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Reviews Categories | Keys & Paddles | Kent Straight Key Help

Reviews Summary for Kent Straight Key
Kent Straight Key Reviews: 32 Average rating: 4.5/5 MSRP: $129.95
Product is in production.
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AA4OO Rating: 5/5 Sep 17, 2015 10:35 Send this review to a friend
The Best Straight Key I've used...   Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I have posted my review of the Kent Straight Key with photos and a video posted in my blog at:

Here is the bulk of the text from that review:

I looked at a lot of different straight keys on the web but didn't have the opportunity to try any in person. I chose the Kent mainly because I wanted the European style and I just liked the way it looked.

I emailed Robert Kent at Kent Engineering and asked him questions about the Kent Hand Key. I wanted to know the age of my key and the type of wood used in the base.

The base is wood, obviously, but I couldn't determine the type. Even after all these years it's quite fragrant, especially when the bottom cover is removed. Robert Kent told me they used all manner of woods over the years, basically whatever was available so who knows. It smells like Walnut to me but I didn't think Walnut was plentiful in England so it's probably something else. The wood base is weighted internally with two steel bars in a hollowed out section covered by the base plate. It weighs about 2.2lbs (1kg).

Kent Keys were manufactured in England from 1983 until around 2006, after which they contracted out the work to a firm in Germany. As best as I can determine from Robert, keys such as mine with the continuity strap on top were manufactured in England. Those with the strap on the bottom were kitted or made in Germany as is the current model. These keys look very similar to the type used to send the SOS on the ill fated Titanic.

A continuity Strap assures a good electrical connection from arm to base. The terminals are wired internally under the base plate to the posts at the rear. The post have knurled knobs for securing either eyelets or bare wires into holes in the rear of the post.

The name plate reads "KENT Preston England PR46BY"

The anvil and striker are heavy duty and produce a "clack" in operation duly amplified by the wooden base. Some reviews here find this a real detractor and if I operated within earshot of my family they would likely not appreciate its music as much as I do.

The business end of the key is solid brass with a brushed finish. This key is at least a decade old and the finish has held up well. The arm is SOLID stuff, no bending is going to occur no matter how HAM fisted you are (pun intended).

The sealed bearings are sturdily secured to the frame. There is absolutely no side-to-side motion as the key is being used. Tension is maintained by a spring in the base that pulls down on the rear of the bar. This keeps the bearings tensioned more evenly than a pusher spring in the front would (from what I read). All the adjustments use finely pitched screws with knurled knobs. It can be adjusted to an extremely small gap and tension can be adjusted from a butterfly's wing to longbow pull given the leverage of the spring. The larger the gap of course the more cacophony the key makes in operation. As my form keeps changing I find that I keep adjusting it to fit.

The "Navy Style" knob is a two piece hard rubber monster of a thing. When my key first arrived, the knob had oxidized with some white discoloration but oils from my hand have turned it dark again. It is very slightly dished on top with a good height for a proper grip. Some people seem to like to replace the bottom section with a poker chip but I don't think I'd want that to be rough edged.

The base plate is sturdy metal, covered with green felt/blaze. The screws secure the rubber feet and plate to the base. Removing the plate gains access to the wiring and screws securing the components and bar holding the spring.

Alright, I'm admittedly no expert in these things but I have to say that I'm very pleased with this key. All my contacts this week have been made using this key and it's beginning to feel like an extension of my arm. I'm very pleased. The only negatives I can find with it is the racket it makes in operation but with headphones on or the sidetone turned up it's of no concern to me and for some reason I'm growing to like the noise. If you operate in a room adjacent to family members it may cause some consternation. Also of concern is it's size and the operating style requires you to have it near the edge of your desk, so if you're not willing to dedicate that space it wouldn't be right for you. It is also larger than my KX3 radio so I certainly wouldn't classify this as a "portable" key however I'd have no concerns over its durability for transport. You could probably throw it in your trunk and take a long trip without any wear for the worse on the Kent.

I do plan to eventually try some other keys. Junker's seem to be popular choices as well as Nye's. I briefly tried a friend's Vibroplex Bug and don't feel that it's a good choice for a new CW operator (at least for me). I've also tried using my Palm Single as a side-swiper and that's not natural to me either.
K5MF Rating: 4/5 May 19, 2015 20:30 Send this review to a friend
Good But Noisy  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I bought this key used for a good price. When I received it my first impression was that it was well built and looked very nostalgic. I played with it a while and quickly determined it is very noisy. OK, I expect a little tap on key down, it has it. The wooden base amplifies this a bit. I suspect that the metal base would be a bit more quiet but I don't think it looks as nice. That in itself is not a problem. However, on key up, the backstop adjustment screw makes a very loud "clack" when it bottoms out. I can deal with a tap on key down, but not on key up. That totally blew off my rhythm. I decided that this is unacceptable to me so I took it apart and glued a small circle of black felt on the back stop. Now it is really quiet and I can use it just fine. I don't feel that one should have to do that sort of mod on a moderately priced custom key.

I like the key just fine now. It is very smooth and balanced to the point that it takes very little if any spring pressure to use. It has a very nice action.

If not for the noise I would have rated it a 5. I feel I will use this key a lot now that I have it working to my satisfaction.

EI2HNB Rating: 5/5 Apr 8, 2015 08:10 Send this review to a friend
Rock Solid  Time owned: more than 12 months
A high quality no-nonsense straight key. The construction quality is first rate, its heavy and very solid. This key will last a very long time. In use I can't praise it enough, it is well balanced, the base is stable and it has plenty of adjustment range. Everything you need in a straight key.
K7ZOV Rating: 5/5 Apr 21, 2014 16:30 Send this review to a friend
A smooth straight key  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
I did a little trading and got a Kent SK-1 straight key. Solid brass. Lots of solid brass. Large working area. Yet incredibly smooth almost effortless keying motion. It is mounted on a wooden base with hidden steel for added weight. There are two versions of the key, The SK-1 and the KT-1 which is the same key with a all metal base. What I like about the key is the solid feel. No pivot movement. The smooth operation do to the ball bearing movement. If you are a novice to morse code and have trouble with the typical basic J-38 look a likes. Or if you are a seasoned operator who just likes a straight key, this one maybe for you. It is a real winner.
FO5MD Rating: 0/5 Jan 4, 2014 14:51 Send this review to a friend
Awful service  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Sorry. The one that I got from Kent was a piece of junk. Bought it from their web site as a kit. When it arrived (sep. 2013) several pieces were missing. I contacted Kent and they say they will send me out the required pieces. January 2014 stil waiting for the missing parts !! OK enough for me. Where's the Kent ? in the trash box. Have I mentioned piece of junk ?
KD7XH Rating: 5/5 Dec 21, 2011 09:46 Send this review to a friend
Great--but nosiey  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
This is nice key with precise adjustments that do not move. The key operates good using ether the American or British way of sending. I guess that Kent outsourced the manufacturing to Germany as the address is in that country. It is well built with quality parts and attention to detail is good. I would recommend this key to anyone.
W3CRR Rating: 5/5 Jul 13, 2011 19:58 Send this review to a friend
Highly recommended  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
My dream may still be to someday own a genuine Marconi PS No213, but I am very pleased, indeed, with my new Kent. I bought it as a kit and am glad I did. Assembly was intuitive and fun -- about an hour's pleasant "labor" -- and the result is a wonderfully balanced and enjoyable-to-operate Morse key. I didn't think anything (other than the fantasized about Marconi) could be as smooth in its action as my beloved Bunnell Navy Flameproof, but I was wrong. The Kent is just as nice and non-fatiguing to use and MUCH more attractive. I recommend this English jewel highly.
W2DI Rating: 5/5 Jun 3, 2010 09:45 Send this review to a friend
First impression: Excellent!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I am not a cw expert by any stretch of the imagination. But having a qrp rig and with conditions less than great, I thought I would mix in some cw and get 'back to basics.'

I could never master a paddle; iambic or single lever. I always send an extra dit or dash, even at slow speeds. So I gave up on electronic keying and went back to a straight key.

I've used an Ameco straight key and it is ok, but somewhat stiff and tiring.

Then I got the Kent SK-1 (not a kit), and I am just so impressed with this key, I actually want to get on and work cw!!

It is smooth and true. The workmanship, from the brushed brass mechanism, to the heavy wood base, to the 'pool table' underside surface and rubber (screwed not glued) feet, is superb.

And, the plastic knob isn't bad either. Last time I looked, Vibroplex and other mid-range keys used plastic knobs and paddles.

I can't speak for others or their experiences, but this key, IMHO, is not junk by any means. To the contrary; for the price ($120 assembled), I think this is a really fine key and makes cw sending very comfortable and enjoyable.

(BTW, I found no problem sending with my arm resting on the table)

Thanks for reading my opinion. The best to all!

Joe -- W2DI
N2UGB Rating: 5/5 Mar 21, 2009 18:09 Send this review to a friend
One of my favorites  Time owned: more than 12 months
I've had a Kent for many years and have always liked it. One of the least tiring straight keys I own. I purchased it as a kit and assembled it without any problem. Very high-quality components. I have mine with the recessed portion on the bottom, not top, preferring the action and look of it in that configuration.

Sending at medium speed is quite effortless.

A classic key with a retro look and contemporary performance.

Don't forget to polish base occasionaly to prevent the wood from drying out.
AA1UY Rating: 5/5 Mar 21, 2009 17:30 Send this review to a friend
One you'll want to keep.  Time owned: more than 12 months
I bought one of these, in kit form, direct from the R. A. Kent Engineers web site and they sent it to the U.S.A. quickly. Being an English company, the keys and paddles are priced in U.K. Pounds, but your credit card company will take care of the currency exchange for you (for a small fee of course).

When it arrived, everything was present and correct and it went together quickly and easily. Well engineered, solid brass top parts on a weighted, real wood base, which, on the underside, has a metal plate covered in billiard-table-green felt. It stands squarely on four solid, rubber, screw-on feet.

In use, it's a little more work than say, an "American Key" due to its heft, and, being solid brass and wood, it makes a bit of a racket too. That said though, it does the job very well and is just beautiful to look at; a real link to the past.

Probably not suitable for high speed work, but then, what straight key really is? No, if you want to QRQ, use a bug or an electronic keyer; the guy on the receiving end will thank you for it.

R. A. Kent Engineers make a good variety of beautiful, functional, high quality morse keys and paddles and if you enjoy using morse code, you should check them out before paying the big bucks for the shiny "designer" keys and paddles.
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