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

    They may as well all have been made in Japan or China, including an original J38 I own.
    Actually this discussion has now prompted me to donate mine locally to somebody who may appreciate it more than I do (it's only an ornament here, poor one at that).

    Some people love them, does the job and can send at 236 WPM on them, blah blah blah, but it really is the most woeful "Fisher Price" excuse for a morse key - it looks and feels like a cheap kids toy.
    The J37 is only a 38 with a leaf spring.

    Bill has a very decent budget set aside - why send at whatever speed you send at on one of these, when you are seeking a change and can easily afford the cost to send at the same speed (for just as long) - on something that is better engineered, feels more pleasurable to use and with aesthetics to match.

    Bill, treat yourself to a bit more luxury instead of the micro gain a thicker base or J37 would achieve. There, said it. :oops:

    Standing by for incoming..........
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2016
  2. GM1FLQ

    GM1FLQ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Bingo !!!
    C'mon now, you're starting to lose it there, that's very debatable - they're functional yes, but then so is a Trabant. :p
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2016
  3. N7ZAL

    N7ZAL Ham Member QRZ Page

    I don't want to throw money away, hence the thread and help. Lots of great information that I wasn't aware of that I need to digest...but spending a lot of money might no longer be the wisest move. :)
  4. W7UUU

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

    It's my new favorite key because it's on a couple pounds of solid steel and the "J-38 knockoff quality" is superb, and the elevation of the base aids greatly.

    Sorry I wasn't getting your point. I get confused myself :)

  5. GM1FLQ

    GM1FLQ Ham Member QRZ Page

    You stated you had put aside 100-200 for your proposed change, not my figures.

    I wouldn't expect anyone to throw money away, I wouldn't do it myself......none of the keys I have mentioned (except J38/37) would fall within that category and some were only at your request for user feedback.
    All bar the one new key I mentioned are regularly available for less than a fraction of the lowest figure in your range.

    If you feel that a J38 on a heavy base or similar is the wisest move, I don't think any of my suggestions will be of help to you.

    Good luck with whatever way you go. :)
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2016
  6. GM1FLQ

    GM1FLQ Ham Member QRZ Page

    I realise standards have slipped but wow, things must be really bad.

    In terms of quality, a "superior" original J-38 doesn't even approach average.
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2016
  7. KA4DPO

    KA4DPO Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I bought a WWII surplus J-38 in 1965 for eighty nine cents at the Army Navy surplus store in Costa Mesa. A friend of mines dad mounted it on a heavy marble base for me and it was a very good SK for a kid with little money. I still have one packed away somewhere but have not seen it in a while since I prefer my old Navy flameproof key. There is absolutely nothing wrong with an original J-38 after all, we won the war with them.:)
  8. W7UUU

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

    I never said there was! But you can't easily use one that's not mounted to something. That was my point. The SATO doesn't need to be mounted to a block of marble or steel or to the desk or a knee strap to be used easily.

    I love J-38 and J-37 keys - I have several of each

  9. GM1FLQ

    GM1FLQ Ham Member QRZ Page

    If you're not too fussy.

    Or more accurately........"regardless of them."
  10. VE7PJR

    VE7PJR Ham Member QRZ Page

    Straight keys? Got a few:

    Somewhere my old J-38. Like a belly button, most of us have one. Like belly buttons, most just clean them occasionally and otherwise never mess with them.

    I have a Menominee key attached to a KOB. It's an OK key but not perceptibly better than a J-38 although it's a lot older.

    A K-4 that I picked up while I was teaching in China ten years ago. Nice heavy key, but heavy feeling, too.

    Navy Flameproof, always wanted one, finally got one. It's very nice. Used relatively little because other keys are usually hooked up.

    A Nye Deluxe (chrome plate square base), probably the one that gets the most use. Got it for Christmas when I was 16. I can tune the slop out of the pivots, set it to about one atom's spacing, crank the tension up slightly and hammer along all night on that thing.

    A basic Nye Speed-X which I changed to a Navy knob years ago. This key was really my Dad's but once he got his Tech he got on 2m and that was all he really wanted. I got the key after that. It's almost as good at the Deluxe.

    As others have said, it's not really the key. That said, a well-made key is going to need less fiddling to get and stay in tune. There are some very nice vintage keys, some very nice custom keys, and some very expensive keys that really aren't all that good but they're pretty. So what's the lower economic limit of acceptable quality? Used to be a basic Speed-X was about $15, but they're closer to $90 now. Still, it's a good key and certainly classic looking.

    I've never liked the cruddy knockoffs. Probably the Menominee comes closest to that category, being attached to a fairly low-quality KOB set. I have used it as a stand-alone outfit for demonstrations, but I don't like non-Navy knobs.

    Advice, if you're interested, is go out and buy a basic Nye Speed-X in an oval base, with shorting switch. Not so much because you need a shorting switch, but because if I remember correctly the one with the shorting switch also comes with a "bug lip" on the insulated connection so you can slide a standard bug wedge in there. Simple and easy way to quickly hook up another key or a bug if you wish. Buy new, add a skirted knob (or buy one that has it). Practice. Become one with the instrument. It will be a good key. Why buy new? Because then you're not having to deal with whatever the previous owner(s) did to it.

    Then you can collect if you wish. A friend of mine had, at one point, 14 motorcycle saddles hanging on the wall in his garage. Number 15 turned out to be the one he'd been trying to find all along, but he kept the others so he'd know what he'd already tried.

    As I look at the keys and bugs I have (and the rigs!) it occurs to me that my favourites are the ones I've been using for the last 40 years. I've been using them that long because they were good quality when I got them, and we've grown to love each other in time. Doesn't mean I won't still buy a new or vintage key/bug, but I'm not looking for the Holy Grail any more.

    Getting more into building bugs now, at least into the design stage pretty intensively.


    Chuck VE7PJR

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