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A Simple 'Iambic Paddle' for Travelers

Created by Charles Cohen, VA7CPC on 2006-05-10

A Simple 'Iambic Paddle' for Travelers

I will be away from home for several months. My traveling will be by bus or airplane. My Bencher paddle was too heavy, bulky, and delicate, to take along. So what to use as a paddle for my FT-817?

The requirements were simple -- it had to be small, light, rugged, and cheap. I bought some perfboard, ceramic "fridge magnets", a 1/8" phono socket, a stero phono cord, and (the critical bits) two "tactile switches" with gold-plated contacts, at about $1 each.

The result is below. I can store it inside a pill bottle.

On the bottom, the wiring is covered with silicone sealant, and the magnets are Krazy-glued in place.

The FT-817 has a steel case. Since keying force is vertical. the magnets are strong enough to keep the key stable.

The action of the switches is heavier than I would like. I can send well at speeds under 20 wpm. Above that speed, I'd need lighter springs on the switches.

The Kitano paddle (no longer made) and the Finger Tip Tapper, and other homebrew QRP paddles, use the same idea. But it's always fun to do something yourself.

Charles Cohen, VA7CPC

VA7CPC 2006-05-14
RE: A Simple 'Iambic Paddle' for Travelers
Sorry, I don't have the part numbers. They are heavier-acting than I would like -- 160 grams actuation force.

I have two 100-gram-force switches, but they're too small for direct finger actuation. I tried using them with a normal sideways-moving paddle in between them. But the magnets weren't strong enough to hold the base steady against sideward forces. Maybe my next iteration will use those switches underneath two idler arms -- almost exactly like the Kitano paddle.
KD5PSH 2006-05-12
A Simple 'Iambic Paddle' for Travelers
That is NOT a phono jack; it's a 3.5mm (1/8" mini phone), just in case anyone orders one they need to have the right description.
I had tried this last year but the switches were too resistant to touch; please advise who's switch you used if you know the brand and no.

WHATURNUTS2 2006-05-11
RE: 'Iambic Paddle' for Travelers
something to be said for small keys. I found that the small ones (1 inch by 1-1/2 inches) were just too small and became hard to send with. I went back to something that has a little more weight and a better feel. The old streight key is the boat anchor of keys in sending but todays radios have the electronic keying which makes sending so much more pleasant as well as it help copy the code when someone is pounding brass streight and not swinging. In mobile that helps both out.
I had the NorCal builders make me a lightweight version of the K8FF key out of aircraft metals years ago before vibroplex took it over. Works great. small and light weight for traveling. Velcro to a pad and you have a field station that has the feel of the big ones while being small and portable.

I also bought on of the Galbraith paddles. Now talk about a great key. Simple light and very portable while still having the iambic feel of the big vibroplexes. They were cheap too. About 15 dollars. Made out of aircraft metals also. They too went under after our purchase years ago.

I have never gotten over the use of the paddle for sending.

To use two buttons to send code would require a whole new way of learning again.

Sometimes smaller is not better for some of us who have problems sending without electronic help.

Who said CW was dead??

I guess you could say which key and way to send is its owners preferance.

very ingenious thought and that in itself rates a high five...
AE4NR 2006-05-11
A Simple 'Iambic Paddle' for Travelers
Excellent idea looks like we are not just appliance operators after all. I like the mouse idea have a couple of old ones laying around here will have to kick that can around and see what I can make
NT4XT 2006-05-11
A Simple 'Iambic Paddle' for Travelers
Cool. The thing even looks like it works half way decent, like the keys on top of a remote pad microphone.
WA2JJH 2006-05-11
A Simple 'Iambic Paddle' for Travelers
Nice job! Good ol Yankee engineering. I have used micro-switches as paddles. The ones with the long articlated leaver are good too.
KI4MOD 2006-05-11
RE: A Simple 'Iambic Paddle' for Travelers
What a great idea! Arthritis in my hands prevents me using a regular key or paddle comfortably, but a mouse is just perfect. Thanks for the idea.
NS6Y_ 2006-05-10
RE: A Simple 'Iambic Paddle' for Travelers
The "KEY" is, all you need is 2 contacts and ground, and how you set 'em up is up to you, the keyer doesn't know the difference. One guy in our club took two Indian finger picks used to play the sitar or something, and used those (connected for dit and dah) to tap on a metal plate for ground, and he said it works great.
W5FBQ 2006-05-10
A Simple 'Iambic Paddle' for Travelers
J-38 key worked fine for me for several years
W8ZNX 2006-05-10
RE: A Simple 'Iambic Paddle' for Travelers
J-38 was not used with the leg iron

J-37 used with leg iron
was the J-45
later known as KY-116/U

helm down
grab your beer

K0BG 2006-05-10
RE: A Simple 'Iambic Paddle' for Travelers
I don't remember who said it (probably old Ben Franklin); Necessity is the mother of invention, and ingenuity is the father. I think you've covered both bases.

Alan, KØBG
NS6Y_ 2006-05-10
RE: A Simple 'Iambic Paddle' for Travelers
Oh come on, real mobile CW ops use a J-38 with a leg mount. Um, while driving a Unimog.
N9IJ 2006-05-10
A Simple 'Iambic Paddle' for Travelers
Even cheaper and a bit more comfortable for me is to reuse dead computer mouse as a paddle.

Remove the electronics (or simply wire around it) and rewire the two switches with three-conductor cable and connector.

I held the mouse on my knee when mobile and it was light enogh that it did not pose much of a missle hazard in the car.
NS6Y_ 2006-05-10
A Simple 'Iambic Paddle' for Travelers
Take a small box from.... something with one of those switches mounted on each side. Then take a piece of PCB material and mount that in the middle so it's between. Then you can move it back and forth to actuate the switches for dit and dah. Easy peasy. Probably build it inside a film can. Eh - I should work on building keys, autocad on the brain? No, autocad in the brain :-P