CW has always been my favorite mode. As a very young novice in 1960, 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 primarily a CW guy. It's a personal choice and one I'm quite comfortable with.
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 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.
See reviews at: http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/10827 and visit the Begali website for more information at www.i2rtf.com .
Above is my ScQRPion paddle. I bought it several years ago as a $27 kit of parts. It was great fun to assemble and finish it but the real surprise was how "unique" it felt to operate. It is a very small iambic paddle but I use it "non-iambic" and found it has just the nicest feel! Mine is #691 and I will never part with it. The paddle itself is very lightweight and initially I had some problems with skidding all around on my desk and threatening to break the fine silver wires beneath it. Encapsulating all the delicate wires underneath with globs of nonconducting sealant and the addition of a secondary heavy base has turned this little jewel into a remarkably nice paddle that runs on a ballpoint pen spring! The base is zinc stock, machined by my friend Tony, W1ZMB. He "acquired" this stock when he was in the Navy back in the 50s. It was used as the sacrificial anode to protect the brass propellers on PC564, his patrol craft. Although the ScQRPion is no longer produced, check out http://www.azscqrpions.org for their newest offerings from the original creator, W5JH. If you are scratching your head about "sacrificial anodes" then read all about it at: http://www.boatus.com/boattech/casey/sacrificial-zincs.asp
Above is my Alberto Frattini "Evolution" bug. It uses magnetic repulsion and has a wide speed range of approximately 10 to 40 wpm depending on whether I slip on a large weight or a smaller weight. I've been using bugs for over fifty years and some are better than others. The biggest differences seem to be in how well they allow the operator to make the transition between dits and dahs. At least for me, this bug goes to the top of the list! I also like it's relatively quiet operation. All bugs "clack" somewhat; it's the nature of the mechanical beast. But this model makes less noise. For these reasons, I love my Evolution bug. More information is available at Alberto's website at twww.i1qod.it and reviews are available at http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/11714 .
Above is the Alberto Frattini "Dyna Maniflex" sideswiper ("Cootie") key. I've got one on order now and anxiously awaiting its arrival in a few months. The Dyna Maniflex is Alberto's resurrection of a 1930s vintage French instrument. 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
Above is the TBKII, engineered and built by Steve Roberts, W1SFR. This design employs a torsion bar to center the wiper arm. Steve further "softened the landing" by employing stainless steel flat springs between the wiper arm and the contacts. This makes for an almost silent 'swiper with just the most satisfying "feel" I've ever encountered. This is clearly an elegant yet simple key. As a bonus, Steve wired the TBKII so that it can be used as a single levver paddle as well as a sideswiper. One only needs to change the menu from "Hand" to "Iambic A/B". As a paddle, the TBKII is a great single lever paddle that gives my Begali Adventure MONO a run for the money. See for yourself by visiting Steve's website at: http://kx3helper.com/single-lever-keys/ and read what other people have to say at: http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/11880