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Author Topic: Straight Key Ergonomics  (Read 5451 times)
KB3MDT
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Posts: 199




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« on: June 02, 2014, 07:18:19 PM »

Hi,
      I'd like to learn Morse Code and use a straight key.   Mr Arthur Rightiss (Arthritis) is a not so good a friend of mine.  :-)   What is the ergonomic way to use a straight key? 

1) Index finger only?
2) Index and middle finger?
3) Other

I figure I'd ask, as its easier to learn the correct way than having to unlearn the wrong way.  Thanks.

Ken
73
KB3MDT
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VA7CPC
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Posts: 2386




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« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2014, 07:32:29 PM »

FWIW:

Get a paddle.

You can work a single-lever paddle (or an iambic paddle) by just rotating your forearm, _without_ moving your fingers or your wrist.  You can't use "iambic technique" that way (it requires quick and delicate finger movement), but you can send CW plenty fast enough for most QSO's.

That means you'll need a keyer (the device that detects a closed contact, and makes "dits" and "dahs").  Keyers are pretty cheap, and most modern rigs (say, within the past 15 years) have them built in.

Another consideration:

. . . It's a lot harder to _receive_ Morse, than it is to _send_ Morse.

So start to practice receiving.  There are lots of practice programs for PC, Mac's, and a good online site:

lcwo.net     ("Learn CW Online")

.           Charles

PS -- the "key vs paddle" debate is a religious issue.  I have my faith, and others have theirs.
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NN4RH
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Posts: 324




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« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2014, 08:20:34 PM »

Hi,
      I'd like to learn Morse Code and use a straight key.   Mr Arthur Rightiss (Arthritis) is a not so good a friend of mine.  :-)   What is the ergonomic way to use a straight key? 

1) Index finger only?
2) Index and middle finger?
3) Other

I figure I'd ask, as its easier to learn the correct way than having to unlearn the wrong way.  Thanks.

Ken
73
KB3MDT


None of the above.

Google for a PDF titled "The art and skill of radio telegraphy"
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K7KBN
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Posts: 2802




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« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2014, 09:11:22 PM »

Index finger on top of knob; thumb and middle finger on the sides.  Wrist motion is what does it.  With Art in the picture, you do what works best for YOU, which might not be what I or anyone else suggests.
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73
Pat K7KBN
CWO4 USNR Ret.
KD8IIC
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Posts: 157




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« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2014, 10:20:37 PM »

  Good Question and many fine possibilities. I myself had some carpal tunnel type of problems. I found the Touch Key to be invaluable to relieve the discomfort and still send fine Morse. It does take practice to master just like any other key. Mine was the Touch Tapper, it's about the size of a pack of cigarettes. I used it as a straight key but there's two "paddles" so it can do iambic.
 I have two of them and have since retired them and I am using a couple of Lionel J36's as sideswipers/straight keys. I like having more motion involved in my keying and of course you don't get too pysical using a touch key. My symptoms have subsided and can use a J38 or other standard key.
 There is an excellent video on Youtube which teaches proper manipulation and sending with a straight key. It is an Army Signal Corps traing film and quite invaluable. they teach how to rest your arm and send for hours on end without fatigue.
  73.
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KB4QAA
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Posts: 2371




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« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2014, 07:52:02 AM »

Then there is the 'European sending method" where you put the key on the edge of the desk, let your elbow hang down by your side.

http://www.mtechnologies.com/wordpress/?p=16

http://youtu.be/Ikx0vHpAqrg

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K8AXW
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Posts: 3828




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« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2014, 09:07:36 AM »

KBN describes the correct way of holding a straight key knob.  However, it must be understood that the "correct" way must have variations or exceptions dictated by, like in your case, your arthritic hand.

I have the same problem.  It would be next to impossible for me to use a hand key for more than 30 seconds without excruciating pain in my thumbs.

CPC has the correct answer for you....and for me.  I started using a single lever paddle  with keyer many years ago and never looked back.  All I have to do is simply rock my hand back and forth to operate the paddle.  I can operate around a half hour before my thumb cramps up and I have to quit.

As you no doubt have learned by now, there are many things we would like to do or be able to do but finances, obligations and health are the main determining factors that prevent this.
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N6GND
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Posts: 375




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« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2014, 10:36:49 AM »

However, it must be understood that the "correct" way must have variations or exceptions dictated by, like in your case, your arthritic hands.  It would be next to impossible for me to use a hand key for more than 30 seconds without excruciating pain in my thumbs.

All of us must deal with our Arthur Eyetus as we can.

I think using a straight key is an excellent way to learn most effectively the rhythm of the code. I would suggest that you go ahead and get a key and experiment with it.

You can choose which hand to use. If your right hand is painful, try using your left. Some ops can use either hand.

You don't have to involve your thumb--you can send with any fingers that work for you.

I would recommend using the European method with the key near the front edge of the desk and your arm not resting on the desk. I can send either way, but I think the American method, with the forearm resting on the desk, is much more stressful for the small structures of the wrist. The Euro method uses larger, stronger structures of the arm.

Last, there is the cootie key, which is fun and often produces an interesting, easily-identifiable sound.

At any rate, go for it, follow your wishes and intuitions and have fun!

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GW3OQK
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Posts: 145




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« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2014, 07:28:47 AM »

I support what N6GND says. My fingers have arthritis, I can hardly close my fingers to the palm but I do not know it when using the hand key for most of the slight motion is in the wrist. I can do 23 wpm relaxed and easy with my elbow by my side. Make sure the key is solidly fixed to the edge of the bench for the slightest possible movement ruins things.
Hope to meet you on air
Andrew
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PS7HD
Member

Posts: 11




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« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2014, 04:30:05 PM »

If you want to use a straight key, use a straight key, no problem,
see:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S78NL3eOvms

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GlWFzZ5kaE

these are good examples,
good technique, good qsd,

Best 73
Nathan, PS7HD
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W0WCA
Member

Posts: 38




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« Reply #10 on: June 10, 2014, 02:43:32 AM »

In considering the ergonomics of sending with a straight key, a couple of things come to mind:
First thing is the European way wherein your keying arm is completely off the table.  This is good ergonomics in that it protects the Carpal tunnel however I always wonder about the shoulder and neck muscles.
Next is the way we generally do it here in the US; arm on the table.  This can and has carpal tunnel issues.     
I have done this – use paddles but only the right paddle (if you are right handed.  Turn your internal keyer off and you have good ergonomics in that the carpal tunnel is not subject to injury from contact with the table or desk.
One might also mount key on some sort of right angle block. 
Just something to think about . . .
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VA7CPC
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Posts: 2386




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« Reply #11 on: June 11, 2014, 09:10:21 PM »

. . .     
I have done this – use paddles but only the right paddle (if you are right handed.  Turn your internal keyer off and you have good ergonomics in that the carpal tunnel is not subject to injury from contact with the table or desk.
One might also mount key on some sort of right angle block. 
Just something to think about . . .


That's an interesting idea -- it's equivalent to using the "dah" side of a bug (for both dits and dahs), and ignoring the "dit" side.

. . . And when you get tired of that, you can turn on the rig's keyer, and use it as a paddle.<g>

Sideswipers (I think) were developed as a preventer of carpal tunnel syndrome.   I wonder if anyone ever produced (commercially) a straight key mounted on its side . . .

There is one other possibility:

. . . Use a keyboard.

I know that's not the answer the OP wanted to hear.  But depending on how bad his arthritis is, it might be the one that works the best.


.          Charles

PS -- There was a thread, recently, that talked about problems with some rig.  For a straight key, you needed a stereo plug with the "ring" grounded.   But I can't remember the rig!
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K8JD
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Posts: 51




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« Reply #12 on: June 16, 2014, 10:19:21 AM »

I agree with this description of the straight key grip. That is how I have been doing it for 53 years.  Now,  even with Diabedic Neuropathy and arthritis, I still can manage 15 WPM without going to my Bug or paddles.

Index finger on top of knob; thumb and middle finger on the sides.  Wrist motion is what does it.  With Art in the picture, you do what works best for YOU, which might not be what I or anyone else suggests.
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73...John
SKCC 1395T, FISTS 3853
Official US Taxpayer
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