Another "what key is this?"

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by W7UUU, Jun 2, 2019.

ad: L-HROutlet
ad: l-rl
ad: Left-2
ad: Subscribe
ad: K5AB-Elect-1
ad: Left-3
ad: MessiPaoloni-1
ad: L-MFJ
  1. W7UUU

    W7UUU QRZ Lifetime Member #133 Administrator Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    This interesting key was in a lot of stuff I got as part of an estate. It has a nice, but "interesting" feel to it...

    Any ideas what it might be? The top looks like it at one time had maybe a plaque on it but it also seems to have something engraved when it was made - hard to say. It's mounted on a heavy hunk of aluminum that obviously isn't original but serves the purpose well.

    What is it? :)

    Thanks!!

    Dave
    W7UUU

    IMG_0973.jpg IMG_0974.jpg IMG_0975.jpg IMG_0976.jpg
     
  2. K7TRF

    K7TRF Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    It looks like an early version of a flameproof key. What's that joint part way along the key's neck? Any chance there was some kind of flexible membrane like rubber or even leather there at one time held down by those four screws? From the photos it looks like there could still be some of that material trapped under the heads of the four screws. It just looks like the way someone might approach the flameproof challenge and separating key sparks from potentially flammable gasses.

    From the overall design I'd guess it's WWI vintage or earlier, perhaps from a steamship or a dirigible.
     
    WG7X likes this.
  3. W7UUU

    W7UUU QRZ Lifetime Member #133 Administrator Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    Definitely in the flameproof category to my eyes as well. And now that you mention it, I do think it's much older than WWII... the membrane material on the lever appears to be rubber - still supple and movable - not stiff like leather would be. The joint itself makes no mechanical sense to me - there is a metal barrel over the actual arm, and the rubber was over the barrel. The barrel freely turns but does nothing obvious.

    Very strange key - I've owned quite a lot of keys of all types over the years but never seen one like this.

    I can't quite make out the stamped letters on the top - that is a STRONG clue if someone can figure it out... it looks to me like someone had stuck a sticker over the lettering with glue, and that the sticker got removed at some point. Clearly there is a "B R" and maybe "B R E" but the rest I can't make out. The photo is better than "in the real world" as I enhanced the contrast. In my hand it's REALLY hard to read even that.

    Dave
    W7UUU
     
  4. K7TRF

    K7TRF Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

  5. K7TRF

    K7TRF Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Could that rotating sleeve have been a ferrule to keep the rubber membrane airtight against the key arm? I'm thinking highly elastic rubber may not have been common and a compression ferrule could have been included to keep things as airtight (gas tight) as possible.
     
  6. W7UUU

    W7UUU QRZ Lifetime Member #133 Administrator Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    I think you're onto something - indeed, that flexible membrane would have covered the inlet to the key base itself but is long gone on mine. See photo below of the "mouth / entry" of the key... I'm guessing that for maintenance and a new membrane, just remove the 4 screws and the metal plate, install a new membrane on it, and reinstall.

    Dave
    W7UUU

    closeup.jpg
     
  7. K7TRF

    K7TRF Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I suspect you could fabricate a workable membrane out of something like an old mountain bike inner tube. I'd guess the action would feel quite different with that membrane in place.

    With this close up view I'd move my time estimates up to pre-war or WWII time frame. A lot of the metal work is pretty crude which suggests an earlier time period but those phillips head screw heads look newer than WWI vintage to me.
     
    W7UUU likes this.
  8. W7TCT

    W7TCT Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I just googled the intrawebs and found some images of Brelco keys. e.g., http://szoncso.com/fritz6x6/BRELCO_CAQZ26.jpg.

    Several hits for a site called Worthpoint but many links fail. Found this one though. And, also, saw it referred to as Flameproof. So that theory is correct.

    https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/world-war-ww2-wwii-usn-brelco-1794008419

    And this on Canadian eBay. https://www.ebay.ca/itm/BRELCO-NY-MORSE-KEY/113699239815?hash=item1a7900b787:g:Ut0AAOSwto5cmymN

    Definitely a fun find. Dave.
     
    K7TRF likes this.
  9. W7UUU

    W7UUU QRZ Lifetime Member #133 Administrator Volunteer Moderator Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page

    GREAT sleuthing!!! Thanks so much - the nomenclature indeed seems to be Brelco - a brand I'd never heard of before.

    Thanks for the links!!

    Dave
    W7UUU
     
    W7TCT likes this.
  10. W7TCT

    W7TCT Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Me neither. Seems the Navy contracted with many suppliers in WWII. Fascinating info on http://www.telegraph-office.com/pages/Navy_numbers.html as to the numbering some for a "large number of contractors."

    I love learning this stuff... the history.... just how many contractors making so many keys for so many stations... I mean, just how many stations did the Navy have pre- and during WWII... Never mind the US Army operations.
     
    W7UUU likes this.

Share This Page