Iambic keying vs. single-lever paddle

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David E. Greer:
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

Luke Rainville:
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.

Wayne L. Smith:

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!


Happy CW!


Charles P. Cohen:
>>> 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>


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...




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