Verta-Plex Bug Conversion by WA9TGT

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio Equipment Reviews' started by VE7PJR, Aug 30, 2018.

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  1. VE7PJR

    VE7PJR Ham Member QRZ Page

    This is the "Verta-Plex" Bug Conversion by Donnie Garrett at 2B Radio Parts ( (Photo credit: Donnie Garrett)

    Donnie uses "top side" parts from a Vibroplex bug supplied by the buyer, and mounts them on the vertical base along with a new damper assembly and the 90-degree bracket to accept the fingerpieces. He may accept other bug parts besides Vibroplex, but I understand the most common donor keys are the Original and the Blue Racer.

    Workmanship of the base and backplate, the new damper and the bracket are all outstanding. He uses aluminum for the base and backplate, so this conversion key is both light and mechanically sound. This review is primarily of the conversion, with some additional matters from my own perspective and experience.

    Selling price of the conversion is US$ 115.00 plus shipping. Donnie was absolutely fabulous to work with on shipping outside the US. I can't thank him enough for taking the extra steps.

    This particular bug was converted from a brand-new Vibroplex Original that I purchased separately. I knew I wanted to use all new parts, and buying a completed bug turned out to be significantly cheaper than buying only the parts I needed on a per-piece basis.

    This is not my first vertical bug. I also own a VIZ Vertical. I and many others who own the VIZ Vertical are impressed with how comfortable that key is to work. I have several bugs by various manufacturers, and up to now that VIZ has been my favourite for day-in, day-out use. I like them all and use them regularly, but most of the time that's the one hooked up to the rig.

    I think I've found my new favourite. Here's why:

    Although I am not a "bug slapper" I can tend to send "firmly" sometimes. Particularly if my fingers are cold, or if I'm mad at myself for a sending error. The VIZ bug is pretty stable, but I occasionally shift or rock it a little while sending.

    After putting the Verta-Plex on the air for the first time, I noticed that after a little getting-t0-know-you period that the bug was staying put on my plywood desktop. Comparing the Verta-Plex to the VIZ, I notice first that the VIZ uses a brass base and backplate as compared to aluminum in the Verta-Plex. The Verta-Plex has a lower centre of gravity due to less mass in the backplate.

    Also, I found the Verta-Plex to be extremely stable front to back and side to side. It sits on the desk like it was glued on. The difference shows up in the measurements: VIZ base is 2 inches front to back, 3 1/2 inches side to side, and the key stands 7 inches high. The Verta-Plex base is 3 inches front to back, 4 inches side to side, and the key stands 8 1/2 inches high.

    Donnie says he'll convert any Vibroplex to vertical. I decided to go with all-new parts instead of cannibalizing a vintage bug. My personal feeling is that vintage parts should stay with their original assembly. I'll agree that Vibroplex has made a lot of bugs over the years, and not all of them are historically important. At the same time, I still have and use the Original I bought new in 1977. I notice that the new bug may be finished to a slightly different standard than the older one, but that's down to Vibroplex, not Donnie. Often it's hard to say what's historically relevant -- so I bought new parts, in part to continue supporting Vibroplex.

    Finally, a few words about communication and delivery. Donnie keeps his customers up to speed on every development. If he has a question or hits a snag, he's right there helping find a solution. If a customer has some special requests -- in my case I wanted red fingerpieces to go with the black frame -- he will accommodate. (I had some parts from another key as well, and we worked out a swap.) If he has an opinion about anything he will share that. I was originally going to buy a jewelled-bearing bug, but he said he's found a lot of cracked jewels in his work, and suggested just going with the regular cone bearings.

    Shipping was worth the cost. Everything was packed solid, double boxed, with documentation and backup delivery information inside. The PO could have put the box in a cannon and shot it up here and it would have been just fine.

    Great key, brilliant idea, excellent work and communication -- if you're looking for somethng a bit unusual this is a really wonderful instrument that will make your "Inner Wire Chief" smile.

    Chuck Hays

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