Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by VA3AEX, Aug 24, 2017.
I'm surprised nobody has mentioned American Morse Equipment, http://americanmorse.com
I've owned one of their Porta-paddle units for several years, and it is a very nice, sturdy, lightweight unit, with a good feel. I don't have experience with the other units they market, but based on my experience with the Porta-paddle, if I were in the market for a straight key for portable and backpacking QRP operation, American Morse would be near the top of my list.
I'm mostly a paddle user, but I do own a Nye Viking Speed-X model 320 straight key. It's a good solid key for general purpose use, and I'd recommend it for many beginners, but it's not particularly well-suited to backpacking portable QRP use, which is what the OP was requesting. It could work for portable use; it's just not optimized for it. In this respect, it's no different from most other straight keys, such as the common J-38.
There are lots of "normal sized, normal priced" straight keys out there, and while hams may argue the merits of one versus the other, most of them work pretty well and are pretty solidly made. If you can find one on the used market that is reasonably priced and in good working order, that might be the best one for you. About the only straight keys I'd recommend avoiding are the ones with a plastic base and stamped metal parts, sold over the years by Ameco, Radio Shack, MFJ, and probably others. They are inexpensive, but not a bargain.
^ ^ ^ THIS ^ ^ ^
Moreover, better keys have adjustable contact spacing & return spring force, coin silver contacts, mounted on a solid cast metal base. That describes MANY of the brands and models already mentioned, and some that haven't been mentioned.
Thanks for all the replies! I ended up with a J-38 that I got in a trade. Now time to bear down on learning code! 73 Alex VA3AEX
Good Move OM! Signal Corps J-38 is THE American Standard for straight keys.
The YouTube tutorial from the Defense Dept. will assist you in adjusting it correctly.
Also will show you how to send with the proper spacing and rythym.
Looking FWD to a CW QSO with you sometime soon then.
VY 73 from Lane de n8aft
MINI Keys Not a Good Idea
I had trouble using the mini KK-1 key,
it was a nice project, getting it built, but it was just too small to handle well, I had to slow way down compared to using my J38 !
I started with a J38 back in 1960 when you could find them in surplus stores for fifty cents. Still use it for QRS QSOs.
I can't advise to get one now since they have become VERY PRICEY collectors' items, often going for hundreds of dollars. I got my speed up and got a BUG for fast sending and then the Electronic Keyers and paddles but still love using the BUGs.
Don't ask me about Microfones, I built one from junk parts and wired up a cord to make sure my newest rig worked on Fone modes
I dunno about high priced J-38's.
I find them for 30-50 bucks pretty regularly so it's still a very competitive price vs. a new straight key from today's manufacturers.
Vibro and Bencher's go for almost 200 these days.
Another great US made straights are the Johnson and the Nye-Viking Speedx keys. Those are usually found for about 30-50 bucks too.
What ever you use just use it often is my advice.... VY 73 lane
As a Novice ca 1970, I used an Ameco K4. It was good enough to run up to about 20 wpm of GOOD Morse. At some point, it became missing. I've replaced it with a Nye 320-001:
I mounted it to a slab of 1/8" aluminum w/ felt glued to the bottom.
I traded a vintage 6.3V/2A filament transformer for the J-38. I was going to give it to a fellow ham, and he asked if there was anything I was looking for... and a J-38 came home with me.
Thanks all for the replies! 73
I have a nice Bencher, but it was given to me. Didn't realize it for the gift that it was at the time, but whenever I use it, I can tell the quality. And heft. Just like the BY1 paddle, the mass is nice.
I do have some of those cheapie lightweight keys. None feel as good as the Bencher. But my wife screwed one down to a wood panel, 6" x 12", give or take, for when she was practicing code. By resting one's wrist on the board, it anchors everything down, and helps fix "chasing" the key. Not sure if that is the "right" fix (a lighter hand is probably best) but one gets tired of chasing a key around, it may be a solution.