Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by VA3AEX, Aug 24, 2017.
Heh. Keep on Truckin', Brother!
I really do look like Mr. Natural...
I disagree to the extent that I started with a straight key and had absolutely no difficulty switching over to paddles later. I think it's probably a good idea to be proficient with both, even though 99.9% of the time I use paddles.
My first key as a Novice in 1970 was an Ameco K4:
It's an inexpensive key but, still good... coin silver contacts, adjustable return spring, adjustable pivots. I was able to send GOOD Morse at up to only about 30 wpm. Unfortunately, it has been discontinued. At one point, I misplaced it, and replaced it with a Nye 320-1:
I mounted it to a piece of 1/8" thick aluminum, and glued felt onto the bottom.
Lots of good keys can be found on ebay at reasonable prices. There's NO need to spend yuuuge money for a good key.
My first keyer (homebrewed using a pair of dual triode tubes) worked OK. The first paddle (also homebrewed) sucked, and I wasn't able to go much faster. The trouble with that was, many Novices couldn't receive very fast. Today, many hams still can't receive Morse very fast. After I upgraded to General Class, mom bought me a Vibroplex Vibrokeyer Deluxe paddle:
Then, I found a good deal on a Vibroplex Iambic Standard:
Yep, that's the famous Japanese ball bearing key. My wife's uncle had gotten one somewhere and saved it for me since he knew I'm into ham radio. The ball bearings were caked in what I assume was crusty, dried-out grease or gunk of some sort. I carefully removed the ball bearings from the cups and cleaned everything real well, then put them back together with a little bit of fishing rod grease. I mounted the key on a marble-colored piece of corian which apparently was a sample block from a counter top store.
When I got it I looked it up online to figure out what kind of key it was. I knew just from looking at it that it couldn't be a valuable or expensive key, and I was right. But it does have a good feel to it and works well, in spite of online advice to newbies to avoid this key at all costs.
That is like the Speedx key I have, though I don't know exactly what model I have and there are no markings on it. I bought it new in 1993 when I ordered my first ham rig, but I don't remember what model it was. I was just looking for a good straight key, and it served me well. I had mounted it to a wooden board which I had tapered so that resting my hand on the board held the key from moving. However recently I was given some more corian test sample squares from a furniture manufacturing place, and mounted it to one of those.
The Japanese-made Ameco (and other brands) keys are actually quite good. I had one for years. It would stay in adjustment and had a very good feel. I dropped mine and the ball bearings fell out, never to be found. So I junked the key. I'd love to have another. But not for the prices that I typically see. These are like the military J-38 keys - Nice keys, but nothing special. And there are a bazillion of them out there. So I'm not prepared to pay top dollar for one.
The Ameco key to avoid isn't this one. It's the one with the stamped steel "bearing" plate that holds the lever. These are still being made and sold new. Just junk.
Shame that they're not being made any more. Back when I was given this one three or four years ago I looked them up online to see that they were still being sold, and they were. I just don't remember where.
I assume the cheap, junk key you're talking about is this one:
Never used one, but that does look pretty cheap. I'd think it would be too easy for the ears on that stamped metal base to bend so the lever falls out.
I've used one as a beginner and still have one which I use with a code practice oscillator when I warm up for Straight Key Night. They actually are not too bad. My only complaint is that you can feel the lever arm flex. They definitely do not feel as precise as some higher priced keys. Lever and fulcrum are stamped parts. The base is light weight plastic. It works.
That's the Ameco K1... plastic base, stamped steel & nonadjustable pivots. The better K4 was discontinued but, they still produce the K1. IMO, that's bassackwards.
Yeah, mine's in the basement somewhere. I know it's not gone, just out of sight for a while. If I can ever dig it up again, I'll be a cappy hamper.
Since you are a collector, maybe you can help me. I just started "relearning" CW, and I decided I want to invest in a straight key. I have a Bencher paddle, but I always tend to send faster than I'm capable of receiving with it, and my straight key slows me down, but is in really horrible shape. Anyway, after reading this post, and a lot of other things in other forums, I decided I wanted to find a J-38. My grandfather was in the Army Signal Corp in WWII, and I figured it would be a nice tribute to him. My research shows that there are many fake J-38 keys on the market, and many actual vintage keys are sold with missing parts. How do you spot a fake, and how can you be sure the key is 100% complete (all washers, etc) when buying online? I might think I'm getting a deal when I'm really just buying a heap of junk. Any help is appreciated. 73.