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Author Topic: Iambic keying vs. single-lever paddle  (Read 3860 times)
N4KZ
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Posts: 598




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« on: December 03, 2009, 11:47:06 AM »

I've operated CW for a little more than 40 years. I've used a J-38 straight key, Vibroplex bug, and a number of iambic paddles, including a Brown Brothers, Bencher, Begali Simplex and lately a CW Touch-Paddle that has no moving parts. All worked well and each method of sending had its pros and cons, of course.

But I must admit that in all those years, I don't think I ever fully mastered iambic keying, so-called squeeze keying. Oh, I got the C and Q down pat, as well as R and Y using iambic keying. But the F and L have always given me fits and with iambic keying I have never found perfection in sending. Oh, I was good for 15 or 20 minutes but errors would begin to creep into my sending after that. An extra dit here or there. Guess I'm too much of a perfectionist to accept even those occasional mistakes.

Then I began reading about using single-lever paddles. No squeezing involved. Just press the paddle one way for dits and the other way for dahs. Some ops swear it gave them more accurate sending with fewer mistakes. I was intrigued but was hesitant to shell out a minimum of $100 for a commercially made single-lever paddle. Then I Googled homebrew single-lever paddles and found some design plans for building one.

I hit Lowe's on my day off and bought a block of wood, some L brackets and screws and a cheap hacksaw blade. Less than $10 worth of parts. An hour later, I had myself a single-lever paddle that, once I had the spacing adjusted properly, felt good and sounded good. And, you know, either I'm sending more accurate CW or there is one heck of a placebo effect going on here. I had to practice a bit to unlearn the iambic habit for sending CQ but that was easy. I love using a keyer WITHOUT squeeze keying. I should have done this years ago. I feel more in control of the keyer and find the non-iambic motion more natural than squeezing my fingers. I wonder just how many CW ops really use iambic keying to its fullest advantage? And how many only send a few letters by squeezing and then slap the paddle the rest of the time?

I might eventually buy a fancy single-lever paddle. Several different ones are available these days. That seems to be something new because I don't remember them being around a few years back. Or I might just continue perfecting a homebrew paddle. It won't look nearly as good as the commercially made ones but my first experience at building one has given me the confidence that it can be done and that they can work surprisingly well.

So, who likes iambic and who likes the non-squeeze method of sending? Just wondering.

73, Dave, N4KZ
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K6LO
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Posts: 226




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« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2009, 12:48:59 PM »

Your experience has me thinking.  I've used a variety of paddles, currently Bencher and a Schur Profi, but have also taken very little iambic advantage. Same thing: the rare R or C. I send CW with lots of hand movement, so it just does not feel right to me. For fun I am going to try a single lever next.
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K9MRD
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Posts: 331




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« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2009, 03:33:45 PM »

Dave,

I am 51 year CW operator and have tried most of the keys/keyers over the years. I never liked the Iambic style and quickly returned to a single lever key years ago. Read this article about the Iambic Myth....it made me feel better about my decision!

http://www.morsex.com/pubs/iambicmyth.pdf

Happy CW!

Wayne
K9mrd
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VA7CPC
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Posts: 2386




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« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2009, 04:35:43 PM »

>>> I hit Lowe's on my day off and bought a block of wood, some L brackets and screws and a cheap hacksaw blade.
<<<

And just imagine how good you'd sound with an _expensive_ hacksaw blade!<g>

There have been single-lever paddles since the beginning of paddles.  Autronic (still shows up on eBay, and quite nice), W8FYO (and its derivative, the Bencher SP-1), El-key (occasionally on eBay), are examples from the 1960's.

You don't have to buy a Begali to get something "commercial".  But you might not want to . . .
 
What you've made has no detented center position; the commercial single paddles generally _do_ have detented center positions.   This choice is very much a matter of taste.  

I think, if you search YouTube, you'll find a video of a European high-speed sending champ, using his hacksaw-based paddle at 50 wpm or so.

Not much money, lots of ingenuity -- that's ham radio.<g>

            Charles
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N7DM
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Posts: 671




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« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2009, 04:52:56 PM »

A couple decades ago, when I was trying to do CW Mobile [in my old '66 Pontiac, with a bench seat and my Corsair bolted to ' the hump'], OT 'Dick' W6OV told me to give Iambic a whirl, 'Much less hand action'.  Sure enough, he was right. My change from a Bug to Iambic remains the single hardest thing I ever tried to do. I say 'try', 'cuz even though I've become completely comfortable with Those Seven Letters, so much as *ONE* beer and my timing goes to blazes and I generate 'air polution'. No, I never developed The Squeeze, and I set my Bencher contacts with a feeler gauge, but the 'rolling squeeze' that I do use for Those Seven ***REALLY*** makes MY sending a pleasure. Since I'm a true OT now, and most of my 'Chew pals are SK, I don't get the practice I used to, and my 'good' fist at 35 is now 'OK' at 30.  I love Iambic and think it is THE way for hand sent CW. But, as hard as it was for me... who really wanted to do it... I can understand the sell is increasingly hard. But, for me, The Only Way To Go...

73

dm
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N4KZ
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Posts: 598




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« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2009, 05:25:18 AM »

I appreciate the responses to my post and the insight you guys have shared. I'm down to one last iambic paddle. I recently sold off my Bencher and Begali paddles. In fact, the Begali went to W3LPL so you're probably going to be hearing it during contests for the next few years. I'm sure it will be happier in the hands of some ace operators who have mastered the fine art of squeeze keying. In the meantime, I will probably buy a commercially made single-lever paddle. Got a few different ones on my radar screen. I wish there was some way to try out different ones before buying but that's pie-in-the-sky which probably explains why so many guys have so many different paddles. They apparently keep buying different ones until they find one they really like. Hey, that's what I've done too and my search process still continues after all these years. I do wish I was more of a mechanically inclined person with the equipment and skills to build an attractive single-lever paddle. Although my $10 Lowe's homemade hacksaw blade paddle works well, its appearance would send normal CW operators screening through the streets holding their hands over their eyes.  

73, Dave, N4KZ
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K9MRD
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Posts: 331




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« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2009, 11:21:45 AM »

Dave,
I used a modified Bug as a single lever key for several years when I was going to school and short on cash. I just rewired for 3-wire service, removed the weight and adjusted the contacts so that there was no bounce for dits. Worked just fine.
Wayne
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KE4ILG
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Posts: 150




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« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2009, 05:56:53 PM »

I've been using a bencher dual paddle for years and decided to try a single lever.  I bought a vibroplex vibrokeyer.  It seemed to work well but after a few months I've gone back to the bencher.  It might be that I'm not able to adjust the vibrokeyer correctly but I do like the bencher better.  I don't use the iambic style of sending with the bencher so I thought a single lever might even be faster.  As far a speed is concerned I set the internal keyer at 18 wpm and send at about a 15 wpm rate.  The used vibrokeyers are sold at a reasonable price, comparable to the plain jane model bencher used so its not much to try it out.  The good news is  you can turn around and resell it and not lose much or perhaps have any lose at all.  

In fact mine might be up for sale soon.  I still want to work a few more qso's with the bencher before I get rid of it.
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K7ABV
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« Reply #8 on: December 04, 2009, 10:00:31 PM »

I grrew up with single lever paddles, and still have the first one, a vibroplex keyer paddle, I also have the Bencher, a Begali and a GHD..I really like the GHD, and after 52 years of cw using the single lever paddles, am not really interested in the iambic...tried it and went back to the single lever which I feel very happy with..end of story hi
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N7FE
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Posts: 24




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« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2009, 08:31:06 PM »

"Got a few different ones on my radar screen."

So, what is your list?

Steven
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W9OY
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« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2009, 08:28:52 AM »

There is no list  Just buy a N3ZN single lever and be done with it.  I already did the experiment for you.  The next best choice is Kent or if you know how to set it up Vibroplex then Begali and last is Bencher.

After I got the N3ZN I stopped looking

73  W9OY
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K4AHO
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« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2009, 08:31:29 AM »

It's funny. I have addressed this same question myself...I use a Bencher, not because it is a Iambic paddle but because I like the lightweight action. Using two separate levers to send none Iambic CW to me is less work...   The lever travel is less than a single paddle.  I bought a single lever Kent thinking it would be easier but after a few weeks I switched back to the Bencher. What is more important to me is the spacing between the paddles. My dual lever Kent is too far apart.(0.832"), the standard bencher is 0.713", My modified Bencher is 0.475" and I consider this the minimum comfortable paddle separation. Same situation with straight keys, critical distance is knob height.

I use other paddles, Palm Radio for portable QRP and a American Morse Portapaddle in the truck and like them both but the modified Bencher is still my favorite...

It is always a choice to use or not use the Iambic feature..   I don't and don't miss it...   I will never be fast enough for it to make a difference.
 
Accuracy transcends Speed!!

73

Jim
K4AHO
SKCC 1235T, Fist 13566, CC 2049
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N4OI
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Posts: 208




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« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2009, 03:23:01 AM »

I have been a ham about seven years now and love CW mode. I taught myself to send by using a paddle and the rig's keyer straightaway. I found it to be very natural, but I was always banging the paddle around such that it was scooting across the desk. As I continued to progress, I made an effort to use more of the iambic functions -- as a result, much of the drama (and scooting) is gone. I enjoy ragchewing at speeds of up to 25 wpm or more and find the ability to gently insert a dit or dah in the middle of a character very elegant. And I don't understand why people would go through all the calisthenics required to send common combinations like "CQ" any other way but iambic! Of course, I don't even think about the iambic part when sending anymore, but I notice that if I ever try "iambic-a" instead of "iambic-b", my fist gets totally lost  -- something complex must be going on in the brain to hand interface! So... relax, enjoy and give your fist a rest with iambic sending -- it's great!
73 de Ken - N4OI
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N4KZ
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Posts: 598




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« Reply #13 on: December 11, 2009, 11:15:58 AM »

I've ordered a Kent SP-1. It should arrive next week. It might or might not be the ultimate single-lever paddle but seems to be a respectable product. I wanted to start with something modestly priced since I have no real opportunity to try it or any other single-lever paddle before purchase. (Other than my super-crude hacksaw blade paddle which I made. BTW, I love its feel but it looks crummy.) But if I like the Kent, I will be eager to try some more paddles in May at Dayton. I might find one I like better or perhaps decide the Kent is just fine long-term. The trouble at Dayton is that you can't really test a paddle out because you have to stand while sending and there are always so many others crowding around that I would feel very guilty standing there sending for 15 or 20 minutes while other attendees are chomping at the bit to get their turn too.

I'm impressed with the N3ZN paddles. At least their appearance and eHam testimonials seem excellent. That one could very well be on my radar screen down the road. Speaking of different paddles, did I miss something about K8RA? His web site looks great and still functions A-OK but a Google search found a notification posted on some other sites that said he had suspended paddle production at this time. Is that correct? I sure don't want to be spreading inaccurate information about his business but I had a question about its status. Anyone know?

73, Dave, N4KZ
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N4KZ
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Posts: 598




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« Reply #14 on: December 11, 2009, 11:19:27 AM »

I've ordered a Kent SP-1. It should arrive next week. It might or might not be the ultimate single-lever paddle but seems to be a respectable product. I wanted to start with something modestly priced since I have no real opportunity to try it or any other single-lever paddle before purchase. (Other than my super-crude hacksaw blade paddle which I made. BTW, I love its feel but it looks crummy.) But if I like the Kent, I will be eager to try some more paddles in May at Dayton. I might find one I like better or perhaps decide the Kent is just fine long-term. The trouble at Dayton is that you can't really test a paddle out because you have to stand while sending and there are always so many others crowding around that I would feel very guilty standing there sending for 15 or 20 minutes while other attendees are chomping at the bit to get their turn too.

I'm impressed with the N3ZN paddles. At least their appearance and eHam testimonials seem excellent. That one could very well be on my radar screen down the road. Speaking of different paddles, did I miss something about K8RA? His web site looks great and still functions A-OK but a Google search found a notification posted on some other sites that said he had suspended paddle production at this time. Is that correct? I sure don't want to be spreading inaccurate information about his business but I had a question about its status. Anyone know?

73, Dave, N4KZ
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