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[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle

Mark Peterson (WF7M) on March 4, 2015
View comments about this article!

WF7M HOMEBREW

IAMBIC KEYER PADDLE

Mark B. Peterson

January 3, 2015

Port Hadlock, WA

I have an old MFJ electronic keyer that used to host a lovely Bencher iambic paddle, which got sold one day. I finally got around to thinking about building an iambic paddle to replace it. In fairness, I had scoured the internet, looking for articles with pictures on how to homebrew such a device. A few designs seemed worthy of consideration, but nothing really clicked with me. So I opened the desk drawer, which is literally overflowing with all manner of stuff I toss in there, and my eyes fastened on a small plastic container of mechanical pencil leads, which I hardly ever use. Then the ideas came fast and furious and not too long after that I had a paddle. Everything needed was literally within 3 of where I was sitting. It is such a simple and inexpensive design and beats the rest for its ease of use and construction simplicity. Ill put my call letters on the plywood board and some other little graphic flourish one of these days.

PARTS LIST:

1 A mechanical pencil lead container, the kind with a rectangular cap that slides straight off. Maybe you have one on hand, or they are readily available.


2 Two surface mount style, momentary pushbuttons. A good choice might be from Mouser, their part number 506-1571625-4 at about $0.50 each.

3 A single sheet of .030 inch thick polycarbonate plastic. I had few 12 X 12 scrap pieces of this lying around, leftovers from an earlier project. I bought them from Amazon.

4 Some gelled super glue, two small felt stick-on pads, small gauge wire and a wood base, chunk of iron or hammered down lead fishing sinkers (for weighting down the base) finish the parts inventory. Total cost is negligible. Below is a photo of the end result, followed by a drawing I did to help guide the assembly process.

STEPS:

1 Slide the cover from the pencil lead holder and set it aside. Drill an 1/8 hole in the end opposite the opening. The wiring will be fed through here.

2 Cut two strips of from the polycarbonate sheet measuring 1 long by wide. Cut two more pieces that are square.

3 Put a little gelled superglue on the backs of the two pushbuttons and place them flush with the extruded end of the case where the cover used to be. Center them vertically.

4 Solder a pair of small gauge wires to each pushbutton and lead these through the 1/8 hole drilled earlier.

5 Glue the smaller pair of polycarbonate strips flush with the end of the case and right where the extruded portion begins. Center them vertically.

6 Glue the longer strips of polycarbonate to the tops of the two shorter pieces that were affixed in step #5, making certain the other ends are centered over the pushbuttons and flush with the end of the extruded portion of the plastic case.

7 Affix two felt pads.

Honestly, I can send as quickly and accurately with this paddle as I ever could on the Bencher. No adjustments are necessary and nothing to wear out. ENJOY!

starmapper75@gmail.com

Member Comments:
This article has expired. No more comments may be added.
 
WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by HAMMYGUY on March 4, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
Good article Mark! Is there a picture of the finished paddle?

Eham moderators, this is the type of article I really enjoy seeing. It encourages building, experimentation, and positive dialog from others. No political hype from good stuff like this.
 
WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by KB2DHG on March 4, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
Pictures would be nice
 
WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by N8TI on March 4, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
Pictures! Pictures! Pictures! Can't wait to see.
 
WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by K7NSW on March 4, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
I vote the same way - gotta have a picture. Worth a thousand words.
 
WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by WV9K on March 4, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
Put me down for a request for pix too :-).
 
WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by KW4JA on March 4, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
If no one can visualize it I conclude it's a tease. There has to be a spring or magnet otherwise not likely to work. A humour piece?
 
WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by KW4JA on March 4, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
When he mentions the picture below and there is no picture I'd say we've been had. If I was him I'd manufacture it and sell it instead of giving it away if it's real :-)
 
WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by KE0ANY on March 4, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
Show some pictures, I'm dieing to see it! That and I am going to go build one.

73 -.. . KEANY
 
WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by KW4JA on March 5, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
After using a keyboard I can't see myself going back to timing dits and dahs. At my age it will make me ditzy and dahzy.

You can glue or screw two momentary switches into opposite sides of a small enclosure, a plastic ruler, or anything. You probably want to hold the paddle while using it like a clicker instead of mounting it to a base. Then routing and taping the wires.
 
WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by AF0W on March 5, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
I believe he's referring to a pencil lead refill like this: http://tinyurl.com/k42m7o7

The Mouser switches he mentions are very small and are spring-loaded (so no additional springs would be needed).

From what I can gather from his description, he's mounting the switches at the front part of the container (the lower-left part of the picture) facing outward. It's difficult to tell, but the container is slightly recessed here so the lid can slide on. The switches would be mounted on the larger sides of the container (the side with the "Parker" writing on it and the opposite side).

He's then attaching plastic to the two large sides of the container (where "Parker" is written in the picture) to add to the height of those sides (making the overall container "thicker").

Finally, two more longer pieces of plastic are attached to those two pieces of plastic and extend out over the switches. You activate the paddles by moving one of these pieces of plastic in towards the other one, and it bends down enough to activate the corresponding switch.
 
WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by N8TI on March 5, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
So, the plastic pieces have some "give" to them. I have a few of those pencil led boxes. I can see how this would work. I could not understand how you would get paddle arms to "spring" back, but if your longer plastic pieces are bendable, (just a tiny bit, it seems), it should work. Pretty neat. Actually, you could take strips of anything, (wood, plastic, metal), and build it up so it has a "step" on each side that the push buttons would lay on. I think that the "step" on the center piece is the unique idea.
 
How not to write a technical article!  
by K5MF on March 5, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
Ok maybe this was all in fun, I don't think it was meant to be. But just look at all of the confusion, speculation, and assumptions this article has created.

If it was meant to be funny, it shouldn't be posted at all. If it was meant to be a serious article, it is a good example of how not to write. It is poorly written so it can't be understood, it has no pictures to clarify what is being said, and there are no follow-ups to address the questions asked.

In my opinion, the editors of e-ham should have some minimum standards of acceptance. This article doesn't meet 4th grade writing guidelines. Sorry OM, if you can't provide pictures for a technical build article then you should not submit it for publication and it shouldn't be accepted.

Tom K5MF
 
WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by K8PC on March 5, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
Mark,
No good deed goes unpunished. We need pictures.
Thanks,
Pat, aka K8PC
 
WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by N9SWA on March 5, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
Sounds easy enough can you upload some pics? tnx Dan
 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by HAMMYGUY on March 6, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
It simply amazes me that somebody has to slam the OP over his English usage.

I guess somebody had to start the whirling of the cesspool. It seems to happen in every eham article.
 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by AI4WC on March 6, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
It's simple - instead of always trying to correct an author, just write all comments to the E-Ham editors. Eventually, they might prevent all this by doing their job - edit the articles in advance - don't do their job; just ignore the article. GEEZE!
 
WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by K6SBA on March 6, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
The author did indicate that there was a picture. He made this statement right before he started listing the construction steps: "Below is a photo of the end result, followed by a drawing I did to help guide the assembly process."

It is possible that eHam did not insert the picture and drawing or that it did not reach the website as the author intended. Since the author stated that a picture and drawing were part of the article, why didn't eHam follow up on this before publishing the article?

I also think style, spelling and grammar comments are appropriate, since the state of our written communications seems to have deteriorated. However, it may be better to send these comments directly to the author rather than criticizing him/her publically. Published authors make all kinds of errors; that's why they have editors.

73 de K6SBA
David in Santa Barbara, CA
 
WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by K5MF on March 6, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
My comments were not aimed towards the grammar or spelling. It was simply that a technical article should be understandable by the intended audience.

This is a "how-to" home brew construction article. A reasonably proficient ham with some mechanical ability should be able to read it and construct the project detailed in the article. Please speak up if you think you can take this article and build the project outlined in it. Better yet, lets put five master craftsmen in separate shops and have them each use this article to build the project. What do you think would be the probability of 3 of the 5 coming out with the intended product? Personally, I think the odds are very high against success.

Sorry to ruffle some feathers, and I agree with the comments about the editors. If you are going to submit an article, please have several people read it to make sure they understand what is being said and that the intended message is being communicated.

Other than the fact that I can't really understand how to build it, I think it could be a fun little project. I applaud the effort to share, I just have some issues with the detail.

73,

Tom/K5MF
 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by WO7R on March 6, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
WF7M -- Please ignore the naysayers.

If you have a link to a picture or three, please disclose it in the comments.

If you have improved prose, please let us see it.

I think some of us are intrigued. I am. As it stands, though, I admit I have no idea how to build it or even the "theory of operation" of how it works. I assume it has something to do with the properties of the plastic on the ends of mechanical pencil leads -- I can dimly imagine what that might be. Plastic has some ability to flex and spring back.

But you've done the hard work, so take me past my dim imagining and show us how it really can be done.

For instance, I did once see someone make interesting paddles out of plastic rulers. That was based, rather explicitly, on the idea that plastic bent a bit and sprung back. Now that design wasn't terribly adjustable and so on, but it was a very interesting and minimalist project; a lot like what I think you are talking about.

However, as it stands, I just plain have to guess too much; it would be more fun, and more of us would follow you, if we knew better where you are trying to lead us.
 
WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by N8YA on March 7, 2015 Mail this to a friend!

Photos, need I say more???
 
WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by K5CQE on March 7, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
you forgot to mention
the paper mache
and the lifesaver candies
 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by SWMAN on March 8, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
Has anyone mentioned that photos would be nice to see ?
 
WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by K8QV on March 9, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
I can't decide whether I prefer this article or the recently deleted one (the rant about non-payment for work performed). At least somebody read THAT one; I was beginning to wonder if anybody ever read submissions before they were posted. Maybe my calendar is off - is it April 1st already?
 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by N6JSX on March 9, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
Without pics this article looses much, that I'm very interested in. I'm looking for a mini-Iambic for my KX3 - Elecraft $130 price exceeds ludicrous speed.


Here is another DIY article with no pics.... Not a failure of the writer... A FAILURE of eHAM in not having and enforcing "article standards" to help fledgling writers.

Wow eHAM cannot take inside criticism of one of its own (yes, I saw the latest deleted article & responses), FYI-BTW eHAM is really all about how many hits can it generate to justify its pricing - as eHAM gives main article contributors NOTHING for their hours and hours of effort.
 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by AF7LT on March 9, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
Marks My elmer and i just saw this and gave a call to him. Mark was surprised that the pictures he uploaded didn't get posted and when time permits he will get either a link showing the pictures or uploaded.

He said he had written this with the assumption that the pictures will be integrated with this. He will correct that. This paddle for being so inexpensive does look good and is well made.
 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by AF7LT on March 9, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
Marks my elmer and I just notified him that the pictures he uploaded with this didnt make it with this submission and will correct it.
 
WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by N8CMQ on March 9, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
I can visualize the final product, and it sounds better than what I built years ago using old relay parts and plastic paddles I cut from a box.

Looks neater too!

Can't wait to see the pics and see how close the mind came to your creation ;)
 
WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by KW4JA on March 9, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
What happened to the article from the unpaid fellow? You don't keep working unpaid. It's amazing how many people let themselves be taken advantage of. If you allow it you are wrong to yourself and wrong to those you didn't speak up to.
I hope he figured it out.
 
WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by KW4JA on March 9, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
He was also wrong looking for sympathy.
 
WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by WF7M on March 9, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
Everyone: I uploaded pictures with this article, but somehow they never made it into the article. An updated version of the article, including the pictures, can be found on the blog at my web site:
www.starglobalmapping.com. Just click on the 'Blog' button on top, and everything will appear.
 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by WF7M on March 9, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks much! See the comment I just posted to find the pictures and an updated article.
 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by WF7M on March 9, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
See my comment above for pictures.
 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by WF7M on March 9, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
See my comment above for pictures. Thanks!
 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by WF7M on March 9, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
Pictures are available at my web site. See my comment above.
 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by WF7M on March 9, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
See my comment above and find the pictures at my web site.
 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by WF7M on March 9, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
You're right about pictures. One would always write differently, depending on visual content. To answer your comment about how it works. There are no magnets involved. It's the natural spring in a length of polycarbonate sheet that provides the spring. Squeeze either lever and the pushbuttons are depressed. Let go, and the natural spring in the lever breaks the connections and makes it ready for the next input. See the photos and drawings on my web site, captioned in my comment above.
 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by WF7M on March 9, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
I would manufacture it, but there's so much more involved in doing that that it might take years off my life. Anyway, see my comment above for the web page you can go to (mine) and see the pictures and an updated article.
 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by WF7M on March 9, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
I hope everyone builds one. Obviously, much easier with pictures, which were uploaded but never appeared. See my comment above for my web page where you can see them and an updated article. Good luck!
 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by WF7M on March 9, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
I think keyboards are nice, and I think I'll build the little keyer kit with two memories and program them for a DX exchange, which is my primary use of morse. For digital, I obviously use the keyboard and macros. Or for a twist you can use a K3 or KX3 and use the paddle to get digital morse. I agree, that there are many ways to build a cheap lever paddle. Iambic isn't to far beyond that yet adds complication. My goal was to make one out of materials within 3' of where I was sitting at the moment, and this is what I came up with.
 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by WF7M on March 9, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
Where were you when I was writing this? I could have used the help. Of course, it's easier to write about something when pictures are involved. Ask a radio sportscaster what I mean. In any case, pictures are available at my web site. See my comment above.
 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by WF7M on March 9, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
You have a perfect grasp of what I did. Many materials would work; I just happened to have the sheet of polycarbonate and some heavy duty scissors at hand to cut it. It has to be the correct thickness and length, however, or the action is unsatisfactory. See the pictures at my web site, listed in my comment above.
 
RE: How not to write a technical article!  
by WF7M on March 9, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
Tom, I can picture your blood pressure rising! Imagine how disjointed and inept and radio sportscast would sound if only the TV audio stream were available. Even the best broadcasters would flunk that test. Take time and read my article with pictures, which were uploaded here but never made it. The article with pix is at my web site. See my comment above for the address.
 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by WF7M on March 9, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
I don't know what happened to the pictures. I certainly got a comments without them! See the photos on the blog at my web page, listed above in my comment.
 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by WF7M on March 9, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
To be fair, one should judge an article's writing based on its complete presentation. Lacking pictures, any article relying on same becomes inarticulate, if not abstruse and recondite. Hence, the incipient crowd that emerges, hurling invectives at the suppose perpetrator, whose inveterate yearn, they perceive, is to render plainness as abstruse and to obfuscate polysyllabically. No, I didn't have to look any of them up. I get paid to design and write, so I don't take umbrage to such critiques.

See the article with pictures at my web site, whose address is provided in my comment above.
 
WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by KW4JA on March 9, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
The article about the keyer was fine - just needed pics.

My comments were about the other article that eham pulled. Get a grip.....

 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by SWMAN on March 10, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
Has anyone mentioned about getting some photos ??
 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by K5MF on March 10, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
No blood pressure issues here, but thanks for the concern. Nor does using big and obscure words make one a writer. The key to communicating via writing is to...well...communicate. Unless one is writing a poem or literature, sometimes the simple words are much better than the fancy ones.

The article along with the missing pictures, as presented on the blog, is good. It tells a ham with some knowledge and basic skills how to build the device. I enjoyed reading the article again when I had the pictures to refer to. I think it looks like a "fun" project, but would not see myself using it in everyday use.

Thanks for taking the time to share your project with the community.

73,

Tom/K5MF
 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by HR2510 on March 10, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
This just goes to show writing an article for eham is a thankless waste of time. I think Mark did a fine job, but getting BOHICA's at every other reply probably gets pretty old.
 
WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by K6PLE on March 10, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
It looks like I have most of the materials to make this key several times over and would certainly like to have a picture as mentioned. My current keys are of the expensive variety, nonetheless, it sounds like a great project for the boy-scouts.



 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by AB1DQ on March 11, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
I think this is an excellent article and yes, while a diagram or photo might be useful, I had no problem envisioning the key and how to assemble it from the directions.

If I had the time to build it, I'd post some photos.

Many thanks to WF7M and sorry you had to take so much grief for sharing something new. Just goes to show you, no good deed goes unpunished!

73 de AB1DQ/James
 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by W8QZ on March 12, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
Here's the link to the OP's blog post WITH the pictures:


http://www.starglobalmapping.com/blog


Worth at least several hundred complaining posts!
 
WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by AB7RG on March 12, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
The site's photo upload system is frequently a little cranky -- that's why the photos never showed up. I have added them into the article. Sorry for any trouble, especially to WF7M.

Tnx & 73
Clinton, AB7RG
 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by KW4JA on March 12, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks for the pictures, Clinton.
 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by KW4JA on March 12, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks for the pictures, Clinton.
 
WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by N3WP on March 15, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
Nicely done, but I do have a question.
In your photo, is that only two wires leaving your paddle or just an optical illusion?

 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by K8OT on March 16, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
Who the heck cares if he is not a great writer.it is a great post I could tell you what you could do but it wouldn't pass inspection.
No I ain't gonna edit it. you seem to be the expert yodo it.
ED K8OT
 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by K8OT on March 16, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
I really made my post for K5ME who seems to think he is mister know it all. I know his type, he can't figure it out for himself so if he can knock ouhers it makes him feel superior to us commin folk.
If this don't pass muster. well????
G ED King K8OT
 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by WF7M on March 19, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
It is like tiny zip cord, but each side has a single conductor with shield. The shields are common, and the conductors are for dots and dashes, respectively.
 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by VA7CPC on March 23, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks for the photos -- now I understand the idea.

See here for my take on using "tactile" switches:

http://www.eham.net/articles/13722

My experience was that tactile switches are a poor substitute for a traditional spring-and-contact arrangement.

. . . They're too stiff for fast operation.

I could run mine at 15 wpm, but not much faster.

Perhaps the sideways positioning of the new design makes it better, but I doubt it.

. Charles
 
WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by K1DNR on March 25, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
I cut two strips of copper step flashing, screwed them to a wooden centerpiece/insulator, which I epoxied to a shiny piece of rose quartz I had. The two strips each make contact with a single bolt in the center. They are their own springs. It works... https://plus.google.com/s/charley%20socci%20paddles
 
RE: WF7M Simplest Homebrew Iambic Paddle  
by WF7M on April 13, 2015 Mail this to a friend!
Charles: I had similar concerns to yours about sending feasibility/reliability/repeatability with the Lexan levers. Indeed, problems do develop if they're too long or too short. A once inch overhang from the attachment point is just about right. The action is a little different than say a Bencher paddle, but I seem to have adjusted to it rather quickly and can reliably send at 35 WPM. I should note, however, that the bulk of my CW operation is spent chasing DX. Thus, I only have to be able to send my call, as well as TU, 5NN, GL Rag chewing might be more challenging, but I wouldn't hesitate trying. Pushbuttons,I believe would be far more difficult to use, if the motion were vertical; however, mine's on its side, and I can readily send at 40+ WPM.
 
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