Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by N1OOQ, Feb 13, 2017.

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  1. W6OGC

    W6OGC Ham Member QRZ Page

    Whatever you do, don't try to go cheap. I needed a straight key a few years ago, and bought a bargain priced one from ARRL, made I think by MFJ.

    It is so lousy I refuse to sell it to someone else, or even give it away. It sits now in its original wrapping off in a dark corner, where I see it only when I am looking for something else. How the noble League, of which I am a long time Life Member and sometime official, could engage in such a swindle is shocking to me.

    I lucked out, though. A former partner also a ham, owed me a favor and knew I was upset over this outrage, found a Navy flameproof key like I got from MARS as a Novice, and gave it to me. Very nice!
  2. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    With the OMNI-D you'll need an outboard keyer and paddle key (both).

    There have already been some excellent suggestions on those.

    This one is inexpensive, popular and requires no building anything:

    For paddles, lots of them are very good and they vary in price and features quite a lot. I have three Bencher paddles, two of them for more than 30 years, and they work fine for me. The BY-1 is available from almost all amateur radio retailers, in the $150 range:
  3. WA7PRC

    WA7PRC Ham Member QRZ Page

    The MFJ401D runs $70 and gives you ZERO features beyond being an electronic keyer. OTOH, the K1EL WinKeyer USB (link) gives you MANY features for $90. Yeah, you have to solder a few things (no big deal).

    I use an olde Vibroplex Iambic that I picked up for $35, a few decades before prices went nutz. Today, you can find good prices on ebay. Everywhere else I've seen, not.
  4. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    ^I agree with WinKeyer USB is a very good deal; however, you need a computer to use it!

    I greatly prefer "stand alone" stuff that requires nothing "outside the box." To that end, my old TR-7 did not have an internal electronic keyer (back in those days, I don't think any rig did) so I put together a "PicoKeyer" (which is about the size of a large postage stamp) and built it inside the rig, with a miniature pot and pushbutton switch at the rear panel for adjustments and a little toggle switch to switch the key jack from "paddles" to "straight key/bug" (requires stereo plug either way) and that all cost a few dollars (and about 90 minutes of work!) but at least it's all inside and no computer or anything else required.

    Dale, N0XAS, the "inventor" of the PicoKeyer sent me a kit for free back about 10 years ago, but they were on the market for about $20 at the time as a board-level product. I see he still sells them, with an enclosure for external use, for $29:
  5. VE7PJR

    VE7PJR Ham Member QRZ Page

    Some keys -- higher priced ones -- are occasionally offered with a cord set included or as an accessory. For a straight key (or a bug) you only need two wires. It's just an on/off switch after all. For an electronic keyer you need three wires: dit, dah and common. If you have a keyer in the rig, you'll plug that stereo plug into the KEY jack and put the key on the other end.

    Your rig's manual should tell you how to wire that up. I suggest you find that section and read it before you go buying parts. On my rig (IC-7200) the KEY jack takes a stereo plug, but if I remember correctly a straight key or bug would only be wired to the tip and ring of the plug. A keyer would be wired to tip, ring and shield.

    The IC-7200 has a keyer in it. Haven't used it because I gave up keyers before the semiconductors in this radio were even mined. I see it has normal and reverse modes, as well as a "bug" mode that seems like a fun add-on (because it's basically a simple thing). I may at some time pick up an old Vibrokeyer single lever paddle and use it for cootie and for the "el-bug" just for grins, but I have a small collection of vintage and new bugs so you can guess where my allegiance lies. At least I can hook one up and fire away without having to spool through eight levels of menus to enable it.

    I remember back in the last century when I got my first license, that I used shielded 3-wire cable for my keyer because I had some RF in the shack. The ground was carried from the keyer paddle base to the keyer case, thence to station ground and I had no more problems.

    I will say that with a straight key, cootie or bug you won't have to mess with that!

    As already stated, wiring the key is generally left "as an exercise for the student."
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2017
  6. WA7PRC

    WA7PRC Ham Member QRZ Page

    No. On its own, it's a very good memory keyer. ALL features and parameters can be programmed via the paddle. :cool:

    There's a 'What Is Winkeyer' page here: that describes it in much greater detail.

    ! <-- here's my exclamation point for emphasis. :p
  7. K5UJ

    K5UJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    The Bencher paddles are great if you like Iambic keying, but you don't have to buy one new. Since the demand for keys is low (despite the talk of a CW renaissance) you can find one at a hamfest for at most $100. Keys are basic mechanical devices and defy planned obsolescence, therefore there are lots of perfectly good keys and paddles out there that are decades old but still new in function. At most you have to completely disassemble one and clean it up and put it back together. If it's a Vibrokey paddle or bug you can get replacement parts from Vibroplex.

    I had a new hardly used chrome Bencher BY-2 a couple years ago that I tried to sell at hamfests. It had the rare almost impossible to find original Bencher molded plastic cover. I had owned it around 10 years along with a Radio Adventures CodeBoy keyer but Iambic wasn't my thing as an old bug operator. I figured I could get $150 for the pair. Wrong! Firstly, most if the interest was in the plastic cover, which I had to put away so it wouldn't get swiped when I wasn't looking. Apart from that, 98% of hams couldn't have cared less about a CW key. The market is glutted with used keys and paddles. I heard manufacturers sell new keys to people who never actually use them, may not even be hams, and want a conversation piece display item.

    I eventually sold the BY-2 seperately for $100 but it took a year of hamfest trips and I felt lucky to get $100 for it.

    In my opinion the ultimate keyer and paddle is the HA-1 TO keyer and matching Vibrokey paddle. Closest thing you can get to the feel and function of a fully automatic bug and it can key cathode voltage. And, you can get into it and fix it. After WW2 there was a continual quest for electronic automatic keys, using relays and various tube circuits up to the TO keyer around 1960. I think it was the ultimate tube keyer design and I love using mine. They are pretty easy to find and fix up. Here are a couple tips: Run it at modern line v., around 122 v. and drill out a rivet on each tube socket and put in a screw, star washer and nut to ground each socket to the chassis.

    W0GSQ likes this.
  8. N3HEE

    N3HEE Ham Member QRZ Page

    I just slapped together a board only keyer from Jackson Harbor Press. It's the PK4. $18 plus shipping. I am building this little guy into my 4SQRP Bayou Jumper kit. I needed something VERY small with one button operation. Works well. It will serve as a keyer, sidetone and high current keying interface for external keys.
  9. W6OGC

    W6OGC Ham Member QRZ Page

    You can buy a single lever Bencher if iambic isn't your thing, or just use the iambic one that way. I use mine that way, and left handed to boot. Very flexible!

    You can also get spare parts from Bencher which is now owned by the same fellow who owns Vibroplex and a number of other product lines, Scott Robbins W4PA, IIRC.
  10. KI5WW

    KI5WW Ham Member QRZ Page

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