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Author Topic: Expensive paddles  (Read 1818 times)

Posts: 1316

« on: May 23, 2008, 02:12:18 PM »

Sorry to post three of the new threads in a row...can you tell I'm eager to get ready and do CW next month on field day? :-)

I was looking at Bencher's fine iambic paddles. They go up to nearly $500 for the finest bearing spring magnet gizmo-doo-hickey action and cosmetic appeal. But the less cosmetic (but still nice) models claim to be fine instruments as well.

Since I cannot go try them out first at the local mall, and since I've only used a straight key for what little morse code I have done, can anyone offer advice on bang for the buck factors?

BTW, I'm copying 5 WPM now pretty well now using the W1AW archive practice files. Most of the real traffic on HF is way too fast, but I recognize a letter here and there. Like sipping water from a firehose.

Posts: 28

« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2008, 02:20:24 PM »


The less expensive paddles are fine. I used a Bencher BY-1 (black base) and it had a nice feel for it. I used if for 2 almost three years till last FD.

FD 2007 was the first year i operated CW from our club QTH. I spent the whole time in the station with the few others that did CW. I am hoping to do the same again this upcoming FD.

I now use a Brown Brothers paddle and i gave the Bencher back to my Grandfather. The bencher is good but the Brown Brothers is OUTSTANDING!

5wpm is good, but for FD you might want to go a little higher in speed. We usuall run 30 wpm or there abouts. But, still please join in the game. I always enjoy CW more then SSB.

73 es GL,
James NN4JM
16 yrs old.

Posts: 18

« Reply #2 on: May 23, 2008, 06:40:46 PM »

I've had a BY-1 for about 10 years and it will do you just fine.  I just checked the Bencher website, I had no idea these things cost so much.  I don't remember what I paid new, but I think I ordered mine with a new Kenwood rig and a bunch of other stuff, so probably wasn't paying much attention to the cost of the paddles.

You might check E-bay for paddles and of course if your rig doesn't have a built in keyer you'll need to spring for one of those too.  I use a Logikey keyer.

Posts: 2808

« Reply #3 on: May 23, 2008, 11:57:43 PM »

Paddles have become "conspicuous consumption" items for hams.  Jewelry for the shack.

Two suggestions for "best bang for the buck":

1.  A Bencher BY-1, used, on eBay.   There are lots of them, and about $60 will buy you one.   If you don't like it, recycle it.

2.  A "Black Widow" paddle kit from:

The Black Widow paddle uses a neat pivot arrangement -- two small balls for each arm -- for great solidity and reasonably low drag.

K8RA builds paddles from brass, with ball bearings, for under $100.

There are dozens of homebrew paddle designs, and some of the simplest are quite effective.  A few pieces of PCB board, some glue, suction cups, and a few small bolts and washers will make something workable.  

I built a tiny "paddle" out of two microswitches mounted on a piece of perfboard.  I could manage it up to about 15 wpm -- I didn't like the "feel", but it worked.   The commercial equivalent is the Finger Tip Tapper -- see the eHam reviews.

When you're doing 5 wpm (or anything below 15 wpm), _anything_ works OK.<g>  [I know this from experience.]


Posts: 1

« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2008, 02:28:02 AM »

hear goes a telegraph key one op loves
can be the same key that another op can not stand
lots of ops love their Bencher
lots of ops can not stand anything made by them

i for one do not like Bencher keys
have owned more than one
and never took a shine to them

does not mean you will not like a Bencher

its all very subjective
like what kind of socks do you like

having owned a few hundred telegraph keys
my favorite set of paddles

is the Schurr Profi II
also like my GHD paddles
that does not mean you will like them

you might want to see
the Morse Express web site
also see yahoo user group " brasspounder"

there is nothing NOTHING like using
a realy good high end telegraph key

have straight keys that are worth over 250 bucks
bugs worth more

but a telegraph key is nothing more than a tool
in the hands of a master
any pile of junk key can sound good

but for the likes of me
its much easier to use
a realy great high end key

it took me years to find out
that there was more to telegraph keys
than using a  J-38 or Vibroplex single lever

is there a local club
get active in it
get to know some cw ops
see if you can visit their shacks and try their key

yours truly


Posts: 136

« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2008, 08:11:50 AM »

I would suggest trying one at a local ham's shack.  That is what I did.  I can't stand "squishy" paddles.  I need mine to made of VERY solid brass even though I do not have a heavy fist.  I settled on the Kent iambic, and I love it.  It's not the prettiest thing in the world, but I think the best bang for the buck.  If money is not an issue, check out Begali:

They are expensive, but VERY good paddles.

Chris KQ6UP

Posts: 136

« Reply #6 on: May 24, 2008, 08:14:37 AM »

p.s.  The reason I suggest trying what ever you think you want to purchase (at a local ham buddies shack), is that paddle preference is a very personal thing.  You might end up spending a lot of money on something you hate.  I drove 2 hours to a "local" ham's shack and tried his Kent.

Chris KQ6UP

Posts: 247


« Reply #7 on: May 24, 2008, 10:01:14 AM »

The BY paddles are functionally all the same, what you pay for when buying the more expensive ones is pretty much visual appearance only.

The BY-1 is probably the most popular paddle in the world.  A lot of hams use it, and for most this is a good choice and an excellent value for money.

Some of us are too hard handed for it, though.  Speaking for myself, using the BY paddle is a two-hand operation at least when I get eager.  The result is that I ruined my BY-1 after about 2,000 DX-style QSOs.  The levers were bent out of shape and after a while impossible to adjust properly.

So for me, the Bencher Hex paddle is a better choice as it is heavier and has more solid levers.

If you think the BY paddle will be solid enough for you - it very well may be, as they are for most ops - you should think twice about buying a used one unless you're able to see it and try it before you buy.  (I am saying this because I'm not likely to be the only one able to break them.)

You'll probably be better off finding a store with good prices.  For instance R&L Electronics who sells the BY-1 for $104 - - I have nothing but good experiences with this online store, and I have used them several times.

LB3KB Sigurd

Posts: 1

« Reply #8 on: May 25, 2008, 02:42:11 AM »

if you ever had a set of bencher paddles
go ''''''' SPRONG ''''''''
in the middle of a dx contact

Posts: 1316

« Reply #9 on: May 25, 2008, 01:22:17 PM »

Thanks for the responses. Some local hams were adamant about their preference for the Kent, and cited basically the same reasons as some of those on this thread.

So, Kent is purchased and in shipping.

And, I have a "Bunnell-S" key my dad gave me years ago. A brief internet search leads me to believe that its design was later standardized for the military between WWI and WWII and referred to as a "j-38," if I'm not mistaken.

The bakelite or whatever knob was lost somewhere along the way but otherwise seems to work OK.

Posts: 209

« Reply #10 on: May 27, 2008, 06:16:10 AM »

The best paddles to use for field day are no paddles at all! Get the Winkeyer USB  or an optoisolated serial cable
or Rigblaster Pro with built-in Winkeyer

It's the best way to send error-free CW.

Posts: 1316

« Reply #11 on: May 27, 2008, 08:29:39 PM »

quote, "The best paddles to use for field day are no paddles at all!"

Now where is the fun in that? :-)

Here I am, trying to learn CW and be a "real" ham, and there you go tempting me to take the easy route!!

However, for someone just getting newly experienced in morse code/CW, it would only be good manners to the veteran hams to go to the extra effort and have a backup to receive the code! Now THAT is rationalization for ya. <wider grin>


Posts: 79

« Reply #12 on: June 29, 2008, 01:52:56 PM »

Well, yesterday I bought 3 keys at the world's  #2 ham fest, the Ham Radio exhibition in DL. 2 were from Begali and the 3rd one a German key named Morse conductor from

At the exhibition, I stopped and talked with the CW club guys and one loves the standard Benchers.

Don't look only at one brand and don't only consider price. A quality key will last a lifetime.

Why don't you read some reviews and visit manufacturer websites? There are many fine American keys.  The high value of the Euro makes buying European brands more expensive.
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