New Ham on learning CW

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by KD2SVR, Oct 29, 2019.

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  1. KD2SVR

    KD2SVR Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Just licensed. Will be sitting 4 General exam in a month from now. Plan on working CW almost exclusively. I purchased the Vibroplex semi-automatic bug. Any ideas on where I can learn about this key. I see a rube goldberg looking contraption and I don't know the first thing about it. Also, where can I find good code practice online. Thanks and 73's.
    Dave KD2SVR.
  2. NG9F

    NG9F Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I like a whole lot. Start with a character speed of about 20-28wpm so you can't count dits and dahs. Set your spacing to maybe 3wpm. Go through the 40 lessons, then just keep doing the drills. I like 2-minute drills but I guess everyone is different. At the beginning if you can log in and practice just for a few minutes twice per day, you will be on your way. An old US Army theory was that at 641 hertz you learn the easiest. I don't know if that is true, but I chose 641 hertz for the tone- I mean, why not?
    KD2SVR likes this.
  3. K7TRF

    K7TRF Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Congrats on passing your exam and good on ya for wanting to learn code and work CW.

    FWIW, I'd strongly suggest you DO NOT initially learn to send CW with a bug like the Vibroplex. Learn to send with good rhythm, character weighting and spacing before trying to tackle a mechanical bug. There are some really terrible bug fists on the air that rush their dits and drag their dahhs which makes for really tough copy. Learn good CW receiving and sending first and once you have a solid grasp on clear and crisp sending then you might dust off the old Vibroplex bug and add that to your bag of tricks.

    A decent electronic keyer if it isn't built into your rig or just a decent set of paddles if your rig has an internal keyer would get you on the right track and of course learning to send with a straight key is a time honored way to go as well that won't introduce the complexities and tricky timing of a bug.

    Good luck with tackling CW it can be a really fun mode, just get off to a good start and save yourself a lot of grief by waiting a bit before trying to master a mechanical bug.
    N2EY, WB5YUZ, N1OOQ and 1 other person like this.
  4. M6GYU

    M6GYU Ham Member QRZ Page

    Out of interest why did you buy a semi automatic bug? Fully automatic or even a straight key is easier to use in my unhumble opinion. ;-)
  5. WB5YUZ

    WB5YUZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have to second the advice not to learn to send with a bug, and I use a bug almost exclusively when I work CW.

    Start with an electronic keyer or straight key. A modern rig will have a keyer built in.

    One further bit of advice; don't get stuck on an app or website until you get to 20 WPM. As soon as you can do 5, put your wireless device down and get on the air and start listening to real QSOs. There are lots of QSOs in the 5 WPM range around 7050-7055 in the evening. When you can follow them, start having your own.

    Remember, many thousands of people went from no code to 15 WPM in six or eight months of practice using just this technique before the internet was a thing. Now many people struggle for years to learn code - that was almost unheard of in the days of the Novice license and 5 WPM QSOs.

    You will enjoy CW. I finally got VP6R, the DXPedition to Pitcairn, in the log this morning. With medium power and mediocre antennas, it would have been a real challenge on SSB!
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2019
    KD2SVR likes this.
  6. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Also, above 14.050 on 20m, and above 7.100 (t0 7.125) on 40m, where Tech licensees are allowed to use CW. Lots of "slow-coders" out there. But a bug (Vibroplex) won't let you send very slowly unless you add more weights to the "dit" arm, which is possible but I wouldn't really recommend it. Bugs work best starting at maybe 13 wpm, and up to much faster.

    Yeah. Well, youngsters often learn easier but IMO that's because no one ever told them it was difficult, and they learn a thousand new things a day, anyway, so this is just one more. Also in researching the history of telegraph (wired telegraph, which is ~170 years old now and of course was obsoleted by wireless) which uses a somewhat different but similar code and relied on only "clicks" and timing to decode, I found some of the early telegraph operators actually learned the code while standing in line to complete an application as an operator. That's really fast learning.:p
    KD2SVR likes this.
  7. N2EY

    N2EY Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Congrats and welcome!

    Some advice from a bug user with 45 years experience (on the same Vibroplex Original Standard, no less):

    Do NOT, repeat NOT, use the bug right away. Get a good straight key and learn to send on it FIRST.

    Here's why:

    A semi-automatic bug is completely unforgiving of mistakes. All it does is make dits, everything else is on the operator. Timing skills are best learned on a straight key. In addition, most stock bugs only go down to 15 wpm or so unless extra weights are added.

    On top of that, because a bug is mechanical, proper adjustment is critical.

    Again: Get a good solid straight key and learn it FIRST.

    That said, here are some general notes:
    WB5YUZ, KD2SVR and KA0HCP like this.
  8. KD2SVR

    KD2SVR Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks to all who took the time to offer advice. Will take all under advisement. 73's Dave KD2SVR
    N2EY likes this.
  9. W9RAC

    W9RAC Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hello Dave, I see many if not most have advised you against NOT learning with the bug. They are giving you VERY good advice. A experienced CW guy has his hands full learn to use the bug PROPERLY within its own. Save that challenge for a day AFTER you have become comfortable sending/receiving Morse ON-AIR for later. 73 Rich
    WW2PT, KD2SVR, WB5YUZ and 1 other person like this.
  10. WB5YUZ

    WB5YUZ Ham Member QRZ Page

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