Wanting to Try CW

Discussion in 'Working Different Modes' started by N4DCT, Apr 25, 2012.

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  1. N4DCT

    N4DCT Ham Member QRZ Page

    I am learning code and want a key to practice with. What would everyone suggest. I am on a limited budget, and need to keep cost down just to make sure I want to fully get into CW.

    Do I need a key and a keyer? Do I go Iamibc or Straight? Thoughts?
  2. 2E0OZI

    2E0OZI Ham Member QRZ Page

    I am rank beginner only have had 6 contacts on CW, but out of all the advice I have been given (and believe me its a LOT) it boild down to;

    1. You dont need an expensive key - just one you like that has a sound action and is comfy.
    2. Lots of people say to start on a straight key - I did and cant see myself using anything else for a long time. Like the rawness of it.
    3. Get on the air as soon as you can copy the letters and numbers at a reasonable speed with reasonable accuracy. Perfection is not needed - the ops at the other end are often only to willing to help a new guy.
    4. Dont worry about it - its meant to be a fun hobby, a mistake aint gonna hurt anyone!

    Its a lot of fun and as the time goes on (once I get over this filthy cold I have had for a long time) I will be into it as often as I can, and each contact makes you want to get more and do better.
  3. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I'd say start with a straight key and which one isn't that critical; however it shouldn't bounce around or be easily pushed about on the desk or table, and I believe a really important thing is key placement on the desk or table. A lot of newcomers (and quite a few old timers I see) do this so wrong I can't believe they can even send that way.:p

    For most, placing the key well back from the front edge of the desk or table, at least the length of your forearm from fingertips to elbow (if not farther!), is imperative for good, easy, and practical sending. The positioning from left to right is whatever feels comfortable for you; I think for "most," the key can be positioned almost dead ahead of you (center of your chest), which allows pretty good comfort sending with either left or right hand, as the forearm crosses over to it. But again, that's personal choice.

    But the key being well back from the near edge of the desk is really important if you want to send smoothly, easily, tirelessly and well. If the desk is 24" deep, I'd place the key near the "back" edge of it. If it's 30" deep or more, then it doesn't have to be at the back edge, but in all cases should be back far enough that if you lay your forearm on the table, when sending your elbow is comfortably on the table, and not in mid-air someplace.

    Have fun!
  4. N4DCT

    N4DCT Ham Member QRZ Page

    And do I need to get a keyer as well? Sorry I feel dumb...
  5. K7MH

    K7MH XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    You can use a keyer or you can use a code oscillator for practicing with a straight key. You can use the sidetone in a rig that has a built in keyer too.
    If you Google for code oscillator, you will probably find several homebrew articles that are cheap and easy to build. Even a Radio Shack buzzer and a battery hooked up to a straight key can be used to practice with. It can be nice to control the volume and tone with a regular code oscillator though.
    There is a lot of that stuff at any hamfest or everybody's favorite website eBay. Sometimes I see code keys on Craigslist around here.
  6. KO6WB

    KO6WB Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Used to be that the straight key was a good training tool to get your rhythm so your dit and dahs are good quality. This is important so the stations you are in contact with will understand you. I made an amazing discovery that explained why I had such a hard time with music was also the reason I have a hard time with CW. I have no sense of rhythm. I did manage to get up to 13WPM receiving and sending and I could copy at greater than 18WPM but not totally accurate. I really felt sorry for who ever had to try to copy my fist. I then resorted to a homemade keyer. It completed the dits and dahs so it sounded better but remember, I have no rhythm. When I got into amateur radio keyboards were rare and expensive. As time passed the personnal computers became easily affordable and I got into that. I wrote a program that would send perfect code up to about 20WPM with a VIC-20. It had a very small buffer so you couldn't type ahead much. Later I used a C-64 with a program that could do 100WPM or 5WPM if you wished. A keyboard returned me to CW and made it an enjoyable experiance. Before that I really sweated, a lot.
    A keyer is a step up from a straight key but you do need to get the characters down to a good rhythm first. Some folks have used a keyer first and done well. One guy used a old computer mouse as his key. It works.
  7. VK2FAK

    VK2FAK Ham Member QRZ Page

    HI all..

    This arm laying in the table idea.....feels very uncomfortable to me.....and when I try, as I just did after reading this, my forearm tends to drift up off the table.......and keeping it on the table it feels more like I am sending with just my fingers....that can't be a good thing...can it.......I guess the arm from the elbow to the shoulder can be stretched out a bit or should it be straight up and down..

    The elbow to wrist is only about 12in or so....so 24in from the front of the table, I would barely touch the key... and the arm angle at that distance, from the shoulder to the hand....the elbow aint going to be touching the table.....confused..

    Last edited: Apr 26, 2012
  8. K9OJT

    K9OJT Ham Member QRZ Page

    Start with the key type you plan on using. This nonsense of starting with a straight key is absurd.

    I have yet to understand the thought process behind this.

    If you plan on using a straight key then fine...do so.

    It seems to me there are far too many peeps who hold fast to the idea that using a straight key somehow makes you a better cw operator...it doesn't.

    What it accomplishes is the exact opposite.

    If you become proficient with a straight key and then wish to move on to higher speeds...perhaps with a paddle of sorts...now you are forced to relearn your sending techniques and timing.

    The shortest distance between two points is a straight line...

    Don't reinvent the wheel...it is doing fine on its own.

    CW is a hoot.

    Learning and using the code is all that matters...regardless of how you do it.

    Forget the straight key and try a paddle...you will be glad you did!

    Michael AC8IR
  9. N4DCT

    N4DCT Ham Member QRZ Page

    Are paddles more expensive? I haven't been able to find any starter paddles under 50 dollars.
  10. KB3VEE

    KB3VEE Ham Member QRZ Page

    I like paddles better. I bought a bulldog paddle from http://www.amateurradioproducts.com. It works and feels surprisingly good. It's really easy to make if you look at it closely. I am sure there is some DIY how-to on it somewhere. I also have a K8RA P2jr that I use and love. You can get one from http://www.k8ra.com/index_016.htm. It's a bit more expensive, but I liked the look and feel.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2012
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