Wanting to Try CW

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

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  1. KO6WB

    KO6WB Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Just to reiterate. Any two pieces of metal can make a key. You can't do that with a keyer. If you learn to use a key then no matter what, you will be able to send a message that is understandable. There may be times when a keyer is not handy. Even with my lousy rhythm I can still send with a key and make it understandable. Won't be going fast but I will get the message through. The straight key is the most basic and simple approuch to CW transmission. Since your hand and brain know how to send CW even the PTT on an HT will work as a key. There are few limitations if you know how to send CW in it's most basic form.
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2012
  2. M0LEP

    M0LEP Ham Member QRZ Page

    Seems to me the "manual or keyer" question is a bit like the "manual or automatic" one that faces folks learning to drive...
  3. K0RGR

    K0RGR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    My advice would be to avoid junk in whatever key you buy. There are crummy imitations of decent keys out there, and they are so sloppy you will never learn to send well with them. Invest in something good. Wow! I see that Bencher paddles start at $125 now. I use a Bencher, though it's not my favorite key. I also have the MFJ knockoff of a Bencher, and I don't like it nearly as much. I've used both the single and double-paddle Vibroplex Iambics, and I like them better than the Bencher, but YMMV.

    The choice of key depends a lot on the speed at which you intend to send the characters. If you are sending the characters at higher speeds - i.e. 15 WPM or so - no matter what the spacing between the letters - a set of paddles and a keyer are probably a good choice. I would suggest an iambic keyer, though learning to use it properly can take a bit more practice.
    The iambic is the 'default' keying scheme you'll find in most keyers, including the ones built into most modern rigs.

    You can choose non-iambic and use a single lever paddle, but it will be difficult or impossible to change over to a double paddle and iambic later. I learned using a single lever paddle on a non-iambic keyer. Later the single paddle was replaced with a double paddle, still on the non-iambic keyer. When an iambic keyer was obtained later, I could never use the iambic feature.
    I've managed to get pretty good at using an iambic as though it wasn't iambic, though.

    The WInkeyer is a nice choice. It works as both a keyer and a computer interface for doing CW. This is very handy if you want to use a computer logging program for contests. http://www.k1el.com/
  4. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Yes, I think so, too. I just picked a photo I could find quickly that was available to "copy."

    I've never heard good code from anyone sending with their elbow off the table. At least not for more than a few minutes.

    As for hand keys, I see quite a lot of them that are quite good, many WW2 surplus and Korean conflict surplus, at local swap meets. Neil, K6SMF has a big collection and as far as I know, they're all for sale as he's always looking to pick up more of them.

    Not the crazy prices seen on eBay.
  5. W5BIB

    W5BIB Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Don't know if the code is all that good. This works for me, as far as arm position goes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8Ed0TSp0gs
  6. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I think the code there was very good; his arm wasn't on the table, but it was resting on the arm of his chair, so basically the same thing. Looked like a small fold-out table in an RV/camper or something, so not too much room there.
  7. 2E0OZI

    2E0OZI Ham Member QRZ Page

  8. KG4KGW

    KG4KGW Ham Member QRZ Page

    I guess everyone has a different idea of what is good and what is not so good when it comes to CW. The cold hard truth is it doesn't matter how fast, slow, or otherwise so long as it can be easily copied. I've spent the last 12 years doing nothing but CW and the occasional SSB with a friend locally. I can easily tell you the mistakes that I made when learning that have been hard to overcome all these years later.

    1. I'm right handed and I learned to key with my right. This was a mistake! The reason being that I'm not great at writing with my left and when your moving along at a good fast clip and the other party is hard to copy being able to jot down notes makes for better conversation. Straight or Iambic, since your not already proficient with either hand I'd learn with my less dominant hand leaving my writing hand free.

    2. I initially learned on a very poorly made straight key. In the end, I learned the code, letter spacing, and was able to pass the code tests (there was no sending by the time I took the test), and all of that was great. When I switched to an iambic keyer and paddles I had to learn all over again. I knew the letters, but the ease of sending a string of dots or dashes was difficult to realize.

    3. Iambic vs straight key vs swiper (non -iambic paddle). The simple truth is I never was able to get the iambic style of keying down. I push one side for dots and the other for dashes. This is second nature as I'm only listening to myself enough to know that the letters or numbers came out as I had intended for them to sound. When using a keyer inboard or outboard there is no issue with weighting so long as you have the proper ratio set by the keyer before you begin. If you can send with a straight key you can send with anything! Any switch of any kind can be used and you can actually have a load of fun finding stuff around the house to make a key out of.

    Some time back I came across this site http://sites.google.com/site/oh6dccw/strangecwkeys that had a very neat collection of bizarre CW keys made from some unlikely things. Check it out if your interested. The site does not belong to me, but is a random site on the internet.

    The number one rule of CW is to have fun. Accuracy transcends speed (Fists CW Club). Find a code buddy, there is no shortage of them on these boards, to help you learn. I was lucky enough to have a neighbor just a block or so away who got me up to 18wpm before I got my General. The code was gone by the time I upgraded to Extra, but I use it daily and have worked thousands of stations around the world with a piece of tiny wire and a few watts. (ok, some of them were at 1oo w with a really well made inverted vee).

    Odds are if you have a modern transceiver you already have an iambic keyer built into it. Check your rigs documentation to find out. Good luck and I hope to catch you on the CW portion of the bands.
  9. W5BIB

    W5BIB Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I'm not great,...but, I'm good. If' ya wanna QSO via CW,... (straight key or 'bug') fm 5wpm to 30wpm,... (HF 80/40/20/15/10) ... Let me know...
  10. WA3UCR

    WA3UCR Ham Member QRZ Page

    This has been an interesting thread. I got hooked on CW as a Novice almost 40 years ago and it is by far my favorite mode. I never thought about it much until this thread - but, whatever device I use to send - I MUST have my elbow resting on the desk. Also, desk to chair height ratio seems to be important (at least to me). Never thought about this stuff before.

    I also vote for skipping the straight key. Mine only comes out on New Years Eve and it is a humbling experience - but FUN.
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