Hand key recommendation ?

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by N7ZAL, Nov 9, 2016.

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  1. GM1FLQ

    GM1FLQ Ham Member QRZ Page

    If it's the one I think you are referring to, that'll probably be the RAD "type D" key - have used one for a number of years now and totally agree with your sentiment. I actually have a few of them and the interesting thing is that I wonder if Marconi contracted some of the manufacturing out to others - some have slight differences in the shape of the arm, the base and the knobs/knob skirts.

    Smooth as butter, two large solid silver contacts and nicely balanced, lower contact mounted on a stiff but sprung plate for cushioning on the down-stroke.

    Read somewhere, those using them in service that preferred a more solid contact feel used to slip a coin or washer under the contact plate.
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2016
  2. N7EKU

    N7EKU Ham Member QRZ Page


    I'm not sure where that design originates. Ameco was the last producing it, but theirs had a brass plated cast pot metal base and made the key of thinner metal than the older ones. I've seen older ones marked with the Speed-X brand and Lafayette. They are easy to find on eBay all the time. Here's a couple non-Ameco ones on their now:


    You can see the design is basically still the same with the ball bearing cups and all, but the key lever is made of thicker stock and the base looks to be real brass and not plated.

    Dave, you might pull yours off the plate and see what the base it made of, and see if there is some kind of identifying mark. I kind of think that these were all made in Japan, and just the older versions were better made, or some were made to a higher standard as per the contracting company.

    Amazing the number of different variations of keys out there. Just think of all the little shops and factories in the past around the world making them!


    Last edited: Nov 11, 2016
  3. WA7PRC

    WA7PRC Ham Member QRZ Page

    Bill, I'm sure you'll find a key that you like. :)
  4. W7UUU

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

    Cool beans indeed Mark - but that's not the key that was being referenced. It was the "Japanese SATO Parts Company" that Ameco knocked off. Scroll back and you'll see it - big black plastic base, and very long silver square arm. Really cool key!

    Yes, of course there are zillions of the original Morse-partner Alfred Vail's design that ultimately led to the J-38 and all its derivatives. Certainly the most common out there.

    My comment about the SATO was the really long arm and the geometry - you don't need to add a weight because the way it's designed it doesn't tip like the J-38 keys if they aren't "bolted down"

    WA7PRC likes this.
  5. WA7PRC

    WA7PRC Ham Member QRZ Page

    That's why I fabricated the base under my Nye 320-001 to extend past the knob.
    Without any added weight, it's unconditionally stable:
    vy 73,
    Bryan WA7PRC
    W5BIB and W7UUU like this.
  6. W7UUU

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


  7. N7EKU

    N7EKU Ham Member QRZ Page

    I guess I'm confused,

    You started talking about your "new favorite key" being like a j-38 style key bolted to a heavy base and provided a picture of it. That is what I quoted in my post and what I was talking about. Did I get it wrong?


  8. W7UUU

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

    Hi Mark - your "thread following skills" need some work. ;)

    Multiple topics get discussed. Go back and re-read the posts. It will all make sense.


    N7ANN likes this.
  9. N7EKU

    N7EKU Ham Member QRZ Page

    Not really,

    Yes I read about the long arm geometry of the SATO. But I was commenting about what you called your new favorite key. You did indeed reference it and even posted a picture :) Multiple topic get discussed no?


  10. KE4OH

    KE4OH Ham Member QRZ Page

    Is it too late for an opinion on this?

    I have a Vibroplex straight key and I love it. No doubt about it: It's an odd looking key. It's parts are pretty massive and they obviously are trying to keep the family "look" going. But it has a very, very nice feel. I'm one of those who likes very little spring tension and this one can be adjusted that way.

    It is a bit "clacky", if you know what I mean. You can definitely hear the contacts close as you key. I like it that way, but some may not. If I had to fault it on anything, I'd say that the threads on the spring and contact adjustment screws are too coarse. A little bit of a turn makes a fairly large change. But once you get it where you want it, it's a super key.

    I also have a Navy Flameproof. That is another weird looking key, but it has a great feel to it and can be adjusted to just about anyone's preferences. I don't care for the smallish top part of the knob, but I still really like this key. You can get one of these often for less than the much more common (and inferior, IMHO) J-38.

    You know, I just don't understand why J-38 keys command the prices they do. They are decent keys. Easily adjustable to most fists. But the taxpayers must have bought a bazillion of these. They are not in any way rare nor unusual. Nor are they particularly sturdy and most of them you will see for sale are dirty and many are missing the shorting bar, etc. Yet they are priced like they are made from unicorn tears.

    When it comes right down to it, you aren't really going to know if you like a key until you use it for a while. And there aren't really that many terrible keys out there, as long as they are in good condition. So, go ahead and pick one and get on the air with it. Straight keys are like guitars - One is never enough. One more is never too many. If you stick with CW, you WILL end up with several keys.
    GM1FLQ likes this.

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