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Author Topic: Newbie to Hamfest  (Read 3378 times)
KA3ZKE
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Posts: 5




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« on: February 04, 2012, 03:46:42 PM »

Hi all. I got my novice license way back in high school (early 90s), and upgraded much later when the code reqs were no longer in effect.  Though I upgraded, I haven't been 'active' in the hobby for years.  I'm hoping to change that in the coming months.

I've always wanted to really learn CW and get into QRP.  I've started working on the LCWO site, bought a QRP rig (an FT817), and I'm looking forward to eventually getting OTA. 

I'm heading to a local hamfest in a week and driving to the nearest HRO that afternoon.  So, I'm hoping to pickup my first CW key while we're out and about.

As a total noob to CW, I'm pretty much lost re: what I should get... So, I thought I'd throw a couple questions out to all of you for a little elmering:

>> Should I look for a straight key or an iambic key?

>> Since I'm on a pretty restrictive budget, are there any brands or 'models' I should keep an eye out for (either because they're reasonably priced or apt to be a good value)?

>> Anyone care to suggest a price figure I should look to, or expect to, spend?


Tnx.  73/72,      Brian
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2012, 07:09:39 PM »

The 817 has a built in electronic keyer, so all you need is a paddle.

Choices abound, but I have three Bencher BY-1 paddles for decades and they work just fine.  For those with a "heavy hand," a more robust paddle might be a better choice; but I use a very light touch (barely touch the paddles, maybe 1-2 oz. of pressure) and for that the Benchers work very well.  I haven't adjusted any of them since the 1980s, and use them every day.

They're in the $80 or so price range (I think).



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AA4N
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Posts: 110




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« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2012, 09:22:00 PM »

Hi Brian,  it's great to hear that you are taking up the manly art of telegraphy!  As to which key to buy, it's really not that critical.  Almost any key will do just fine for slow speed code.  Except maybe a bug, I would stay away from them as a starter key.

Paddles or straight key, J38 or Begali Sculpture.  Don't worry about picking the wrong one.  If you enjoy CW and stay with it, you will wind up with a collection of them in short order.

I chose a straight key to start with.  A J-38 to be precise.  Still love the old Bakelite wonder, but it's currently stowed in my QRP go-kit for portable ops.

The only advice that leaps to mind would be, heavy is good.  Heavier is better.  Really heavy is best  Smiley

Good luck and 73

Mike AA4N
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K7MH
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Posts: 339




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« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2012, 09:59:53 PM »

Quote
Don't worry about picking the wrong one.  If you enjoy CW and stay with it, you will wind up with a collection of them in short order.
Yup there is a lot of truth in that one!
Everyone likes something different in code keys it seems and many end up with several. I have 5 of them and am always watching for another.

I would just be sure to get one that is in good condition to start with, not something that needs a bunch of cleanup, restoration or has missing parts unless you are sure you are up to it. Keep it affordable, they don't have to be real expensive (when new) to work well for you.
You can start with whatever type, hand key, dual lever iambic, or single lever paddle but a hand key or single lever key I think would be the easiest to learn with when starting out. An iambic key isn't probably all that much more difficult. Historically most probably started with a hand key. I did and went to a single lever paddle at around 15 wpm or so. I primarily use a dual paddle iambic key these days.
The Bencher Steve mentioned is easy to find used and not too expensive when you do.
I would stay away from bugs to get started with.
I would also stay away from the hand key that has the ball bearings in the lever pivots. Too easy to lose a bearing if it gets loose and they are not a great key anyway.
Often at hamfests people have keys hooked up to code oscillators or an electronic keyer so you can play with them a little.

Look around in searches for Morse code keys and get a little more familiar with prices, styles etc.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2012, 10:04:54 PM by K7MH » Logged
2E0OZI
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Posts: 270




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« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2012, 12:17:37 AM »

Morse Code and CW - the coolest thing in 2012 in ham radio  Grin

How are you getting on with LCWO Brian? I tried it for the first time last night and have decided I need another week or so on simple character recognition on the very simple program I started with 2 weeks ago. Also tried G4FON, which requires writing the characters down, which I suppose I will have to do anyway.

I have read the Art and Science of Telegrapghy quite a bit and all I can say as we live in a very lucky time if you wish to learn CW, due to the widespead use of personal computers.
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Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness.
George Orwell
PA0BLAH
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Posts: 0




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« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2012, 06:53:15 AM »

Brian,

Don't waste your time and money.

Your whole story demonstrates that you are the type of guy that will never learn CW.

The point is: You can't buy CW proficiency.
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KB3TXH
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Posts: 44




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« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2012, 07:54:46 AM »

Welcome back Brian, and I sure hope to hear you 40 meters.
I am a recent come-back also, and am always looking
for someone sending code slowly. My top speed is maybe 12wpm.

I just went to a hamfest last week, and I saw a dozen or so off brand,
keys in the style of a J38 key. They averaged around $30 or so, but I think that is too much
for an older, non military-spec key. I would spend more,and get a real J-38.
Or, buy a brand new J-38 style, the "Nye Key" for $60-$70 plus shipping. I did, and it's a fine key,
that will last me a lifetime.

I've got 4 straight keys now, and still looking. So it doesn't matter too much what you start with, unless it's a piece of cheap tin, just get started.


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KA3ZKE
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Posts: 5




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« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2012, 08:03:36 AM »

PA0BLAH, thanks for your inspiring and well-written response.  It warms my heart to get such encouragement from a fellow ham!  I look forward to hearing you QRQing me on the air... What a joy that will be for us, eh?  Smiley

2E0OZI:  I'm doing ok with it... The hardest thing for me, I think, is that I was a professional musician.  In my head, I keep trying to anticipate the sequence (based on rhythm) and, when things don't go like I 'expect', I'm several characters behind before I can recover.

I'm getting better, though, and I think that website is a *great* tool.  Like you, I'm thankful for all these great resources.  I wish I could use the G4FON software, but it won't run on my computer...

I did try CW back when I got my novice ticket... But, it was really frustrating.  Hoping to get a little better before getting on the air again.  

KB3TXH:  Roger that!  I'll look forward to seeing you on the bands.  I 'feel' like I'd like an iambic to start, but it seems like quality in that field might be out of my price range.  I'll be on the lookout this next weekend.

Thanks everyone for the replies...
« Last Edit: February 05, 2012, 08:09:19 AM by KA3ZKE » Logged
N5XM
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Posts: 242




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« Reply #8 on: February 05, 2012, 10:18:11 AM »

In my mind it's best to start off wth a straight key.  Why do I feel that way?  It forces you to make the characters properly or else you sound like dog doo-doo.  Work hard to have good spacing between characters and between words.  1 space between characters and 3 spaces between words.  It will sound  funny at first, but as you gain speed and control you will understand.  Work on it every day and be patient and persistent.  It takes time to get good at anything.  Welcome back!
« Last Edit: February 05, 2012, 10:19:53 AM by N5XM » Logged
K5BJS
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Posts: 50




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« Reply #9 on: February 05, 2012, 04:27:10 PM »

Quote
Welcome back Brian, and I sure hope to hear you 40 meters.
I am a recent come-back also, and am always looking
for someone sending code slowly.

Getting back into amateur radio myself.  Own a house in a "no external antennas" neighborhood, so I'm learning CW and experimenting with an indoor magnetic loop on 40 meters.  Wink  Hope to hear you both on 7.114 some evening!

http://www.skccgroup.com/opfreq.php
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WA7RBC
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« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2012, 08:02:41 PM »

Hi Brian and welcome back to Amateur Radio!  

I used an Ameco K-4R when I started CW, and it was fine for a $25 key.  It's also sold by HRO.  One key HRO doesn't sell, and mentioned by a few others here, is the Nye Speed-x.  With a base plate, the key is about $100.  I used one of these also (the version with a rectangular base) and it's a very good key.  You can get the Speed-x here:  http://www.morsex.com/nye/index.htm

This site sells allot of other brands as well.

Of course you may find something irresistible at the hamfest, but it will help knowing what's available new.

Good luck and hope to hear you on the band!  73,  Ron.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2012, 07:38:35 PM by WA7RBC » Logged
K8AXW
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Posts: 3837




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« Reply #11 on: February 06, 2012, 07:28:15 AM »

Brian:  The first thing you must realize and it appears you do, is that some you will encounter here on eHam.com are plain and simple AHs!  While it's easy to let them get to you, please resist, ignore and go on.

Second: Welcome back and I wish  you the best.

Third:
Quote
I just went to a hamfest last week, and I saw a dozen or so off brand,
keys in the style of a J38 key.
  This is good advice.  While I would prefer the old J-38 as my first straight key, the el cheapo replicas will work quite well.  Especially starting out.

Look through the tables for used keys first (This is the REAL fun of a hamfest!) and then the vendors selling the off brand J-38 style keys.  I would hesitate to spend more than $30.00 for my first straight key.  Preferably less.

BTW Brian, I've been working (both buying and selling) hamfests for 50+ years.  I've found that a shopping list is a must.  I then make a relatively fast trip through the tailgaters looking for the items on the shopping list.  I then spend the rest of my stay there making repeated rounds just looking for items that I might need one day, especially if they're a scarce item.  If you run across something that you might want but don't especially need, wait until later in the hamfest to make an offer for the item. 

Most guys want to unload as much as possible before heading home and will be in a negotiating mood.  I ALWAYS try to negotiate a lower price being careful not to make an offer that is insulting .  Be reasonable and be nice and act like every nickle you spend is painful.   Grin

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KB1TXK
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Posts: 441


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« Reply #12 on: February 06, 2012, 07:37:40 AM »

Brian,

Don't waste your time and money.

Your whole story demonstrates that you are the type of guy that will never learn CW.

The point is: You can't buy CW proficiency.

Says the lady hiding behind a fake call Smiley
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PA0KDW
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Posts: 25




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« Reply #13 on: February 07, 2012, 04:14:46 AM »

Brian,

Don't waste your time and money.

Your whole story demonstrates that you are the type of guy that will never learn CW.

The point is: You can't buy CW proficiency.

Says the lady hiding behind a fake call Smiley

O boy, you as no code appliance operator, collecting qsl's like my 4 years old grand-grandson collects stamps, can learn a lot of AH8DX

He wrote this weekend on www.rufzxp.net the following remarkable words, that you will have  already forgotten tonight:

[AH8DX] 04/02/2012
Just two years ago, I made my first Rufz attempt and could barely copy 30wpm. I would have never thought that copying @ 500wpm was even possible back then. If you ever want to succeed at anything, have someone tell you that you will NEVER do it or that you will FAIL; then go to work and dig deep down within to find the willpower to succeed. I look forward to the competition @ HST 2012 in Switzerland this year.

This are the kind of characters your country needs, not the phone hams planning to learn CW, congratulations fantastic that you will start, we celebrate that, did you already buy a ridiculous expensive key?. buying their antenna's and rigs, and even need a "kit" in order to connect their computer with those JAPANESE products.

Frans
« Last Edit: February 07, 2012, 04:20:20 AM by PA0KDW » Logged
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