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Author Topic: straight keys  (Read 3325 times)

Posts: 2101

« Reply #15 on: January 26, 2010, 10:29:20 AM »

Thanks for the response.  My Ten Tec Argonaut V has a built-in keyer...  what exactly does that mean?  I only need a SPDT switch and off I go???

sorry if these are dumb questions ... it has been a long absence.

back when I got my Advanced I was ready for Extra except for the 20wpm.  When I was 15 (1977) studying for such multiple chocie tests seemed easy and I read the study guides a lot.  I could probably pass the 20 wpm part now because copying code seems like riding a bike.  I do seem to forget the wrist action though and my forearm gets quite tired with my japanese straight key...

How much harder is the Extra than the Advanced exam?  any chance those old study guides are online and free these days?

Posts: 1146

« Reply #16 on: January 26, 2010, 10:44:15 AM »

Your built-in keyer is will do just nicely.  All you need is a paddle or an iambic paddle.  Iambic paddles work like regular paddles except that you can squeeze the paddles together to make a dot-dash or dash-dot repetition.  I have iambic paddles but I have never gotten used to iambic mode so I do not use it.

Paddles work like mechanical bugs in that one direction is dots and the other is dashes except that for an electronic keyer the dots and dashes are spaced according to the speed you have set for the keyer.  With a mechanical paddle the dashes are totally manual under the operator's control while dots are controlled by the vibrating reed or whatever method is used.

As far as the written tests, I have never taken an advanced test but I am willing to bet that today's Extra class is easier then the advanced of yesterday.  Eham has some very nice ham exams for your own self-test.  Also, the ARRL Extra Class book is pretty good as long as you get the detailed one that has chapters discussing the technical details.

Posts: 550


« Reply #17 on: January 26, 2010, 10:48:41 AM »

I'm guessing you may be using poor technique, or have the tension or
spacing set incorrectly, which is causing fatigue.

For many years, I've used the common cheap Japanese ball bearing
key, which is now sold as the Ameco K4 (I bought mine 34 years ago at
Radio Shack). It's really not a bad key at all, if adjusted carefully.

If you have the Ameco type key with a plastic base (now the Ameco K1),
then you probably do need a new key.

For some guidance on properly adjusting a straight key, pls look here:

Scott W5ESE

Posts: 820

« Reply #18 on: January 26, 2010, 12:00:01 PM »

Here is an idea that may work for you. Take your straight key and tip it up on its edge at about a 45 degree angle and see if your arm and wrist are more relaxed when you use more of a sideways motion rather than a vertical motion.

Build yourself a holder that will keep the key at an angle that suits you the best. How you hold it down without sliding is up to you. Weight it, stick it, Velcro it, or what ever. Or if you copy in your head, just hold it and tap away.

I use a J-37 with the Mae West base, perfect for hand holding. Who ever said they like the J-37 best is right on. That torsion leaf spring is miles ahead of the coil spring on the J-38 type keys.


Posts: 4

« Reply #19 on: January 26, 2010, 01:19:38 PM »

Rob, you could always contact some of the local hams to see if you could try what they are using for CW before you buy.  I did a quick check of your zip code on and found 13 hams in that zip code.  If there is a local club or ham store near there you may be able to check out some more CW gear before you buy.  

Al, n7ioh

Posts: 2101

« Reply #20 on: January 26, 2010, 03:22:38 PM »

wow, that is a great link on how to adjust a key, keyer, and/or bug!  thanks

Now, I am thinking it may have been the EOS syndrome (equipment superior to operator) hihi.  My ball bearing japanese model might be alright, BUT i already sent a check for a used rectangular Speed-X and was thinking of buying a J-38 (or J-37) to see what fit me best.

Now, I'll probably keep the EF Johnson Speed-X (once it arrives) as my go-to key and the Japanese version J-38 as a back-up...

I may try to get in touch with a local ham to try a keyer at some point, but straight keys right now still have their charm for me.  I am surprised the 25 KHz is still Extra only -- but it makes a nice incentive to get my Extra.  From what I have noticed there is a lot of activity there and some good DX too.  Is that impression correct?  

Thanks everyone for the helpful, informed answers!  This place is great.  

Anyone have any tips for getting comfortable with a microphone?  when I was young and active 32 years ago, I got comfortable thru talking to my uncle and his friends once I upgraded from Novice...  Now, I have a little of the uncertainty of right practice and stage fright syndrome CW just doesn't replicate Smiley  Plus, with the Ten Tec at only 20 watts, and not sure if 11 oclock is the right setting for my mic. gain, I almost feel like talking loud into the microphone in order to be heard.  Probably not a good idea(?)

Posts: 8

« Reply #21 on: January 26, 2010, 04:19:36 PM »

Just a comment from kb3tkw.
Was a ham 55 years ago. Did the study bit and passed the novice and tech on first try. CW stopped me and couldn't get to 13 in order to pass the general.
So what does all this have to do with your question?
I'll just say that 3 months ago I passed the Tech and General. Three weeks ago I passed the Extra. Observations. The written tests are much, much easier that 50 years ago. You will have to do the usual study to learn the rules but, the technical part, I thought, was much easier. Now, time may have dulled my memory but that's all right, I passed.
So go for it. Take a little time and if you want use the on-line practice tests. I used 3 different sites. At least one site has all the questions in the pool. In that way, if you don't want to get an exam book, you can at least learn to answer all the pool's questions. I, nor does anyone else I think, reccomend just learning the answers. Better to have the experience commersant with the license. Sorry for the rag chew.

Posts: 2808

« Reply #22 on: January 26, 2010, 11:56:52 PM »

Plus, with the Ten Tec at only 20 watts, and not sure if 11 oclock is the right setting for my mic. gain, I almost feel like talking loud into the microphone in order to be heard.  Probably not a good idea(?)

This doesn't belong in the CW Forum, but . . .

1.  Find an article on this site called "It's Not Your Microphone, it's You".  It has a bunch of good suggestions about mic technique.

2.  Most rigs work well if the Mic Gain is set so that, with your normal speaking voice, and close-talking the mic (anywhere from 2" to 6" away from your mouth), the ALC meter is moving _within its "green zone"_ on your voice peaks.
Your QSO may be over 1,000 miles, but the mic is in your hand!<g>  Don't let the ALC meter get into its "red zone".


Posts: 2101

« Reply #23 on: March 22, 2010, 06:51:41 AM »

Hello, and glad to have you back! Well, I have 7 straight keys and 4 sets of paddles. I use straight keys 99% of the time. I am very active in the Straight Key Century Club,(SKCC). I use a Ham key and a Bencher RJ-1 most of the time. Every time I go to a hamfest I look for keys. I see one that is affordable, I buy it, take it home and try it. It might end up being your favorite, or your least favorite. I collect them also..I have used all of them, but i favor those 2 the most. The Ham Key is pretty smooth, and very easy to adjust. Finding your favorite will be hit or miss. You might buy 5 before you decide!

As far as the BT...I use it on a regular basis...I never use periods,if I do, I am sending a web address. I may use a comma here and there, but the BT is common for me.

Good Luck! 73 de N3JJT...Scott

Scott, your reply was prophetic.  I have bought 5 keys so far and a sixth is on the way.  I have a Morse paddle which is interesting, but getting used to the shortened mechanical "dah" when sending "K" or "CQ" is tough.  I have only used it a few times, so maybe i will adapt to how a paddle takes away some of the organic personality and swing that sings out of a  straight key...  Speed so far is not a problem, I can send maybe 25wpm and feel like i could get faster with practice.  right now that is near the limit of my copying speed ... If anyone is pretty good at gauging speed maybe we could set up a QSO so i can see if i am overestimating...

Using the adjustment instructions on the Morse site helped a lot with the glass arm problem; as did finding a straight key i like.  (Nye Viking Master Key with modification for the bottom plate flex issue)

I got a J-37 off eBay (missing the knob) quite cheap -- it is yet to arrive.  (just wanted to try one)  i will probably end up selling the ones i don't keep as funds are limited -- but they sure do look nice HiHi

73, de K9AIM  -- SKCC#6586
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