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Author Topic: Proper hand positioning for straight key  (Read 634 times)
KB3KYO
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Posts: 74




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« on: December 14, 2005, 05:53:31 PM »

Ok so as soon as I pass the written for General I'm going to start learning code.

What is the proper way to position one's hand on a straight key?  One finger, if so which one; a pair of fingers?  Do you flex the fingers to work the key, or keep the fingers stiff and do it all from the wrist?
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N0UY
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Posts: 158




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« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2005, 03:36:35 AM »

If I started all over again I probably would start out with iambic double paddle and wouldn't bother trying to make the transition from the straight key.  But that is just my observation.  Just get started because you will never be sorry you did.

Ray
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WB2WIK
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Posts: 20559




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« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2005, 08:50:03 AM »

Straight keys are a chore and I also only use an iambic paddle and keyer, since I like to "enjoy" CW and not work at it.

But anyway, there are still a lot of straight key lovers out there and you hear them on the air all the time.

Proper setup, the real deal:

Position your hand as though you're holding a tennis ball or an apple.  Open your hand slightly to relax it from that point.

The ring finger and pinky do "nothing."

The thumb touches one side of the key knob, and the middle finger touches the opposite side of the key knob.  The index fingertip presses directly down on the center of the key knob to apply the pressure to operate it.  The index finger is always bent, or curved, never stiff.  The thumb and middle finger should also be bent or curved, never stiff.  They don't do much of the actual work, but more or less help keep the key knob in proper position, aligned with the index finger.

Alternatively, many telegraphers use the index *and* middle finger on top of the key knob to apply keying pressure, and in that case, the thumb and ring finger are the two "keepers," touching opposite sides of the knob.  I see this mostly with kids, women or men who have smaller fingers.  If you have large fingers, there probably isn't comfortable space for the index and middle finger on the key knob.

The actual operation occurs mostly by wrist motion, with a very slight flexing of the wrist to create up and down motion of the three fingers used on the key.  The arm does about "nothing."

It's best to have the key itself placed back far enough on the operating desk/bench/surface so your entire forearm can lay on the desktop comfortably (including your elbow).  This means the key should be sitting back 16-18-20" from the front edge of the desk, never close to the edge, and never "in front" of the rig, unless your rig is *really* far back.  Having the key sitting too close to you gets very tiring very quickly.  The whole idea is that keying should be almost effortless.

And it can be.  Until you try a paddle and keyer, which is "more" effortless!

WB2WIK/6



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K9FV
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Posts: 479




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« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2005, 10:14:39 AM »

Listen to Steve on the keyer and paddles - forget the straight key, until you are good with code and just wish to "learn the straight key" type thing.  With paddles/keyer combo you will be sending GOOD code in the length of time it will take to just to learn a few characters on the straight key.

73 de Ken H.
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W5ESE
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Posts: 550


WWW

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« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2005, 10:26:48 AM »

I disagree with the suggestion that you go directly to
a keyer and paddles. I have had far too many qsos with
new CW ops who completely butcher their transmissions
trying to control a paddle and keyer. The ones with
new CW ops on straight keys generally go much better.

Steve's advice about how to handle a straight key is
correct. Make sure your elbow and forearm are
supported on the desktop, not hanging off in space.
Adjust the tension on the key so that it just
requires a light touch.

73
Scott
W5ESE
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KINGBOLETE
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Posts: 10




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« Reply #5 on: December 15, 2005, 07:29:30 PM »

Going to straight key was pretty natural.  After a couple of hours using the code-practice oscillator into Hamscope I was able to send at character speeds of 15 wpm (the overall net is likely lower).  Seems like the iambic keyer would take a bit longer to get up to speed; straight key operation is pretty straight-forward ;-)
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DG3YCC
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Posts: 28




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« Reply #6 on: December 16, 2005, 09:14:50 AM »

Why not try a  keyer and  a single paddle like the Kent SP-1 that I use? You don't have to hazzle with the squeeze technique and you'll learn to send the code very fast.
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KINGBOLETE
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Posts: 10




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« Reply #7 on: December 16, 2005, 11:31:40 AM »

How does a "single paddle" work?
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WB2WIK
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Posts: 20559




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« Reply #8 on: December 16, 2005, 02:01:21 PM »

Single *lever* paddle is same as dual lever paddle, except it has only one lever; thus, it can only send a dit or a dah, but cannot attempt to send both at the same time.

Very minute difference, there, than can only be experienced if you try it, and have an iambic keyer.  With a *non*-iambic keyer, a single or dual lever paddle work precisely the same way, and there's no difference at all.

With an iambic keyer and a dual-lever paddle, you can squeeze the two paddles together, just closing both dit and dah contacts at the same time, and send didahdidahdidahdidahdidah, etc.  If you time the contact closure (squeezing) just right, you can control whether a "dit" or a "dah" starts first, in that sequence.  Then, by controlling that, you can send letters that have a dit and a dah (or dah and dit) adjacent to each other in a character by simply squeezing the key paddles together, and not pushing either paddle left or right.

Example: You can send an "A" by simply squeezing the paddles, making sure the dit side contacts first (even if it's just a millisecond before).  Or, you can send an "N" by squeezing, making sure the dah side contacts first (even by just a millisecond).

Or, you can use a dual lever paddle exactly as you would a single-lever paddle, just ignoring the "squeeze" feature altogether, and pushing the paddle to the left or right to send a dit or dah.  The dual lever paddle gives you an option, the single lever paddle does not.

WB2WIK/6
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KA2JIZ
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Posts: 105




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« Reply #9 on: December 16, 2005, 03:14:00 PM »

Key or keyer, make every effort to separate your characters and words properly. With a key you will also pay attention to the timing of your dits and dahs. But, you already know this.
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VA7CPC
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Posts: 2371




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« Reply #10 on: December 18, 2005, 01:00:20 PM »

FWIW(from a fellow beginner)

I think that the Morse Express website has a link to some good discussions on this.  Getting your arm _comfortable_ is important.

Putting your arm on the table, and working just wrist and fingers, puts you at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome.  It may take a long time to develop, but after it does, it's a real bitch.

Many of the European keys -- big mushroom knob, straight lever -- are designed to be used with the operator standing, and the key at desk level.  A whole different approach.

FWIW, I agree with the "start with a paddle" crowd.  It's a lot easier to read badly-send paddle keying, than to read badly-sent straight-key sending.

And you won't risk CTS with a paddle.

To clarify the single-vs-double paddle answer:

  A single-level paddle produces dits when pushed with the thumb, and dahs when pushed in the other direction with the fingers.  

These choices involve "religious issues" -- much heat, little light.
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WB7AVF
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« Reply #11 on: December 18, 2005, 02:05:25 PM »

Absolutely good advice regarding hand, forearm position from all here. Very light tension is all that's required on a good straight key. The secret is to be relaxed, and let the very slight wrist motion do the work.

I use, and enjoy, straight key operation. I pride myself on having people THINK that I've a keyer. Of course, high speeds (+25 wpm) are not as practical without paddles and a keyer. For the DX/Contest crowd, paddles and keyers are a must. Since I send about 13-20 w.p.m. there's no real need.

Going directly to the paddle/keyer setup MAY be the best thing; however, if you've ANY sense of rhythm the "old school" or even "retro-nostalgia" value of starting with the J-32 or other old straight key is priceless.

Main thing is CW is fun!  Phone is today like glorified C.B.
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KD1E
Member

Posts: 25




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« Reply #12 on: December 21, 2005, 06:58:03 AM »

CW is fun.  More fun than SSB which to me is little more than CB radio.

I started on straight key years ago.  Went to iambic keyer with paddles and learned the squeeze technique.  I suggest you do not waste your time with a single lever paddle.  Squeeze is very easy to learn and makes sending CW easier.  Single lever paddles require extra rocking of your hand back and forth and can mess up the spacing between dots & dashes.  But I digress.

Recently I've returned to using a straight key and it is fun.  Having a good key certainly helps.  I have my key set back from the desk so I can rest my arm on the surface.  I use a navy knob with my thumb and ring fingers on the side of the top knob and my 1st and 2nd finters on top of the knob.  Grip lightly and away we go.

When manually sending CW, the biggest mistake I hear is spacing.  Sending CW is easy if you do two things.

1.  Make dits shorter than dahs.  Sounds simple but MANY struggle with it.  If you can't get this sorted out, go to a keyer or bug.

2.  Space things properly.  Space between letters must be noticeably greater than space between elements!!!!  Bug users and single paddle users sometimes end up with extra space between a dot & dash and then not enough space before the next letter and it messes things up.

If you do these two things you'll be copied.  Fail on either and you're sending random blips and blops that are not morse code.

- Keith -

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