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Author Topic: CW Spacing  (Read 13411 times)
KM5PS
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« on: November 30, 2013, 04:16:05 PM »

This could end up being a long but hopefully good topic. 
I would like any suggestions on how to improve my CW sending.  First off it probably is just on air practice.  I have done  some recording and have noticed that my sending is run together some.  I have had some people tell me that my sending is choppy or machine gun.  I have noticed it myself some while sending during QSO's and usually think  it's because I still get a little nervous when qso'ing and try to watch my spacing more.  You would think that after about  15 years of CW only, it would go away.  But I have only gotten more comfortable in my CW skills in the last couple of years.  I usually qso around 22-25 wpm.  I like a lot of people, contest faster than that, but can't copy good or well enough at those speeds very long.  I am still learning to copy in my head.  Anyway back to the subject..  I will some times find a book or email or something and just practice sending at 22-25 wpm or faster just to try to get comfortable at sending at those speeds.   I'm sure that I'm not the only one out there and maybe this thread will help other people too, who read this and the responses that might be given.  I am always trying to improve my code skills, I listen to QRQ qso's and watch some on youtube and wish I was at that point already, but for now can only try to push myself to get there.  So any suggestions would be great!!

For those of you who I have QSO'd with sorry for my sending at times HI HI!!
73's
John
KM5PS
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VA7CPC
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« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2013, 09:33:44 PM »

Quote
. . .   I will some times find a book or email or something and just practice sending at 22-25 wpm or faster just to try to get comfortable at sending at those speeds.  . . .

Three thoughts, FWIW (because you can read, and send, faster than I can):

1.  What are you doing for "quality control" ?   What makes you think your practice sending has correct spacing?  Are you just practicing the same mistakes, over and over ?

. . . Get a computer-based CW decoder, and practice sending so that _it_ can read your characters and spacing.

When a computer can read you, you've got a good fist.

2) If you're not using a paddle or a bug, start to use one or the other.

3) If you're using a paddle,  get a keyer with "auto-word-spacing".  The Logitec keyers, and the K1EL WinKeyer, have this option.   It's likely to clean-up your spacing:

. . . when it's turned on, and your spacing is uneven, "auto-word-space" will make it _very_ uneven, and you'll learn to fix it.

.       Charles


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K7MEM
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« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2013, 06:35:53 AM »

I will some times find a book or email or something and just practice sending at 22-25 wpm or faster just to try to get comfortable at sending at those speeds.

If practicing at 22-25 WPM gives you trouble you may be trying to send too fast. Try slowing down a little bit to see if your spacing improves. Then increase your speed in small steps and see where the timing gets bad. Like VA7CPC suggested, try using a code copying program and see if it can follow you. If your spacing is bad all you will get is gibberish. Then try a different key. It could be you have reached the limits of your key. I personally use an old Heathkit HD-1410 Iambic keyer and a old Vibroplex bug (1916). But I have them adjusted for a relatively slow speed because I like to hang around the old novice bands.
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Martin - K7MEM

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KM5PS
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« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2013, 07:17:09 AM »

Thanks for the suggestions.  When I practice I will usually look at my K3 screen to see how well it is copying me and it does a pretty good.  That is how I can sometimes tell when my spacing is getting bad if the K3 will not copy me very well.  I will look aground for some cw programs to try.  I usually use here Morse Runner and RufzXP for practice for contest and callsigns.  I know that it does not allow you to send back to it.  What programs do allow you to send back to them and will run on Win7 32 bit? 

John
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K7MEM
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« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2013, 09:28:15 AM »

You might want to try CWlab or EhoCW. I run them on a Windows 7, 64 bit laptop. They should run on a 32 bit system just fine. I really like EhoCW because you can tie a straight key or paddles directly to it, through a serial port. I use a USB to Serial Port converter cable for the interface. I can't try it right now by I will test it later to see if it might suit your needs.

Martin - K7MEM

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Martin - K7MEM

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GW3OQK
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« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2013, 04:07:17 AM »

John
How about off-air practice instead, and 18-20 wpm until you sound perfect to ourself. Then go on air at that speed. For me its a pleasure to hear perfect morse at any speed rather than poor morse generally at speeds too fast for the operator. Here's some good morse http://www.smrcc.org.uk/Morse/morse.htm which texts I have used to test my error-free sending speed.
Hope to work you one day
Andrew
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ZL1BBW
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« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2013, 10:07:22 AM »

Its a shame there not still inkers around, they used to show up sending mistakes very well.  My advice would be slow down, a genuine 25 is rattling along, especially on a hand key.

Many years ago when being interviewed for a job at the GPO Radio station I had to do a sending test, what speed? what ever you feel comfortable at, a nice steady 18 - 20 was what I sent at, no problems

Too many people are rip n bust merchants and rely on intuitive receiving, that is not the name of the game, you must be able to receive exactly what is sent, letter/character exactly as sent should be received.

I do not know if the decoding programs can be set up real tight, but if they can do that.

We used to test on inkers and then measure every dot dash for length and spacing, if you were sending at 20, then they all had to be the same, no ifs.
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ex MN Radio Officer, Portishead Radio GKA, BT Radio Amateur Morse Tester.  Licensed as G3YCP ZL1DAB, now taken over my father (sk) call as ZL1BBW.
ZL1BBW
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« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2013, 06:11:05 PM »

This is a long shot, but wouldnt it be nice if a morse decoder  also actually displayed so you could print it out, the actual length of each unique item in the morse character, then you could check out your ratio and inter character spacing, if using a hand key.

that way could print out the page keep it for reference and see if you have improved.

I am sure my old morse teacher at radio college would have strangled some people with the inker tape with some signals now.
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ex MN Radio Officer, Portishead Radio GKA, BT Radio Amateur Morse Tester.  Licensed as G3YCP ZL1DAB, now taken over my father (sk) call as ZL1BBW.
K5TEN
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« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2013, 06:57:31 PM »

There was an excellent article in CQ in the early 80's about hard and fast (almost mathmatical) spacing between letters and between words.  I wish I still had my copy as over the years many folks have asked this question.

I can't tell you how many Ops I hear that are sending 20+ wpm and their spacing between words and between letters is so insanely short that all the letters, numbers, prosigns run into each other.  It's not even worth replying to their CQ or reply.

The article stressed making at LEAST the space of a dit or two between letters and at least a double dah between words.  Regardless of speed.  I always try to so that and just a shade more depending on the other Op's experience.  I am NOT a speed demon and strive more on accuracy and ease of copy over speed any day.  Not all people feel that way and I may be in the minority.
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ZL1BBW
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« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2013, 07:06:20 PM »

There was an excellent article in CQ in the early 80's about hard and fast (almost mathmatical) spacing between letters and between words.  I wish I still had my copy as over the years many folks have asked this question.

I can't tell you how many Ops I hear that are sending 20+ wpm and their spacing between words and between letters is so insanely short that all the letters, numbers, prosigns run into each other.  It's not even worth replying to their CQ or reply.

The article stressed making at LEAST the space of a dit or two between letters and at least a double dah between words.  Regardless of speed.  I always try to so that and just a shade more depending on the other Op's experience.  I am NOT a speed demon and strive more on accuracy and ease of copy over speed any day.  Not all people feel that way and I may be in the minority.

Absolutely right, when I was morse testing for British telecom, sometimes you wonder if the person was just having a bit of bad run, and I would get them to send TEST, this would sometimes come out as TEST other times as NST or even NV, they would go away and come back another day.
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ex MN Radio Officer, Portishead Radio GKA, BT Radio Amateur Morse Tester.  Licensed as G3YCP ZL1DAB, now taken over my father (sk) call as ZL1BBW.
KH2G
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« Reply #10 on: December 02, 2013, 10:53:21 PM »

I believe that as your copy speed comes up, your sending speed will become cleaner at whatever the rate simply because you'll hear and know it is wrong. Sending to a copy program is not a bad way to go to find out if your decent as most machines don't do well if the characters are not pretty darned good.  Off air practice sending such things as the QST magazine articles is great practice as you'll have plenty of all characters.
Regards and enjoy -
Oh BTW, I used to set my bug dits by adjusting the spring tension, spacing etc until an analog meter set on the contacts would hood mid-scale and that seemed to do well enough for the "ships at sea"   Smiley
Dick KH2G
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KB1WSY
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« Reply #11 on: December 03, 2013, 02:45:51 AM »

Its a shame there not still inkers around, they used to show up sending mistakes very well.  My advice would be slow down, a genuine 25 is rattling along, especially on a hand key.

A few months ago I found my old Meccano (US = Erector Set) Electrikit in my mother's basement. I bought it with my pocket money in the 1960s and one of the things you can build is ... a Morse inker! The Electrikit is missing a few parts but it looks like I'll be able to build this as soon as I can bring the Electrikit back to the shack (it's on the other side of the Atlantic). Here's the picture from the manual:



One challenge will be finding a new roll of paper. It's like cash-register paper but much narrower. The one that's with the kit has rotted into uselessness.

It will also have to be altered to replace the hand crank with a geared electric motor. I have the parts for that, too, and I remember making such a modification back in the '60s. I actually built two of these back then, and was able to conduct "wired" conversations with a buddy! (Note the key on the left-hand side, and the "transmit-receive" switch in the middle.)

If you look in the middle you will find the "active element" from a ball-point pen. A couple of electromagnets are used to actuate the "print arm." Another two electromagnets ring the "get ready to receive a signal" bell on the back.

BTW the Electrikit that I have is the French model, marketed there as "Meccano Elec" but basically identical to the British version. The manual was missing but I managed to find one on eBay.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2013, 02:48:41 AM by KB1WSY » Logged
K7MEM
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« Reply #12 on: December 03, 2013, 04:01:24 AM »

I'm not sure that building a Morse Inker would be the solution, but there are easier ways to see what your sending.

Most CW receiving programs have a scope display where you can watch the in coming CW on the screen. Just wire the output of your code practice oscillator to the audio input of your PC. But with fast code, it may be a issue seeing much of anything.

You could also just record you sending in a ".wav" or ".mp3" file and then view it with a sound editor. I have a application by Roxio for copying old VHS tapes to DVD ($35). Part of that software is a sound editor that lets me open any audio file and view it. Below is a clip from my sound editor. It is a string of Vs from the start of a simulated QSO at 21 WPM. You can see the spacing very clearly.

http://www.k7mem.com/manuals/CW_Spacing.jpg

It is possible, with this sound editor, to zoom in and see each individual audio cycle or the turn-on/turn-off shape of the CW. If you ever wondered why your code oscillator sounds mushy or something.

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Martin - K7MEM

http://www.k7mem.com
ZL1BBW
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« Reply #13 on: December 03, 2013, 11:12:11 AM »

K7MEM  Thanks for posting that, a very good illustration.  I just printed it out and the dots are 2mm, the inter dot spacing is correct at 2mm but the dash measures 7mm so that dash is 3.5 times a dot, not 3 as it should be.

How did you send this?

Hope you dont think I am being picky, but this is how we were checked.

Regards Gavin
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ex MN Radio Officer, Portishead Radio GKA, BT Radio Amateur Morse Tester.  Licensed as G3YCP ZL1DAB, now taken over my father (sk) call as ZL1BBW.
N6EV
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« Reply #14 on: December 04, 2013, 12:33:46 AM »

This is a long shot, but wouldnt it be nice if a morse decoder  also actually displayed so you could print it out, the actual length of each unique item in the morse character, then you could check out your ratio and inter character spacing, if using a hand key.

Actually, there is such a program out there!  It's called "Precision CW FistCheck" by DJ7HS.  It has a decode function, but the real purpose is to show your element and space timing graphically.  It includes standard timing hash marks to show proper spacing for an entered target WPM value for comparison.   It can be downloaded here:  http://www.qsl.net/dj7hs/download.htm

Here's a screen capture of the program after I sent a bit of straight key code.  It shows the last letter decoded in my call.


32 years ago my code Elmer instilled in me the need to "send the spaces too".  In other words, the timing of spaces is just as important as the timing of dits and dahs.

Hope you find this helpful.

73
Paul  N6EV
CWOps / FISTS / SKCC / Code Elmer
http://www.N6EV.com/

Elmer Chat / Sked Page:  http://www.obriensweb.com/sked/index.php?board=elmer
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