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Author Topic: Key Cords  (Read 2658 times)
AB7KT
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Posts: 155




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« on: June 24, 2010, 10:21:03 PM »

What are you guys using for the cord for your keys ?

I recently got on a key collecting kick. After using the same two keys for 30 years, I have somehow ended up with about a dozen or more. All came without cords. I now have less cords than I do keys and am switching them around when I get a notion to try a different key.

I bought a few of the cords MFJ sells just because they come with everything and I don't have a place to buy things like phono plugs here locally. If I have to order the phono plugs, why not just order one with the wire already attached ? But they turned out to be very tiny and fragile. I broke one of the lugs off one today just trying to route the wire to the back of my radio.  I have used common wire for the rest. Some of the wire is OK, others are too stiff and won't lay down on the desk. I tried some stuff I got at home depot and it was the stuff that was very stiff and it is a hassle on the desk.
The few keys I bought that came with a cord had a nicely jacketed cable that was flexible and laid down nice on the desk.

This is a pretty basic question, but I would like to come up with something that is better than what I am doing now. Once I find that, I am going to replace all the cords I currently have.
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I thought you said this was a weak signal mode ? I HAVE a weak signal and he still didn't hear me.

FWIW: My callsign is AB8KT
KC9HOZ
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Posts: 103




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« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2010, 06:40:43 AM »

I buy 6' (or longer) patch cords with the connectors I'm looking for and cut them in half.  Depending on where I shop, I can spend as much or as little as I want and get better connectors than I could ever make up myself.

Scott
kc9hoz
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N3QE
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Posts: 2072




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« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2010, 08:42:10 AM »

For cables, I have used everything from speaker cable to lamp cord to zip cord to teflon twisted pairs. Going with something really super skinny doesn't make sense from a reliability/durability standpoint, so that rules out all the crappy home audio and PC audio cabling. Get something thicker. Speaker wire and lamp cord are commonly 16 or 18 gauge stranded, are nice and flexible, and this is a nice sweet spot.

Now, as for plugs, I am a real stickler: I hate cheap crap plugs. This means anything off the shelf from the computer store or radio shack is out of the question. I really super like Switchcraft plugs for both 1/4" and RCA.

What I really like about the Switchcraft plugs, is that the insulation doesn't melt under soldering temperature. They are also really physically durable and solid.

The distant follow-up to Switchcraft is Neutrik. The Neutriks are nice for the first couple of years but after that become unreliable.

My preferred Switchcraft 1/4" plugs are ones like the Model 240 (black plastic handle) and Model 270 (Metal shielded handle). They are available both with screw and solder termination. They have decent clamps for strain relief. All the Switchcraft 1/4" stuff is really super good.

My preferred Switchcraft RCA/phone plugs are the 3502AAU, (long metal barrel; lots of strain relief; gold contact area) but the other 3502 variants are good too.

I can't emphasize this enough: Switchcraft is not cheap. But anything else is just a world of heartache.
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KU3X
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Posts: 141




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« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2010, 03:12:04 PM »

For two conductor cable, from my keyer, I use RG 174 coax cable. It's shielded, very low in price and easy to use. If it's three conductor, like the cable I use on my bencher paddles when the I use the keyer built into the rig, I use belden two conductor cable with a drain or shield. On the electrical prints that I had to work off of before I was retired, the shielding on the belden cable was called a drain. The two conductors were wraped with foil and then a multi strand cable was kind of twisted around the foil, hence the term drain.
But....belden does make a true shielded cable, like the shielding used on coax cable but that's harder to work with.
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K9ZMD
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Posts: 169




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« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2010, 12:29:30 PM »

For my paddles, I shop the dollar stores for cheap audio cables with stereo connectors.  These are also usable for straight keys & cootie keys, but I think the best cords are free cords. The following is a free cord that I've never seen suggested before.  Ever.

Old two-conductor test leads from polygraph GSR (or EDA) finger plates just get tossed away (very few examiners will waste time repairing a bad cord).  The most frequent failure is just an intermittent at a finger plate connector, so that leaves several feet of perfectly good key cord.  These are more durable than common speaker wire and come with a standard phone plug (either 1/8" or 1/4") at one end & a nicely molded "Y" about 12" - 18" back from the pin or snap connectors. 

Bad cords can likely be had for the asking (they are trash items, after all), but even a couple bucks - less than the cost of a good phone plug - is a good deal.  LEO's with scrounging skills should have no trouble getting some, but anyone could contact a private examiner or a polygraph school.  It doesn't hurt to ask. Consult the yellow pages or Google, then employ your social skills.  In fact, here's a link that might be helpful: http://www.polygraphplace.com/docs/listcountries.php

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N3QE
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Posts: 2072




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« Reply #5 on: June 28, 2010, 07:03:43 AM »

For my paddles, I shop the dollar stores for cheap audio cables with stereo connectors.  These are also usable for straight keys & cootie keys, but I think the best cords are free cords.

I've seen so many store-bought audio cables go bad, either left or right channel or both, because of flexing at the plug end. The cable and connector are both so crappy that this is pretty much an inevitable failure mode.

And I've seen it happen so much that I'm just sick of it. It doesn't just happen to dollar store cables but to brand name consumer audio stuff. I'm not trying to be a shill for Switchcraft, but quality plugs and cables, properly strain relieved and properly installed, are so much better.

Given the continuing threads and QST articles about properly soldering a PL-259, I'm not sure that the average ham really knows how to put any kind of connector on a cable. Yeah, there are ones who are good at it, but I'm still over at my neighbor's shack a couple times a year showing him how it's not that his antenna is bad, it's that new cable he put on it that's shorted out. Then he has a "professional" mobile installation done and the control cables (just modular plugs) go bad. Too bad nobody knows to check for shorts with a continuity tester anymore.

A couple years ago I made a batch of phono cables with Neutrik brand plugs because they were so highly recommended, and they seemed pretty good at the time (at least as long as I didn't melt the center insulator), but in the past few years many of them have started failing intermittently. It wasn't the cable or the strain relief, but the center contact plug itself had become intermittent. I just trashed all of them and swore to never use anything but Switchcraft from now on.

Tim.
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WX7G
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Posts: 5917




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« Reply #6 on: June 28, 2010, 03:47:25 PM »

I order key cables from Vibroplex.
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AB7KT
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Posts: 155




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« Reply #7 on: June 28, 2010, 06:39:55 PM »

A related question is:
Why has it become the accepted standard to NOT include a cord and plug with a key when you buy it ? It isn't like we have dozens of different standards when it comes to cords and plugs: they are all the same. You may have an 1/8" or 1/4" plug but can easily use an adapter to go from one or the other. In fact MFJ (of all companies) includes an adapter when you order a cord from them.
This seems to me like buying a new car and after the fact the dealer says: "Oh, you want a set of keys to go with that ? That will be another $50".
I just recieved a new key today from Begali. They include a .033mm feeler guage to adjust the contacts, but no cord. I am not picking on them, I have bought maybe a dozen and a half new keys over the years and none of them that I remember came with a cord and plug. Yet, it is useless without it.
Why ?

Logged

I thought you said this was a weak signal mode ? I HAVE a weak signal and he still didn't hear me.

FWIW: My callsign is AB8KT
N3QE
Member

Posts: 2072




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« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2010, 05:23:36 AM »

A related question is:
Why has it become the accepted standard to NOT include a cord and plug with a key when you buy it ?
...
Why ?

It has always been assumed to be within the capability of any ham - or aspiring ham - that he can attach a cord and plug to a key.

Assumption goes back to the beginning of time.

As you point out, the assumption may not be true anymore.
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AB7KT
Member

Posts: 155




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« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2010, 05:52:54 PM »

I have the ability to assemble an AC line cord for my TV also, but they give me one when I buy the TV

Logged

I thought you said this was a weak signal mode ? I HAVE a weak signal and he still didn't hear me.

FWIW: My callsign is AB8KT
AD7WN
Member

Posts: 113




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« Reply #10 on: June 29, 2010, 06:54:32 PM »

Back in the 1950s I bought two headphone cords complete with 1/4" plugs from a war surplus outlet for 50 cents each.  These are of two conductor and use stranded wire that is cloth covered and with a cloth jacket overall.  These cords are practically indestructable and are still going strong after more than 50 years.

Unfortunately these are two-conductor cords and are therefore suitable only for a bug or straight key.  But they soved part of the problem for me.  There may be hams here and there who are hording these little treasures and could be induced to part with some of them.
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