CW Keys

Here is a collection of keys and paddles. The keys are standard J-38s. The paddles are homemade. The iambic paddle is made from two J-38 style keys. Lots of companies make, market and sell keys and keyers. Vibroplex, Whiterook, Junker, Ramsey, Nye Viking, Morse Express, MFJKeyers, K1EL, Jackson Harbor, Hensley Paddles, and now K5DKZ as well.



There must have been millions of these keys made. Old ads in QST have them priced as low as one dollar. Then that was some time ago. A nice, clean, complete, J-38 should bring anywhere from 10 to 50 dollars in todays market.

These keys are quality materials and construction without any frills. They have been duplicated and improved upon. I recently saw a cheap oriental knockoff of the J-38 where bearings had been added to make the keying action smoother. Should have worked but the implementation of the bearings was so poor that it made the keying action worse instead of better.



There is more time invested in this key than it is worth. I like sideswipers over iambic keyers because I dont know how to use iambic keyers and have no interest in learning how. I know some will disagree perhaps even to the point of becoming disagreeable but there are some things, skills, and subjects that just do not interest me. Squeesing two paddles against each other to make CW is one of those things.

Sideswipers act more like bugs. Push paddle to one side get dits. Push paddle to other side get dahs. This one has a fancy self-centering spring mechanism that is as ingenous as it is old. The design was lifted from an old QST article. Construction is brass and pvc and ceramic. The ceramic spacers were just the perfect length. If you look closely at the contacts, you might be able to see the silver inlaid in the square brass center beam. That silver came from cutting down an old silver dime. The brass beam was undercut with a dremel tool and the silver section was soldered to the brass. Next a file was used to remove excess solder. What you see it the finished result.

Does it need silver contacts? No. The sideswiper without silver contacts works just as well, but having silver contacts on a homemade key makes me feel special.



Here is another labor magnet. Took lots of work and time. This was the first serious attempt at rolling my own. The biggest challenge was supporting the square brass bar on a single bolt and still letting is swing freely from side to side. It is a little touchy to use. There is some bounce back that can cause errors but overall it does the job if you are careful. Still, it is not as easy to use as the old QST design.



I never thought I would ever say this about anything I built but I have to admit this is the ugliest contraption I ever saw anywhere. The only reason it has not been disposed of is that it works. It works pretty well and is the only iambic paddle I have now that I have sold my Bencher paddle to someone who can appreciate it.

Two j-38s bolted together back to back. This idea also came out of an old QST. When I first saw it I figured that it was written by someone selling old j-38 keys. After all such a paddle used two of them. So I was not expecting much. Turns out I was wrong. When properly adjusted this thing is every bit as good as a nice Bencher. I have not yet figured out how to convert it to a sideswiper without ruining it for iambic operation. I have decided to leave well enough alone for now.


 Last updated Sep-2006
All pages ©1996-2006, by Frank Kamp, all rights reserved.