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Author Topic: keying method question  (Read 1526 times)

Posts: 3

« on: June 09, 2005, 10:25:09 AM »

I am learing cw and its progressing nicely. I am getting ready to buy a HF rig and am trying to determine which keying method that I would like to use.  I have read many posts on the subject and feel like I understand the basic differences (e.g. straight key, iombic, non iombic). I have to admit for someone who has never done it before its confusing. I know that I want to start out using an electronic keyer. My theory is that I want to start out using the keying method that I am planning on using as I gain more experience.

The rig that I am looking to purchase is the IC718. With this rig am I limited to iombic B keying only or can I use a dual paddle in a non iombic way (one paddle is a di and one is dah)?  Is Iambic B a bad thing?  Iambic keying just sounds complicated to me to start out with.


Posts: 300


« Reply #1 on: June 09, 2005, 12:49:23 PM »

Hi John,
I own an IC-718. I highly recommend it. You get a lot of radio for the money, including DSP. The DSP board is usually part of the deal when purchasing a new 718.

The internal electronic keyer will only do iambic B keying, which I find frustrating. There are others who will use nothing but iambic B, but some of us find it to be a pain. With iambic A, what you hear is what you get. Iambic B will add an extra dit after the last dah and an extra dah after the last dit. For those who have very good timing, this feature can give you faster speed with less work. It takes a lot of practice to get the timing right, so you don't have an unwanted extra element The extra element is confusing for me. I can't get the timing right.

If you use a single-lever paddle (non-iambic), you won't have to worry about the extra unwanted element in your letters. It only happens with iambic B keying. You can have iambic A keying by using an external keyer and disabling the internal keyer.

Which method is best is personal preference. Its what you feel best with and which comes the easiest and the most natural for you. I have both iambic and non-iambic paddles. I use the non-iambic with the internal keyer. When I get an external keyer, I'll give iambic A a try. When I know what's best for me, that's what I will stick with.

BTW, you can use an iambic paddle (double lever) for non-iambic keying if you just press one lever at a time and don't squeeze them together. Its the squeezing of both paddles that give you iambic keying.

You can get some used paddles for a decent price if you look around. A couple of years ago at a hamfest, I bought 2 single lever paddles (a single-lever Vibroplex Vibrokeyer and a Poucel Electronics EL-KEY) from the same vendor for $50. This year at a hamfest, I bought a Bencher BY-1 iambic paddle for $50. I have a Vectronics electronic keyer kit that I just have to find the time to put together. I later found out that the Norcal keyer kit is less money than the Vectronics kit.

My very first paddle was a single-lever homebrew. It works quite well and I still have it. See

You will find a couple of PDF files to download that discuss iambic keying at

73 de Mark

Posts: 21757

« Reply #2 on: June 09, 2005, 04:08:36 PM »

John, with any form of electronic keying, one paddle is still a "dit" and the other paddle is a "dah," and this is true whether it's iambic or not, and whether it's iambic A or B.

If you don't like the self-completing nature of squeeze keying (B), just use a single-lever paddle like a Vibroplex Vibro Keyer or equivalent, and you'll never have to worry about it.  However, I find squeeze keying natural and very easy to get used to, and usually teach my code students to start right out with it from day one.  I have students who went from "nothing" to 20 words per minute or so, and never used a straight key in their lives, so they don't know any better.

Of course, nobody starts out a pro on code, it takes practice.  But if you start with a blank slate, it doesn't take much.  Probably the best advice is although it's fine (and good practice, really) to work code faster than you can copy it, it's not good to send faster than you're comfortable sending -- doing so shows up as lots of mistakes and makes it frustrating for the poor guy who's trying to copy you!

Send within your own comfort zone, and work up speed as you feel comfortable with it.  There's nothing wrong with having a QSO where you're receiving fast and sending slow.  A seasoned op on the other end will immediately understand why, and not add any pressure.


Posts: 105

« Reply #3 on: June 09, 2005, 05:25:31 PM »

I also have an IC-718.  It's a great rig once you install a CW filter.  I have a 500Hz in mine and it works great!  I wouldn't overly concern yourself about the keyer.  I also wouldn't buy a single paddle model key.  In the beginning you'll be sending dits with your thumb, and dahs with your index finger, no squeezing, nothing fancy.  This rig will be great for you to learn on.  Buy a twin paddle like the Bencher or the Kent TP-1.  If you're tight on bucks, get the MFJ unit.

The most important thing is to just get on the air.  Remember, this is a hobby, nothing more.  If you make a mistake, who cares!

Posts: 3

« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2005, 01:38:44 PM »

Thanks all for the great advise.  I was planning on installing cw filter as well.  I probably won't have my general license until the end of July but I think I am going to buy the radio while Icom still has the $50 mail in rebate going on them until the end of June.

Posts: 57


« Reply #5 on: June 21, 2005, 02:49:26 PM »

Iambic B, as long as you're learning, is great, and saves motions. I recommend it!

Posts: 242

« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2005, 05:44:28 AM »

Way to go, John, and we need all the people we can get like you in the hobby!  Whatever method, key, or keyer you use, do it every day.  Learning CW is like learning a language, the more you use it the more fluent you become.  Persistence and patience are the most important things as far as I'm concerned.  

The thing about starting with a straight key is that you are forced to learn proper spacing, tempo, and character formation or else you sound like dog doo-doo.  Sure, you can send a lot faster with a set of paddles, but good CW ops aren't made in a day.  Take the long term view.  The acid test is to record your sending and try to copy it.  Do it right from square one and you will never regret it.  

If you send much faster than you can copy, you will get in trouble quickly. When you are fiddling around in the shack, turn the sound down on the TV, find a CW QSO and let the CW play in the background as you clean the shack.  Listen to the ARRL runs.  My first CW contacts were awful.  That being said, other Hams seemed to get pleasure in helping a newbie get his feet up under him.  That hasn't changed.  When someone refuses to slow down for you, just sign quickly and move on.  It's good to push yourself working folks who send a little faster than you can copy 100%, but if it's too fast, you can get really frustrated.  Don't get angry at them or yourself.  I would be happy to set up a sked with you, and I bet others here would do the same.  We were all beginners once, ya know?  All the best from 5-land! Richard, n5xm
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