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High end ($100+) straight keys.

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by W4WVW, Jun 21, 2020.

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  1. W4WVW

    W4WVW Ham Member QRZ Page

    Is a high end straight key worth the expense? I can afford a nice key but dang, the little 3D printed CW MORSE keys I have are really quite nice and function well. If I'm going to do 20+wpm I'm going to use a keyer and my BY-1 so other than the fact that I love a mechanical masterpiece do I really have anything to gain? Maybe I should try a bug or a cootie? Nice to have choices I suppose I just don't know what choice to make, hi hi.
  2. N8TGQ

    N8TGQ Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have one cheap straight key and a bunch of home made keys and paddles.
    Most of my radioing is at the parks, so big heavy keys are not needed.
    If you want to spend the money for your enjoyment comfort go for it!
    I think in 10 or 15 years you'll be able to pick nice keys up for next to nothing as the older operators go SK.
    K1LKP and W5ESE like this.
  3. PU2OZT

    PU2OZT Ham Member QRZ Page

    No idea about high end straight keys, my Kent is just fine. However, loving mechanical craftwork as you do, I went with a KN4BY Right Angle Bug
    My sending is perfectible, not bug's fault, which I quickly managed to adjust to my slower keying. Also, in my case some 60V between contacts helps, a bug may have a dits issue with a pure solid state rig.
    K1LKP likes this.
  4. W4WVW

    W4WVW Ham Member QRZ Page

    10 or 15 years and I'll likely be one of those older ops gone SK. I'm 70 now and battling cancer. You never know though!
  5. KC9YGN

    KC9YGN Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    The answer is -- Maybe? The problem is that, like everything else, everyone has different likes and dislikes, different operating habits, etc. and there is no such thing as "one size fits all". I've got a Vibroplex deluxe straight key and while it's all shiny and very well made I hate the thing and can't send decently with it no matter how hard I try, and I'm not sure why. It just doesn't feel right, if that makes any sense. I'd say price isn't really an indication of how well a specific key is going to work for you. It's a very personal choice and the only way to really tell is to work with one for a while and see if it suits you.
    KJ4RT, WN1MB, K1LKP and 1 other person like this.
  6. NG9F

    NG9F Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I've only been doing CW for 22 months so take this with a grain of salt. I started with a Navy Flameproof which lots of people seem to like. Then I found a GHD 501 on eBay and won the auction for about $100 less than the cost of a new one. It was absolutely mint when it arrived, and it's gorgeous. But wow- crazy difference! I'm a pounder and got a lot of flex out of the flameproof. The GHD 501 has zero flex. It freaked me out at first and I didn't know if I would like it, but probably a week later I was used to it and noticed that I could send faster, cleaner code with it. I won't go back. I tried the G0NVT key as well and it's for sale now- I think I am done test-driving other keys. The chrome on my 501 is amazing too- it looks gorgeous on the desk. Adjustments do not move at all- ever. It's just solid as a rock. I'm a ham, I still like to buy stuff- but it won't be a key anytime soon. The 501 is just too good.
    K1LKP likes this.
  7. KD1JT

    KD1JT Ham Member QRZ Page

    You don’t need to spend a lot to have a nice key. My WW2 era J38 works fine. Cleaned and polished, set up to my preference, on a sturdy and heavy base. I’ve seen a lot beautiful eye candy, And if I were wealthier I’d probably have a few. But none of them will make me a better CW op.
    WN1MB, K1LKP, K8PG and 3 others like this.
  8. W4WVW

    W4WVW Ham Member QRZ Page

    I would need to find a key I couldn't live without to spend over $200. I'm surprised the Vibroplex and Bencher SKs get a lot of bad reviews. If they ever start taking orders again I'd probably get a Vizkey Camel Back should I decide to "splurge". See the key pictured in my Avatar, it's a CW MORSE Camel Back with Navy knob. It's probably all I really need though it's not always about "need".
    KC9YGN, K1LKP and W5ESE like this.
  9. WA1GXC

    WA1GXC Ham Member QRZ Page

    I totally understand and share a desire to have mechanical objects and equipment that are beautifully designed,

    machined, and assembled with flawless precision. I am lucky enough to have a guy in my town who owns a used-tool

    store and I have bought many older pliers, ordinary and specialty-use, because their quality cannot be found today at

    any price-- They're all out of business--Utica, Diamond, Vise-Grip when it really was Vise-Grip--"Petersen Mfg." with U.S. tool-steel and

    stamped "Dewitt, Nebraska". If you desire a beautiful key, I say get it and enjoy it for the rest of your life. I concur with your decision.

    However, I sense this question is about functionality. In that case--I've never used a straight key that cost more than 30 bucks in 2020 dollars,

    new or used, in my amateur or professional life. My criteria from some ancient post which I reiterate here, are simple--

    All-metal for stability and durability
    Something that looks solid
    Something that feels solid

    That's it--That's all there is. Any other variation in your experience or interaction with it will be personal and random.

    A $200 key will not allow you or make you send cleaner, better, more effortless code. If it does, it's placebo effect, like running fast

    in your favorite old high-school gym shorts.

    Sadly, all our hamfests are shut down. I pass the following info--I hope I am not violating rules--

    There's a fellow in Connecticut , Lee K1LEE. I have never bought or sold anything with him but have enjoyed talking to him at

    many hamfests around southern New England. He is a code lover and active SKCC guy and just loves keys. He (had) a small

    hobby-business buying and selling straight keys. You might contact him for possibilities or guidance.

    An old Lafayette--Radio Shack--(Japanese 'Skillman") --They're plentiful and perfectly good. Johnson Speed-X, Bunnell (professional

    equipment, expensive and sought by collectors). $30 tops. Don't pay more, keep looking.

    I own two straight keys, a Signal Electric heavy-duty model and a Johnson Speed-X which has been taking a vacation for 10 years.

    See you on the bands.

    Last edited: Jun 21, 2020
    WN1MB, M6GYU, W5ESE and 2 others like this.
  10. W5ESE

    W5ESE Ham Member QRZ Page

    I bought a simple straight key at a Radio Shack store for $5-6(?) in 1975; when I was training for the Novice license. It's still the straight key I use most often.

    If I was to buy a new key now, it would probably be one of the Nye Viking (SpeedX) keys, which range from about $70-$95.

    No need to spend more unless you want to.

    Good sending comes with practice, not an expensive key.
    K3EY, WN1MB and W4WVW like this.

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