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Author Topic: Straight Key vs Paddle.. Comments from new CW guy  (Read 1749 times)

Posts: 137

« on: February 11, 2006, 05:07:12 PM »

OK.. A while back, I got a lot of comments from you good guys on which to begin with, and I APPRECIATE all of them! I am practicing with my Junker key and getting a little better. Glad I went with the straight key. I have done a few QSOs now, and they really do get easier each time.I also try to spend an hour or so at least 2 or 3 days a week just listning and copying QSOs, rag chewing, etc...
 After a lot of listning to CW on my radio, I chose the straight key and I really think it's the best for me. For instance, I can copy what sounds to me as a really bad fist on a straight key without too much trouble, but a bad fist on a paddle? YIKES! Darn near impossible (at least to Me!).
Anyway, just a great big THANKS to all of you. I am getting pretty proficient around 20WPM now, and that seems to be good enough to get most QSOs done without too much trouble. One final comment.. I am sure most new guys had this problem too:  People tend to send their CQ de callsign so very very fast, I am hesitant to answer, as I still have trouble with 25+ WPM and I am not sure I have their callsign correct. Seems like some guys/girls send their CQ de XXXX at around 35-40WPM+, and then when into the QSO get back to around 20 - 25WPM. Just thinking out loud, hope I dont step on any toes with these comments. Once Again, THANKS for all your help and encouragement!  73 de K3ASA (Gene)

Posts: 60

« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2006, 05:28:03 PM »

Great!  You're on the air and enjoying it!!  That's all that counts.  Hope to work you soon.

73, de KC2MJT

Posts: 380

« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2006, 12:12:56 PM »

Use what you feel comfortable with, use what you want depending on mood. I have both a straight key and a bug and both of them are plugged into the rig.

As for the rapid sending of callsigns, I suspect that automatic CQ generators are to blame. Why go to the 'effort' of keying in CQ CQ CQ DE HA5RXZ HA5RXZ CQ CQ AR K when you can just press a button ?


Posts: 550


« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2006, 06:46:13 PM »

I always suggest that newcomers start out with a
straight key; it's just easier to manipulate while
you're still getting comfortable sending code and
getting accustomed to cw operating procedure.

That said, it sounds like you're getting to a level
now at which you should probably start thinking
about getting a set of paddles. My old copy of 'The
Radio Amateur's Operating Manual' (c 1972) suggests
moving to a speed key when you reach a good solid
16 wpm. I think that level is about right.

Best of luck, and have fun!


Posts: 23

« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2006, 01:29:28 PM »

You are lucky, I never was able to get the straight key to go much faster than 10wpm before I started to make a mess. I like the clean sending of a paddle, coupled with the enforced letter spacing of the clunky semi qsk relays in the old Knwd TS-830. Others seem to like it too, I usually hve no trouble raising a QSO, and am especially popular with the QRP crowd(?). Personally, I tend to have more trouble copying the straight key guys, (tho I have run across a few "perfect" fists) I suspect with more experience this will become less of a problem.

Been at it < 1 year.


Posts: 1014

« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2006, 03:56:06 PM »

I've been at it longer than I care to admit at the moment.  I never have managed to get the hang of paddles no matter how much I try.  I used a straight key (Nye Viking or Hi-Mound) up until about 20 WPM.  Beyond that I felt my fist was sloppy at best.  

My solution is a keyboard.  Yep, the purists will scoff at me and tell me it's awful.  They'll tell me I have no style, no swing, that machine generated code has no soul.  Listen to a CW contest sometimes.  How many use computers?  Clue:  a memory keyer is a simple computer.

For reception, though, the best decoder is still the one between my ears.  I have yet to find a piece of software or an appliance that can copy less than wonderful code under difficult band conditions.  My brain can, at least on a good day Smiley

Get on the air, enjoy yourself, and use whatever method to send that works well for you.  


Posts: 4

« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2006, 09:16:34 AM »

My question is pretty much the same. I'm just learning the code to pass my element 1 in April. I didn't really start to enjoy it till I got an MFJ practice oscillator (which has a straight key). Now it's starting to be fun Smiley. Any recommendations on paddles for when I become KI4NHB/AG on April 8? Does anyone use the bug? Is it hard to get the hang of iambic after learning on a straight key? Ah, so many questions, so little time.

Posts: 491

« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2006, 09:27:21 AM »

Robert (Bob?), you don't say how much you wish to spend on a set of paddles?  The "best" is determined to "how much money?".  I've used the Bencher, Kent TP-1 and the Vibroplex - Paddles are very much a "personal preference" type thing and it's really hard for anyone to tell which set would be best for "you", only what has been best for "them".  I might suggest you read the reviews on eham - you will get LOTS of personal opinions there.

The Bencher used is perhaps $50?

The Kent TP-1 used is perhaps $100?

Those prices are VERY general and depends on where you find them.  I got a real deal on the Vibroplex paddles at $35.  I think I would start with the Iambic paddles (two levers) instead of the non-iambic (single lever).

You didn't say what speed you are at with the straight key - best way to tell is allow your computer to copy your code (off the air) - can the computer copy your key sent code?  the computer as a really hard time with my straight key sent code while with paddles I do pretty good up to about 15wpm.

YES!!!! A bug is VERY hard to master - for me.  Or that is what my computer says.

Good luck and hope to work you on the air (I'm in Mobile, AL).

Ken H>


Posts: 242

« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2006, 05:38:03 AM »

Way to go!  When you start out with a straight key, it forces you to concentrate on correct character formation, proper spacing, and good rhythm, or else you sound like dog doo.  I agree that it is time to move to paddles.  If you are going to be very active on CW, paddles are the way to go because of the arm and wrist fatigue factor.  I used good technique but after 6 or 8 Qs a day, my arm felt like I'd been lifting weights.  

One thing you can do is tape your sending and play it back to see how well you can copy yourself.  Go somewhere on the Internet and find a long article, and practice sending from the text.  Work 30 minutes on speed, then 30 minutes on total accuracy and don't worry about speed at all. do this for 3 days in a row, then get on the air for real, and you will be amazed how much easier good sending becomes.  it helps your copying also.  Good luck!  We're all glad you are enjoying CW.
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