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Author Topic: Iambic paddle posture and position of fingers  (Read 4225 times)

Posts: 31

« on: February 14, 2003, 11:19:19 AM »

I am learning to transmit (send) and bought a BY-1 Bencher. I want to learn the best way possible andwant to know how to position my fingers on the paddles as well as where the key should be located on the desk relative to the radio. I am basically left handed but can learn either hand. I thought I would learn right hand so I can use other stations rigs without too many problems. Any ideas will be appreciated and thanks.
         73 de me BLB


73 de me BLB

Posts: 21764

« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2003, 12:30:46 PM »

If you're naturally left-handed, you might want to re-think sending with your right hand; however, if you can do it, that's a good idea.

When sending with a paddle, your forearm, including your elbow, should be on the desk/table in front of you, with the paddle set back far enough that you can comfortably manage it while your complete forearm and elbow are on the table.  This usually means the key must be set back at least 18" from the front of the table, and for taller people, farther than that.

Let your forearm rest comfortably on the table with your body positioned so you can easily reach your rig's tuning controls with your other hand, and make that your "operating" position.  If you send with your right hand, the side of your hand between the pinky and the wrist (that is, the entire edge of your hand) should be resting on the table, with your thumb up towards the ceiling.  

Now, let your thumb fall gently until it touches the left paddle of the Bencher, and your index finger should just touch the right paddle of the Bencher (this assumes right-handed sending!).  This should be a very comfortable position, with no strain on anything; a position you can hold for hours, until your butt hurts from sitting in the chair!  But, your arm and hand should never become fatigued.

Iambic keying allows for "squeeze" keying, or not -- it's up to you, and the Bencher will accommodate you either way.

With squeeze keying, your hand never moves as you send.  You just gently squeeze the two paddles together, and the trick is which paddle makes contact first, and last, to determine the character sent.  It takes practice.

With regular (non-squeeze) keying, move your thumb to push the left paddle slightly to make a dit or a string of dits, release, and move your index finger (some people prefer to use their index and middle fingers together, for this -- up to you) to push the right paddle slightly to make a dah or a string of dahs.

Did I mention it takes practice?

The good thing is, with most people of reasonable dexterity, it doesn't take a lot of practice.  If you practice 30 mins a day for a week, you should be able to send reasonable CW at a slow speed, and by the end of a month you should be able to send reasonable CW at least as fast as you can "copy," maybe faster.

By the end of a year, you should be really good, assuming you actually use CW on a regular basis.

Like riding a bicycle or swimming or many other activities, once learned, this is not forgotten.  It becomes second nature, and you don't have to think about how to do it.  After more than 35 years of using CW quite a lot, I don't think about anything relating to actually working CW, it's the same as picking up the telephone and chatting with someone.

I think it's that way for all experienced CW ops.

Good luck!


Posts: 89

« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2003, 01:42:05 AM »

Good advice from WB2WIK on arm, hand and finger position.  

Remember to only move your fingers when sending - don't bat the paddles back and forth.  Some people complain about their paddles moving all over the desk... they're doing it wrong.  Also... keep the paddle contacts nice and wide and very, very little spring tension.  The ends of the paddles should move quite a bit at least for starters.  You'll have much more control especially as your speed goes up.  

Some people say that if you're left-handed, you should set up the paddle conventionally, to send dits with the left paddle and dahs with the right so you can always use someone else's equipment.  I say HOGWASH.  If you're left-handed, send dits with your thumb.  If you're right-handed, send dits with your thumb.  Two reasons.  I found something very interesting about sending CW when I visited a friends shack who was left-handed.  After fighting with his paddle (hand over the top from the back side, turning the paddles upside-down, etc.) I found that I could send CW almost as well with my left hand as my right.  The key being, thumb for the dits and forefinger for the dahs.  I've told this to other hams who verified it works (no, I'm not a fluke!).  The brain just works that way... keeps things symmetrical.  The other reason (which might not apply); is if you ever have an urge to get a bug.  Bugs are designed the way they are because most people have more control sending manual dahs with their forefinger/forefinger-middle finger.  

That said, practice and more practice.  

See you on the air, 73
Marco, W7WIK

Marco, AA5ET

Posts: 23

« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2003, 11:18:51 AM »

Your query brought a smile and many happy memories of my first paddles.

As a lefty, I simply learned to use the paddles "out of the box" and didn't find out (until much later) that the paddles were wired, by default, for a right handed user.  I send dits with my index finger and dahs with my thumb.  One advantage of learning to send with the stock configuration is that you'll be able to use paddles in other ham's shacks and at field day without having to pack your own.

In my own shack, my left elbow and forearm rest on the desk and cross in front of my body, with the paddles to the right and about a foot in from the dege of the desk.  My right arm hand is free to operate equipment.  

If you're like me, you prefer to use your left hand for virtually anything requiring finesse and the right hand exists only to fill a sleeve and help get food into your mouth.  I've found, though, that the right hand can be taught to do some primitive things, like turning knobs and flicking switches, while the left hand tackles the tasks requiring greater dexterity.  Sending right-handed to preserve the use of your dominant hand for operating equipment might not be the best approach, but only you can make that final decision.

Not sure what you'll be using for a keyer.  My rig has one built in but I picked up a Logikeyer and found that one of its features is the ability to "reverse" the dit and dah function of the respective paddles.  Possibly food for thought?

73, de Mike, K9UW
Amherst, WI

Posts: 56


« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2003, 08:03:48 AM »

I always found that my wrist hurts when operating with the paddle in the 'conventional' position.

Try this -
Fold your arms, now place your elbows on the desk at your operating position. If right-handed, place the paddle where your left elbow was sitting (you should have unfolded your arms by now or you'll be in all sorts of trouble).

The paddle sits so that it is in line with your body rather that perpendicular to it.

Seems obvious to me but I've only known one other person to operate this way

73, Steve  G4GXL

Posts: 242

« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2003, 11:59:17 AM »

Welcome to the world of CW, and fine business to all the tips from everyone. I am left handed and use paddles wired for a right hander, and am therefore able to use everyone's paddles, but not right handed bugs. I do not use the squeeze method and think you should use whatever method that suits you. I prefer single paddles but that is just what I like. I use my thumb, index, and long fingers.  The only problem I have with keeping your forearm on the desk is that if you are real active, you are looking at pressure on your ulnar nerve.  If you start having problems from this, it can be real hard to get rid of. I curl my ring and little fingers into my palm just a bit and have my hand at about a 45 degree angle with my forearm hanging free to keep the pressure off my elbow. Develop the position that works best for you, and realize the more experience you get will help you refine your individual method. Play with the position of your paddles on the desk until you find what is comfortable for you. I move my paddles all over the place, depending on what all I have spread out at the operating position.

CW is not a race, so let your speed develop as you naturally become more proficent. Practice sending off the air, so when you get on the air, your will have confidence in what you send. You will improve quickly if you do as is stated above by practicing 30 minutes a day for a month. You will see great progress by the week. Work hard to make your characters properly and have good spacing between words. Rhythm, meter, and timing is critical to sending good CW, and if you have any musical ability, you will find it will serve you well in sending and copying CW.  Good luck. Richard

Posts: 32

« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2003, 07:51:16 AM »

I am naturally left handed.  My first Vibroplex was a "right-hand" model, so I learned to send with my right hand.  This continued when I acquired a Bencher Iambic keyer.
I find the arraingement very convenient.  My left hand is available for writing, tuning, etc.
One of the very few things I can do with my right hand is send code.
Try both before you settle, and then practice, practice, practice.  It takes a while before you can master electronic keying.
You received a lot of good advice on where to place the key.  The bottom line is place the key where it is comfortable for you.

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