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Reviews Categories | Keys & Paddles | J-38 Help

Reviews Summary for J-38
J-38 Reviews: 18 Average rating: 4.4/5 MSRP: $5.00
Description: Great old key
Product is in production.
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KC8QFP Rating: 4/5 Nov 16, 2014 13:45 Send this review to a friend
50+ years old  Time owned: more than 12 months
I got mine from my elmer Gene, now a SK - WA8KVU.
So it also has sentimental value to me.
It's a nice cheap straight key. But I wish it was gold plated, that would be classy.
I have a couple of those old crappy keys too, I like the idea of using one of those for PTT, and then a 1/4" phone jack so I can use any standard microphone w/1/4" plug.
AC0CW Rating: 5/5 Mar 25, 2012 19:23 Send this review to a friend
Great, simple key  Time owned: more than 12 months
I've had J-38s almost as long as I've been licensed. The key I use 90% of the time is a Lionel-made J-38. The action is smooth, the tension is excellent with a wide range, and the contacts are larger than other J-38s. The key's action feels solid and can be used with a light touch. A heavy fist may not find them as friendly without adding a heavy or large base or screwing the key down.

Other J-38s (I have several) are almost as good. It's more important to get the lever properly centered because the contacts are much smaller, and generally, the action doesn't feel quite as smooth, but they're still easy sending and pleasant to use.

All the J-38s I have with the original Bakelite base have the base warped to some degree, making them rock a little when sitting on the table. Rather than screw them down, I stuck three low-profile self-adhesive rubber feet on the base, two in the front corners and one centered in the back. Problem solved. Many of them also require some cleanup.

I'd recommend these to anyone, especially the Lionel-made units. Unfortunately, when I bought mine in 2005-2008, they were typically about $25. Now, I'm seeing prices in the hundreds, even up to the price of some middle/high-end new keys. I'm not sure why this is, millions of these were made. If you can get one cheap, go for it. If you can't, buy a nice new key for the same price.
K5FFO Rating: 5/5 Jan 11, 2010 20:37 Send this review to a friend
Solid and reliable  Time owned: more than 12 months
I bought my J38 in 1963, when I first got my license in California, and used it until I got out of radio in 1985. I sold all of my equipment except the key (it was too ugly to sell). Last year I tested for my license and received same. I bought a used rig, rebuilt it,and set it up with the old J38 as my key. Same solid performance as when I first bought it, even though it resided in a toolbox for over 20 years. I can't believe the FCC discontinued Morse Code. On today's crowded bands, it's the only way to go!
KW6LA Rating: 5/5 Aug 15, 2009 19:16 Send this review to a friend
The King  Time owned: more than 12 months
The J-38 is a classic old key and will be for years to come. I found if you replace the spring with
one of less tension you gain more control. I also changed the Knob for one thatís feels better too.
Adjusting all keys properly, will give the sender the best performance for his or her style. I prefer
the Lionel ( maker ) to the others. They are superior in construction and the large contacts give
it a different feel. I have many keys/ bugs in the shack, but always come back to the J-38 for the
fun of operating history.
K5MO Rating: 5/5 Jun 28, 2007 17:16 Send this review to a friend
the gold standard  Time owned: more than 12 months
The J38 is the straight key all others are compared against. I've had several (the latest, keeper is a Lionel) and they've all been great. A wonderful piece of industrial design, functional and timeless.
KJ7BS Rating: 4/5 Jun 28, 2007 16:12 Send this review to a friend
KJ7BS  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
I purchased my Army Signal Corps J-38 straight key when I joined the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC) in August 2006. I also have a Nye Master key and an LTA key (SKCC model), but I like the feel and ease of operation of the J-38 best.

The ONLY negative I can find of this key is the adjustments are too coarse and should have been a finer thread for proper adjustment.

I have over 500 QSOs on this key in 11 months and I am looking for a Lionel J-38.

Mark, KJ7BS
KG6R Rating: 5/5 Jun 28, 2007 13:19 Send this review to a friend
SImplicity is Genius  Time owned: more than 12 months
The j-38 has probably sent more CW than any other key. It has a simple, bullet proof design. There are keys and keyers out there that can send code faster but their price is out of proportion to the benefits.

It was used in WWII by radio ops. It is a great piece of history and a very good design. Try one!
W8ZNX Rating: 2/5 Jun 21, 2007 13:45 Send this review to a friend
maker of glass arms  Time owned: more than 12 months
dont know why
some fool
needed to have two
sets of reviews for
the j 38

its bad enought
having one set
of reviews

its simply horrid
it was 45 years ago
its no better now

WA5RR Rating: 5/5 Apr 21, 2007 19:10 Send this review to a friend
Old Reliable  Time owned: more than 12 months
I found my J-38 along with a Hallicrafters transmitter and Heathkit transceiver at a garage sale of all places. A hundred bucks bought the lot after some advice from my elmer.

All the old radio gear is long gone but the J-38 remains. I used it for years before finally switching to a paddle. It is banged up and ugly but still gets the job done.

They don't make 'em like this anymore.
K1XV Rating: 5/5 Apr 21, 2007 18:48 Send this review to a friend
Other uses  Time owned: more than 12 months
Aside from using it as a code key, I recently discovered that a spare J038 makes a nifty push to talk switch. Requires little pressure, and for those buzzard long transmissions, use the shorting bar.
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