As a newbie on CW...I will buy my first key for my Flex...

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As a newbie on CW...I will buy my first one key for my Flex...
Thinking in https://www.dxengineering.com/parts/vib-iambic-g
However I will take Advises, All are very Welcome....
Thank you!


George, YV5WZ / PY3ZZZ
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YV5WZ

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Posted 2 years ago

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Duane, AC5AA

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Do yourself a favor and purchase a good paddle like a Kent, Begali, or a GHD. The Begali Simplex, for example, is a reasonably priced paddle that is very smooth and an excellent performer.
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Duane, AC5AA

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Or, for less $ than the price of the one you asked about, you can buy a very pretty Begali Pearl: See it here: http://i2rtf.com/html/pearl.html
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YV5WZ

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Thank you Duane....!!!

I will look it....Appreciate your advise!!

George, YV5WZ / PY3ZZZ
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Andrew Thall

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The keys mentioned so far are all iambic type. You may want to consider a single paddle. Also, for your first foray into CW, you should definitely have a good straight key. If your operating speed is 18 wpm or less, the straight key is the best choice. I've been a CW OP for over 43 years and that's my best advice.
73
Andy, k2oo
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KF4HR

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I highly recommend Scheunemann Morse Dirigent http://www.morsex.com/scheun/ 
Or any of the Begali paddles http://www.i2rtf.com/

KF4HR
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YV5WZ

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Thank you KF4HR

I appreciate your advise...I will look both...;-)

George, YV5WZ / PY3ZZZ
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Richard Adkins

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I'm certainly not qualified to answer this but, here I go anyhow. lol  As for aesthetics, I love this one: http://www.vibroplex.com/contents/en-us/d67.html (the BY-2 in chrome) Others will have to speak about performance pros and cons.

And if you want to spend a lot of money, haha, there's:
  http://www.arrl.org/shop/ARRL-Begali-Key/?quantity=1  Engraved with your call sign and everything.
(Edited)
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Kevin K4VD, Elroy

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That's a Begali Sculpture with W1AW engraved. I have the Sculpture (with K4VD engraved - so a little less expensive). Best iambic paddles I've ever owned and I've owned quite a few. It's heavy, precise and beautiful. I'm a huge Begali fan. I also own the Blade and Intrepid.

The Bencher looks good and isn't a bad set of paddles but it's in a different class. Great first set of paddles and in the end it's all about the feel. In my case the spring kind of changed over time and things didn't feel quite as precise after a couple of years of banging on it.

Very much a shot in the dark. With keys, I think aesthetics is important. It is a centerpiece item in a shack. The feel is something you get used to and comfortable with over time. Or not, and you try another.
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K1FR

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Richard:  Thanks for the link to Vibroplex!  I ended up looking at their page with the line of old classics.  Still beautiful. I still have my Vibroplex Deluxe bug given to me by my parents when I moved up from novice in 1959.  I still get it out on occasion to prove again that it is gorgeous but beyond my ability to make sound right!

George, so good to hear of someone wanting to try CW.  I have a mic (don't ask me to find it though), dabble in digital, but love CW. As one poster has already said - you do not need the fanciest and most expensive key to make pretty CW! But, a good key becomes the heart of your shack if you love CW (outside of the Flex of course). I have a Brown Brothers iambic key from sometime in the 70s.  Have never wanted anything else, Guess they are long gone, but there are a couple on sale on eBay - one is the model with paddles and a straight key mounted on same base.

Best of luck with your CW adventure.  Look forward to a QSO with you!

73, Tom
K1FR
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Mark - WS7M

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I too cannot recommend Bengali high enough.  The feel will make you wonder why you considered anything else.

Also as a CW newbie, I strongly suggest you invest both in a paddle, but a straight key too.  There are times it is just fun to send it yourself.

http://www.i2rtf.com/html/keys_paddles.html
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W7NGA

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$300 Radiosport headphones, $300 Begali key ... sorry, I did walk uphill in the snow to go to school, both ways, but my $5 Philmore key sure worked great and I had a blast with CW. I still do, now pounding out erratic code with my various Vibroplex keys as old as I am. The great thing is, after using a J-38 or other cheap key, you'll reach a point where you then feel like you deserve something better. eBay is a good start.

Have fun ... watch your spacing.

W7NGA  dan
Seaside, Oregon
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YV5WZ

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I really appreciate your comment, I got your point...!!....

73

George, YV5WZ / PY3ZZZ
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Steve W6SDM

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You don't need an expensive key to send great CW, but having one is really nice.  A Bengalli is something that you will keep for a lifetime.  Plus, there is great pride of ownership in having something like that - it's much like owning a Rolex when a Timex will tell time just as well.

If you really get into CW, be in contesting or ragchewing, a quality set of paddles will reduce fatigue and errors.
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YV5WZ

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Thank you Steve!  
To tell the true I'm not planning to go CW contesting, probably ragchewing or Dx chase. I take your words  "a Rolex when a Timex will tell time just as well"

73

George, YV5WZ / PY3ZZZ 
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W7NGA

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It isn't Bengali .. it's Begali, and the pride should be in how well you send code not how well you polish the key. When you feel deserving buy the Begali, have it gold-plated and etched with your callsign. Keep that old J-38 on the bench though .. 

Keep in mind that CW isn't for everybody. You might just find your monies could be better spent somewhere else.
(Edited)
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Monk - K5HP

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I agree with the minimalist approach when starting out with CW. There are many inexpensive keys that are well built and will get the job done. As stated above, the countless hours or practice (and I do mean countless) required to reach proficiency at an acceptable speed may be more than you bargained for and you won't have the farm mortgaged to pay for your keys. In my case, I started with a straight key, then moved up to Bencher BY-1 which served me well. Once I reached my goal speed of 22-25 wpm with a minimum of mistakes I rewarded myself with the Begali HST which I love and I recently bought the Begali Strad. I am 100% CW and think of my keys not only as a fine tool used to do something I love but due to the quality and beauty I think of them as heirlooms to be passed on to my family. The main thing to remember is quality sending skills, good operating practices and complete dedication to learning the art of CW will bring more pride than any key you could purchase, however, pride of ownership is not to be scoffed at, it is real, and you can't go wrong with Begali as well as several others in the high end keys marketplace. 

Good luck with CW,
73 de K5HP
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YV5WZ

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Thank you Monk!

I like your life philosophy, I try to do it in my life......maybe I'm beginning late in life to deep my knowlege about CW......in spanish we say "nunca es tarde"....so I will try to recall my roots from when I became a HAM ....:)  some years ago

Thank you 

73

George, YV5WZ / PY3ZZZ
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Lee, Elmer

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George

I'm a fan of single lever paddles as opposed to iambic.  Single levers have less degree of freedom in their movement and are less prone to mistakes in sending.  Of all the high speed ops I know virtually all use single lever.  The old wives tail that  iambic is less work is nonsense.  I enjoy hour long QSO's all the time and I'm never tired.  I'm far more worried about accurate sending.

I own 2 Begali paddles and they are absolutely beautiful but I think N3ZN paddles send better code especially the single lever versions, just my opinion.  You can read about N3ZN paddles in the eham reviews.  I have a SLR and a ZN-SL1 by N3ZN.  My SL1 was the first single lever he ever made and was made to my spec, and it turned out great.  Tony N3ZN is a master machinist.  Vibroplex makes an excellent single lever if it's adjusted correctly.  I ran one of those at field day adjusted by a 90 year old ham who knew how to do it, and it played like butter.   

My latest paddle is a single lever by 9A5N and it uses a MEM device and a micro-controller as they keying element.  It is amazing.  It is not a capacitive element.  Mine was custom built by Neno  to my spec.  I added a custom wooden finger piece from Sal IK1OJM and I couldn't be happier.  I delight in using this paddle every day.  Just some alternative ideas to think about.  Good luck in your CW adventure with your new Flex radio!  It's a great CW radio.  You'll have a blast!

73  W9OY
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Monk - K5HP

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Totally agree, my greatest progression in the pursuit of CW proficiency came when I purchased the HST. The Iambic just provides so many more ways to make mistakes. Thanks for the heads up on the keys you mentioned. I'll check em' out.

73, Monk
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Stan - VA7NF

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So much agree with the single paddle comments, and here is why at over 25WPM a single paddle (non iambic) is the way to go.  Muscle memory!

A single lever paddle is stroked not pushed; if starting out concentrate on the stroke, the length of which determines how many dots or dashes are sent.  An Iambic is almost always a push action and very quickly muscle memory comes into play making it quite difficult to use.

My paddle, from the '60s, is a chopped up chrome plated bug with a highly varnished wood handle about 1/2 inch thick.  I carry it when guest operating.  Second choice a single paddle commercial, and way down the list a Begali iambic, very nice feel but iambic.

Save your money and find a good hand key (remember to key from above the wrist not the fingers) and a wider handle single lever paddle.  Good luck

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W7NGA

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It's been a long, long time ... but I am pretty sure I had to send 20 wpm on a straight key at the San Francisco FCC office for my Extra. And for my General before that in the downtown Los Angeles field office. Never seemed to be a problem .. and honestly, I miss the times when you could identify a fellow ham by their sending. It wasn't always about perfection ... when I hear keyboard code now I cringe. But that's just me .. from a time when the Hallicrafters HA-1 keyer was hi-tech! I still enjoy the challenge of CW and though I own a single-paddle Begali, I have more fun with my Vibroplex bugs.
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Mark - WS7M

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As did I.  I had to send 20 wpm for FCC in Seattle too.  It was tough and the key didn't really like my "form".

I have a "Begali" iambic paddle.  It was me that spelled it wrong above.  For some reason I have Bengalli stuck in my mind...  

Anyway I read all the comments here about single lever and speed ops using them.  I realized while I have the ability for iambic I really use my paddle like a single level as I've never really mastered iambic skills.  Granted it's not a true single lever but it is funny I kind of use it like one.

Anyway to the original poster:

I recommended the Begali just because your first entry into CW should be a good one.  Yes you can eBay a key and frankly like me I sent my first novice CW message just touching the wires together as I waited for my local radio store to get in a key.

You can go cheap, you can by a timex and be totally in sync time wise.  All will work.  It is really your choice what you desire.

I just know this:  When I decided to get back into CW after quite a few years I bought  a junky paddle from MFJ.  I could not keep it adjusted.  It seemed cheaply made, I just had nothing but trouble and went back to using keyboard CW from SmartSDR.

Then last Christmas I ordered and received the Begali paddle.  I actually look forward to using it now!  In fact I had so much fun with it I ordered a nicely machined straight key.

I also looked at it this way:

My radio cost over $2k
Cables, antennas, more money, about $500
Amp, $3.2k

So why would I cheap out on my primary interface to the radio?

Just my 2c
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Steve W6SDM

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I think I copied your spelling, Mark.  I guess it's like BMW - if you can't spell it, you can't afford one.

Code seemed to come natural for me, probably because I started as a kid.  In the Navy, I was a code instructor teaching Morse to operators who would only need to receive.  I was one of the rare intercept operators who also knew how to send using a variety of instruments, be in J38, bug, or electronic keyer (the big ol' giant Hallicrafters job with a bunch of vacuum tubes).

One of the skills I developed from listening to foreign military and commercial communications was to identify an operator based solely on how his Morse sounded;  his fist if he were using a straight key or a bug, or other characteristics if he were using electronic keying.  This came in handy for communications intelligence purposes.

I love using a keyer but I hate keyboard Morse.  I guess it reminds me somewhat of being in an Internet chat room without the quiet.  As I remind my grand kids, CW was the first digital mode and also the first method of text messaging - and we didn't need a century of technical evolution to make it happen.

Steve
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Kevin K4VD, Elroy

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I'd pay more than 2c for your advice Mark. Get the best key you can afford. Nothing more discouraging than a poorly performing key making it more difficult to get into CW. Begali keys and many others are outstanding (I can only speak for what I've owned and used). Save the venerable J-38, flameproof, Speed-X and others for SKN or moments when nostalgia overtakes you. If you are going to work through a 2 hour ragchew you want your key to be a joy to use.

Iambic vs. Single? Iambic for me. Character and inter-element spacing are more consistent. For me, Iambic was a natural while a single paddle trips me up every time. My suggestion... try both and stick with the one that feels natural to you and then excel at it.

Paddles before Straight Key? I love my straight key and bug (both Begali) but I really wish I had started out with paddles and learned the other two later. I'm not sure it makes much of a difference really as it is all about what you want out of CW but starting with paddles basically gets you started where others hope to end up. I'm an SKCC member and definitely hope you'll pick up a Straight Key or bug but for day-to-day use consider the advantages of paddles.

See you on CW!

73,
Kev K4VD
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Mark - WS7M

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Awesome Kev.   Now we gotta hook up on CW!
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Charles - K5UA

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OK, I guess I have to weigh in on this one.  For the first 30 years of my amateur radio career I used a variety of Brown Brother and Vibroplex spring keyers with a variety of keyers, like the Curtis, the K1EL, the MicroHam, and the LogiKeyer.

In the late 1980s I had a 20M CW QSO with N2DAN, and he convinced me to try his magnetic Mercury iambic paddle.  I have not looked back since that day, but I have bought more magnetic paddles since that time.  I now own the following magnetic paddles ...

1.  The original N2DAN Mercury magnetic iambic paddle
2.  The Hensley magnetic iambic paddle
3.  The Begali Signature magnetic iambic paddle
4.  The N3ZN ZN-SL magnetic single lever paddle

First of all, for sheer beauty, the Mercury and the Hensley are in a class by themselves.  Unfortunately, they are more difficult to set up than the Begali and the N3ZN key because of the lower TPI (turns per inch) of their set screws .  For ease of set up, I consider the Begali and the N3ZN keys to be about equal.

For as long as I can remember, I used iambic keys, but did not use iambic keying modes.  It finally dawned on me that my keying errors could be due to the fact that I was using a dual lever iambic key in a non-iambic keying mode.  In other words, my 70 year-old hand-wrist-finger proprioception is not what it used to be, and it only takes a twitch or two of a finger or thumb at 35 wpm to make keying errors rise. So I bought one of N3ZN's single lever keys, and it surely did eliminate most of my keying errors.  I guess the moral of this story is operating a dual lever iambic key with a single lever brain will give less than optimal results.  The only downside is that my thumb and middle finger want to maintain that 5/8 of an inch separation from all the years of muscle memory.  I am, however, planning the resolve that problem by gluing a Vibroplex knob onto the thumb side of the N3ZN single lever finger piece.

One other point about generating CW concerns the fixed 3.0 to 1 dash/dot ratio that is built into Flex SmartSDR, and other American made transceivers.  3.0 to 1 CW sounds robotic and can be fatiguing to copy.  Long ago, Japanese transceivers introduced variable dash/dot ratio into their built-in keyers.  This allows a musical swing to the CW at about 3.6 to 1 dash/dot ratio level, and for me and many others, creates a CW "fist" that is easier to send and easier to read. This feature is built into the microHam and the K1EL external keyers, but I am not sure about other keyers.  If you are new to CW and use a hand key for any length of time, you will appreciate the musicality of variable dash/dot ratio when graduating to electronic keyers.

Long live CW!