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To CW or not to CW? New ham - a few questions

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by NT4TC, Mar 2, 2017.

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  1. NT4TC

    NT4TC Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks for all this info.

    As I'm studying and setting goals, what level of copy proficiency should I goal to before attempting CW QSO's? 10, 15, 20 wpm?
    What about keying'?

    Tom - N7TGC
    AD5KO likes this.
  2. N2EY

    N2EY Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    10 wpm is plenty for starters.

    Accuracy is more important than speed. But accuracy doesn't have to be 100%.

    73 de Jim, N2EY
    AD5KO likes this.
  3. N6RGR

    N6RGR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page


    Thanks for those tips. I have been pretty negligent when it comes to CW - I had one QSO but the OP was sending at about 5 WPM, and I found it difficult to copy because it was too slow!! I was copying at 15 to 18 wpm but have not practiced for quite some, so I need to start listening to CW and practice copying and sending and get back to that level. I have been busy using voice, and digital modes and have not completed any CW QSO's.

    Roger KK6IVD
    N2EY likes this.
  4. KD2RON

    KD2RON Ham Member QRZ Page

    Began three years and like to study so went to Xtra class but found the real challenge cw. I bought an Alinco 10w and 100w power range 10m to 80m. Cost $575. You can do voice on 10m and cw on 40m with tech lic. Just do cw now. Also have a small qrp rig. You would be happier with 100w capability. Use almost invisible 40-20m endfed dipole. I really enjoy the mental challenge of learning cw, give it a try. If you find it seems like work, the hobby has many oother modes to explore.
  5. KP4SX

    KP4SX Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Feel free to attempt it when you find yourself copying stations! Back in the Novice days, although we had to test for 5 wpm, frankly many guys couldn't copy 5 wpm very well on the air. Be we sure made contacts and got the airtime practice to improve. You'll know you're ready when you can copy some callsigns and basic info. And keep your sending practice up to speed at the same time. Many newbies feel like they can send faster than they can receive which is sort of normal since you know in advance what you're sending :) But strive for clean, good quality code. Many won't try to work you if your fist is poor.
    Good luck!
    AD5KO likes this.
  6. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Yes, and yes. A week ago during the ARRL DX CW contest, the bands were so packed there wasn't a clear frequency (down in the "CW areas" of any band that was open) to be found. The KX3 receiver is excellent, and with a very narrow filter you might find one! But it gets very, very packed. During non-contest times, there's often activity on CW when there is almost none on "phone" simply because conditions can be so poor that a SSB contact is very difficult to make, but CW (and digital modes, too) still gets through.
    The KX3 is a terrific little rig, but low powered. An amplifier can be added to make it more competitive. Still, 10-15W on CW is about equivalent to 100W PEP on SSB, so if you have effective antennas you'll make a lot of contacts.
    The EFHW, if you can stretch it out straight and get it high enough above ground, will run rungs around a Buddipole. The "putting it up and taking it down" is more involved than you might think, though. I'd try very hard to camouflage it in such a way I could just leave it up and nobody would see it.
    100W makes it easier for sure, and either of those two rigs are solid and well-liked. Unlike a KX-3 they cannot be operated with self-contained batteries and of course they're bigger and heavier.
  7. N1BCG

    N1BCG Ham Member QRZ Page

    A couple of years back, I heard an op in Michigan (I'm in Connecticut) calling CQ on 10M. Nobody came back to him, so I thought I'd throw out my call for fun to see what happens because the rig was an HTX-100 running 5W on a Radio Shack CB radio power supply and the antenna a dipole push-pinned to rafters in the attic via 50' of RG-58. A real hack set up, but the station came back to me immediately, and not because of my legal-limit signal or textbook fist (I was just getting back into CW).

    Shocked, I couldn't copy anything and missed everything. I emailed to explain my lame disappearance, and afterward, we became QRS friends as we both needed to practice.

    Yes, that was on 10M when the band was open, but I've seen myself show up on the RBN (Reverse Beacon Network) running 5W on 40M, so I have -total- faith in less-than-ideal set ups.

    CW is truly amazing...
    2E0OZI, AD5KO and KP4SX like this.
  8. W6OGC

    W6OGC Ham Member QRZ Page

    I run 5 watts all the time, CW only. I now have a horizontal loop, at ~35', 70' on a side. Before that, I had a rotatable dipole 44' long also about 35' and before that a ~130' dipole. I've also used a home-brew clone S9v31 vertical with Petlowaney coils for radials with decent results.

    My February log is
    KH2L 17
    TX5T 15, 17
    VP6EU 10
    EA7URT 20
    6Y2T 80
    8P5A 30
    VP9/W6PH 20
    KH6LC 15
    FY5KE 20
    PJ2/NF9V 20
    8P9NX 17
    CE2AWW 20
    C6AKQ 20

    I would have many more but lightning took out my shack computer, a tuner (I suspect) so I was off the air for a bit.

    This morning I worked 5K0N, 17.

    Even as we get lower in the cycle, there are stations to work with QRP power and simple wire antennas. You might not work them when you want to work them, and have to wait your turn. It takes patience, persistence and prowess.

    I use an Elecraft K2 at the moment. Before, I had an Omni VI+, a 706MKIIG, a Drake C-Line, etc. A K2 can be had in either 10 watt or 100 watt versions, and you can add the amp very easily to the 10 watt version if you want it.

    You might look at K3WWP's website He works QRP CW exclusively and has a string going of at least one contact a day since 1994 or something like that.

    Another fellow who gets a lot from QRP CW and a simple antenna is AA5TB. Another source of inspiration for QRP, if not exclusuve CW, is at

    Get a receiver and antenna, find some slower CW and copy it. You will miss some at first, but will do better with practice. W1AW sends code practice at various speeds every weekday afternoon, too.

    If you like it, and work at it, you will progress rapidly.
    2E0OZI and AD5KO like this.
  9. AG6QR

    AG6QR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Regarding the KX3 vs a 100 watt rig, you can certainly make contacts with 10-15 watts and a simple dipole on CW. More than the same rig would make on SSB, but less than 100 watts would make on CW.

    I have the same rig and a low dipole, and I can find a CW QSO any evening. It may only be a few hundred miles away, but it's enough to enjoy the magic of CW, and to keep in practice.

    If you want to chase rare DX, you'll want more power. But if you want to get on the air and you aren't too fussy about whom you talk to, you can certainly use the KX3 to learn and practice CW.
    AD5KO likes this.
  10. KC3RN

    KC3RN Ham Member QRZ Page

    Tom, I'll add my $.02 worth -

    1. CW is great fun. It takes a little dedication to learn, but not a lot. There are many tools out there to help you.
    2. The KX-3 is a AWESOME rig. I would love to have one myself.
    3. On CW, the difference between 10 watts and 100 is only 1 "S" unit.... Relatively insignificant. I'm in Pittsburgh. I recently worked a station in Texas that was only running 1/2 watt. He was 559.
    4. If you feel the really need 100 watts, you can always add an outboard amplifier to the KX-3.
    5. Most people Don't recommend QRP for beginners, but don't let that discourage you. QRP CW is much more effective than QRP SSB.
    6. As a point of reference, 90% of my operating time is spent QRP CW, and it's a blast.

    Good luck, and have fun!
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