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Author Topic: Arm ache with sending practice  (Read 6250 times)
VK2FAK
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Posts: 87




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« on: May 25, 2012, 04:43:26 PM »

Hi All....

Am getting a little sore in the forearm...nothing bad,,,and a small ache up on the inside of the elbow...

question is, is this normal...as in using some muscles that don't normally get a work out with normal activity.......or is it that my arm in not in a good position or holding the key the right way..

John
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N3PDT
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« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2012, 09:41:14 PM »

Hi John,

Probably a bit of "all of the above". Technique and position are important. I am most comfortable sending with the key near the front edge of the bench - bench low and chair high. Arm doesn't touch table, and motion is from the elbow - keeping the wrist relaxed, but not flexing it. There are other techniques that are just as proper, but this one works for me.

No, not exactly normal. The forearm and elbow pain are signs you need to develop a less stressful, relaxed, technique.

Doug N3PDT
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VA7CPC
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« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2012, 09:52:35 PM »

"Glass arm" has been around as long as there have been straight keys.  There have been numerous fixes, and the three that come to my mind immediately are (in historical order):

. . . A "sideswiper" key (Google 'art of sideswipery' for a good write-up)

. . . a "bug" or "semi-automatic" key (dots are made by a vibrating lever)

. . . a paddle and keyer.

They all work.

So you can either figure out what you're doing wrong -- probably a problem of posture and/or key position and orientation, or a need to relax your muscles -- or change from a straight key to something else. 

             charles
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STAYVERTICAL
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« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2012, 03:50:52 AM »

Hi John,

This is a common problem, as others have said.
The technique when sending with a straight key is to relax your arm and let your wrist drop to make a CW element.
That is about all there is to it.

Also, your posture depends to an extent on the type of key/knob you are using.
If you are using the american style "flat-top" knob you hold your hand and fingers differently to the english/naval "conical-platform" type.
Your desk height and key tension is also important, so experiment with what feels comfortable for you.

Without trying to diminish your will to learn morse the correct way, which is to learn to send first with a straight key -
when you have reached 15/20WPM, consider going to a paddle/keyer.

I sometimes use a straight key, and can get to about 25WPM, but I confess it becomes a bit sweaty after a while.
Most of the time, I use a paddle with the electronic keyer inbuilt in my rig, or (sacrilege) a PC sending program if I am feeling naughty.
I like to keep my skills up on the straight key, but using it all the time would be tiring for anyone, so once you are proficient on the straight key, consider a paddle/key.

I personally don't use a semi-automatic mechanical "bug", and you may like one, but be warned, their range of speed, and accuracy, depends very much on the quality of the bug and operator.
In the right hands a bug is a wonder to see and hear, but unfortunately, in many cases, you get the dits at 30wpm and the dahs at 15wpm.
So try one before you lay out the cash.

But definitely keep learning on the straight key, aim for perfect code, then when you reach 15/20wpm look at some other options.
Of course you may love the straight key so much you decide to make it your only keying option, the choice is yours.
Most hams you contact will be using paddle/keyers in my experience.

73 - Rob


« Last Edit: May 26, 2012, 03:55:25 AM by STAYVERTICAL » Logged
N4OI
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« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2012, 05:01:12 AM »

I taught myself to send using an iambic paddle and keyer straightaway -- basic Bencher hardware.  As my maximum speed advanced to 30+, I went all-out and bought an incredible Begali Signature paddle.  CW life was good.  But after reading the SKCC posts and testimonies of others, I suspected I may be missing some zen-like straight key experience.

So... bought a heavy Begali Spark key and gave it a try.  And a try, and a try.  Got to 20 wpm or so pretty quickly; had many QSOs -- mostly long conversations. 

Came to the realization that straight key work is tedious.  I found myself avoiding long-winded answers because of the effort needed to pound out every little dih and dah.  And yes, my arm became tired, but never painful.  What's more, my fist was not as crisp as it should be and neither were the fists of the other straight key OPs I heard.  And CW became work.

I made a quality decision and returned to my Begali paddle and keyer for all but a few SKN QSOs or if someone wants to exchange SKCC numbers.  What a joy!  I can go for an hour-long rag chew without thinking about it.  There is no 20 wpm speed limit, my arm does not tire, and my characters sound great!

In summary, there is no requirement that you become "proficient" on a straight key before moving on, or even start out on a straight key for that matter.  I suggest you consider trying a good iambic paddle and keyer -- you may not want to look back...

73 ES GOD BLESS U ES URS DE KEN N4OI   Grin   
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K8AXW
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« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2012, 08:46:59 AM »

John, the method taught "back in the day" was:  Straight chair, relaxed posture, (leaning slightly forward) elbow on the desk with the key positioned back on the desktop so that when you grasp the key knob by the thumb, pointer and middle finger tips your wrist is approximately 2 - 2/1/2 off the desk.  The arm and fingers are relaxed with the arm and key forming a straight line.

A character is formed by dropping the wrist or as some describe, "pumping the wrist."  The elbow never leaves the desktop and the fingers never leave the key knob.

This method uses wrist action and very little muscular action of the forearm.  This method was taught as a method to minimize effort which was necessary many years ago because handkey sending sometimes went on for hours.

The key setup itself can add strain to the sending.  The trunnion adjustments should be so that the key arm moves freely but with little if any vertical or horizontal "slop".  The contact spacing should be the thickness of one post card.  (Read QSL card for this day and age) Finally, the key return spring adjustment should give you a positive return but also soft enough to allow easy keying without heavy pressure.



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VA7CPC
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« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2012, 07:24:36 AM »

. . .
In summary, there is no requirement that you become "proficient" on a straight key before moving on, or even start out on a straight key for that matter.  I suggest you consider trying a good iambic paddle and keyer -- you may not want to look back...

73 ES GOD BLESS U ES URS DE KEN N4OI   Grin   

+1.

          Charles
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N5XM
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« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2012, 09:58:13 AM »

The only problem with leaving the elbow on the desk is that is the area where the ulnar nerve lives.  Piss that sucker off an you have big problems.  Furthermore, if you don't send just right with a straight key, you can anger the median nerve at the wrist, and presto, carpal tunnel syndrome, not to mention tendinitis, which is a real pain in the back side. 
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K8AXW
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« Reply #8 on: May 27, 2012, 11:02:52 AM »

XM:  As with anything, there are potential hazards.  So it's a question of aggravating nerves in the elbow, forearm or wrist.  Also, as with most thing involving the body, a conditioning must be done to minimize the potential hazard(s).

No doubt if this thread continues on John will get enough advice to last him a lifetime and all of it being wrong for him! 
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W5LZ
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« Reply #9 on: May 27, 2012, 12:51:53 PM »

I think 'PDT' gave the most likely answer.  There can be several conditions to that answer, as with the other replies.  Try doing it a bit differently, see what happens.
 - 'Doc
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STAYVERTICAL
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« Reply #10 on: May 27, 2012, 02:15:42 PM »

I would be in the camp of those who recommend using a paddle/keyer for day to day operating.
However, I would definitely not recommend that a newcomer go straight to a paddle.

Anyone who has been away from CW for a long time, and then has come back, will testify that what would seem easy - sending with a straight key -  is far from straightforward.
The brain is an adaptive neural network which builds connections between neurons to facilitate a new skill.
The brain-muscle co-ordination required to send straight key morse is not the same as a paddle.

So if, you are in the situation where in the future you have the need to send straight morse, and you have only trained on a paddle, you will have problems.
But if you have laid the groundwork by learning on a straight key, even to a speed of 15WPM, then in the future you will quickly adapt to it again.
Like any skill or structure, time spent on the foundations will strengthen you as an operator.

Shortcuts inevitably end in short-skill, so take the small amount of extra time to learn on a straight key - your options will be much expanded.

73 - Rob

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K8AXW
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« Reply #11 on: May 28, 2012, 08:41:03 AM »

STAYVERTICAL: 
Quote
So if, you are in the situation where in the future you have the need to send straight morse, and you have only trained on a paddle, you will have problems.
But if you have laid the groundwork by learning on a straight key, even to a speed of 15WPM, then in the future you will quickly adapt to it again.
Like any skill or structure, time spent on the foundations will strengthen you as an operator.

Shortcuts inevitably end in short-skill, so take the small amount of extra time to learn on a straight key - your options will be much expanded.


Rob, you nailed it!  I've always advocated to my kids, grandkids and any other kid that would listen, "work as hard as you can while in grade and high school because this is where you learn the basics which becomes the foundation for your life." 

Starting out with a handkey teaches the basic formation of a code element.  This in turn teaches the correct element length, spacing and sound both for sending and receiving. 

With a keyer, the electronics does the element forming and spacing.  For those who don't believe this, switch off the keyer automatic completion option then go back to sending.
It's a real eye opener!
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VK2FAK
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« Reply #12 on: May 28, 2012, 08:25:38 PM »

Hi all...

Good advice.....some of you guys sound like all the TV ad's down here in Australia,,they keep telling you, you can have every ailment known the man...its just damn depressing....

But I do take your advice in the way its given....and yes, I want to avoid that nerve damage..

I thought I had this sorted at one stage...tried the arm and elbow on the Table...but seemed to always be trying to keep the arm down, it had it's own idea and always wanted to rise of the table....

So Back to the key about 2in from the front of the Table....I found a grip that works, probably unconventional...but hey....no rules to this, as mentioned what works and what is comfortable....I also changed the small disc on the key to a Door knob style...more grip...not that I actually grip it. just wider positioning of the fingers.

I would really like to get the straight key thing working right, and in use for a while and maybe later look at other options.....maybe.

So far this is working ok....no tiredness in the arm..and can run at around 17-18wpm and more important, the FLDigi can decode what I am sending...so timing must be very reasonable....so I think I am on track..

John
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KE6EE
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« Reply #13 on: May 28, 2012, 09:33:10 PM »

Sounds like you are figuring things out John. Many years ago when I learned the code the only straight-key method I ever heard about was the American-elbow-on-the-table.

When I returned to ham radio, and CW, fifty years hence, about two years ago, I inadvertently came into possession a fine key with the knob set relatively high off the table which was designed to be used the way the rest of the world uses a straight key.

Since then, I've adoped the Unamerican style and I think it's far more useful ergonomically. One uses more, and several larger, muscle groups than doing the straight-key dance al Americano.

I can send quite a long time at 20 wpm, which speed, or less, is almost universally tolerable on the CW bands. And each little letter can express itself individually so that the very maximum of thought and feeling can peruse my RSTs, QTHs and Op ids.

It's no accident that Americans invented the bug and the cootie--because the way they (we) learned to send can be very hard on the fine structures of the hand and forearm.

As for the paddle, and perhaps the bug. Not nearly as much fun. More of a mind game than a dance. Dancing makes me happier any day than playing chess.
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PA0BLAH
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« Reply #14 on: May 29, 2012, 08:04:58 AM »

Sounds like you are figuring things out John. Many years ago when I learned the code the only straight-key method I ever heard about was the American-elbow-on-the-table.

When I returned to ham radio, and CW, fifty years hence, about two years ago, I inadvertently came into possession a fine key with the knob set relatively high off the table which was designed to be used the way the rest of the world uses a straight key.

Since then, I've adoped the Unamerican style and I think it's far more useful ergonomically. One uses more, and several larger, muscle groups than doing the straight-key dance al Americano.

Wise words, I remember being in Rochester NY, where they showed lilac "the largest display of flowers in the world"
I then decided, long ago, that "the world" must be the USA and nothing else, in their eyes.

Just look around, look at the USA performance in HST (high speed telegraphy) and the rest of the world and take your lessons.
The Junker key is low flat knob, excellent German designed key, but guys used to use an egg knob camel key fall back in speed from 30 to max 25 wpm.

There are more more or less stupid things. So the military required you to give up all your personality, not only by uniform and hair cut, or cut hair, but also the way you have to write. That is a way you maximal can reach a speed of 17 wpm. When the speed is faster you have to use a mill.

Pity for all the amateurs that compete at hamfests and have to hand in their hand writing. K7QO did it another way and as a youngster wrote 40 wpm on hamfests. Not the "military" depersonalized way, hence.

 


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