Getting started in CW

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by KV4JW, Nov 16, 2018.

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  1. KV4JW

    KV4JW Ham Member QRZ Page

    Today is a slow day at the office, so I'm researching operating CW. I've always had an interest in learning it and using it to operate.

    I have the HamRadioDeluxe software and noticed I could send CW with it through my sound card interface, but that just seems to take the fun out of it. CW from a keyboard/computer program just doesn't appear natural to me. Not saying there's anything wrong with it, but I just have an interest in communicating with a simple "manual" key.

    I've been looking at some very low priced and "budget" telegraph type keys that MFJ has. While I probably won't spend money on something like this, looking at them has given me inspiration to build my own out of some simple household/hardware store items. I really feel like I could construct something that "works" for only a couple bucks. For all intensive purposes, I'd like to stick with something simple.

    My immediate goals are as follows. Build an extremely low cost telegraph type key, learn basic code, and begin to make a few slow CW contacts. In time, I'm sure my speed will build and I'll graduate to "faster" keys.

    So aside from actually building/obtaining a key and just plugging it into my HF rig (Icom 718), what else do I really need?

    I've read about side tone generators and zero beating.. I feel a ST generator would be beneficial to have, just unsure about building one (I'd rather build a simple one if possible) or an inexpensive basic one that I can purchase. I've also seem memory keyers, and all kinds of other extra fun things that may be beneficial yet not particularly a required item to enjoy basic CW. I'd honestly just be happy to build a simple key, plug it in, and start tapping away.

    For now, I'll stand by for advice from some CW elmers, and visit the hardware store for some odds and ends and see what kind of basic key I can build this weekend to get started with.
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2018
  2. KG7WGX

    KG7WGX XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Your 718 has a sidetone generator built-in. (I believe they use the term "monitor".) I think you can use menu settings to turn off break-in and this should generate the sidetone when you close the key without actually transmitting. (Connect a dummy load and confirm.)

    It also has an electronic keyer built-in, so you can practice with paddles if you decide to do that.

    I suggest getting this key: Black Micro Morse Key with Aluminum Base

    It is only $30 and though it is quite small, it is stable and functional. As your IC-718 uses a 1/4" jack, you will have to build a cable for this or use a standard 3.5mm cable and a 1/4" adapter.

    You can build something out of junk drawer hardware and scrap wood for no cost, of course. Also, you can get a J-38 on eBay for $60 and up. When mounted on a proper base, it is hard to beat one of these for a basic straight key.
    N1ZZZ, WB5YUZ and KV4JW like this.
  3. M6GYU

    M6GYU Ham Member QRZ Page

  4. KV4JW

    KV4JW Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks guys. Kind of excited about learning CW and making my first few slow contacts. :)
    KM6VOV and N8AFT like this.
  5. N8AFT

    N8AFT Ham Member QRZ Page

    We Learn Morse.... We Do CW....
    KJ4POM, K4AGO, KV4JW and 1 other person like this.
  6. KF9VV

    KF9VV Ham Member QRZ Page

    More important than a key are good CW chops. Pick a method for study, and stick with it. I am a proponent of the Zen method:

    There are a lot of ways to learn Morse code, the thing that stands out to me regarding the Zen method is it focuses on building great timing as the foundational skill. It is a structured approach that starts with learning all of characters through six weeks of daily practice, then learning to send over a few weeks and then on the air you go. I'm mid way through the first step of the Zen method as a refresher to clean up my CW. Like any other skill, a refresh of the basics has benefits.

    As far as a key, any of the WWII style keys are great to start with. J-38, Junker, Speed-X are some examples.
    KM6VOV, KI5IO, KV4JW and 1 other person like this.
  7. N8AFT

    N8AFT Ham Member QRZ Page

    G4FON is my favorite free download tutorial. It is very flexible allowing one to drill on as few or as many characters as needed.
    Google Nancy Kott "Go With The Flow". It's all about obtaining instant recognition without thinking about what you're hearing.
    Welcome Aboard OM!
    KV4JW likes this.
  8. K9ASE

    K9ASE XML Subscriber QRZ Page

  9. KG7WGX

    KG7WGX XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    An important distinction for communicating clearly. Transceivers don't have a "Morse" mode, and it isn't a valid enumeration for ADIF, either.

    Sailboat types blanch if you refer to all those lines as ropes. Sheets and halyards for running rigging, you know. ;)
  10. KF9VV

    KF9VV Ham Member QRZ Page

    CW Ops is excellent, and is the path I would have taken if my Thursday nights were clear. They meet Tuesday and Thursday nights. The joy of CW Ops and the Zen method is they are structured.

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