehow like dinosauriers, like Jurassic Park! No future (except on movies ;-) ).

C'mon, I am not Jurassic Park! you think!

But you are and I am, as explained before.

So, what's the 'real' Quest?

Get the young ones and the less experienced ones signing-in into CW.

How can you and I do it?

Well, I'll leave it up to your imagination and creativity.

Just one:

Get them excited about CW and take their time. Take their time away from spending it on computer gaming etc.

BTW: it takes lots of us taking a lot of their time!

One of my key behaviours on air in CW is:

(right away: it causes some 'pain' to me, but I am assessing myself of following my own rules)

No matter at what speed I was sending-out my CQ:
if someone calls me back at 10 wpm I'll get back to him at 10 wpm. I am not blaming him for QLF or something like this. I am not pulling his leg in any way. I run a 30 minute QSO with him at 10 wpm if it's enjoyable content-wise for me. I'll take a lot of his time. My intent is: if he hears me at another time he'll call me no matter at which speed I am sending. Cause he knows: this guy will adjust himself to my capabilities. For him it's enjoyable!

Many other ideas out there, I am sure.

I would like to conclude my posting in saying that CW will not survive this generation without a decisive value proposition. Get the young ones excited! They are more open to us than we normally think! It's our responsibility.

I have no 'one fits all' solution.

But I am 100% convinced:

This is our common *final* 'Real Quest'.

God bless you,

Klaus, DK3QN

P.S. otherwise, Begali will not sell any hi-tec paddles anymore in a 10 to max. 15 years timeframe from now ;-)

But probably that's another story...

 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by KE4MOB on February 4, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Klaus, I have to disagree with you. In fact, I think all this attention that CW is getting might just turn out to be beneficial. I've been a ham 10 years now, and I've never before seen the number of posts here and elsewhere that start out "I'm trying to learn CW and....".

Why do we like to view keys, bugs, and paddles as works of art? Good question. The same reason some people view 19th century firearms, 1950's automobiles, and steam locomotives with such...mystique, for lack of a better term.

There will always be a certain percentage of the human population of what I call "nostalgists". People who like to use and admire yesteryear's technology and keep it alive. CW operators are one of those types. And the great thing is that we are constantly being replenished. Yes, it may be at a lower rate than what we would like right now, but nonetheless, CW is, and will be alive and well.

Don't count CW out. With articles like Ulrich's and the very favorable response so far, I am confident the CW Renaissance is just around the corner.

Steve, KE4MOB
 
Article, or Infomercial?  
by KC0JBJ on February 4, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Wow, it seems the infomercial has arrived at eHam.net!

Call me cynical, but I have to ask, is the author getting some kind of compensation from Signor Begali?

Well, I am not one of the CW pro's. Although I started out on CW as a Novice in 1973, my code speed peaked at around 10 wpm, and today I am proud to be a "slow-code" General. I agree with Klaus that CW is a dying mode, but like the guy on Monty Python, it keeps crying out, "well, I'm not dead, YET!".

As an engineer, I can admire the detail and craftsmanship that goes into these high-end keys, but is this really the kind of article that is going to to get the average Joe Ham interested in getting into, or back into, CW? I am afraid it may well be exactly the kind of elitism that has diminished the ranks of CW operators.

I applaud those who are trying to make CW more user-friendly and perhaps an article on dependable and affordable keys would better serve hamdom. I myself am working on the design of an iambic paddle that can be constructed by the average guy with simple power tools, and not just the pro- or semi-pro machinist, whose workshop rivals industrial tool shops. Parts and materials would be available from the local hardware store or other local sources, to eliminate the high cost of shipping small quantities of parts and materials from different vendors. And the purchase cost of all materials should be less than $15.00 (USD). Now that is the kind of thing that might get your typical SSB'er to think again about CW! When I finish my design, I hope to submit an article on it to QST to share with all my Ham brethren.

Can I get an AMEN?
 
RE: Article, or Infomercial?  
by NI0C on February 4, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
KC0JBJ:
Somehow, I don't think the affordability of a keyer paddle is keeping SSB folks from using CW. After all, they seem to be able to afford their speech processors and nice microphones.

New designs for keyer paddles are always welcome, though, and I'll look forward to your article. Those of us who use our keyers every day are quite particular about them. A couple of design parameters for you to consider: Spacing and spring tension should be adjustable and stay put once adjusted. The paddle should be able to be fixed to the table top if it is light enough to walk across the table when being used. I use a cut up computer mouse pad to hold down my otherwise delightful Brown Brothers paddle.

73 de Chuck NI0C
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by W1AWB on February 4, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Great article! I personally find the quest for a great paddle with a great feel that doesn't slip and can be adjusted very closely a laudable one. I think anyone would have to be very cynical indeed to think you had ulterior motives for writing this. Not every article has to be written with the intent of luring people into the hobby.
Andy W1AWB
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by K1CJS on February 4, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
>>>>Frankly speaking, maybe just blunt or provocative, we as CW operators - or let's call us CW fans, 'cause it just sounds a little more polite and nice - are a fading away species............Guys: we will just fade away! We are out! We are somehow like dinosauriers, like Jurassic Park! No future (except on movies ;-) )............I would like to conclude my posting in saying that CW will not survive this generation without a decisive value proposition. Get the young ones excited! They are more open to us than we normally think! It's our responsibility.<<<<

You are to be commended for a thoughtful post, however CW will never 'fade away'. The band allocations remain for the use of CW, and there are many younger operators who do enjoy and use CW.

Although I am not a CW 'fan', for want of a better word, I would object most strongly to the total elimination of the CW band allocations. And no, I'm not trying to start a flamefest or an argument--I'm against the test requirement, not the mode.

Even though there are some modes that now surpass CW as the ultimate 'get a signal through' mode, (yes, I'm aware those modes require more equipment) CW will still have some place in the ham radio hobby as a pleasureable mode to use for communication. Those of us who see it as such--and even those who don't--see the beauty, art and workmanship incorporated in the fine examples illustrated in this article.

I hope the author never loses the joy or pleasure he must get every time he uses one of the 'jewels' he owns.
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by CWTITAN on February 4, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
I WOULDN'T PUT MUCH INTO ANYTHING KC0JBJ STATED. HE'S ANOTHER WANNA BE THAT OBVIOUSLY CHEATED ON ALL HIS EXAMS TO BECOME A URINAL ENGINEER.
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by AB7UW-MONTANA on February 4, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Wow, You sure have some nice pieces! In my opinion the VGA T-1A paddle from the country of Belarus ranks as one of the best paddles if had the pleasure to operate. My friend has one and I was able to use is for a day. Nice and smooth. If anyone is interested you can find this paddle at http://www.mtechnologies.com/vgakeys/ Thanks for the nice photos! Vaughn N1XV ex AB7UW.
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by D9AL on February 4, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
I built a heathkit keyer 25 years ago. Anybody who owned one, will tell you the paddles are thw worst.


My solution. I put 2 J-38's back to back. They have a great feel when used as paddles for a CW keyer.

Simply put two back to back.
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by D9AL on February 4, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
I built a heathkit keyer 25 years ago. Anybody who owned one, will tell you the paddles are thw worst.


My solution. I put 2 J-38's back to back. They have a great feel when used as paddles for a CW keyer.

Simply put two back to back.
 
RE: Article, or Infomercial?  
by WD5L on February 4, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
>KC0JBJ

>And the purchase cost of all materials should be less than $15.00 (USD). Now that is the kind of thing >that might get your typical SSB'er to think again about CW!

If your looking for an under $15.00 iambic key paddle then there is a source. It's from MFJ, it's $14.95 and it's a very small iambic paddle keyer. It's listed as MFJ-561K and this is the kitted version of the fully assembled key. All the parts are there and if your a beginner this is a good starter's kit. It's also ideal if you operate CW mobile as I do. Sorry but there is no picture for the kitted version but you can check the fully assembled version MFJ-561 at:

<http://www.mfjenterprises.com/products.php?prodid=MFJ-561>

73,

Rick WD5L

PS: I am not an emloyee, affiliated with or have any financial interest in MFJ.
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by N4CW on February 4, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Thank you, Ulrich, for a most enjoyable and well-illustrated article. Key tastes are as individual as their owners. Best wishes, Bert, N4CW
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by W5AU on February 5, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks for a really nice article and some real beauties!!

73,
Troy, W5AU

PS: I dont think you will see as much fading as
you may think. Most of the real Hams will have to
move to CW to get away from the new CB'ers. It may
get a bit crowded.


 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by HAMDUDE on February 5, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
A great collection of keys. Such precision machines are truly a thing of beauty. Im sure all of them are a pleasure to work cw with. Very nice article Ulrich, thanks for sharing those works of art with us.
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by KE4ZHN on February 5, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Great keys Ulrich! You are no doubt working cw in style. Thanks for a great article.
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by KY6R on February 5, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
My family is filled with Tool and Die makers and CNC Machinists (who work in the Aerospace and Medical industries), so I very much appreciate this article. Precision combined with beauty sure does make for a fantastic key.
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by N2DE on February 5, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
I have been thrilled about the overwhelmingly positive response in this thread. Of course you can’t completely avoid the typical rambling nonsense: one day we’re all going to be dead, and if CW is to survive the younger generation will have to learn it - now, that’s deep. Fortunately they leave it up to our „imagination and creativity" to solve that problem - probably couldn’t expect too much from them in that respect.

I have no doubt that CW will survive, but, of course, not as a mainstream mode of operation. As long as some kid thinks it would be cool to make sense of those beeps and learn a secret language that few understand, CW will be around. As long as people enjoy a challenge that cannot simply be solved by throwing money and equipment with increasingly unfathomable design at it, CW will be around. I personally have the impression I’m hearing more and certainly cleaner CW signals on the bands than 25 years ago - but that may be the onset of memory loss ...

Despite the innuendo in some responses: I have no commercial ties to any of the key makers mentioned here. Yes, I have designed Piero Begali’s website - but for free, and I don’t make a single dollar off of that. Piero has become a friend over the course of many discussions that we had about the intricacies of paddle design, but that certainly has not clouded my judgment or made me blind to the fact that there are other world class keys around. I own many of them - what I’ve shown here is a fraction of what I have in my display cases. I sure hope that I’m going to acquire many more from many different makers, and I will buy them with my hard earned money as I always have.

See you on the bands! b.t.w., I’m currently living in the US and am N2DE here. Ulrich



 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by N8CPA on February 6, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Wie K8KS hat befor gesagt: "Donnerwetter! Solch ein grossartiger Artikel! Fuer diese gute Erinnerungen, ich bedanke mich sehr."

Leider, die AEA MM-3 wird heute nicht langer gemacht.
Ich hab' ein' die mir zu viele gefaellt!

Steve
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by W0IMO on February 6, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
I loved the article and the very professional photos.
I have been working cw for more than 50 years and have tried many different types of keys and paddles. My current favorite is a pair of paddles (no longer available) made by W9WBL. They are simply the smoothest easiest to operate paddles that I have ever used. They almost feel like an extension of your hand. If you ever find a pair at a hamfest, better grab it quick.
Charlie W0IMO
 
Correction  
by N2DE on February 6, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Sorry for a typo that escaped my attention: Alberto Frattini is I1QOD (not I1QOF) ... Ulrich
 
RE: Correction  
by KA4KOE on February 6, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
CPA:

I'm surely envious...the only German sentence I know (probably incorrect) is

Entschuldigen Sie Bitte, Ich haben tsvy foosnochel.

"Excuse me please, I have two ankles."
 
RE: Correction  
by N8MMZ on February 6, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Sorry gents - I think the Alberto keys are eyesores!

Point one: Squared edges - while squared edges are fine for military folks in drill & ceremonies, they are distracting for works of art and engineering. You leave the edges squared if you were too cheap to mill the parts into round. I think Alberto, although well intentioned, missed the mark by not producing a "finished" product like the vibroplex guys do.

Yes, one could argue that his bug functions exquisitely, but it is too sharp for my tastes - not to mention how much time would you need to spend on polishing? How much brasso would you need??

Even physists hate sharp edges - they say sharp corners have a tendancy to collect charge - so obviously according to physists, sharp edges are out of the norm.

Nope - I'll stick to my Vibroplex Blue Racer - yeah, I don't like the lack of adjustment on the trunions, but it works good and looks really cool. The blue racers make the CW outsiders wonder with interest at this cool, usable work of art that it at your post. The Alberto's make the CW outsiders say - "interesting science project?!?" and then they move on. Hat's off to the Vibroplex folks for their work of art - they even took the time to paint the beetle on the brass nameplate.

I'll confess - I never owned a J-38, so maybe I lack "refined" tastes - I've only owned the $6.00 (at least they were $6.00 in 1986) Ameco brass key - that was my first and only key!! I found it pretty good up to about 15WPM before I got glass handed - always had "good fist" accolades. Didn't see the need for a J-38, although I'd love to own one!!

Cheers'
Jonathan Morris
 
RE: Correction  
by K1CJS on February 7, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
N8MMZ

I'm not trying to get anybody upset, but you're really picking at nits. It's possible that Alberto wanted to put the extra effort into making the bug a pleasure to use, and considered rounding the edges a minor thing that shouldn't be bothered with. After all, he doesn't mass produce them.

Again, I'm not trying to make a fuss, I just wanted to bring up a reason the bug is finished the way it is. 73! Peace.
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by W5RE on February 8, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
That was a great article and beautiful pictures. Having built several keys during my 53 years as a CW operator I really appreciate the Begali. My latest is a paddle which I attached to my radio console for mobile CW. How fortunate you were to begin CW with a Junker!! I added one to my collection about seven years ago and it is my favorite - used in a QSO as recently as last night. I know I can never produce a work of art such as the Begali but you have inspired me to head back to the workshop to fabricate a replacement for the disappointing commercial paddle I use in my home station.

73, Bob - W5RE
 
Frattini Keys  
by N2DE on February 8, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Despite the observations of one respondent (probably a „physist" with a „tendancy" that abhors sharp edges): all edges on the Frattini keys are chamfered and perfectly finished, as you would expect from a master machinist like Alberto. The photos don’t really do these keys justice. But I agree that the Vibroplex Blue Racer is a splendid key and well worth having, although it has this base plate with four right angles ...
 
RE: Frattini Keys  
by N8MMZ on February 8, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Now Ulrich, behave yourself - this is a gentlman's forum that you've started - let's not start calling folks names (I'm an engineer, not a physist by the way - I didn't have the patience for the latter). I'm merely taking issue with your interpretation of works of art - I'm not taking swipes at you! If you have issue to something I've said - please, refer to my name or call. I think we're all gown up enough in this forum to handle a little disagreement from time to time.

I'm just trying to say that Alberto's key and bug look like something out of the late 1800's. While those items were functional from the late 1800's, they were not "works of art" until folks like Vibroplex, et al. made them "pretty" - then items like the bug evolved into works of art. When those guys were no longer able to make them look good in form, they added to them in substance by experimenting with different finishes (all crome, all gold plating, different metals, etc...). Look at furniture - they can be works of art and very functional - I'm pointing out that Alberto's production model lacks pizzazz!! I look forward to seeing an Alberto on "Mystery Science Theater".

No offense to you, but Alberto's design has not evolved into a work of art (although his magnetic bearings may arguably be "state of the art"). Alberto's design looks like a concept prototype - I'd expect him to put some time into the spit and polish and perhaps experiment with the finishes if he wants it to truly be a work of art - clearly he has put time and effort into other aspects.

Begali is a good example of work of art/state of art. I enjoyed your post on Begali's keys. I do aspire to own one of those gems.

Enjoy your key, Ulrich - but don't expect it to win any beauty pagents. In this man's opinion, Alberto needs to take his key and bug back to the drawing board and pretty them up - without changing his design fundamentals - then he will have a work of art that will be something more than a science fair project.

Yes his edges are chamfered, but a 3"x8" block of concrete that is chamfered looks about as exciting.

Cheers' es 73's
N8MMZ - Jonathan
 
RE: Frattini Keys  
by N2DE on February 8, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
N8MMZ: Your first response sounded like criticism of Alberto’s workmanship when, in fact, it was just an expression of your different sense of beauty. I think we have clarified that now, and we know that beauty is a subjective judgment. You think his keys look like a science fair project and consider the J-38 key the epitome of a refined taste which you’d like to own one day. I differ in that respect, and other people probably do, too - so let’s not use derogative terms or call names, as you suggested.

b.t.w.: those folks are called physicists, and I’m one of them ...

 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by WA2JJH on February 9, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Why DJ8G0 is getting ANY flack for his passion in keys is beyond me. I would love to have number 4 myself. Looks like a space age vibroplex!

I could care less if a key had rounded or square edges. I like my Vintage blue Racer, anybody want to give me flack about the square base!

Every REAL ham has a preference for what kind of key he likes.

The paddles in my Heath kit keyer felt like they were made out of cut up alumininum cans. Yes I have made paddles out of cut up aluminum cans. They work!

I found that 2 J-38's placed back to back were a perfect replacement for the CRAP heath kit supplied!

Try two staight keys back to back with an L bracket for mounting. Smooth as silk IMO.

Would like to thank DJ8GO again for his artical. It took time and the photography was nice.

I still want a good price on #4 HI HI

73 and FB on your artical MIKE

 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by N8MMZ on February 9, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
I'm going to be pretty firm on this one - while Alberto's key is impressive mechanically (and I imagine that his specs are tight enough to interchange parts between units which is an amazing accomplishment for individual copies), I don't think it lives up to the artistic value and craftsmanship that you find in a good Vibroplex. I'm sorry for Alberto - but Vibroplex rules the bug market - period.

Yes, Vibroplex turns out a bad one every now and then (that's the way it is in mass production), but their bugs have stood the true test of works of art - the test of time. Although his use of state of the art mechanics are well intended (is that an oxymoron - calling something in a bug state of the art?), I think Alberto's bug will be a mere curiosity in the longer term - of value only to a few collections. The Vibroplex, has stood the test of time, and will retain it's value in most collections in and out of the CW operator's market.

Maybe I'm wrong - but time will tell. I honestly think Alberto could take his stock bug and throw a little flair into it. He may then have something that would approach a rolls royce - not just one of a kind, but one of a kind and classic. What he's got now is purely unimaginative - although it is unique.

Give me a break on the "square base" - I'm talking about the key here - does everything on his bug have to be perpendicular? Obviously Alberto is good at machining 90deg angles, but does he know how to cast into different angled molds, can he use a lathe every now and then? Show some imagination along with the innovation.

Look at architecture - take the gingerbread house vice the Stalinist square-box concrete housing. The gingerbread is timeless - the detailed woodwork is what makes that house. The box house is usually better constructed. Which house would you want to own? When you look at something that has long term artistic value - you try to examine the long term trends - not the short term pop art trends. Alberto's key is prob. modern art - it looks cool to some today, but in a few years it will be a curious paperweight. I don't think it qualifies as a "work of art" as some have called it.

Sorry, but sometimes critics can be scathing! My head doesn't bob up and down at every new product that comes into ham radio - sometimes you have room for improvement. Alberto has a good concept key - let's improve it a bit and make it a timeless treasure!

73's
N8MMZ - Jonathan
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by N8MMZ on February 9, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
I'm going to be pretty firm on this one - while Alberto's key is impressive mechanically (and I imagine that his specs are tight enough to interchange parts between units which is an amazing accomplishment for individual copies), I don't think it lives up to the artistic value and craftsmanship that you find in a good Vibroplex. I'm sorry for Alberto - but Vibroplex rules the bug market - period.

Yes, Vibroplex turns out a bad one every now and then (that's the way it is in mass production), but their bugs have stood the true test of works of art - the test of time. Although his use of state of the art mechanics are well intended (is that an oxymoron - calling something in a bug state of the art?), I think Alberto's bug will be a mere curiosity in the longer term - of value only to a few collections. The Vibroplex, has stood the test of time, and will retain it's value in most collections in and out of the CW operator's market.

Maybe I'm wrong - but time will tell. I honestly think Alberto could take his stock bug and throw a little flair into it. He may then have something that would approach a rolls royce - not just one of a kind, but one of a kind and classic. What he's got now is purely unimaginative - although it is unique.

Give me a break on the "square base" - I'm talking about the key here - does everything on his bug have to be perpendicular? Obviously Alberto is good at machining 90deg angles, but does he know how to cast into different angled molds, can he use a lathe every now and then? Show some imagination along with the innovation.

Look at architecture - take the gingerbread house vice the Stalinist square-box concrete housing. The gingerbread is timeless - the detailed woodwork is what makes that house. The box house is usually better constructed. Which house would you want to own? When you look at something that has long term artistic value - you try to examine the long term trends - not the short term pop art trends. Alberto's key is prob. modern art - it looks cool to some today, but in a few years it will be a curious paperweight. I don't think it qualifies as a "work of art" as some have called it.

Sorry, but sometimes critics can be scathing! My head doesn't bob up and down at every new product that comes into ham radio - sometimes you have room for improvement. Alberto has a good concept key - let's improve it a bit and make it a timeless treasure!

73's
N8MMZ - Jonathan
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by N8MMZ on February 9, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Sorry for the double - guess I wanted to get the point across - hihi
73's de N8MMZ
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by N2DE on February 9, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
N8MMZ: As I said, artistic value is subjective, and craftsmanship you clearly can't judge from a photo. (trust me - it's as good or better than the many Vibroplexes I have touched) Vibroplex bugs are well crafted - but they haven't had a single design idea, neither technical nor optical, in more than 50 years. While their design has stood the test of time, I probably wouldn't make it the benchmark to judge contemporary bugs. What I admire about people like Alberto is their ingenuity and the guts to invest all this effort to create a novel device for such a small market - it will never pay off in a commercial sense. If you want to keep the art of bug making alive, they are the guys to support. Just buy one and then help him improve it, but don't use a stagnant design like the venerable Vibroplex as your benchmark for modernity.
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by G7HEU on February 9, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
There's something wrong here:

I understood that the article wasn't an 'info-mercial' because the original poster said:

"Meanwhile I have -- sort of -- convinced Alberto that he should offer his keys for sale and you may be able to order them one day... "

Now he says:

"Just buy one and then help him improve it"

I was originally irritated by the guy who critisied square lines etc. If this article is an advert rather than a show case for a hams' good work then the manufacturer should consider himself 'fair game'.

Steve
M0HEU / G7HEU.
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by G7HEU on February 9, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
p.s. I don't have a Vibroplex but I hope you've got your 'flame suit' on when you call them stagnant on this forum :-)
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by N2DE on February 10, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
G7HEU: that was probably too much shorthand. What I meant to say is "why don't you ask Alberto to build a key for you, probably incorporating your own ideas, and thereby help him improve his design". Of course, he can't give away his work for free and you'll have to pay a price, but that certainly doesn't make his endeavors a commercial enterprise. A master mechanic in the US makes up to $200 per hour (I'm told) - so you can imagine what a bug of that quality would cost if profit were the goal ...
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by N8MMZ on February 10, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Dear Mr. Steinberg:

I am sure that your firm understands my lack of interesting in acquiring a product which I deem incomplete. As the manufacturer's representative for Alberto, please pass along my suggestions for improvement that we have previously discussed.

Perhaps after some design revisions, I will be inclinded to purchase an Alberto through your representation.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your considerate guidance in this matter. I wish you and your associates all of the best in marketing your mechanical equipment. Please let me know if I can be of any futher assistance.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Morris
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by KB0LUR on February 10, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
I'm suprised no one has mentioned WB9LPU's CW instruments:

<http://www.n9vv.com/WB9LPU/>

He has a few reviews of his work here on eHam, too.

Paul NN0C (former KB0LUR)
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by KE4MOB on February 11, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
I'm perplexed and kind of amused...

Benchmarks: Ok. Let's update the benchmarks for modern bugs. We could use Alberto's bug as the benchmark. So in a review, if I see "Bug XYZ handled better than Alberto's bug" what does that tell me? Nothing. I've never had one of Alberto's bugs, and I'd bet most CW ops haven't either (not to bash his bugs). There's a reason the Vibroplex is a benchmark. Everyone's got at least one, or had the opportunity to use one, therefore the point of reference is valid. "I have a new design for a bug!!" the designer says. The other guy leans back and says "Ahh, but is it as good as a Vibroplex, because that is what everyone knows..."

Moderness: We're talking moderness in relation to producing a code that hasn't changed in over a century. There was one huge technological advance in bugs...it was called the keyer and paddles.

Stagnation: Whatever happened to "if it ain't broke don't fix it"? There's a reason the design hasn't changed...it works and any great innovation hasn't added a huge level of performance. I'm tickled with my '42 Vibroplex Champion I just paid $65 for.

Do I really need a $300 bug with magnets and optical sensors??

And what do I get from it??

 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by N2DE on February 11, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
KB0LUR: I am surprised by that, too, since I've had an eye on the original designs by WB9LPU for some time. They certainly look great, and I can see one of his paddles or bugs in my future (if my wallet permits - after all I'm not doing this sort of thing for a living despite the stupid innuendo in some posts) ...

There are many fine keys that I could not mention, unfortunately many of them no longer being made. The WB9WBL V22 paddle, e.g., is certainly a close contender for the top spot on my list of the best paddles, and I use it often. Not mentioning a good key here is more a reflection of the size limitations that I had to impose on this article (and, of course, of my own ignorance) than a reflection of its quality.

 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by VE7BGP on February 12, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Hello All
This topic has sure brought on a lot of great discussion. I don't know about the ultimate Key but those last two pictures of that real nice Hand Key and Bug have sure got my attention. My vote is for a company that's been around almost a Century Vibroplex. I got my first Vibroplex last spring a real nice 1970 Chrome Lightning Bug. I now have 4 Vibroplex Products Standard Iambic, Standard Original and Last but not Least a Blue Racer Standard. And Vibroplex thank's for a great web site for helping a newbie set up his first Bug. Adjustment is a VERY Important part of enjoying using a Bug and having fun on the air QSOing with a Bug.I also have a couple of nice old Hand Keys an old (what I think is a Les Logan) SpeedX WW II vintage and a Wilson Canadian made teardrop hand key which is a real treasure I used on ARRL SKN New Years. It was made for our RCAF either for WW II or Korean war. I hope to see you on the air for H.G. Martins Centennial of filing the Patent for his Vibroplex Bug in May 2004.
Happy Centennial Vibroplex and 100 more years of CW and Vibroplex.
73
Gerry
 
RE: Article, or Infomercial?  
by KD7ZNL on February 12, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
WOOHOOO!!! Thanks for the link WD5L, now I don't have an excuse NOT to learn to "write" Morse Code :D I'll go ahead and buy two, in case I mess up the first one.
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by KD7ZNL on February 12, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
> I WOULDN'T PUT MUCH INTO ANYTHING KC0JBJ STATED. HE'S
> ANOTHER WANNA BE THAT OBVIOUSLY CHEATED ON ALL HIS
> EXAMS TO BECOME A URINAL ENGINEER.

And I suppose that the maturity that you've displayed in this reply demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt that you're much better than he is.

The topic has stay flame-free so far... keep it that way!
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by WA1SSY on February 12, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
I bought a Begali Magnetic Classic two months ago. However, I think I'll be collecting keys real soon. I still have my Brown Brothers straight key from my novice years during the 70's. Thanks for a great article.

Joe, WA1SSY
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by G7HEU on February 12, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
'you may be able to order them one day... '

Or a month or two ago apparently.

Since this thread is an advert I can reccomend the Kent straight key. It has straight lines which might peterb some people but is otherwise very good.

Hand crafted in the U.K!

I might ask them to write an 'article'.

Steve
M0HEU / G7HEU.
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by G7HEU on February 12, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
ARTICLE.

My quest for the best key.



They are made by Kent. They are very good. If you are very good you might be able to buy one one day.

Newsflash! You lucky person - I have convinced Kent that they should sell you one today, hurrah!

Here's a link to the very good reviews they have recieved here on Eham:

http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/493

Steve
M0HEU.

 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by G7HEU on February 12, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Here's a link to the Begali site:

http://www.i2rtf.com/

Looks like he's been convinced to sell you one after all - what a nice guy.

My good pal spends hours slaving in his shed to make automobiles. He's not in it for profit, it's a labour of love. I convinced him to make me one and I like it very much.

Here's a link to his site:

http://www.tvr-eng.co.uk/tvr.htm

Maybe, one day, you might persuade him to make you one too.

Steve.

p.s. All of a sudden there's loads of Begali products on the eham product review section. Not many users though :-). It may well be a fine product ( I don't know ) but 'scamming' free advertising on this forum leaves a bad taste with me.
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by G7HEU on February 12, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Whoooo's the DX?
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by G7HEU on February 12, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
OH HO HO HO


VISIT THE KEY MANUFACTURERS' SITE. WADE THROUGH THE STUFF ABOUT ITALIAN MACHINE GUNS (say no more ) AND THEN CLICK ON THE BOTTOM BIT - 'Site design by N2DE '.


N2DE aka DJ8GO aka author of this 'article'. All those guys that complimented Ulrich on his English shouldn't have. He's had loads of practise - he lives in Pleasant Valley N.Y.


 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by G7HEU on February 12, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
OH HO HO HO


VISIT THE KEY MANUFACTURERS' SITE. WADE THROUGH THE STUFF ABOUT ITALIAN MACHINE GUNS (say no more ) AND THEN CLICK ON THE BOTTOM BIT - 'Site design by N2DE '.


N2DE aka DJ8GO aka author of this 'article'. All those guys that complimented Ulrich on his English shouldn't have. He's had loads of practise - he lives in Pleasant Valley N.Y.
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by N2DE on February 12, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
G7HEU: Yes, I have lots of practice in English, being also N2DE as I said in one of my earlier posts in this thread (you probably didn't read that far) But I also could have written this article in German or French - how about you? Also it seems that my eloquence exceeded your mental faculties a bit: when I said that you may be able to order those keys one day I was talking about Alberto Frattini's not Piero Begali's (whose web site I designed for free, as I also said in an earlier post here ... Your innuendo about a commercial interest on my part is misplaced - although I wished I could do this sort of thing for a living ... ) I do agree with you, though, that the Kent keys are a superb value for the money, and I have a TP-1 myself.
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by G7HEU on February 12, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
DJ8GO

I am a fool.

You are a gentleman.

Why doesn't this site have a 'delete your previous posts' function?

 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by DK3QN on February 13, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
this is my second post to Ulrich's 'Quest', after my first one was more on the 'esotheric' side, behavioural, I mean. For this I've got quite a number of 'off-line' responses which I appreciate.
And again: I believe this is our 'real Quest'.

I have just read through all of the posts again responding to Ulrich's 'Quest' and this is my personal resume:

a lot of the frustration and embarassement in some of the posts comes from the fact that Ulrich seems to promote Begali as 'the ultimate manufacturer' for what he calls something like ultimate paddles.

There is nothing wrong with Ulrich's view if he is talking about his personal experience with keys or paddles. I can accept this.

The point is how the reaction is to critics of his view. Critics in this subject are a pretty normal reaction because I believe morse paddles are a very personal subject (I am not going to compare this now to some other subjects ;-) )

His reaction to critics however seems to be a little 'biased'. As he seems to take a position of 'defending' his view. But there's no need for that!
Unless there'd not be that 'relationship' with Begali.
Bad taste. A pity.

Besides that discussion I believe we are talking on different levels:

1. beautiful workmanship (great to look at); this is where mechanists' hearts go faster
2. great techniques; this is where engineers have dreams of
3. pricing
4. the 'user' experience and expectations.

Each of these categories can give a personal value proposition, which is good as they'll allow for a personal and differentiated view.

We should therefore respect each one's conclusion on his personal 'Quest'.

One final:

comments re #2:
IMHO, Kent keys are no much different to Begali. Because both - to my knowledge - use ball bearings as the paddle suspending technique. And ball bearings - except a special type of C-bearings - are a 'second tier' technique for morse paddles. Because they are initially designed for round-turning devices such as fans, washing machines etc. which is defintitely not the case with something like squeeze paddles.

Take care, Klaus, DK3QN

 
The "keys" song  
by WB2WIK on February 13, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Keys! What the heck is wrong with these keys these days?

Keys! Who can understand the dit-dahs they say?

Keys! Nothing more than fancy switches, on and off.

Noisy, crazy, sloppy, lazy code keys. And while we're on the subject...
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by W6TH on February 13, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
One of a kind great article.

Although I have never used any but Vibroplex bugs and the latest my Blue Racer Y2K which is good for 45 WPM.

I LOOK FORWARD TO the future to try one of your many mentioned bugs and key and paddles, beautiful work of art.

.:
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by W0IMO on February 13, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
I have a set of paddles from Palmar. They use ball bearings. Are they the same as the Kent Paddles? I have never seen a Kent Paddle. I am wondering if Palmar had their paddle made by Kent.
I really like the Palmar paddles. The only paddle that I own which I like better is my W9WBL paddle.
I also have Vibroplex, which I rank number 3 out of the paddles that I own.
Charlie
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by G7HEU on February 13, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Klaus / DK3QN

Wise words from you.

Please understand that I am very much a beginner at CW. I have about 12 ( reliable ) w.p.m. RX. One of my most special moments this year was when your countryman Gustav / DL8AA answered my CW CQ on my home brew ( kit )radio with <5W!!! He was my first proper CW contact.

Now my question:

My Kent key is straight. I had no experience of any other until I bought a 1940 British Air Force key last week end. It's a nice piece of history but is nowhere near as smooth as my Kent key. Perhaps I haven't adjusted it properly.

What is the objection to ball bearings? Is it related to high sending speed? If so I wouldn't know yet :-) Or, is your reservation only in regard to iambics?

Best wishes

Steve
M0HEU / G7HEU / not affiliated with ANY key manufacturer and prepared to have my key criticised.



 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by DK3QN on February 13, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Steve
M0HEU / G7HEU

Re. ball-bearing:

If this is a serious subject for you:

Frankly, don't worry of my talk. Important is what makes you happy when going CW. There is nothing wrong if you use ball-bearing suspended paddles.
This comment was more related to the 'engineers' among the paddle manufacturers and the ultimate technique related. Or to put it into other words: I want to challenge some of them...

Just look-up 'ball bearing' on google and - if you have the time for it - learn all about ball bearings and for what they are used for. Very Educational!

Then look at the typical kind of 'movement' needed for keys, paddles etc. It's not a rotating kind of movement (ball bearings are made for this, in general) but more like a 'tilting' movement with a very short travel way to go. This looks like a perfect application for 'needle suspended' suspension. Mass movements should be limited as much as possible. Just look at ball bearings from this perspective.
In my view this is - if we talk about engineering - not the perfectly appropriate technique.

However, if you are happy with such implementation: there is nothing wrong with it.

What counts is your personal satisfaction with your key.

We want to have fun with Vibros, Kents, Begalis, Schurrs etc. no matter what. Because they mean something to us. This 'something' is what we need to hand-over to the next generation.

Which leads me again to my first post...

Take care,

Klaus, DK3QN

 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by N2DE on February 14, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
DK3QN:
I have reread your first two posts, and I have to admit that I’m biased against verbose fluff that inflates some meager contents, especially if it keeps repeating the stupid insinuation that I had ulterior motives when I wrote this article.

If I interpret you correctly you are saying that there may be more important things for the future of ham radio than looking for mechanical perfection in morse keys. Well, whaddaya know, I’m the first one who could agree. This was a story of my own personal way to happiness in ham radio, and I wanted to share it with you. I have no missionary zeal to convert anyone to my ways, or even to the keys that I am using.

So we should try to get youngsters interested and not discourage newcomers - not exactly profound ideas, but certainly valid. I fail to grasp, however, why my pursuit of mechanical perfection would stand in the way of that or may contradict those goals.

Your technical excursions in later posts deserve some comments, too. Just because the Kent and the Begali keys both use ball bearings doesn’t make them identical. You are implying that you haven’t touched either one (I own them both) - so this is a theoretical discussion, and we should do a little theory here to clear up the muddled ideas that you are expounding. The purpose of bearings in paddles is not only to facilitate smooth rotational movement („like in washing machines"), but also to provide axial stability making sure that the levers can move only horizontally and don’t wobble around. There’s a couple of approaches that have been tried in keys, and they usually involve tradeoffs. The Vibroplex and many other designs use trunnion bearings - in essence a pointed shaft that is held in place by two adjustable depressions. They are a severe compromise between stabilizing the shaft and reducing the friction for easy rotation. Vibroplex uses „jewels" in their more expensive keys, but still this sort of bearing is temperature sensitive and requires frequent readjustment. Another approach, usually taken in home brew projects, is to use sleeve bearings - short pieces of tubing that rotate around a shaft. While this provides good axial stability the friction is so high that the result is usually not acceptable in a high performance key. The most expensive type of bearing, especially designed for very small rotational angles like in keys, are flex bearings. In essence they are specialized blade springs that hold two rotating tubular sections in a frictionless configuration. They require very precise construction techniques, any displacement from the zero position requires a (minimal) force, but most importantly they are very expensive - the typical bearings for a iambic paddle cost well in excess of $100. Which leaves us with sealed ball bearings as a solution that avoids all of these problems and is relatively inexpensive even for the highest grade bearings.

Bearings, however, are just one component that determines the performance of a key. The mass distribution, the amount of the moving masses, the choice of materials to avoid temperature sensitivity, the mechanism that provides the return force - all these are factors that determine the performance of a key, and they are significantly different in Kent and Begali keys. In addition you have elements that do not have a direct relationship to performance, like the coating (plating) of the materials, or the contact ratings. The Kent keys are a good value for the money - I think severely underrated in comparison to some other lower-cost keys - but they make a conscious engineering tradeoff to achieve their price that some other keys (e.g. the Begali Simplex) avoid.

As I said in my article: a good key is a lot more than a collection of parts. And understanding what makes a good key requires more than the knowledge that washing machines have ball bearings.


 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by KQ6Q on February 15, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
I picked up an HD-1410 at a hamfest about 25 years ago, converted to to Schottky logic to reduce current drain, modified it to work with TenTec radios. Later built the Heath capacitive touch keyer, didn't like the capacitive paddles, so changed the headphone jack on the 1410 so I could plug in a stereo plug and use the 1410 paddles with another keyer. Later sold the digital keyer, still use the 1410. Now my rig is an Icom 746Pro - and I use the paddles in the 1410 to run the internal memory keyer in the Icom. Wish the speed adjustment knob on the Icom was a little bigger - may use a piece of eraser to fit over the knob and make it bigger - (I'd modified the 1410 to have a top speed around 30 WPM to make the adjustment less touchy). Still love CW!
Still have my second straight key -a J-37 - had a Vibroplex bug in high school, with a case - never really mastered it. Bought another one years later, never mastered it either. Iambic keyers are where it's at for me - may try building my own paddle set - there have been some interesting articles recently - but the Heath just keeps on going! Kudos to the ham in Benton Harbor who designed it!
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by TECH2003 on February 15, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Hey, I just use CWget and CWtype and I can work CW. It's just another digital mode right?
 
My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by K2VCO on February 16, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
I've owned a number of the keys mentioned here, including various Vibroplex bugs, the GHD optical bug, the WBL V22 and the Begali Magnetic. For what it's worth (not too much), here's what I think: although the GHD bug is very well-made and attractive, the Vibroplex bug (mine is a 1960-model Original) has a better feel. A simple reed relay circuit allows it to make dits as clean as the GHD. Regarding paddles, most of them are not much good over 30 wpm. The WBL and the Begali are among the good ones, and for me, the Begali is preferred because of its very positive response. Will CW continue or not? I don't know, but I've certainly had a lot of enjoyment from it in the last 48 years!
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by DK3QN on February 16, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
To DJ8GO:

just a short feedback (as I am logging in from abroad):

I do have have both:

the Begali Simplex
the Kent

plus 20 others.

More comments to come.

Have a good day.

Klaus, DK3QN
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by DK3QN on February 16, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
To DJ8GO:

re: G7HEU's comment in an earlier post: N2DE aka DJ8GO

for curiosity:
would you just let us know why you posted your article
under DJ8GO?

73, Klaus, DK3QN
 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by N2DE on February 28, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
DK3QN:

because I was registered at eHam as DJ8GO long before I was N2DE, and you can't change your id there as far as I know ...

 
RE: My Quest for the Ultimate Key  
by W6THW on October 1, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Hi i guess Dk3qn just doesnt get it. I love your
article and cant understand why the comments are
about everthing but how you like collecting and
useing keys and why you like them. I have a few
paddles and use a different one almost every day.

I cant say enough about my N5QVF paddle in fact i
will not, dont want someone emailing me about something
else. To compare the N5QVF paddle i also have
Vibroplex paddle, March paddle,GHD optical paddle,
G4ZPY VHS paddle, and the Begali Signature paddle.
I have been sending CW for over 40 years and did it
for the US Navy for 6 years. I think it just a
a hobby collecting and useing different paddles.
I enjoyed your article and hope you write again.
Mike (W6THW)
 
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