CW has always been my favorite mode. As a very young novice in the eary 1960s, it was all I could afford. There is an old saying, "Practice makes perfect." It didn't take that long before I was copying in my head. The Navy taught me how to copy on a "mill" - military parlance for a typewriter with all capital letters. When I finally reached the point in life where I could afford a SSB rig, it was actually a letdown! I found that CW was "something special." I also discovered that this "original digital mode" had a lot going for it: Simpler rig construction, effective QRP operations, and more reliable contacts even when the band was 'dead'. I am dedicated to CW. It's a personal choice and one I'm quite comfortable with. I do not own a microphone.
Visit The Telegraph Office at http://www.telegraph-office.com//tel_off.html . It's a fabulous place to explore the romance and history of telegraphy. It's like Disney World - you can't enjoy this site in just one session.
Below is my current complement of keys. Click once to make the picture bigger, and once more to make it even bigger! Click again to go back. I've always felt that for a confirmed CW addict, the key is the single most ergonomically critical piece of equipment. I fully agree that one can send good code with two pieces of tinned wire. I also applaud those who creatively construct ingenious bugs, swipers, straight keys and paddles out of some of the most innocuous raw material to be found. I've done it too! But when I sit down for an evening of hamming, I want it to feel "right" and in order for that to happen I have to have the "right" key for me.
The following link is to a series of articles written by a well-known authority on key and paddle architecture. Ulrich Steinberg N2DE/DJ5US is also the co-designer of the Begali line of keys. There's some very valuable and interesting information in these articles for those seeking some guidance on purchasing a key. You can read this series at: http://www.qsl.net/n/n3cw/paddles/docs/N2DE%20Paddle%20Reviews.pdf .
The keys pictured below are "right" for me. They may not be "right" for anyone else. That's expected. Purchasing a keying device is a very personal decision. All the pre-purchase research in the world won't guarantee that the key is "right" -- not until you've used it for at least a month or so. It takes time. It has taken me a long time to arrive at the point where I'm now "satisfied" with the brass I'm pounding.
REMEMBER -- you can click once or twice to enlarge or supersize any of these pictures and then click again to reduce or use the back button to return to original size.
Above is my Begali Adventure MONO. This paddle attaches directly to the Elecraft KX3 or KX1 - or - it can sit in its magnetic desktop base. The Adventure MONO is strikingly beautiful and a joy to operate either on the rig or on the desk. It swivels and locks into a comfortable position for either a right or left handed operator. The contacts are solid gold and the key primarily stainless steel with selected gold plating. The finger pieces are very comfortable. The range of adjustment is full and complete. I made the base from a piece of 1/4" steel plate from Home Depot. After fellow ham W1ZMB milled it to be perfectly square, I primed and painted it. The magnetic Begali base snaps on with a vengeance and just doesn't move! In this configuration, the Adventure MONO is every bit as good as the Sculpture Mono or the Leonessa in non-iambic mode. As far as I'm concerned this paddle is "The Queen of the Fleet" and I don't need another paddle in my shack! As a bonus feature, if I set the KX3 keyer menu to "Hand" then the Begali Adventure MONO becomes a great little sideswiper that gives an above average accounting of itself when I'm out in the field.
See reviews at: http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/10827 and visit the Begali website for more information at www.i2rtf.com .
Above is the Alberto Frattini "Dyna Maniflex" sideswiper ("Cootie") key. The Dyna Maniflex is Alberto's resurrection of a 1930s vintage French instrument. If you've never tried 'swiping then you are missing a very satisfying and surprisingly comfortable way to send Morse. By using a sideswiper, you avoid the discomfort inherent in long straight key sessions and you also avoid the challenge of managing the transition between dits and dahs inherent in a bug. The side-to-side movement used to key a Cootie key is quite natural and, with a little practice, your fist can sound just as good as a paddle with the added advantage that you don't need to rely upon an electronic keyer. The eHAM reviews suggest that I made a good choice and you can read what I read at http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/11835 . Manufacturer information is available at http://www.i1qod.it/sideswiper.htm
I used to have an extensive collection. As I've aged, I've come to realize that just "possessing stuff" doesn't make me a better operator. Instead it just complicates my estate and is a burden to those left behind to sort it out. I just have these two premier keys left and they serve me well. Best of all I am pretty darn good with them. I use the Cootie most of the time and I switch to the paddle when I am chasing DX or doing something else where 18 to 20 wpm on the sideswiper is too slow to do the job.