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Straight key vs paddle keying

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by N5HXR, Nov 5, 2019.

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  1. N5HXR

    N5HXR Ham Member QRZ Page

    I've been working on my code, and I'm copying OK and getting more confident on my sending. My only HF transceiver is a QRP Labs QCX, and I'm basically using a button as a "straight key". I rigged up a home-made attempt to experiment with iambic keying.

    I think I like the straight key more. Everything I key is successfully decoded by the QCX's decoder, so I think I've got the rhythm and timing down OK. When I key iambically, I keep forgetting and leaking an extra dit or dah here and there, and finding it frustrating.

    I'd like to buy something nice to key with, and I can't afford to buy two -- am I missing out by giving up on the paddle too quick? Maybe I haven't given it enough of a chance -- do most people end up on a paddle anyway?
  2. M6GYU

    M6GYU Ham Member QRZ Page

    Its a matter of simple choice.

    Straight key has 'personality', but they take more skill to send well. But you'll need to practice an awful lot to send much over 25wpm. They are generally cheaper and ex military keys are widely available second hand - try ebay
    Paddles lack 'personality, mostly sound the same, but minus sending the wrong amounts of dits, then you generally get more accurate morse. You can normally (but don't have to!) send much much faster than a straight key. Prices are generally more expensive than straight keys. Oh, and some transmitters don't have internal keyers which you need to use one.

    Good luck.
  3. NG9F

    NG9F Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Lots of people seem to like paddles but I don't. I think people have different capabilities in neuromotor skills. I could never seem to get the cadence and rhythm of a paddle- single or iambic. I love using a straight key. Maybe I am more picky than others, but I'm not fond of low-quality straight keys. I find it much easier and more enjoyable to use a quality key. I don't like a ton of play in the movement of the lever. I like the feel of something solid and I think it gives me better results. If you can swing it I would look at straight keys from N3ZN, GHD, or similar. Maybe the best quality lower-priced key is the Navy Flameproof.

    Keep in mind there is an entire club devoted to making the Morse yourself- actually using your own skill to generate the code instead of relying on an electronic key to do so. Check out the Straight Key Century Club. There are lots of us! It's free. Join and get your number. Exchange your number on the air with another member and it "counts" for awards.
    N2OTG and W5BIB like this.
  4. KM4DYX

    KM4DYX XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Don't sweat it. Go with what is working for you. I learned on a paddle but I recently took up the straight key. The transition wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be. Master one then start learning the other.

  5. KB5ZCR

    KB5ZCR Ham Member QRZ Page

    Check out iambic A vs iambic B. Your radio likely has a setting for which setting you prefer.
    Many paddle users don't squeeze the paddles at all and just treat it like a single paddle.
    I use a single paddle so don' have to mess with the A vs B thing.

    Good luck.

    Thanks, Tim
  6. W9YAP

    W9YAP XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    You will have plenty of time to experiment and try different keys as your CW journey continues. Just look around at the auction site and you can find some pretty good keys for a reasonably low cost. If you like the feel of manually creating the characters I would recommend to get a normal sized Straight key, it will feel a lot nicer than the little switch key on the QCX.

    If you are feeling creative, you can try making a sideswiper with junk around the shop. It is essentially a straight key that works side to side and still requires your muscle memory and brain effort to create the characters. There are some good you tube videos exhibiting its use.

    Play around and have fun, but stay focused on clean, accurate keying.
    K2CAJ likes this.
  7. N5HXR

    N5HXR Ham Member QRZ Page

    That's a good point -- that would probably avoid the frustration I'm currently encountering with the iambic style. Thanks!
  8. N5CM

    N5CM Ham Member QRZ Page

    I started with a single-lever Ten-Tec "paddle" with built-in keyer to go with my Century 21 many moons ago as a 5 wpm novice. My dad (SK) had a set of Brown Brothers Model CTL-B with an iambic paddle and a straight key on one base. When we visited, I would try his paddles and eventually learned to squeeze them. Eventually I found a set of Brown Bros. CTL-B and got them and a keyer.

    I enjoy using the paddles and the straight key. I use the paddles most of the time when I'm chasing DX or states on new bands. I use the straight key for SKCC QSOs and some rag chews.

    If you decide to chase DX and dive into a pileup or operate during a contest, a set of paddles and a memory keyer will help. It took a while to learn to use the paddles, but once I got the hang of it, it was nice.
  9. N8TGQ

    N8TGQ Ham Member QRZ Page

    I think of a straight key sort of like a manual transmission. It takes practice to get your timing and spacing right, but its like you're more "connected" and involved in the operation.
    The keyer with a paddle is smoother but you're not as involved. Remember that using a paddle doesnt mean having to use an iambic mode. I never could get used to "squeezing" so still just "slapping"!
    N2OTG and NG9F like this.
  10. K1LKP

    K1LKP Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page


    73 - K1LKP
    K0UO likes this.

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