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Author Topic: Should I learn to send code left handed, right handed, or both?  (Read 8725 times)

Posts: 11

« on: December 20, 2011, 11:14:12 AM »

Hi, all.
I'm just getting started with the ham thing, got a general license but no radio.  Maybe at the hamcation in Orlando in February...
(actually, I have a borrowed HT and have had a few contacts on 2 meters on the local repeater.)  Anyway, I'm using the Morse
program on my linux laptop to learn code reading, and I built a practice oscillator from a 555 chip years ago.  I have it hooked
up to a straight key.  I haven't practiced sending much yet.

I'm wondering if I should learn to send left handed so that I can write in the log right handed.  I can't write left handed.  A local ham
on 2 meters here said I should learn both.  I probably won't use the laptop to log because it causes a lot of static all over the 80, 40
and other bands.  (Shortwave receiver shows it coming from the screen, mainly.)

What I can see myself doing is going out to public land and hanging dipoles in the trees, and operating off the tailgate of a pickup
or even loading the stuff up on a bicycle and going to places where driving is prohibited.  Got to go to where the tall trees are.
This means that I want to carry as little electricity consuming stuff as possible.  Paper log seems more portable.

Any advice here on any of this?

Posts: 267

« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2011, 11:24:31 AM »

Paper logs are great.  But you don't really need to send and write at the same time.  I send right handed and write right handed. 

I don't write much during a QSO -- call, name, maybe location or a few key points.  I write that down when the other person sends it to me, so both hands are free.

Posts: 5210

« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2011, 01:34:14 PM »

For the most part - when you're writing, you'll be receiving not sending. So for most casual operation it's a non-issue. After a while you will only be keeping the barest of notes about the QSO and instead actually be in a true conversational mode, no writing required most of the time.

The exception is if you are for example doing contesting, but most all contesters today use computers for logging, and you will usually be letting the computer do much of the automated keying. If you can type with your left hand while manually sending with your right, that'd be cool.

I personally learned to send with my right hand and by far prefer it, but I can certainly (with some "QLF" involved) send at a lower level with my left hand too. This has come in handy with some weird shack layouts and manual T/R switching in the past couple decades :-)

Posts: 21764

« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2011, 03:00:24 PM »

I'd use whichever hand you normally favor (for writing, throwing a baseball, etc) to send code.

Once you're really good at it, try the other hand.  Some can do this pretty easily, some have a very hard time. 

You really never have to write and send at the same time, so that unique ability is mostly lost for working CW.

A paper log is fine; an iPad or similar tablet is just about as light and may be far more versatile especially if you can also use it for internet access while in the field (depends where you are).  There isn't any requirement to log anything (for American hams), but most do. 

If you can get good at sending with a paddle: Almost all rigs have electronic keyers built in and a paddle is easier to use in the field than a hand (straight) key, I think.  Reason is, a straight key unless "mounted" to something that cannot move, is hard to use.  Mounting it to a block of wood or a plate of aluminum or something does work, but makes it bigger and heavier.  A small, light paddle can be adjusted to activate with just a couple of grams of side pressure and doesn't try to move around at all.  Just lay it on a rock and send.  At least, that's what I do when I'm portable. Smiley

Posts: 119

« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2011, 06:56:32 PM »

When I returned to CW a few years ago, I went with the hand I don't write with thinking I would be able to note something that just couldn't wait. Although I'm not noting much these days, I do find I can make small adjustments on the radio and I feel better using my writing hand for that. I also find that I feel more prepared to have my left hand on the paddles while scanning for DX with my right.

YMMV - Paul - N9GXA

Posts: 719


« Reply #5 on: December 21, 2011, 06:19:43 AM »

Being able to write and send at the same time is a neat Field Day party trick, but not really that useful anymore as others have said.  I can send with my right hand while holding a pencil (in the same hand), which affords me the same short T/R delay writing capability as using both hands.  You might get a slight speed increase running a pileup by using both hands, but I've done it with the single-hand method above and worked down the pile almost as fast as using a computer.

As N3QE says, contesting (and DXpeditioning) is best done with computer-sent CW if possible.  Higher speeds and lower sending error rates are possible with less sending practice especially over a long period.

Finally, skip the straight key and start right away learning with a keyer and paddles.  Like WB2WIK says, most rigs have built-in keyers.  And, even if they don't, the expense and current draw of a small portable memory keyer is quite modest.  You don't need a $300+ set of paddles...I've done quite a bit of portable operating with a $50 Bencher, although I replaced it recently with a Palm Mini paddle that is every bit as smooth as my Schurr Profi-2.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2011, 06:23:37 AM by K8GU » Logged

Posts: 51

« Reply #6 on: December 21, 2011, 06:58:58 AM »

Unless you are really, really good, stick with one hand!   Get good with that one hand (usually your dominant hand) before you start experimenting.

There are too many poor fists out there today, do you best to send good CW before you start experimenting.

Besides, the ability to send decently and think about writing comes with experience (lots of it), not something to think about when you are starting out.


Posts: 374

« Reply #7 on: December 24, 2011, 05:30:38 AM »

Interesting responses and very liberating.  I always felt like I should have taught myself to send with my left hand (am right-handed) when I started this hobby about 10 years ago.  For several years now, I practice head copy (unless trying to understand a really poor fist) and jot a few notes down while receiving so, as many of you have confirmed, it is not a significant shortcoming. 

Thanks for vindicating my right hand sending -- I can scratch that off my list of "things I should have done differently."


Posts: 1624

« Reply #8 on: December 24, 2011, 05:56:17 AM »

I am REALLY right-handed, so I learned to send with my right hand. I never even thought about it since reading this thread, but I noticed I NEVER turn the dial on my radio with my right hand! I guess I am so used to operating with a pencil in my right hand and my fingers on my paddles :at the ready" that I ONLY use my left hand controlling my radio.   Wierd.

Last week my computer went out, so I did 2 hours of the Stew Perry contest with paper/pencil/paddles (like the old days). Was kind of fun and still managed to log "accurately??" 150 contacts. I ALWAYS send CW with a pencil in my hand even though I take very few notes during a QSO, habit I guess.


Posts: 550


« Reply #9 on: December 24, 2011, 12:10:06 PM »

Most amateurs send with their right hand. I do, although I am definitely left-handed. It's best to send the way most
amateurs do if you anticipate operating as a guest at times in someone else's shack (or with a group of other Morse ops at an event like ARRL Field Day).

Posts: 6744

« Reply #10 on: December 27, 2011, 09:04:56 AM »

My advice would be to learn the code first.  This means using your dominant hand for both writing and sending.  Why create a lot of grief for yourself? 

When a child starts to walk for the first time he/she doesn't even consider what's on the feet!  Same with the code.  Learn to copy it; learn to use it.  Then if you want to explore your options, go for it.  That way you'll have something on which to base and compare your efforts.

A Pessimist is Never Disappointed!

Posts: 999

« Reply #11 on: December 31, 2011, 03:50:58 AM »

One day I reversed the finger-pieces on my paddle from their normal right handed orientation in an attempt to send left handed, just out of curiosity.  Natually I reversed the dot-dash polarity too.  I had been reading how Don Miller, W9WNV, a famous DX operator in the 1960s, could send with his left hand and log with his right.  Don was often billed as one of the best CW ops ever.  To my amazement I found I could send almost as well with my left hand as my right, and that with never having tried it before!  For some time I kept two paddles on my desk wired in parallel, one on the right and one on the left.  It was something of an advantage when contesting with paper logs...something I intend to never do again!  These days, one paddle suffices, configured for my primary (right) hand.  Like most ops, I don't write much during QSOs, only taking, name, QTH, or some comment I don't want to forget to reply to.  Still, it's fun to experiment.

Posts: 8

« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2012, 06:20:35 AM »

Use the right hand . All the paddles I have run across are wired for right hand use, except for mine ( I send left handed). Its fun to try out other keys so learn with the right hand and save ur self a lot of trouble.

Posts: 2

« Reply #13 on: March 10, 2012, 07:01:50 PM »

Reversing the dot-dash polarity does work. To test that it does, just turn your key upside down and try using your other hand. I first did that probably 50 years ago. Having two keys wired oppositely would be fun.

I've always said I would give my right arm to be ambidextrous.......... 

Posts: 0

« Reply #14 on: March 11, 2012, 05:26:30 AM »

Excuse the errors in my American-English, because it is my ham spirit to answer this question, and not your ham spirit to try to decipher it.

1. Don't mix up left handed and right handed learning because it is heavy QRM in the process of building the required wiring in your brain neurons.

2. Learn right handed, because nearly every paddle set of visiting stations is wired for right handed people, thumb is dots and finger is dash(es)

3. You really may lose (loose?) friends when you adjust a keyer and forget to bring it back in the original position, and your friend doesn't know how to adjust the keyer back.

4. When you buy a vibroplex mechanical, the dots are always left and the dash right, no switching possible unless you buy a expensive rare left handed device.

Don't be a stupid Moron, especially not when you are warned in this message, to learn left handed.

« Last Edit: March 11, 2012, 05:28:27 AM by PA0BLAH » Logged
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