Really light action bug???

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by K5TSK, May 30, 2019.

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  1. K5TSK

    K5TSK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I've been doing some head scratching this last week on the three keys I would want to finish with. Bought several of different types, some I like, some I didn't. The cootie is out for good. I'm keeping my Begali paddle and my Vibroplex SK, but I'm looking to find a really light action pendulum on a right handed bug which I will use left-handed. Not looking for a slow bug. Can't afford a museum piece, but something $500 or less.
    I don't slap or mangle a bug like some videos I've seen. My fist is very motion limited and I don't move a bug much harder than a close spaced Bencher.
    Really needing some help from experienced bug ops who have tried several bugs and know which is the lightest action they have run across. Tired of buying and selling in order to try things out, so, is there any help out there??
  2. KE6EE

    KE6EE Ham Member QRZ Page

    I get your point. I use only straight keys and bugs.

    I think vertical bugs because of the orientation of the pendulum can have the lightest touch.
    My current favorite bug (I have several including a Begali Intrepid which is an excellent bug with a very
    flexible range of adjustments) is a Verta-Plex which is a modified Vibroplex Original bug made into
    a vertical model. I think it is significantly more sensitive than the Original in its original horizontal form.
    It is one of nine made by Donnie Garrett who used to run the 2B Parts website selling Drake replacement
    parts and bug parts and accessories.

    I also have a Vizkey right angle bug which in many ways a superior bug with a very light touch. The original maker,
    Tom Desaulniers, has retired but another ham has continued the business. Tom designed a vertical bug which I would propose
    to you would be well-suited to your purpose.

    Take a look at the Vizkey website for the vertical bug. It isn't outrageous in price and works very well.
    I don't know about the current return policy if the bug doesn't work for you, but returning it would
    be far less a bother than something from Europe like the Begali or any number of small Italian bug
    makers of quite beautiful keys.

    You might also like the Begali, but it's expensive and returning it might be a hassle.

    A further recommendation would be a GHD bug from Morse Express. Nicely made, not too spendy
    and probably quite good. I have an older GHD double lever bug (it works just like a regular bug but
    with separate small levers for dits and dahs). Marshall Emm is very approachable and would be worth
    spending some time on a phone call about bugs. GHD also (currently available I think) makes bugs with optical sensors
    rather than the usual contacts which may allow for a relatively light touch. Ask Marshall.
    VE7PJR likes this.
  3. K5TSK

    K5TSK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Excellent sir!!
    I learned on my left hand because I didn't want to lose my right hand paddle fist, but I'm backwards on my dit/dah side fingers so the need for right hand on the left.. Then I got so involved in SKCC that I did the bug on both hands and the paddle fist didn't matter much.
    But, I need to start lightening up and also want to do some of the lower 40 meter band CW. Love the bug sound, but at speed most would rather hear a paddle from comments I've heard.
    I learned left handed bug on a right handed Original weighted down enough to do SKCC. Kept having 'scratch' problems with my particular fist, so I bought a Vizkey vertical right handed from Curt. It sits on the desk ready to go with the Begali Leonessa for my right hand. Both are excellent pieces of work. Later I hooked up the Original again and found it a bit lighter on the pressure to activate the pendulum and the scratch was gone now. My fist must have changed a little. Now, to the point.
    I have now looked at the Intrepid and read some of the reviews. It would be my 3rd Begali and I'm not worried in the least about needing to return it. Can you really use it on either hand?? I must have read that wrong. If so, that is exactly what I'm looking for. I'm guessing you judged the feel to be at least as light as the Original. I will check out GHD also. I have a 501A that I have strapped cootie, but it's going to the swapmeet also. I'm serious about getting down to three keys and they will be passed on to the kids, grandkids, so if the key is also a work of art that's even better.
    By the way, you were right, not much need for 30+ on 40 cw. Hard to find something to push the limits.

    Thank you for taking the time.
  4. KE6EE

    KE6EE Ham Member QRZ Page

    A good bug fist should be difficult to distinguish from good sending with a keyer. I can
    pretty much always tell when someone is using a bug because of all the subtle (and expressive)
    aspects of bug sending.

    If your bug fist can be read by reverse beacons or other software your skill is probably good enough.
    I don't seem to have a problem there.

    There are, of course, the problems of setting bugs up properly so there is no scratchiness. Some rigs
    are more sensitive than others to dirty contacts on bugs. I think this may have to do with the voltage
    level on the keying circuit which goes low when keyed.

    I don't know why a Begali Intrepid would not work with either hand provided you can send properly
    with your left hand with a typical right-handed bug. The Begali has a relatively small, lightweight
    pendulum with two small weights on it. There are several magnetic adjustments which affect the
    feel and the rate of pendulum oscillation. For example there is an attracting magnet adjustment for
    the (usually far, but the Intrepid pendulum works in reverse) end of the pendulum. This unusual setup
    works in combination with the spring-loaded dit contact to enable very fine dit weight adjustment
    and to slow down the oscillations for a dit speed of about 12 wpm.

    As I recall the Vizkey bugs can be ordered in both left and right-hand versions. I would be surprised
    if there is any bug with a lighter touch than the Vizkey vertical bug.

    Yes, bugs have limited speed ranges because they were designed to be used for serious, practical
    purposes by professional or military operators. The current fashion for ultra-high-speed sending
    and receiving reflects what seems to me to be a typical characteristic of our culture to seek
    meaning in over-the-top kinds of performance. This applies in many areas of endeavor. I'm aware
    particularly these days of the focus on such things as climbing Mt. Everest (the route now paved
    with corpses, 11 people having perished this year). Out here in my small town populated with
    tech industry types with much more money than brains, there are $100k electric cars everywhere.
    The thinking is that spending much more money will somehow save the planet. Spending less
    is more appropriate IMHO.

    Bottom line is that sending 28 or 30 wpm well with a bug is an achievement. 25 wpm is plenty
    of speed for efficient CW work and it always has been so. Speed is only one aspect of CW work
    for which accuracy, brevity and good procedure and other communication qualities and aspects
    have equal or greater significance.
  5. IK4EWX

    IK4EWX Ham Member QRZ Page

    Here I use some different bugs that I own: Vibroplex Presentation 1962 (with LaHiff spring), Vibroplex Presentation 1985, Vibroplex Original Standard 1986, Begali Intrepid and J-36 by Frattini.
    If you prefer the lighest touch possible sure the best is the Begali Intrepid. It is a mechanical jewel, easy to use, easy to set, with the most perfect 1.1 ratio dot/space. Real CW perfection in a bug, not easy.
    K5TSK likes this.
  6. KE6EE

    KE6EE Ham Member QRZ Page

    One wonders, even one with a Begali Intrepid such as I, whether there is a trade-off between lightness of touch and accuracy
    of sending.

    One would also think that making dot length/weight and space equal is a matter of operator skill rather than bug adjustment.

    One also affirms that the Intrepid is widely and easily adjustable for proper dit length/weight.
    K5TSK likes this.
  7. K5TSK

    K5TSK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thank you. I have looked at the reviews on eHAM and reread the info on the Begali site. For my level of skill, the Intrepid is definitely overkill, but then if I can't attain good code at speed, then I have no room for excuses.
    If I decide to go ahead and buy one last time it will probably be the Intrepid.

    TO KE6EE; I value your words and point of view. The issue of lightness in my case has to do with 72 year old lineman hands and fingers that are starting to stiffen and that is one of the primary reasons I practice alternate hand sending.
    If I had a problem with shakes, that would be the last thing I wanted in a key. We are all different. That's one of the beauties of CW. The minor unintentional timing errors are what makes us individuals. That's the reason I love the bug sound. It's an affirmation that no matter how perfectly I try to send, I'm not a computer.
    I looked at the GHD optic bug and it looks great, but I don't think it would qualify as a purely mechanical bug for SKCC and such. So it's mechanical only in a bug. Thank you for your insights.
  8. KE6EE

    KE6EE Ham Member QRZ Page

    You won't be unhappy with the Begali. Another thing I like about it is that it is really heavy. Bugs actually REQUIRE significant effort
    for sending. Heavy bugs are good.

    I've got several years on you many of which were spent in doing farm work and other manual labor. I have marginal carpel tunnel
    syndrome but I'm more careful than I was when I was in my bulletproof years.

    If you are becoming arthritic, which I am, and I have a particularly pernicious variety, SOME effort rather than minimal may be appropriate for maintaining strength and flexibility. I do hand stretches and other exercises daily. I do try not to overdo manual work, however. An hour working in the yard digging or pruning is plenty.

    I think that most of the personal style that goes along with the bug sound is intentional in the sense that bug ops often don't work very hard at sounding as clear and perfect as they can. Thus bad habits become ingrained in some styles which can become very tiresome to hear.

    Regarding SKCC, I wouldn't worry a bit. They are anything but rigid about rules. It's a purely voluntary organization. I don't know why an optical bug would not count as a straight or mechanical key in their view. After all with an optical bug the sending is purely manual. I've been a member for many years.
    K5TSK likes this.
  9. K8RXB

    K8RXB Subscriber QRZ Page

    I am a lefty who uses a 50+ year old right handed Vibroplex standard original. While I can send with a similar motion to a paddle, I do find it better in the long run too use my entire forearm rather than hand or wrist motions. The rolling wrist technique just does not work for me. This may or may not help you, but using a righty bug left handed has not been a problem for me. There are quite a few Vibroplex bugs out there that might work well for you.
    K5TSK likes this.
  10. K5TSK

    K5TSK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks. I learned on a new Original Deluxe when I started trying the bug a year or two back as previously mentioned up this thread, It might well be that a right handed Blue Racer would work well. My ole elmer gave me one years ago and because of my backwards method on the fingers, I never could get the hang of it. At the time, it never occurred to me to try using it left handed. I'd love to have that bug back just to see, but that won't happen.
    I bet you are right on changing my fist style. It's the principle of using your legs to climb, not your arms, and since I was a lineman for 20+ years, I won't argue that point. But, I've done so much changing around in the last year achieving the SKCC 3Key, I'd rather not change something else. Need to settle and refine. Heavy on the settle, going to digest what I've heard and decide in a week or so.
    I appreciate your input. 73.

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