Topics

learning Iambic or Straight Keying first?

Jon Karve
 

I have a feeling the answer to this is up to some debate.  I can finally copy all of the alphabet at 20WPM (using a combination of Koch/Farnsworth and a fun little android app, and still working on numbers and special characters), and I've been experimenting with practice mode and the built-in microswitch key on my QCX 40m.  It's a little clunky, but regardless it's pretty fun and rewarding to type out words and sentences and see the decoder pick me up correctly.

One of my main interests with this hobby is the DIY aspect so I'm going to build an iambic keyer some time soon, but I was wondering what everyone's thoughts are on what to learn first. Straight keying or one of the Iambic modes?

My thoughts on this were that learning straight keying first would help really solidify the sounds of each character, but once I progress with more fluency, is starting with straight keying going to hurt iambic, or vice versa? 

Thanks in advance for any input on this!

Jon, KC3PDS

Ben
 

Hi Jon,

I'm following the CWops CW Academy courses and we have to use a keyer (iambic b) with dual or single lever key. So that we learn how the characters sound. Also for speed i think, because the goal in the Beginner Course was 20 wpm (character speed), the next course it was around 25 wpm. In September i will join the intermediate course :-) My advisor said; follow the courses with a paddle, thereafter if you like, try a straight key, but now you have learned how the characters must sound and it should be easier to send good code with the straight key.

This works, because we have to self study and twice a week show progress in online sessions. We train sending and listening (head copy) at the same time.

Maybe if you can practice with a tutor that trains with you and closely watches your timing it would work for straight key? Like a music lessons? Or learn to copy first and send later so that you also know the timing?

It depends i guess :)

Ben, PA2ST

Dudley Chapman
 

I have been doing CW for 55 years.   At some point in my ham career I qualified for QSOs over 60 wpm.   Those are my bonafides.   But the following is my personal opinion, and naturally others may disagree.

1) I find no advantage in practicing sending on any device when it comes to improving copy speed.   Sending involved individual dots and dashes whereas fast copy involves responding to the sound burst of a particular character. 

2) at some point you will surely want to send properly, so that is what sending practice is for.

3) There is no advantage to first starting with a straight key, except you may be in a situation someday where you only have a straight key.  Otherwise, it is a waste of time.

4) I have been doing iambic keying with dual paddles for about 50 years, starting with homemade dual paddles and a Heathkit keyer.   But these days I am starting to realize that iambic keying may be more trouble than it is worth.  It does shave off about 10% of the motion on the average, but it is harder to learn.  And the timing of different keyer circuit varies.  I don't mean the dot and dash timing varies, but the narrow windows for dot and dash injection and completion and so forth is critical.

5) I am hearing more and more that the real fast QRQ ops are now using single lever paddles with electronic keyers.   My advice to new hams who want to learn to use a keyer, is to start with a single level paddle.   Then learn to exploit the features of dot and dash injection, character completion, and auto word spacing.

Finally, 20 wpm is very respectable.  it's time to get on the air.    Back in the day we all started on the Novice band where the test required only 5 wpm.  We all sucked at CW and we didn't care, especially if we were teenagers having fun ragchewing after school with buddies in nearby states who had xmit crystals nearby in frequency.   We all were thrilled to make it to the 13 wpm General requirement and hit the big time.  With a year of QSOing behind us we just dove into the General section of the bands with confidence even at 15 wpm.

These days you have to jump into the deep and of the pool, and that might seem intimidating.   I feel that not having a Novice band makes it hard for new ops.

But consider that most CW ops would love to see the mode thrive, so they will be welcoming to new CW ops.   Start by copying QSOs, and then dive in at some point and call or answer a CQ.   If they don't want to slow down to 20 wpm (which again, is very respectable), then they are not worth talking to.   It's a hobby after all, not battlefield surgery.

73 OM, and cu on the bands.  de WA1X

 

 

Oh yes, there is certainly a lot of debate ;-) Good for you on being able to copy 20WPM, by the way!

Speaking to you as someone who is still an active learner...

I think the best answer is "it depends on what you're trying to do, and what kit you have to do it with".

What is important to realize - IMO - is that they are different skills, and the challenges you will experience and the mistakes you will make are different. With a twin paddle and Iambic keyer the mistakes are typically in the area of not letting go at the right time, and getting extra dits, and sometimes dahs. With a straight key, the challenge is getting the dit and dah ratio and timing consistently right - a completely different problem.

My recomendation is this: "if you want to learn to get out reliable, readable code for other operators as quickly as possible, learn Iambic. If you want to master straight key for its own sake (and possibly get involved in SKCC, ) learn straight key".

By the way, a word of warning: decide on Iambic A or B as early as possible: they are different, and switching between them will cause you more grief than switching between Iambic and straight key, which are so different that they won't impair each other.

Julian N4JO.

On 6/26/2020 4:07 PM, Jon Karve wrote:
I have a feeling the answer to this is up to some debate.  I can finally copy all of the alphabet at 20WPM (using a combination of Koch/Farnsworth and a fun little android app, and still working on numbers and special characters), and I've been experimenting with practice mode and the built-in microswitch key on my QCX 40m.  It's a little clunky, but regardless it's pretty fun and rewarding to type out words and sentences and see the decoder pick me up correctly.

One of my main interests with this hobby is the DIY aspect so I'm going to build an iambic keyer some time soon, but I was wondering what everyone's thoughts are on what to learn first. Straight keying or one of the Iambic modes?

My thoughts on this were that learning straight keying first would help really solidify the sounds of each character, but once I progress with more fluency, is starting with straight keying going to hurt iambic, or vice versa? 

Thanks in advance for any input on this!

Jon, KC3PDS

Jon Karve
 

Ben, Julian, Dudley -

Thanks for all of this input.  I was on the fence about starting with a paddle simply because I didn't have one handy, but it from all of your comments I think I'll get moving on getting/making one and learning that way.  The SKCC sounds fun though, but maybe not reason enough to start with the straight key once I have paddles.  I've just built an iambic A keyer with an ATtiny85 with variable speed controlled by a potentiometer which was a fun weekend project. Obviously not needed with the QCX since it has the built-in keying modes, but I can use it on other rigs.   Next step now is to build the paddles.

Dudley, I'll take a look at both the iambic paddles and the single lever paddles - I just did some quick research on single lever paddles and they look pretty interesting.  I'm still relatively new to all of the technologies, trying to pick things up as quickly as I can. I've been listening to QSOs on the air for a little while, only able to copy a few letters here and there at the fast speeds, and I'm only able to key right now (with the basic clunky built in key) at about 8-10 wpm.  Playing in in practice mode is helping a lot, and I seem to be getting more comfortable with every word.  I was chatting with Julian in another thread about my hesitancy to get on the air and start transmitting, but I think it's time I at least attempted a QSO.

Thanks again, I appreciate all of the informative and quick responses.

Jon, KC3PDS

Dudley Chapman
 

Jon,
   I am QRV on all HF bands.  If you are looking for a QSO, send me some email, we can arrange a sked. 

de WA1X.

 

Hi Dudley,

As I am a learner too, I'm listening to your advice too. When you say single paddle with keyer, what exactly is that? Is it like a cootie but with two contacts, so you trigger dits on one side and dah's on the other? I'm intrigued.

I take your point on sending vs copying, and agree with you totally. I can send very comforably at 15 WPM, and even faster if the words aren't so long I get lost in them, or if they're written down, but knowing characters on way out is of absolutely no help on the way in: I am still struggling with copying words at 8 WPM.

I did get the advice - and I follow it absolutely - to not practice reading characters at any less than 15 WPM character rate. Words are a different matter, of  course, but listening to characters at less than 15 is just a miserable experience; I can't believe people were actually taught to copy at 5WPM. Thank goodness for Farnsworth, I say.

Julian N4JO.

On 6/26/2020 5:20 PM, Dudley Chapman wrote:

I am not sure my reply made it, so i will summarize my points.  My bona fides on this subject is 55 years on CW, at times qualifying above 60 wpm.   I have been using iambic keying with dual paddles for most of that time.   But I have been coming around to thinking that the efficiency gain in motion of iambic over single lever paddles and a keyer may not be worth the trouble.  It is a small gain with a steep learning curve if you want to exploit it completely.   I am hearing more and more that the big QRQ ops are switching to single paddle electronic keying.

As for straight keys, I see no advantage practicing with a straight key in regard to sending.  And I see no advantage in practicing sending for the purpose of improving your recieving.

Practicing sending is only so you can send well.  But until you are truly copying the sound burst of characters rather than counting dots and dashes, practicing sending is counter-productive to receiving.

de WA1X

Gwen Patton
 

Jon,
I used a paddle to learn on, but also worked with a sideswiper, or "cootie" key. I currently have one of Steve W1SFR's Torsion Bar Cootie Paddles, which can be used for either purpose with an adapter. CWOps CW Academy is WELL worth the time, and it is free. The only drawback is that the classes are only held a few times a year, and have limited space. But their method works. I'm FAR better at sending than copying, but I'm still working on it. I'm much better at it than I was, and I credit CW Academy for that.

They do want you to use a paddle and keyer to learn so as to reduce the distraction of having to not only learn the characters, but concentrate on making the timings and spacings manually. With paddle and keyer, the device handles the timing and spacing for you, leaving your mind free to concentrate on the letters, numbers, and prosigns. Much easier that way! You can learn straight key later if you want, or use a cootie like I do. At least with a cootie, the mechanical action is side to side, like a paddle, so that much is the same. You just don't have a keyer to make the dots and dashes and manage the spacing. Like a straight key you have to do that manually, but for some reason I found it easier on a cootie than a straight key. YMMV

I recommend a piece of software calle PCW-Fistcheck (https://www.qsl.net/dj7hs/help/helppcwfistchk.htm) to help you with the formation of characters and spacing, once you know the characters well. Fistcheck will show you where your timing is faltering. It's very useful no matter what kind of key you use, even a keyer, since the keyer can only do so much. At minimum, it can help you spot when you're not keeping the words distinct from one another and are running them together, a serious issue that makes your code much more difficult to copy. Sort of like trying to parse a run-on sentence!

The trouble with the whole "which should I learn on?" issue is that, if you ask five hams, you'll get six opinions, all different. You're never going to find complete agreement, and the issue can rapidly turn into what I call a "Holy War" issue, dissenting opinions that will not be resolved through discussion or argument, no matter how long or how heated it gets, so you might as well just do what seems easier and more enjoyable for you. When I took my CW Academy classes, they *preferred* that you use a paddle and keyer, but if you really wanted to use straight key or cootie, they wouldn't argue with you. They just expected you to work that much harder to make yourself understandable to compensate for not using a keyer. Each of my classes that I took had someone who simply would not use a paddle, usually using straight key, even if it made learning harder for them. I felt bad for one ham, an elderly gentleman I really liked who would only use a straight key. He had terrible trouble getting his timing and spacing even close to correct, and he spent so much energy on it that he had little left to learn the actual code, and he got very frustrated with it all. I don't think he progressed to the next class, and may have given up, which is sad.

Whatever you choose to do is fine. You're doing it to have fun, after all, so my suggestion is to do what makes it the most fun for you. You'll learn better if it's fun.

As for the DIY aspects, why does that mean you won't be building a keyer? Keyers are very easy to build, especially from kits, and there's LOTS of great keyer kits out there. Many cost only about $10-15. I found a number of them on Ebay, and also at http://shop.kit-projects.com/. One that I built is also a Morse practice device, copying tutor, keyer, and even has a set of touch paddles built in. It's called a Morserino-32, and my description does not do it justice. Check it out here: http://www.morserino.info/morserino-32.html  It's my favorite code practice oscillator and general Morse tool. I can even plug my cootie paddle into it! (If you get two, say, for you and a nearby code buddy, or for two kids who want to learn, they can send to one another via LoRa license-free RF, as it's built into the microcontroller used for the project.)

You can even upload a text file to it and play it back in code. I used a copy of H. Beam Piper's book "Little Fuzzy" in mine. I sanitized the file for any characters the device can't translate, just to make things easier. If you want to listen to some code online to practice copying, you can look for Onno's "Foundations of Amateur Radio", a podcast. He heard I was converting his podcast texts into Morse MP3 files for my personal practice, and liked the idea so he converted all of his podcasts to MP3 Morse and posted the files. They're short, topical, and you have the podcast to listen to as well, or read in text format, so you can easily check your copying results. Very handy! Of course, you can also do what I did, and convert your favorite texts to Morse MP3 format with a program called ebook2cw: https://fkurz.net/ham/ebook2cw.html  The creator also did a number of other ham radio based projects, like the Learn CW Online website, the practice program QRQ, and others.

Hope this helps!

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
73,
Gwen, NG3P


On Fri, Jun 26, 2020 at 9:36 PM Jon Karve <kc3pds@...> wrote:
Ben, Julian, Dudley -

Thanks for all of this input.  I was on the fence about starting with a paddle simply because I didn't have one handy, but it from all of your comments I think I'll get moving on getting/making one and learning that way.  The SKCC sounds fun though, but maybe not reason enough to start with the straight key once I have paddles.  I've just built an iambic A keyer with an ATtiny85 with variable speed controlled by a potentiometer which was a fun weekend project. Obviously not needed with the QCX since it has the built-in keying modes, but I can use it on other rigs.   Next step now is to build the paddles.

Dudley, I'll take a look at both the iambic paddles and the single lever paddles - I just did some quick research on single lever paddles and they look pretty interesting.  I'm still relatively new to all of the technologies, trying to pick things up as quickly as I can. I've been listening to QSOs on the air for a little while, only able to copy a few letters here and there at the fast speeds, and I'm only able to key right now (with the basic clunky built in key) at about 8-10 wpm.  Playing in in practice mode is helping a lot, and I seem to be getting more comfortable with every word.  I was chatting with Julian in another thread about my hesitancy to get on the air and start transmitting, but I think it's time I at least attempted a QSO.

Thanks again, I appreciate all of the informative and quick responses.

Jon, KC3PDS

Gary Bernard
 

Gwen, that’s the best advice given to a new CW op I’ve ever seen.
Regards, Gary W0CKI since 1954


On Jun 26, 2020, at 9:42 PM, Gwen Patton <ardrhi@...> wrote:


Jon,
I used a paddle to learn on, but also worked with a sideswiper, or "cootie" key. I currently have one of Steve W1SFR's Torsion Bar Cootie Paddles, which can be used for either purpose with an adapter. CWOps CW Academy is WELL worth the time, and it is free. The only drawback is that the classes are only held a few times a year, and have limited space. But their method works. I'm FAR better at sending than copying, but I'm still working on it. I'm much better at it than I was, and I credit CW Academy for that.

They do want you to use a paddle and keyer to learn so as to reduce the distraction of having to not only learn the characters, but concentrate on making the timings and spacings manually. With paddle and keyer, the device handles the timing and spacing for you, leaving your mind free to concentrate on the letters, numbers, and prosigns. Much easier that way! You can learn straight key later if you want, or use a cootie like I do. At least with a cootie, the mechanical action is side to side, like a paddle, so that much is the same. You just don't have a keyer to make the dots and dashes and manage the spacing. Like a straight key you have to do that manually, but for some reason I found it easier on a cootie than a straight key. YMMV

I recommend a piece of software calle PCW-Fistcheck (https://www.qsl.net/dj7hs/help/helppcwfistchk.htm) to help you with the formation of characters and spacing, once you know the characters well. Fistcheck will show you where your timing is faltering. It's very useful no matter what kind of key you use, even a keyer, since the keyer can only do so much. At minimum, it can help you spot when you're not keeping the words distinct from one another and are running them together, a serious issue that makes your code much more difficult to copy. Sort of like trying to parse a run-on sentence!

The trouble with the whole "which should I learn on?" issue is that, if you ask five hams, you'll get six opinions, all different. You're never going to find complete agreement, and the issue can rapidly turn into what I call a "Holy War" issue, dissenting opinions that will not be resolved through discussion or argument, no matter how long or how heated it gets, so you might as well just do what seems easier and more enjoyable for you. When I took my CW Academy classes, they *preferred* that you use a paddle and keyer, but if you really wanted to use straight key or cootie, they wouldn't argue with you. They just expected you to work that much harder to make yourself understandable to compensate for not using a keyer. Each of my classes that I took had someone who simply would not use a paddle, usually using straight key, even if it made learning harder for them. I felt bad for one ham, an elderly gentleman I really liked who would only use a straight key. He had terrible trouble getting his timing and spacing even close to correct, and he spent so much energy on it that he had little left to learn the actual code, and he got very frustrated with it all. I don't think he progressed to the next class, and may have given up, which is sad.

Whatever you choose to do is fine. You're doing it to have fun, after all, so my suggestion is to do what makes it the most fun for you. You'll learn better if it's fun.

As for the DIY aspects, why does that mean you won't be building a keyer? Keyers are very easy to build, especially from kits, and there's LOTS of great keyer kits out there. Many cost only about $10-15. I found a number of them on Ebay, and also at http://shop.kit-projects.com/. One that I built is also a Morse practice device, copying tutor, keyer, and even has a set of touch paddles built in. It's called a Morserino-32, and my description does not do it justice. Check it out here: http://www.morserino.info/morserino-32.html  It's my favorite code practice oscillator and general Morse tool. I can even plug my cootie paddle into it! (If you get two, say, for you and a nearby code buddy, or for two kids who want to learn, they can send to one another via LoRa license-free RF, as it's built into the microcontroller used for the project.)

You can even upload a text file to it and play it back in code. I used a copy of H. Beam Piper's book "Little Fuzzy" in mine. I sanitized the file for any characters the device can't translate, just to make things easier. If you want to listen to some code online to practice copying, you can look for Onno's "Foundations of Amateur Radio", a podcast. He heard I was converting his podcast texts into Morse MP3 files for my personal practice, and liked the idea so he converted all of his podcasts to MP3 Morse and posted the files. They're short, topical, and you have the podcast to listen to as well, or read in text format, so you can easily check your copying results. Very handy! Of course, you can also do what I did, and convert your favorite texts to Morse MP3 format with a program called ebook2cw: https://fkurz.net/ham/ebook2cw.html  The creator also did a number of other ham radio based projects, like the Learn CW Online website, the practice program QRQ, and others.

Hope this helps!

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
73,
Gwen, NG3P


On Fri, Jun 26, 2020 at 9:36 PM Jon Karve <kc3pds@...> wrote:
Ben, Julian, Dudley -

Thanks for all of this input.  I was on the fence about starting with a paddle simply because I didn't have one handy, but it from all of your comments I think I'll get moving on getting/making one and learning that way.  The SKCC sounds fun though, but maybe not reason enough to start with the straight key once I have paddles.  I've just built an iambic A keyer with an ATtiny85 with variable speed controlled by a potentiometer which was a fun weekend project. Obviously not needed with the QCX since it has the built-in keying modes, but I can use it on other rigs.   Next step now is to build the paddles.

Dudley, I'll take a look at both the iambic paddles and the single lever paddles - I just did some quick research on single lever paddles and they look pretty interesting.  I'm still relatively new to all of the technologies, trying to pick things up as quickly as I can. I've been listening to QSOs on the air for a little while, only able to copy a few letters here and there at the fast speeds, and I'm only able to key right now (with the basic clunky built in key) at about 8-10 wpm.  Playing in in practice mode is helping a lot, and I seem to be getting more comfortable with every word.  I was chatting with Julian in another thread about my hesitancy to get on the air and start transmitting, but I think it's time I at least attempted a QSO.

Thanks again, I appreciate all of the informative and quick responses.

Jon, KC3PDS

Ben Bangerter, K0IKR
 

I have always been puzzled by which way is best to operate a paddle, or if it is simply a question of preference.  Is it better to use ones thumb to create dots, or dashes?  I am right-handed, and have always used my thumb to press the paddle to the right to make dots, and my forefinger to press the paddle to the left for dashes.  I have never used a semiautomatic key (i.e. a Vibroplex “bug”), but I am under the impression that, for a right handed operator, the index finger was used to make the dashes as the fine muscle control of that digit was better than that of the thumb.


73  Ben  K0IKR

James Daldry W4JED
 

Hi, Folks

Back in 1979, when I was busy in the basement of Henry Blodgett W2UTH's house, learning Novice stuff and getting my code up to 5 WPM, he came up with and important pronouncement for the class: "Twenty is Plenty". He then proceeded to illustrate it with his Vibroplex, adjusted for 20 WPM.

73

Jim W4JED

On 6/26/20 6:14 PM, Dudley Chapman wrote:

I have been doing CW for 55 years.   At some point in my ham career I qualified for QSOs over 60 wpm.   Those are my bonafides.   But the following is my personal opinion, and naturally others may disagree.

1) I find no advantage in practicing sending on any device when it comes to improving copy speed.   Sending involved individual dots and dashes whereas fast copy involves responding to the sound burst of a particular character. 

2) at some point you will surely want to send properly, so that is what sending practice is for.

3) There is no advantage to first starting with a straight key, except you may be in a situation someday where you only have a straight key.  Otherwise, it is a waste of time.

4) I have been doing iambic keying with dual paddles for about 50 years, starting with homemade dual paddles and a Heathkit keyer.   But these days I am starting to realize that iambic keying may be more trouble than it is worth.  It does shave off about 10% of the motion on the average, but it is harder to learn.  And the timing of different keyer circuit varies.  I don't mean the dot and dash timing varies, but the narrow windows for dot and dash injection and completion and so forth is critical.

5) I am hearing more and more that the real fast QRQ ops are now using single lever paddles with electronic keyers.   My advice to new hams who want to learn to use a keyer, is to start with a single level paddle.   Then learn to exploit the features of dot and dash injection, character completion, and auto word spacing.

Finally, 20 wpm is very respectable.  it's time to get on the air.    Back in the day we all started on the Novice band where the test required only 5 wpm.  We all sucked at CW and we didn't care, especially if we were teenagers having fun ragchewing after school with buddies in nearby states who had xmit crystals nearby in frequency.   We all were thrilled to make it to the 13 wpm General requirement and hit the big time.  With a year of QSOing behind us we just dove into the General section of the bands with confidence even at 15 wpm.

These days you have to jump into the deep and of the pool, and that might seem intimidating.   I feel that not having a Novice band makes it hard for new ops.

But consider that most CW ops would love to see the mode thrive, so they will be welcoming to new CW ops.   Start by copying QSOs, and then dive in at some point and call or answer a CQ.   If they don't want to slow down to 20 wpm (which again, is very respectable), then they are not worth talking to.   It's a hobby after all, not battlefield surgery.

73 OM, and cu on the bands.  de WA1X

 

Michael.2E0IHW
 

I looked up "Vibroflex" and nearly fell off my perch at the cost.

What home-brew single-lever paddles are recommended?
And what electronics to interface with a regular key-socket,
eg my old TT Century 22?

Do I correctly assume that a diy single-lever paddle would
plug straight into a QCXP ?

Michael 2E0IHW

On 27/06/2020 14:00, James Daldry W4JED wrote:
Hi, Folks
Back in 1979, when I was busy in the basement of Henry Blodgett W2UTH's house, learning Novice stuff and getting my code up to 5 WPM, he came up with and important pronouncement for the class: "Twenty is Plenty". He then proceeded to illustrate it with his Vibroplex, adjusted for 20 WPM.
73
Jim W4JED
On 6/26/20 6:14 PM, Dudley Chapman wrote:
...
5) I am hearing more and more that the real fast QRQ ops are now using single lever paddles with electronic keyers.   My advice to new hams who want to learn to use a keyer, is to start with a single level paddle.   Then learn to exploit the features of dot and dash injection, character completion, and auto word spacing.
...
73 OM, and cu on the bands.  de WA1X

 

Michael,

I don't know about single lever paddles - not my interest - but the QCX/QCXP will accept both single circuit and twin circuit keys. It has a configuration option to allow either key of a twin paddle to key in straight key mode.

Julian, N4JO.

On 6/27/2020 8:33 AM, Michael.2E0IHW via groups.io wrote:
I looked up "Vibroflex" and nearly fell off my perch at the cost.

What  home-brew single-lever paddles are recommended?
And what electronics to interface with a regular key-socket,
eg my old TT Century 22?

Do I correctly assume that a diy single-lever paddle would
plug straight into a QCXP ?

Michael 2E0IHW

On 27/06/2020 14:00, James Daldry W4JED wrote:
Hi, Folks

Back in 1979, when I was busy in the basement of Henry Blodgett W2UTH's house, learning Novice stuff and getting my code up to 5 WPM, he came up with and important pronouncement for the class: "Twenty is Plenty". He then proceeded to illustrate it with his Vibroplex, adjusted for 20 WPM.

73

Jim W4JED

On 6/26/20 6:14 PM, Dudley Chapman wrote:
...
5) I am hearing more and more that the real fast QRQ ops are now using single lever paddles with electronic keyers.   My advice to new hams who want to learn to use a keyer, is to start with a single level paddle.   Then learn to exploit the features of dot and dash injection, character completion, and auto word spacing.
...
73 OM, and cu on the bands.  de WA1X

Steve in Okinawa
 

My humble opinion as a longtime almost exclusively CW op: aside from the fact that iambic sending is harder to learn and offers very little advantage, a really practical consideration is when it comes to homebrewery of a really compact paddle. Making a reliable single-lever paddle is almost trivial. I believe (but never tried it) building a small iambic paddle would be very challenging. JS6TMW

 

Respectfully, Steve, Iambic may have been more difficult for you, but it would be unreasonable to presume that the same would be true for everybody. I found Iambic keying very easy to learn (I use Iambic B).

As for building a key, I would also argue that mounting a piece of hacksaw blade either side of a block of wood glued on a flat piece of with a couple of nuts bolts and washers must be easier than constructing a rigid arm on a pivot with a spring and contacts, etc.

Actually, I "built" - and I'm almost embarrassed to use such am imposing word: "cobbled together" would be more accurate - a touch sensitive twin "paddle" out of two brass angle brackets hot-glued to a sample piece of kitchen tile (picture attached). It has no moving parts at all, and is a joy to use. it interfaces with a QCX via a simple circuit (I used an Arduino and a bit of code as a practice oscillator before I bought my QCXs).

So while I respect your experience and preference, I offer an opposing view on both issues :-)

Julian N4JO.

On 6/27/2020 9:38 AM, Steve in Okinawa wrote:
My humble opinion as a longtime almost exclusively CW op: aside from the fact that iambic sending is harder to learn and offers very little advantage, a really practical consideration is when it comes to homebrewery of a really compact paddle. Making a reliable single-lever paddle is almost trivial. I believe (but never tried it) building a small iambic paddle would be very challenging. JS6TMW

Paul Stocking
 

Hi Guys an Gals,
I follow these threads with interest and I've only got a Xiegu G90 for QRP work and am at auw of you lot with the wonderful QRP Labs gear.
Following the threads on the QCX  a lot but must admit I'm not a constructor!!

Been doing mainly CW for a few years now and thoroughly enjoy it, I've not used a straight key in ages, I use a Kent twin paddle and a vibroplex single paddle both the same operation to produce the code, the only difference is the twin paddle is used iambically through the keyer in my rigs to utilise squeeze keying, but recently been using the single paddle in 'bug' mode which is fun.
Basically get on the air as SOON as possible and don't worry about exact code, Ops will slow down for you and it would be a PLEASURE to hear more newcomers on the air having QSO'S on CW, I would be pleased to meet anyone who has took the time to learn the code and get on the air , so don't be worrying about making mistakes, its happened to all of us and still happens to me now, but try to not let the nerves take over, take your time, ask for ops that won't slow for you to QRS, if they continue to send above YOUR speed just send 73.. With 2 dits to end the QSO, then move on to the next QSO.
Please don't be put off by other OPS not slowing for you, I'm a member of FISTS and would welcome all for a nice, steady, relaxed QSO at YOUR speed, at the start you will make mistakes, but keep at it, the more QSO's you get, the easier it becomes but don't feel pressured at all.
Have a look around the FISTS freq - 7.028, 3.558, 14.058 even 10.118 and please get on the air, have 1QSO, then another, then another, your confidence will then start to build, forget the mistakes, pause, then continue - but most of all ENJOY the code, it's a hobby for us all to ENJOY..

Paul M0GSX FISTS #17642..

R. Tyson
 

Straight key or paddle ?  The choice is yours. Iambic keying you may find difficult as the paddles are squeezed to get the right combination of dots and dashes, this will take some time to master. I can't be bothered with iambic keying but use the twin paddles by tapping them to obtain the combination of dots and dashes to form a letter. For a beginner a straight key is usually easier to learn to use.

Once you are sending at a good speed and having lengthy chats on CW then the twin paddle means you will find sending for longer periods easier on the wrist and fingers.
The American key, where the elbow is rested on the table can cause "glass arm" where fatigue sets in. The U.K. key where the arm is completely free of the table and the wrist easily flexes up and down can be used for long periods without the same problems (that should cause some comments).

Whatever you use then make sure you send good CW with the letters properly formed and the spacing correct. It will then be both easy and a pleasure for the listener at the other end. There are some horrendous examples of poor CW that are very difficult to make sense of and they are sent by people using both twin paddles and straight keys.
Good CW has a musical rythm to it and is much easier to copy.

Reg                        G4NFR

lajes67
 

I will agree with that, use a straight key first so you can learn the proper spacing and character length.  I doubt anyone will ever copy a press broadcast or sit a military CW circuit and copy a 5 letter code group with a group count of over 100, if you tried that at 5 WPM it would take most of the watch to send.

Accuracy is the most important thing, when you get to the point where you think you're doing good, try taping your sending and then see if you can copy your own fist, if you have trouble, imagine how the other station is doing.

You don't have to go out and buy something fancy, and expensive, Bill Mauldin, the man that drew the "Joe and Willie" cartoons during WWII said that when he was in art school he dreamed of using only the finest camel hair brushes for his work, he said that when he went to work for one of the big papers he saw one of the prize winning artists using the chewed up end of a wooden match stick for his brush.

Relax, have fun, this is a hobby, enjoy yourself, it takes a bit more concentration to form the letters of words in your head and then convert them to code than to simply key a mic.

73 John K2IZ

James Daldry W4JED
 

Hi, Michael

My key that is plugged into my QCX is a homebrew single lever sideswiper key, made out of PC board material, with contacts from an old relay. To keep it from sliding around I have a stack of 5 - four inch electrical box cover plates from my local Lowes. It has 4 silicone feet, also from Lowes, and the cord is from an old pair of earbuds. Best to use receive only buds, since the ones with the mike have an extra contact in the plug, which adds to the confusion. I have it wired with the "dahs" on the thumb, and 2 of the silicone feet stacked on each side of the paddle to make a comfortable distance between thumb and forefinger. Total travel side to side is about 1/8 inch, or 3 mm.

73

Jim W4JED

On 6/27/20 9:33 AM, Michael.2E0IHW via groups.io wrote:
I looked up "Vibroflex" and nearly fell off my perch at the cost.

What  home-brew single-lever paddles are recommended?
And what electronics to interface with a regular key-socket,
eg my old TT Century 22?

Do I correctly assume that a diy single-lever paddle would
plug straight into a QCXP ?

Michael 2E0IHW

On 27/06/2020 14:00, James Daldry W4JED wrote:
Hi, Folks

Back in 1979, when I was busy in the basement of Henry Blodgett W2UTH's house, learning Novice stuff and getting my code up to 5 WPM, he came up with and important pronouncement for the class: "Twenty is Plenty". He then proceeded to illustrate it with his Vibroplex, adjusted for 20 WPM.

73

Jim W4JED

On 6/26/20 6:14 PM, Dudley Chapman wrote:
...
5) I am hearing more and more that the real fast QRQ ops are now using single lever paddles with electronic keyers.   My advice to new hams who want to learn to use a keyer, is to start with a single level paddle.   Then learn to exploit the features of dot and dash injection, character completion, and auto word spacing.
...
73 OM, and cu on the bands.  de WA1X

Dudley Chapman
 

Some very good advice in this thread.  I agree with it all.   But let me clarify a few things for brand new hams.   Electronic keyers (and this includes the QCX keyer function) have two inputs.  If you ground one input you get dots, and the other you get dashes.   A single lever paddle, aka sideswiper, aka cootie, can ground one contact or the other.   Usually with the right hand thumb, as you press it to the right, you get dots, and with a finger (usually the index or the next finger) pressing to the left, you get dashes.  

The keyer has a lot of smarts such as:

1) self completing the dots and dashes.  One quick tap with the thumb will cause the keyer to emit an entire dash of the proper length according to the speed setting.   Same with the dot side.  You always get perfect dots or dashes.
2) dot and dash injection.  There is also one dot and a one dash memory, so if you tap the dash side and the quickly tap the dot side, the dot is queued up and will be emitted after the dash with perfect spacing.   Same with dashes, queued before the dot and space completes.   So you learn to make the side to side movements in bursts so you can be slightly ahead of the keyer.   That way it emits dots, spaces, and dashes with perfect timing. 
3) Auto word spacing.   If you leave a long enough interval between taps of the paddle, (but not too long), you can start the next word a slight bit early.   That way the keyer injects a proper word spacing between your words.

This all sounds tricky, but what happens is that you start sending as if there are none of those features and you start to "learn" how to lead the keyer a slight bit.  It is actually easier than it sounds because you can start right away and ease into using the fancy features.

But what if you have a dual paddle?  Why have such a complicated device when a piece of spring steel between two contacts should be good enough.   The reason is that the keyer as an even more sophisticated feature which is iambic keying.  The word Iambic comes from the poetry word where it means a kind of word cadence. 

Your dual paddles are two switches that are mechanically and electrically isolated from each other.   One is connected to the dot input of the keyer, and the other to the dash input.   If you have one of those connected you can use it like a sideswiper, but something special happens if you have both paddles closed at the same time.   Sometimes called a "squeeze paddle" if you squeeze both paddles closed, the keyer will start sending alternating dots and dashes.  If you lead slightly with the dot side, and hold them closed, you will get dit dah dit dah dit dah...  as long as you hold them closed.    Leading with the dash side, you will get dah dit dah dit dah dit.....

Looking at that you can see that already a number of letters can be sent with a carefully timed squeeze, such as C, R A, N, and so forth.   The other letters are formed by either leading with one paddle for a while then squeezing, such as F, U, V, G, or squeezing then letting off on one of the paddles to get letters like B, D, etc.  

When using the iambic mode with both paddles all the other features I already described are still running.  So by using a combination of iambic and dot and dash injection and so forth, you can get perfectly timed characters with just a well time twitch of the fingers.   Once again, you can start by just going side to side for a while and over time your fingers will learn to exploit all the features I described.  It's more like a piano where you can get a nice sounding chord as a beginner, and not like a violin where it takes a lot of practice just to get a good sounding note.

Believe it or not, I used to do hours of mobile CW during long commutes.   I used  (and still do) one of the first high end paddles, made by a ham/machinist N2DAN (now SK).   The design is now sold by Vibroplex as the Mercury Paddles.   During those commutes I used to have 60 wpm QSOs with the QRQ ops that would be around 7020 khz in those days.  I qualified for the CFO club, where you have to be nominated by a few members after having QRQ ragchews.   I still use the same paddles and keyer circuit  

But I have a feeling if I tried someone else's keyer circuit design, my fist would fall apart a bit.  That is because all the timing of that particular circuit is burned into my DNA.    A circuit with slightly different timing would take a bit getting used to.  This is why current day QRQ ops are switching over to single paddle use because it drops the iambic aspect out of the picture.   It has been shown that the efficiency gain of iambic over single paddle is not super dramatic.  I added a picture of my paddles which you can see beyond the big honkin trap coil I was making for an dual band inverted L.

de WA1X