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Author Topic: Knob on straight key  (Read 869 times)
N1TUU
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« on: February 13, 2004, 02:24:27 PM »

Hi all, excuse me if this has been covered in the past but I was wondering about the knob on my straight key. I have a bencher that I got when I first became interested in the hobby. It has gone un-used and I am working my CW via a set of Kent TP-1 paddles. My speed, copy and enjoyment is steadily increasing.
For grins, I hooked up the straight key and was interested in the history / reason for the shape of the knob (small surface stacked on a larger surface). I have heard it referred to as a ‘Navy’ knob? Why the two? What is the best way to send with it? I have played around with my thumb on the lower part and index on the upper and sending dits with the thumb and dahs with the index (like the paddles). I would like to be ‘survival’ skilled in the world of the straight key and welcome tips to get me going in the right direction.

Tnx, 73’s
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KE4MOB
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« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2004, 02:45:07 PM »

Back in the day, keys may have had high voltages on them.  The Navy knob kept the operator from accidentally getting zapped by inadvertently touching the metal parts with the hand while sending.

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KE4MOB
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« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2004, 02:56:46 PM »

And grips differ...I like to place the index finger on top of the knob, let the pad on the thumb rest on the edge of the top at 9 o'clock, and let the side of the middle finger rest on the other edge at 3 o'clock (assuming you're right handed).

The motion for dits and dahs is exactly the same mechanically, just the timing varies...none of the thumb and index finger stuff you describe.

Get N0HFF's "Art and Skill of Radiotelegraphy" and read Chapter 7.  It's available for free off the internet.

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KE4MOB
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« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2004, 03:01:06 PM »

My mistake..not Chapter 7...try Chapter 9.
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2004, 06:46:50 PM »

The "Navy knob" would be more appropriately titled if it resembed a beer can, but anyway...

This kind of knob system for a key is a bit more relaxing, and more versatile, to use than just a simple flat disc.  It gives you a place to "rest" your thumb and middle finger (on opposite sides of the flat disc part of the handle, which would also be on opposite sides of the "knob" itself), while using your index finger to push down on the top of the knob.  And, since the knob is fairly large and rounded (semi-spherical, usually), you don't have to push on it with the tip of your index finger, you can use more of the finger, below the knuckle, to do the job, which gives you a lot more force with less muscular effort.

With a conventional single-disc handle, there's really no place to "rest" anything.  Most people use three fingers on the disc: Thumb, index and middle finger; but none of them are resting much.  The thumb and middle finger grap the disc and the index finger applies most of the vertical pressure.

I have a lot of hand keys of varying designs, but don't actually *use* any of them!  I only use iambic paddle keying, for about the past 30 years or so, and if I had to send with a straight key, I think my hand would cramp up in about a minute.

WB2WIK/6

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K7KBN
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« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2004, 10:06:56 PM »

My very first key was a nondescript brass thing, with no manufacturer's information to be found.  It did work well, however.  Much like a J-38.  I mounted it to a block of wood, put some felt on the bottom of the block, and started learning code.  But the key just didn't feel "right" to me.  Instinct, or something, kept telling me it needed something extra.

Then I saw a picture, probably in QST, showing the "Navy" knob.  And since I'm a native of Las Vegas NV, I bet you can guess what I used as the extra disc.

Anybody say "poker chip"?  Yep, a "Silver Slipper" $5 chip (probably would be worth a lot more to a collector nowadays) got a hole drilled through the center, and a new "Navy" key was born.
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73
Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
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