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Any Hams out there?

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  • Any Hams out there?

    I just passed my General class license about 3 week ago and now teaching myself morse code. I know it is obsolete with all the new digital modes that completely blow it away, but I like nostalgia.
    I also like to build things. I want to build a CW keyer. Think I will build a Straight key first.
    Here is a picture of a cheap one,

    First question, what is the smaller black knob used for? I've seen the same thing on the WW2 military keys.

    Second question, anyone here build there own?

  • #2
    Originally posted by RB211
    I just passed my General class license about 3 week ago and now teaching myself morse code. I know it is obsolete with all the new digital modes that completely blow it away, but I like nostalgia.
    I also like to build things. I want to build a CW keyer. Think I will build a Straight key first.
    Here is a picture of a cheap one,

    First question, what is the smaller black knob used for? I've seen the same thing on the WW2 military keys.

    Second question, anyone here build there own?

    The lever on the side shorts the points for tuning, etc. In the case of wire telegraph, all keys and sounders were in series, so would have needed to be closed for the loop to work.

    N1ONU -- advanced


    • #3
      Congratulations on your General. I believe that lever is a release, so the key cannot be pressed inadvertantly. I never made one, but it would be an interesting project. I bought an iambic key from N2DAN 20 years ago - he made them to order.


      • #4
        Whoops, N1ONU is right about tuning.


        • #5
          Fred is exactly right. In the days of telegraph the lever was closed to allow the loop to operate. When the operator at a station needed to send a message he would open the lever and then send the message. When the message was sent he would close the lever and that would allow the circuit to be used by other senders. Now in the ham radio arena, the lever is used to key the transmitter for tuning. This way your hands are free to tune the knobs and you don't have to keep the key pressed. The downside of this type of key is that it is very easy to accidentally bump the lever with a book and key the transmitter continuously. This is very hard on tubes if it happens when you are leaving the shack....... Don't ask .

          W7MSE extra

          PS: Congrats on the General, Now work on the Extra

          Happily working on my second million Gave up on the first


          • #6
            Several years ago, I earned my General class ticket with the exam and copying 13 wpm. I never used CW.
            73 de N9ZYE


            • #7
              Congratulations and I'm very pleased you see the value of CW. It is a great form of communication in my mind and it works when little else will without computers connected. Don 't give up on the CW and you'll find a new world of hamming out there.

              That side arm on the key is very helpful with older style transmitters when you want to dip and load the tank circuit quickly so as to reduce out of resonance situations on your finals. But, admittedly, you could use a brick as Alpha products does to accomplish the same

              Keep in mind if you do build a straight key, that the long arm is better if it has a very little spring to it. Some homebrew straight keys I've seen you too heavy a stock for the key and it feels like sending CW with railroad track. No "feel" or "finesse" to it. A bit of spongy feel is nice on a straight key.

              If you haven't done this already Google - images "straight key" for some other ideas on what's been done.

              Last edited by Your Old Dog; 05-05-2011, 06:50 AM.
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              Thank you to our families of soldiers, many of whom have given so much more then the rest of us for the Freedom we enjoy.

              It is true, there is nothing free about freedom, don't be so quick to give it away.


              • #8
                I have seen a lot of home built keys at various hamfests over the years.
                You will have a lot of fun building and using a home made key!

                73...George...WB8BGY...Extra since 1970
                My Web Site
                Builder & Test Pilot N73EX


                • #9
                  I like this design, think I will draw it up later...

                  73 KB1HRG


                  • #10
                    Congrats on the General! I still can't get used to it! WA2ZTH, Advanced, and got mine in the days when you had to pass a Morse code test first. I haven't been active for nearly 30 years, but I still keep my license renewed. Who's got time to sit around and gab on the radio..LOL. I got discouraged back in the late 70's when, like so many hobbies, it evolved from grabbing your soldering iron to grabbing your wallet. There is total enjoyment in being able to make things with your own hands and I get annoyed at those that throw money at it and call themselves hobbyists. It's a good thing that you're contemplating building a straight key, often thought about it myself. Saw a real old antique one built on a small block of slate that was really neat. Go for it!
                    By the time one earns a degree from the school of experience, he's too old to practice. Wayne


                    • #11
                      WB9DL, extra class, passed it before they removed the 20 wpm test. Started out as a novice 30 years ago where morse code was the only way you could get on the air!

                      Was broke as could be back then, made my first key out of some scraps and a set of automotive contact points (remember those?). Over the years I have seen a number of other keys, I think there is a Kent key that is even sold as a kit. It is basically a momentary switch, the rest is up to you and your preference and imagination!

                      I'm also one of those who enjoy the tinkering and building aspect of the hobby. I knew a fellow who spoke to Japan from here in the Midwest on just 4 watts- using Morse code and his own home brew antenna!

                      If you type ham radio in the search, you will find some posts from hams who have built their own stuff, some fascinating antennas and so forth. Good luck on your new ticket! 73 de WB9DL


                      • #12
                        I just recently got my Tech. I have been waiting for a general exam to be put on so that I can take it as well. I have a TS-820S and I am still in the process of learning CW. I think it is really cool. I would rather use CW than just going digital as you don't need to be a ham to get on the computer and talk on forums or other things. CW is cool because is is very efficient and only really needs low power. I like the fact that if all communications in the entire world were down we would still be able to communicate with amateur radio.

                        Another neat area that I would like to try is QPR CW. One of these days if I have a little extra cash I want to buy one of the QRP rigs to take out to some of the fire towers around here and see how many contacts I can make overseas.



                        • #13
                          Back to CW. I decided that I wanted to get into the sideswiper crowd. I like the operation better than a straight key. It is a bit faster, and easier on your wrist. I am not to big though in the Iambic style paddles.

                          Here is the sideswiper that I put together one night.

                          I made this sideswiper as a proof of concept to learn how to build a nicer key that will be made from 304 stainless steel and brass. Since this is my first key, it is made from scrap materials that I had laying around the shop. This key is made from non-conductive PVC conduit, some miscellaneous screws, a piece of wood, and a section of metal strapping used in shipping.

                          The upright pieces that hold the contacts and the metal strap are made from 1/2" conduit that has an outside diameter of 7/8". The base plate and finger piece were made from a 2" piece of conduit that I cut, heated in the oven, and then rolled out flat.

                          The brass connectors for the contact screws were turned on the lathe and threaded to fit the contact screws and the screw that makes the connection on the bottom of the key. It also acts as a clamping device to hold the pieces to the base and to provide resistance for the contact screws, keeping them from moving during operation.

                          The base is made from wood and was milled out to allow all the wiring to be out of sight and to allow the cord to enter at the back for a clean appearance.

                          Overall, I am happy with my first homemade sideswiper and think that it will serve me well. At some point when I am not lazy I will start on a nice stainless steel and brass sideswiper.



                          • #14
                            Advanced class and no air time...

                            I started out back in 90 and passed my 5 words and got my Novice - was KB2KKJ - took the test and got my Code Tech and did a lot of playing around with a Uniden President on 10 Meters - several contacts in Argentina, and did a lot of 2 meter work chatting with a group of guys on my way to and from work. Worked forever on my 13 WPM and took 2 tries (first one I could copy nothing...) and passed my General & Advanced tests without a problem - KF2QD came out of that. Didn't bother trying to get my advanced back then as I was not getting anywhere on getting my code speed up.

                            Moved from Western NY to Kansas and was traveling and never did get anything on the air. Kept my ticket up. but the internet has taken over a lot of the functions of Ham Radio.

                            Live down here in South Texas now and what with Hurricaines it might be worth it to get funtional again. Electricity goes down for a week and no internet and you get rather isolated...


                            • #15
                              N1ABY here - first liceneced in 1977. Got my Extra in 1988.

                              Have fun with making your straight key. I think you'll find that making all of the adjustments as fine as possible will make a big improvment.

                              Also, use some small ball bearings for the pivots to elimnate as much play as you can. A Navy-style knob helps a lot also.

                              I have a WW2 surplus Canadian AF key that I really like. I attached it to a pieec of 1/2" thick by about 4" square SS plate to keep it from moving around while sending. I covered the bottom of the plate with some soft rubber also and it sticks like glue!