How to orient wrist/hand on paddle

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by KT5MR, Oct 10, 2016.

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  1. KT5MR

    KT5MR Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hi all,

    I'm making wonderful progress learning CW after a great many false starts. It seems the secret to this sort of thing is practice and patience, and, perhaps most importantly for me, no deadlines. I'll learn it when I learn it. It sure takes the pressure off and removes any feeling bad about not meeting self-imposed arbitrary time targets.

    My question deals with the proper way to orient my hand on my paddle as I practice sending. After much experimenting, what seems to work best for me is for the paddle to have a light touch and my finger and thumb to hit the top corner of the triangular paddles, as shown here:


    I like the feel of the sharp points when I'm sending. However, this does raise my hand up a bit on the wrist and may be straining some muscles in there more than I should. Also, after prolonged practice, my fingers that are curled under to support the high height of my thumb and forefinger get cramped.

    Also, I rest my entire arm from my hand to my elbow on the table and while it is difficult to tell in the photo, my arm angles away from the paddle at about 35-45 degrees or so.

    Before I develop some bad habits or repetitive strain injury, what is a good hand position for minimizing fatigue when using a paddle?

    --Michael / KT5MR
  2. N7ZAL

    N7ZAL Ham Member QRZ Page

    You will discover over time what works for you the best. I don't think there is an "only" way. I've rested my wrist on a table and used various thumb and finger positions that feel comfortable...I even sometimes hang the wrist in the air and slap the paddles.

    The main thing is to use what you like and that will even change over time. JMO
  3. W9WQA

    W9WQA Ham Member QRZ Page

    im not a cw op but i still love to rattle my bencher. it has a home brew curtiss keyer and tiny speaker. i often hit the tips too but i also added some padding in the center of paddles for a different feel. id love a new bencher but dont feel like the $,,,and having two! i think my contacts are not too good,kinda scratchy. wonder how to refinish?
    you might try a pad to rest your wrist on, different thicknesses etc. i do try different angles .
    for fun, turn it around and send backwards!,,and with left hand!! cw is fun even off the air!..73
  4. N7ZAL

    N7ZAL Ham Member QRZ Page

    Some will shudder at the thought, but 1200 grit black sandpaper works fine. I'd start around 400 and work my way up. Once the "rough" stuff is removed and pits taken out, you can finalize with Tripoli and then rouge powder. JMO

    Oh, some keys are rather pitted from the days of cathode keyed transmitters, unlike the grid blocked keying and today's solid state.
  5. AG6QR

    AG6QR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I'm not sure what the "right" posture is, but I am confident that, if you feel pain, cramping, or signs of strain, then you're probably not doing it right.

    After a bit of experimenting, I've found that this is what works for me.


    I use the side of my index finger, not the fingertip, on the dah paddle. All four fingers are comfortably curled, and the last three fingers are supporting the hand. I use a gentle touch. I have no history of working with a bug -- the bug users I've encountered seem to use a fair bit more force.

    I don't use a Bencher at home, but I've used one at our Club's station, and I hold it the same way.

    I do believe this is an area where personal preference prevails, and I'm not suggesting my way is better for anyone except myself. I'm only offering it as one posture to try. You do have to experiment until you find something that is comfortable and relaxing, and enables you to send for long stretches with ease.
  6. KT5MR

    KT5MR Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks all.

    I may try a pad or something to raise my hand slightly. That may make it more comfortable. I'll keep experimenting.

    I had to clean my contacts as well. I bought my Bencher used and noticed that no matter what I did it always seemed to take more force to make a dah than a dit. I then looked closely at the contact and there was just a slighlt build up of, well, something, on that particular contact. A few light brushings of Scotchbrite and now the force required for a dit and dah is roughly even.

    One thing I wrestled with a little bit was whether to use the paddle left or right-handed. I am left-handed, but for some odd reason, using the paddle right-handed felt more natural. It is probably that I see everyone doing it that way and if I'm doing using the paddle right-handed, I can keep my pen in my left hand for writing. (Although, I can see that writing down the characters will necessarily impose an upper limit to my copying. Hopefully, once I move into practicing words, I won't need to write down as much.)

    --MIchael / KT5MR
  7. KE8EAS

    KE8EAS Ham Member QRZ Page

    I use a straight key and watched the old military videos on YouTube for tips. Tried it out and didn't care for the exact way they said to do it. After all, I'm not sending for 10 hours a day!

    Thumb and middle on the sides, index on the top near the edge farthest away. It feels comfortable to keep my forearm on the table and use all wrist to make the key close.

    Is that the right way? It is for me. I have no pain or discomfort, plus, I'm more accurate this way. Don't look at it like a golf swing. If it's comfortable and you're accurate, go for it. As you speed up, you'll naturally make little adjustments along the way. Hope that helps. 73
  8. K7MEM

    K7MEM Ham Member QRZ Page

    As everyone else indicated, your positioning will change over time and get more comfortable. My position is much like AG6QR, where the side of the index finger and thumb are used. However, I don't like small paddles. They tend to cramp my hand. I prefer something that's heavy and doesn't travel around the desk.

    I send with my right hand, but keep my key on the left. In front of me is usually a note pad and/or a log book. When I go to send, I just swing my arm to the left and rest my arm on the desk. When I go back to receiving, I pick up my pencil, while my arm is coming back. For me, it's very comfortable.
  9. K8JD

    K8JD Ham Member QRZ Page

    I handle the paddles the same way that I send with my bug !
    Thumb on one side and end of index and middle finger on the other.
    CW op since 1961, started Bug CW in 1962 and paddle in 1969.
  10. WB5YUZ

    WB5YUZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    (1) Try cleaning them first. Close the contacts with a sheet of paper between them (brown paper, like paper bags, works well) and drag it through the contacts.

    (2) If cleaning fails, make sure they are properly adjusted. If you do not know the adjustment procedure because you have never read the manual, look for a manual online. You should read the manual. Successful hams read manuals.

    If you can't find a manual, ask on here, and maybe somebody familiar with the key can help you. But do try to find and read a manual.

    (3) If cleaning and adjustment fail to restore proper operation, then you can consider refinishing. But I would think seriously about replacing them if the key is still in production. Then you can experiment with re-finishing the old ones with no real worries.

    I've been using my bug for twenty-odd of its sixty years, and whenever I've encountered "scratchiness," cleaning and/or adjustment has fixed it, every time.
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2016

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