Thoughts On The Ergonomics Of A Good Straight Key

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Thoughts On The Ergonomics Of A Good Straight Key

Post by WB5AGF » Mon Nov 09, 2015 7:11 pm

I'm a poor CW operator. When I was a kid it took me twice the 6 weeks that the ARRL said it'd take for
me to get to 5 WPM and I haven't gotten much better since then other than to pass the 20WPM Extra two
weeks before the FCC eliminated it in April 2000. (I panicked at the FCC announcement as I'd been
sitting-on-my-backside for 30 years, with an Advanced Class License, telling myself that I'd 'someday'
go-for-the Extra. One of my driving beliefs is that each of us has certain goals that we need to reach
in order not to go the rest of our lives thinking 'if only'. I did not want to miss getting a 'real'
Extra Class License.)

Having said this (my mea culpa)

I like messing with Morse CW keys .... mostly straight keys.

I am easily distracted by certain types of noise (mostly voices but some abrupt sounds can also pull my
attention) when I am trying to concentrate. I find that some Morse keys generate very bothersome levels
of 'clicking' when being used and one-or-two keys I've tried reminded me of using a small tack hammer to
hit the head of a steel chisel (on the other-hand some keys create a pleasant level of auditory and
tactile feedback during use).

About a year ago (Oct 2014) I came across a Morse key being sold on the eham Web Site by W7ASA (Ray).
What really caught my attention is that the key was one that had been made by G3YUH (Ron). I'd been
following Ron's doings for 2 or 3 years (his Web Site practically glows from the radiance coming off all
the brass CW keys he has built). I bought the key and the first time I pressed the knob I was surprised
at the action. The key provides a crisp response and also gives a satisfying (but not disruptive) 'click'.

Since then I have become increasing of the opinion that many hams have no idea how pleasant it can be to
use a good Morse CW straight key .... since much of what we've been exposed to since we were kids is of
questionable design/quality. (I smile now when I think of the 'cheap' Japanese J38 knock-offs that were
the norm back in the 1960s - sold for a few dollars from all the electronic stores. Compared to some of
the stuff being sold now they would seem of better quality.)

Recently I have been focusing on the sensation created when the key contacts close - both the noise and
the mechanical shock transmitted to the operator's fingers back through the body of the key. (A recent
surprise was how critical it can be to have the key's mass mechanically coupled to the desk it's sitting
on. A poorly 'seated' key can give the user some difficulty in proper keying similar to the 'limp wrist'
syndrome that some semi-automatic pistol shooters are afflicted with.)

(more later .... probably)

- Paul, WB5AGF

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