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Author Topic: First Key  (Read 6065 times)
NI3S
Member

Posts: 67




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« on: November 01, 2010, 09:17:08 PM »

I am in the market for my first key.  Just something basic to practice sending off air, with the potential of use at some point. 

When first licensed, I was the evil No-code tech.  Then a Tech+ (yep, some of us actually learned the code back then).   I used a borrowed straight key and sent some terrible code to a patient elmer that offered lots of encouragement. 

Well here I am for round two.  The ultra-evil no code Extra.  I even applied for a Vanity call sign!

It is again time to get back to CW.  The simple gear, tiny BW, and pure challenge are too attractive to exclude. 

A straight key would be the best to learn on and the simplicity is ideal.  My issue is the value versus quality.  There are $6 units sold online, odds say you end up with six bucks of nothing.  There are also straight keys for big dollars.  Is there a reasonable compromise in price versus performance?  Can a decent straight key be had for $50? 

 
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W0WCA
Member

Posts: 33




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« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2010, 09:34:35 PM »

Bill:
EBay - J-38 or J-37 - $20 to $40 - end of story.
Bill, W0WCA
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VE3WMB
Member

Posts: 282




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« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2010, 05:53:11 AM »

The Nye-Viking Keys offer good quality for a reasonable price.

Checkout Morse Express at :

http://www.morsex.com/nye/index.htm

Michael VE3WMB
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W5ESE
Member

Posts: 550


WWW

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« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2010, 06:07:02 AM »

My first key came from Radio Shack in 1975. The same key is sold today as
the Ameco AM-K4.

http://www.mtechnologies.com/ameco/keys.htm

It's not a fancy key, but I still have mine and use it frequently.

73
Scott W5ESE
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KE4ILG
Member

Posts: 149




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« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2010, 07:32:27 AM »

I was also a tech no code and then a tech plus.  I was lucky I bought an old rig that just didn't work on ssb and I couldn't repair it.  So no 10 meter ssb for me I went directly into using code.  I started with a    J-38, a very good key that can be adjusted well. When I passed the 13 wpm I bought and still use a Bencher by-1.  These by-1 paddles are very reasonably priced on the used market.  The advantage of using a paddle is the dits and dahs are consistent and many rigs have a built in keyer.  You may find that this helps you send code and make it sound correct.  Others love the straight key.  I do not love the straight key and those who have been subjected to my straight key sending would agree that I am much better with paddles. Well just to bring up another option check out the price of a by-1 you may find it attractive.

Lastly once you get to the point you can send and copy at 5 wpm+, get on the air.  That's where the fun is and your speed will grow.  There are plenty of ops who will work slow code guys.  The most important thing is to send as well as possible.  Make sure you don't jam the characters and words together.  Well sent code no matter what speed is welcomed and people will want to work you.  Best of luck and this time enjoy each moment. 73 Mike ke4ilg.
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AA4N
Member

Posts: 108




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« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2010, 07:42:42 AM »

I'll cast my vote for the venerable J-38 as well.  I've got a pretty good collection of keys right now, but I just keep coming back to the J-38.

Mike AA4N
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AB2T
Member

Posts: 246




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« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2010, 08:02:14 PM »

Why not both?  If you can afford it, get paddles and a straight key.

I used a straight key for the first few years.  Surplus war J-38.  Straight keying can be painful if the key is not used correctly.  It's important to find a more experienced ham and have him/her show you how to send without causing pain.  A hand brace and/or ergonomic pillow (such as on a mouse pad) might also help.

You'll need paddles for 15 wpm+.  Use the straight key while you're building speed to 15 wpm.  Still, I would also practice with the paddles in anticipation of "graduating" to a higher speed.  The reward will be a nice fist when you start sending at 15, 20, and up.

It's nice to have a straight key to work slower stations.  It's very hard (at least for me) to go from sending at 25 wpm on paddles to 10 wpm on paddles simply by turning the keyer speed down.  Better then to have the straight key on hand.

Fist cultivation is a live long avocation.  We all struggle to produce nice sounding CW.  Keep practicing and don't get discouraged.  It'll flow before you know it.

73, Jordan
« Last Edit: November 02, 2010, 08:04:19 PM by Jordan » Logged
W7ETA
Member

Posts: 2528




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« Reply #7 on: November 02, 2010, 08:31:44 PM »

My Fav straight key is the Navy Flame Proof

This fellow seems to have a lot of keys:
http://cgi.ebay.com/US-NAVY-FLAMEPROOF-TELEGRAPH-MORSE-CODE-KEY-SHIP-/220683631795?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3361c4fcb3

73
Bob
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VA7CPC
Member

Posts: 2357




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« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2010, 09:23:01 PM »

Three comments (for what they're worth, from someone who uses CW only in contests, because he has to):

1.  It doesn't matter what key you use to start on.  An Ameco K4, J-38, whatever -- they'll all send Morse at "beginner speed".  If you were sending 15 wpm for 8 hours per day, that's a different story.  And even in that case, _your_ favorite key may not be the same as mine.

2.  Morse keys are simple, last forever, and are hard to damage.  eBay is a good source.  If you can find a Signal Electric brass-based key, grab it - heavy lever, big contacts, very solid.   Just the opposite of an Ameco K4.

3.  I favor paddles -- especially for beginners -- but that's a "religious argument".  If you've made your mind up, I won't try to change it.  There are long threads about this question in this Forum, and no new arguments on either side.

             Charles
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K7KBN
Member

Posts: 2765




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« Reply #9 on: November 03, 2010, 07:35:49 AM »

Remember that a key, whether it's a battered, pre-WW2 J-38 that somebody gave you because it looks like death warmed over, or a gleaming gold-plated brass arrangement on a hand-carved wooden base, polished like a mirror -- whatever, all it is, is a single-pole, single throw switch.  You can spend as much as you like; the guy on the other end won't know what you're using.

73
Pat K7KBN
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73
Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
K7NI
Member

Posts: 27




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« Reply #10 on: November 03, 2010, 01:38:55 PM »


I also started with a J-38 back in the day. I prefer the Navy flameproof key as W7ETA mentioned. There are tons of quality surplus keys out there. You shouldn't have trouble finding one in decent shape for a good price.
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AB7KT
Member

Posts: 155




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« Reply #11 on: November 04, 2010, 10:31:23 AM »

I am certainly no expert in this, or any other field. But, I do operate CW almost exclusively and I do a lot of it with a straight key. I have been a ham for over 30 years and have used a straight key the whole time. I have never made more than a few contacts using an electronic keyer. Within the last year I started using a bug.
Ok, now that is out of the way:
I definitely don't think you should get the cheapest key possible. Buying a decent key will make things a lot easier and more enjoyable for you and the guy on the other end WILL know the difference because you will be sending better, cleaner code.
For about the first 30 years I was a ham, I used a Nye Viking Master Key. This was my first key and I still use it today. About a year ago, I started buying and experimenting with various keys. Some a couple hundred bucks, nothing ridiculous.
After owning and using perhaps a dozen keys, my current favorite is the Vibroplex straight key. It is readily avialable and doesn't cost a ton of money. I can't give you any particular reason why I like it other than it just feels good to me. The Nye Viking keys are good quality keys for a decent price. Another GREAT key is the Junker key, a German military key that you might find on eBay. The Navy Flameproof key is a very good key: another key you would probably find on eBay.
There are a lot of good keys out there. A lot of what makes a key a good key is personal preference and you will get opinions all over the place. Listen to good code either generated by a computer or off the air from the W1AW code practice broadcasts. This will tell you what perfect code sounds like, then you try to make your code sound just like it.

Let me also put in a plug for the Straight Key Century Club. This is a group that uses manually sent code on the air. It's a great group of hams and people who know what they are talking about when it comes to straight keys. They don't just talk the talk, they use straight keys on the air every day.
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I thought you said this was a weak signal mode ? I HAVE a weak signal and he still didn't hear me.

FWIW: My callsign is AB8KT
2E0OZI
Member

Posts: 269




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« Reply #12 on: November 20, 2010, 12:00:26 PM »

A very apt topic for me - I hope to in the next year do 2 things; get my bagpipe playing back up to a decent standard, and learn to copy and send Morse at 5wpm.  Grin In the long run I think Morse will be the way to go for me, as long as I can find someone to talk to going that slow! Tomorrow morning the there is a hamfest a few miles from me - I'll go and see what I can find. Morse key, low pass filter, antenna tuner and a balun are on the list.....
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Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness.
George Orwell
K7KBN
Member

Posts: 2765




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« Reply #13 on: November 20, 2010, 01:38:13 PM »

Definition of "Gentleman":
One who can play the bagpipes.  But doesn't.  Grin

Why do pipers always walk around when they play?
They're trying to get away from that awful noise...  Grin
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73
Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
2E0OZI
Member

Posts: 269




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« Reply #14 on: November 20, 2010, 03:58:57 PM »

I present my evidence (btw thats NOT me playing...)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HiuMwskhsGk

 Grin
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Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness.
George Orwell
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