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Portable Key for field ops

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by KB1CKT, Sep 3, 2015.

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  1. KB1CKT

    KB1CKT Ham Member QRZ Page

    I am tempted, now that fall is here (even if the weather is not) to try my hand at qrp portable. I mean, I have the FT-817, all I need is an antenna and a key, and a pad of paper to copy onto.

    I'm toying with the American Morse PortaPaddle, and the leg strap. Before I go down that route, anyone else try this combo out? I'm thinking, I could make a simple antenna (am thinking of a trapped 40/20 dipole, something simple, no tuner required), strap the paddle to one leg, sit on a rock, copy code onto a small notebook (the goal might be headcopy but I'm a ways from that, and at the least I want to take notes). Put the carrying strap back onto the '817 and let it swing around on my neck.

    When done, pack everything back into the backpack.


    The Palm Paddle, with its magnetic base, is also a possiblity, and might be a useful key also. My home station uses a metal desk, so a magnetic base would work well for that.
  2. AG6QR

    AG6QR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I've got the AME Porta-paddle, with the cast iron base which they sell for it. It's a very usable paddle, quite sturdy and rugged. In fact, my only real complaint about it compared with my (much more expensive) Begali is that the contacts require more frequent adjustment to stay the way I like them (I like very close contacts with a feather touch), but occasional readjustment is a small issue considering the price, size, and weight differences. I sometimes use mine when "picnic table portable". I've never used the porta-paddle with a leg strap, but I think it should work fine. The bare porta-paddle by itself is very lightweight and small, so you'll need to anchor it to something.
  3. W8ZNX

    W8ZNX Ham Member QRZ Page


    have build and own more than one American Morse key
    most fond of their little single lever paddle

    if you decide to build your key
    there are some very very small parts

    needed to use my magnifying light

    keep the parts in a shoe box
    because some of the parts are so small
    if they roll off the desk or table
    you will never find them

    still in the stacks
  4. WA7DU

    WA7DU Ham Member QRZ Page

    An alternative (although I think the American Morse Co. Products are very good):

    eBay frequently lists small keys and keyers, some with the metal leg strap used in the military. Some of the smaller straight keys are called spy keys. You can join the ranks of Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale or the two unamed spies in Spy versus Spy. If you do decide to become a spy, choose your side carefully.
  5. W7CJD

    W7CJD Ham Member QRZ Page

    Pilots have a small clipboard with a leg strap.

    Some of the radio amateurs operating portable use these for a little writing desk for their morse key and their "write-in-rain" notepad log, or, their iPod, PDA or tablet computer.
  6. N7ZAL

    N7ZAL Ham Member QRZ Page

    I think in WW2 the air crew used a version of a J-38...J-X, which was strapped to their thigh/leg.
  7. W7CJD

    W7CJD Ham Member QRZ Page

    That kind of clipboard is still sold to present-day pilots: some built-in a pouch.
  8. N7ZAL

    N7ZAL Ham Member QRZ Page

  9. W8ZNX

    W8ZNX Ham Member QRZ Page

    if you want a miniature
    straight key
    see ebay miniature brass key, made in China
    its sometimes called a Birdy key
    have one
    nice action for such a small key
    flaw is the wire terminals are too small
    need to make some sort of strain relief
    or the wire keeps breaking at the posts

    better key
    not as pretty, but very well made
    the Soviet mil surplus miniature telegraph key
    feels like a much bigger key
    costs less
    its a keeper

    also see Morse Express Christmas Keys

    dit dit

    not exactly miniature
    they are heavy and klunky
    the leg iron is sized for a skinny 19 year old solder
    if you are a old guy and put on a few lbs
    since you were in the US Army Signal Corps
    your leg will go numb in about five min

    stole mine from the US Army Signal Corps

    dit dit
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2015
  10. K8JD

    K8JD Ham Member QRZ Page

    You mention a "paddle" or two. Does the FT817 have a built in keyer circuit? Or are you using a paddle as a straight key sideways. I think this is an uncomfortable and error prone way to send Morse ! A straight key like the old J38 is a better way. Finding a way to attach it with a leg strap near your knee is great.
    I made the small KK-1 kit key and found it just too small to work well for me and I went back to the standard size key similar to the WW2 J38 !
    Using a center fed trap dipole is a good antenna with no tuner to mess with. Trim it for lowest SWR at a similar height you expect to get it in the field, at home so you will have it ready to use on site.
    I made single band and fan dipoles for camping with light weight wire and string to toss them into trees over branches and tying the ends off where you can untie and pull everything back down at the end of the day.
    Have fun !

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