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Author Topic: What keyer to buy  (Read 2187 times)

Posts: 317

« on: December 29, 2003, 09:28:17 AM »

You are fortunate - just starting to learn the code and have no key. My advice is simple. Don't buy any key until you learn the code! I do not believe that you can learn the code by sending it; you learn by copying it. After you master your target copy speed, you will tend to imitate what you have been listening to when you send it.

An excellent learning tool is the free program by G4FON at

Congratulations on passing the General. Good luck and 73,
Jim W4YA


Posts: 720


« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2003, 04:26:39 AM »

Sounds like you are a bit muddled on the jargon, so I'll give you some basic info.  There are 4 pieces of equipment used to generate code:

A) Straight key:  The traditional manual key that everyone thinks of when they think of Morse.  Nye Viking Speed-X keys (not the Master keys) are the usual entry point.

B) Paddles and keyer:  These are two paddles mounted back to back, with some sort of outboard circuit (the keyer) between the radio and paddles to automatically generate dots and dashes depending on which paddle is pushed.  Bencher is representative of paddles, although I can't recommend a particular manufacturer one way or the other.  Keyers are made by numerous sources, MFJ being one right off the top of my head.

C) Bugs:  These are between a straight key and paddle/keyer in operation: by using weights they automatically generate dits, but dashes must be made manually--no keyer is required.  Vibroplex is usually the name to be had here, although several smaller manufacturers have made usable models in the past.

For the beginning CW op, usually the best route is get a good straight key and learn it well, and then move up.  Most modern operators go for the paddles and keyer, while the CW "traditionalist" will opt for the bug (with sometimes terrifying results!!)

Posts: 2808

« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2003, 04:12:55 PM »


Paddle choice is largely a matter of taste.  And for starting out, and low to moderate speeds, it hardly matters what you use -- anything with two switches will work fine.

I was in this situation recently.  I decided to start with a set of paddles (I get carpal tunnel syndrome quickly), and I read all the reviews.  My transceiver has a built-in keyer.

I ended up buying a Bencher paddle for about $50 on eBay (they can be had cheaper).  It's certainly good enough for learning.   If I develop a "light fist" -- that is, I don't smash the paddle around on the desktop --  I suspect it will be good enough forever.   I've adjusted it to have moderate (not extremely light) spring tension, and one-thickness-of-paper spacing between contacts.

The unfavorable Bencher reviews seems to be written by people who have heavy hands and/or poor technique.  They bend the contact arms, pull the paddles out of their bearings, are constantly re-adjusting, etc.

The Kent paddles are nice pieces of machinery.   They work for _everyone_ (heavy fist or not), but they've got more moving mass than the Benchers, and they're more expensive and difficult to find used.

A lower-cost alternative to the Kent might be a K8RA paddle -- same idea, a little less expensive.

How big was your bank account? <g>

Posts: 2

« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2004, 12:01:20 AM »

For 20 years or so, a set of Bencher paddles was considered to be as good as you could get or ever need. I wonder what happened to make people think that they had to have "boutique" paddles to send CW. I'm sure they are very nice, worth the money and all that jazz, but a used Bencher for $50.00 will get the job done very nicely. I'd be willing to bet that more CW contacts have been made with Benchers than any other paddle.

Posts: 87

« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2003, 02:23:58 PM »

I would urge you to get a simple straight key and some kind of piezo buzzer or practice oscillator, even before learning the code.  The ability to send will double your learning speed, in all probability.  

It has to do with the role of multiple paths of sensory feedback in the learning process.  Practicing sending will give you a kinetic sense of the code.  Practice sending character groups even before learning them.  Sending is the only case where a visual chart of characters might be helpful.

Another trick for learning it is to not use a keyboard
for your repsonses.  Turn off the monitor and write out your responses in block letters.  If the CD or tape sends a character you don't know, leave it blank and move on to the next.

You need to associate as many senses as possible with what you're hearing.



Posts: 52

« Reply #5 on: December 26, 2003, 04:11:01 AM »

I am going to take my general written test this weekend. I will then devote myself to learning the code.  I was wondering what key I should buy.  I would like one that will last a long time and is easy to adjust and use.  I know absolutely nothing about them.  I have a FT897 as my base radio



Posts: 38

« Reply #6 on: December 26, 2003, 07:50:11 AM »

Check out the Kent TP-1 paddles. I've had mine for
a while and they are built like a tank. Once you
adjust them they are set. You can get them assembled
or in kit form. Alpha Delta handles them here in the
states or you can buy them from AES. I also have a
GHD 507 that I got from which are sweet.
They are a bit higher priced than the Kent but a
precise instrument also. Stay away from the Vibroplex
as their quality has really went down hill. I bought
a new iambic paddle from them and was very unhappy
with the poor workmanship and fit of the parts. I
ended up selling them a couple months later for 1/2
the price I gave for them.
Bottom line is that if you want a well built set of
paddles that will outlast your lifetime, get the
Kent TP-1, you won't be sorry. You can look at the
reviews on them here on Eham.
73 John KG9HV

p.s. If you have deep pockets, look at the Schurr line.

Posts: 672

« Reply #7 on: December 26, 2003, 03:45:49 PM »

Take a look at some of the stuff we have all said about our keying devices...  That's no 'put off'... just a pretty good idea...
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