What CW key should I get?

Discussion in 'Becoming a Ham - Q&A' started by N6OIL, Jul 16, 2018.

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  1. N6OIL

    N6OIL Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Ok guys and gals, I'm a no-code extra and I want to change that.

    Looking for recommendations from you CW guys on what type of key I should get. Here is the rundown of the radios I have, maybe I'll need 2 types of keys, I don't know.

    I used to have the Bencher paddles but never used it and sold it, I know dumb move.

    Radio are:
    Drake T-4XC
    Kenwood TS-820S and 830S
    Heathkit TX-1

    I'm going to sign up for the CWOps Academy and get my CW on, wish me luck!

    Thanks, everyone.
  2. KA0HCP

    KA0HCP XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Of course, the correct choice is a Speed X key with shorting bar and navy knob, most recently made by Nye Viking, previously by EF Johson and Les Logan. There is a reason they have been made for over 80 years! :)


    p.s. There are many fine keys available including used keys. A shorting bar is mighty handy, and a navy knob gives you something to grip, especially while the ship is rolling back and forth. b.
    K4AGO likes this.
  3. KU4X

    KU4X Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page


    You will probably get a much better response rate by posting your query in the Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts forum.

    Just sayin'...:D

  4. AG6QR

    AG6QR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    There are many opinions. Plenty will tell you to start with what they started with many decades ago.

    I'll tell you to start with what you find most interesting and fun. If you really want to use paddles, you don't have to start with a straight key, and if you really want to use a straight key, you don't have to use anything else. This is supposed to be fun.

    As for particular models, there are too many to list. Avoid the very cheapest, and avoid those whose price has been driven up too high by collectors. That still leaves a huge array of very usable instruments at a wide range of prices.
    KU4X likes this.
  5. BG6VJU

    BG6VJU Ham Member QRZ Page

    Personally recommend using Chinese k4 keys if you are new to beginners.
  6. WD0BCT

    WD0BCT Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hey....good luck on your CW journey. I upgraded to Extra as a no code applicant when I returned to ham radio. I always enjoyed CW and decided I would enhance my skills. My goal is to exceed 20WPM. I was going great until summer hit. I'm hoping to get back on course this fall. Perhaps we will meet OTA practicing our chops!

    Regarding keys...it will be a journey. No telling what will be best for you. I like an Iambic paddle but it's also fun to go back to straight key...especially on Straight Key Night. If you are like most CW operators...you will gradually gain a collection. I know guys with bugs, paddles, and straight keys. I guess you get attached to them!
  7. K0RGR

    K0RGR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Personally, I prefer a keyboard, but it takes experience to use one correctly because you forget what mode you're on. I think it's a matter of age and manual dexterity in your 'sending hand'. I think it's useful to start out with a nice straight key - and I mean a nice one, not junk. Unfortunately, good straight keys are expensive - go to the Vibroplex website to see what I mean. https://www.vibroplex.com/contents/en-us/d11_STRAIGHT_keys.html

    A straight key forces you to learn the proper way to make code that sounds right. You learn the proper spaces between elements, the length of the elements, the spaces between letters, and the spaces between words. A good straight key will serve you well until you are above 15 WPM.

    Vibroplex also makes very good paddles if you decide to go that route. I'd choose paddles if you don't have good dexterity in your sending hand. Let the keyer make the elements and spaces for you - but remember letter and word spaces. You have a big choice here between iambic and non-iambic. Iambic means that you can insert dots while holding down the dash key. If you learn to send with iambic, you can allegedly send much faster with less effort. I never learned to do that, and it's not a huge disability.

    If your friend Arthur Itis or other affliction would make manual sending too difficult, there is a keyboard on your computer, and lots of software out there that will work.

    I own two sets of Bencher paddles. One of them works great - it's a real Bencher from Bencher. The other one is from MFJ and has one of it's keyers attached. That one I don't like as much. I also have a European made one that looks impressive and works great, but I don't know the maker. Vibroplex paddles are great. If you can find an old pair of Lionel paddles, I think they are the best ever made.

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