CW experts, what's your TOP two straight keys currently made today?

Discussion in 'General Technical Questions and Answers' started by AI6DX, Nov 19, 2008.

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  1. AI6DX

    AI6DX Ham Member QRZ Page

    I want to buy one, but I need one of you experts to tell me in your opinion who makes the best straight key, period. By "best", I mean manufacturing quality, operator comfort, smoothness of operation and long lasting durability features all tied into one package.

    Who in your opinion comes in first place and then a close second?

  2. AF2CW

    AF2CW Ham Member QRZ Page

    The only straight key I've enjoyed using is the old J-38. Once set up properly it is smooth and a joy to use. Have spent hours using it, and my longest rag chew was 90 minutes and never suffered from glass arm.
  3. W4INF

    W4INF Ham Member QRZ Page

  4. KB7GL

    KB7GL Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I wouldn't consider myself an expert but I've been doing CW for a "few" years. My favorite straight key at this time is the Junker. Very smooth and easy to adjust. It really comes down to personal taste. It's also a great excuse to buy more keys!
  5. N6NQZ

    N6NQZ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I alternate between the Navy Flameproof and the Junker.
  6. W2BLC

    W2BLC Ham Member QRZ Page

    Navy FlameProof

    I have a Navy FlameProof on a piece of stainless steel. Very smooth and very quiet.

    Want a used one? See them on eBay from $20 to $50 all the time. Not rare, just nice to use.

    Anyone have an old Amplidan they want to sell?:)
  7. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    To me, stuff like a J-38 is terrible.

    Although I never use a straight key anymore (switched to paddles in probably 1967 and never looked back), I "test drove" this one and was very impressed. It is truly excellent in workmanship and feel:

  8. WA9CWX

    WA9CWX Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have the Vibroplex straight key.
    It sure isn't 'bad', but the arm has a minor 'spring' feeling to it, that I find annoying.....

    I have used the J-38, not substantial enough as a key, again, not bad but not a turn on either !:D

    I would say the J-37, is a bit heavier, feels a little more solid, is more 'smooth' to me....

    I have seen and bought some rather nice, SOLID, brass keys with solid, heavy construction that moved easy, stayed put, and worked great.

    MY advice is look on eBay, find a solid brass key that has enough pictures to appreciate the construction, the contacts, and the spring.

    I have had, and still have, many Navy 'Flameproof' keys.
    There have been some NOS ones lately on eBay, THAT would be fine.
    Otherwise get one ONLY if you can see the contacts in the picture. Basicly they are a great key.

    Now, I know that isn't exactly what you want, so my NEXT suggestion is the Junker, or some version of another SOLID key from Morse Express ( Read their reviews, they reveal a LOT )

    Good luck and welcome to CW !

    Last edited: Nov 20, 2008
  9. K7FE

    K7FE QRZ Lifetime Member #1 Life Member Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

  10. AI6DX

    AI6DX Ham Member QRZ Page


    It looks like all of the reviews on list this Cammelback as THE BEST keyer! Out of 20 reviews, it gets a perfect score of 5.0!

    Unlike the Vibroplex "standard" only gets 6 reviews with a score of 3.7, while the "gold" version gets 4 reviews and a score of 4.2.

    I also have been reading reviews that the Vibroplex has terrible customer service, unlike the Begali. Okay, it's settled, I'm getting a Begali Cammelback.

    Thanks everyone for your opinions.

  11. NI7I

    NI7I Ham Member QRZ Page

    Im sure that's a fine key. I have used my Vibroplex double (gold platged) for many many years and wouldnt know what to do without it. It's heavy enough to pound without moving around the desk and smooth as a babys butt. A key, however, is a very personal matter. What's great for one fellow is a POJ for another. I woudnlt just jump on one because of reviews or advice from other ops.. try to get your hands on a few and try em out.

    In any event.... good luck

  12. KA4DPO

    KA4DPO Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I like my WWII Navy Flameproof.
  13. W8ZNX

    W8ZNX Subscriber QRZ Page

    one more time
    key one op loves
    is the same key other ops hate

    best straight key for under one hundred dollars
    German military surplus Junker

    best straight key for under fifty dollars
    Soviet military surplus TKF / Cherkassy key
    mind the Cherkassy is way to high to use American style
    you must use it European style
    its hard to get the ajustment right
    but seems to stay once you get it right
    also the knob is slick so you finger want to slip off
    just use a bit of 100 grit sand paper on the knob
    fingers do not slip off
    have grown to like it
    ive got two of them one at home and one at the book store

    two keys above are easy to find as new old stock

    easy to find still beeing made
    High Mound HM-HK-802 Swedish key only $259.95
    this was my first big European style pump handle key
    got it for Chrismas about ten years ago
    this is the key i used to learn how to send
    European style
    ( im never going back to sending American style )

    real sleeper
    J. H. Bunnell Navy 26003A / Army J-5A / J-36 Flame Proof key
    NOS $85.00 see
    can be found used surplus for less than fifty bucks
    its the best American mil surplus key

    note the Flame Proof is a pain to fix or restore
    its not easy to get inside it to work on it

    would like to try the GHD GT-501A
    but at $399.95
    i draw the line at $250 for a straight key

    also like to try
    Pryce Edwards Ltd or Marconi S.&R. Systems Ltd
    NATO key
    missed out on one that sold on e pay
    last month for about 85 bucks

    ect ect
    gas bag gas bag
    grumble grumble

    oh where were we

    oh yes

    simply hate the J-38
    arm hurts
    every time i hear its name
    J-37 is better
    not much better

    never liked using a straight key
    till discovered
    there were straight keys
    other than the J-38 and J-37

    had a Vibroplex straight key
    did not like the feel

    looks like it was made out of spare parts

    it was made out of spare parts

    have not had the pleasure of trying
    the Begali Camel Back
    did play with Begali Postal Key for a few min
    it seemed ok
    would like to have had more time
    realy need a few days of using a key
    to know for sure

    lots of ops love the Begali keys
    so many keys so little time and money

    if i had to pick one straight key

    winner German mil surplus Junker

    simply love the key

    your results may vary

    got to go walk the dogs
    see if there is any action on 80 cw

    dit dit
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2008
  14. N8CPA

    N8CPA Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    One minor point. Since it sounds like you're just starting out in the hamly art of Morse, you might not know.

    Key and keyer are not interchangeable terms. A key is a mechanical device, basically a switch for manually generating dots and dashes. A keyer is a circuit, either internal or external to the radio, which generates dots and dashes, which are then selected for sending by some mechanical means:
    a pair of paddles; a bidirectional single lever; ASCII keyboard, etc.

    And though I have been on the air almost 30 years, my favorite key is not a fixed opinion. Right now, it is the straight key side of my Vibrokeyer dual.
    But, I'm as likely to use the horizontal lever as a straight key, as I am to use the straight key itself. It depends how my fingers are working on any particular day.
  15. W4HAY

    W4HAY Ham Member QRZ Page

    FWIW, I'm a 99-44/100 % pure CW OP.

    I started out with a J-38 back in 1953 and still use it, along with a J-37 and a Western Union Legless from the late 19th or early 20th Century. I've tried (and turned down) many of the newer high-dollar keys. I just might get myself a Junker for Christmas, however.

    I also have Brown Bros. and Bencher paddles, which I alternate with my straight keys.

    As long as keys haven't been bent or broken, their contacts are OK, and no parts are missing, they can usually be cleaned up and made perfectly serviceable.
  16. N8XE

    N8XE Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    From what I have been hearing, the Junker seems to be the best key for the money right now. I have never used one, but alot of SK users are enjoying them. I will probably get one in the near future..

    I have a small collection of straight keys and my favorite thus far is my HiMound HK802. My swedish pump key is also nice. However, both are expensive and are not required to get a nice smooth key.

    The flameproof I use with my QRP stuff.


    BTW.. I love your responses Mac! Hope to work you on the bands soon.
  17. WA8UEG

    WA8UEG XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I love my Vibroplex, don't use it often as I use the vibroplex paddle but it is a great key. I use one of the Radio Shack sticky pads designed to hold things on the dash of a car under both the paddle and the straight key and it holds them solid and looks good.
  18. N6NQZ

    N6NQZ Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    The days of $20 to $50 for a Navy Flameproof are aparentlly long gone. One sold a couple of days ago on Ebay for $119 and that was without shipping.
  19. W8ZNX

    W8ZNX Subscriber QRZ Page

    word must have gotten out
    that its not some kind of freak key
    but a good serviceable sending tool

    mind for cheap cheap
    go with the Soviet TKF Cherkassy key
    so many are coming out of what once was the Soviet Union
    that i don't think the price will go up

    bought my first Cherkassy key
    brand new in the orignal box
    from Russian e pay seller
    for all of 20 bucks plus 12 bucks shipping

    hello N8XE
    mostly get on late nights 80 meter around 3538 to 3547 khz
  20. KB9BVN

    KB9BVN Ham Member QRZ Page

    I really like my Nye Viking Master Key, but this was not always the case. When I first got it, I swore I'd throw it felt soft and mushy...but the more I used it, the more I liked it.

    For paddles, I really like my 1960 Vintage Vibroplex Vibrokeyer.
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