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Author Topic: Morse Code Key Type  (Read 2486 times)

Posts: 240

« on: March 31, 2003, 07:21:18 AM »

         I am in the process of learning to copy code.  I am using the KOCH cw trainer program and I am slowly progressing.  The KOCH method is so far the easiest to master.  My question is when I finally am ready to attempt to send what type of key is recommended?  Straight or Iambic?  Kent makes really nice models in both.  Since they are around $140 I do not want to make the wrong choice.  Any input, comments and suggestions will be greatly appreciated.


Jim Glenn - KE4IZA

Posts: 102

« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2003, 11:01:34 AM »

i went with a Ameco straight key for my first [and only] key. its 16.95 trough aes. get it, use it, and if you don't like it buy the 140.00 dollar one. its the brass one, it  nice looking. after you get it, mount it on a piece of wood. i put a piece of that non-slip drawer liner on the bottem so it would not slide around.

73 de kc8vcb

Posts: 21764

« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2003, 02:53:15 PM »

There's an awfully huge difference between a "straight" key and an iambic paddle.  And lots of choices in between these.

A straight key normally is just a single-pole, single-throw, spring-loaded switch which pumps up and down to send code characters.  They've been around for 150 years, and I've never seen one for $140.  I have a very high-end "Bencher" straight key, one of the very best ever made, and I think it was $40.  Ones nearly as good can be found for $10.  Surplus WW2 J-38 keys, which were made by the millions (evidently!) work very well and I've purchased them for as little as $2 at the local ham radio Swap Meet.

A good iambic paddle set is another thing altogether, and of course requires an iambic electronic keyer to function.  Such a keyer is built into many modern transceivers as a standard feature.  These can run from about $40 to well over $200, depending upon quality and "collectability."  I like the Bencher BY-type iambic paddles, which are about $80 to $100 nowadays (although when I bought the three I have, they were less), work well, last forever, and have good resale value.


Posts: 32

« Reply #3 on: April 01, 2003, 11:15:58 PM »

Start first with a straight key - almost any will do. Easiest, fastest way to begin enjoying CW. A straight key will be good for up to 15 or 20 wpm.  The paddle keys and keyers require some initial practice to master.  I use both - paddle for over 15 wpm and straight key for slower code.  Both are hooked up to the rig. When I QRS I use the straight key rather then diddle with the keyer settings. (Also beware of catching the paddle collectors bug! ... especially if you love precision instruments. Some of these keys are works of art. I've got two and a third on the way.)

73, Ralph

Posts: 35

« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2003, 03:17:29 AM »

Never saw a straight key for $140? OK, maybe that is MSRP, but AES does sell the Kent for only about $10 less than that:

MFG   Model   Description                     Price

And when was the last time you priced the Bencher Straight key? They are a lot more than $40. Even the old J-38's are selling for $25 to $45 at Hamfests, depending on condition, as they have become collectables!.

The $17 Ameco with the brass base (I agree, NOT the plastic base job) is a decent key. I used one almost  exactly like it as a Novice in the 1970's, although mine came from Radio Shack, was only about $3.00 at the time, and was chrome-plated everywhere. The open ball-bearing design with adjustable bearing pressure may leave a little to be desired, requiring readjustment at the start of just about every CW session, but it is still better than a wobbly simple pivot point. Also, these can be commonly mounted on a large flat sheet of non-conductive material, like a clipboard made from "Masonite" type hardboard, or a new plastic (acrylic, lexan, PVC, etc.)cutting board.  With the large board, your arm will hold it in place, although the non-skid drawer liner material is a good idea for a smaller wooden mount.

However, as with any "pump" type straight key, be careful and watch out for carpal tunnel syndrome, particularly if you may be exposed to this problem when keyboarding on the job.  The effect is accumulative.  This is also what the old-time telegraphers called "the glass wrist", which was one of the main reasons for the development of the semi-automatic or "bug" key.  Many hams also home-brewed "side swiper" keys jusing a hack-saw blade or other piece of long, thin, spring steel to tap out dits and dahs manually with a side-to-side motion.  This requires mainly finger movement and minimal rist movement.  Also, Carpal Tunnel damage can be reduced by using a wrist rest, espcially the nice gel-filled ones available for PC mouse users.
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