Properly adjusting a Straight Key

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Properly adjusting a Straight Key

Post by kc9gmn » Sat Jan 27, 2007 1:02 am

Could someone post a write up on how to properly adjust a straight key


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Location: Chandler, AZ

Post by W7SLL » Thu Feb 01, 2007 4:36 am

Hey Bob,

I see that nobody has answered your post, so I'll give it a little effort! Let me say first though, I don't consider myself any kind of expert on adjustment. The very fact that straight keys are adjustable suggests that users are likely to have their own "optimum" setup that just feels right to them. That said, generally, I offer you the following.

First, you should sit in a comfortable chair with both feet on the floor. The key should be on your desktop far enough back from the edge of the table that your forearm rests on the desktop. Being both balanced and comfortable when sending CW will make your "fist" more readable and keep your fatigue at a minimum.

I use an old J-38 key that I mounted on a piece of 6" x 8" x .35" thick steel plate that I drilled and threaded to accept the mounting screws on the key. I covered the bottom of the plate with a piece of red felt, so the whole thing will slide across the desk when I want to use it. It is heavy enough, probably weighing about 4 lbs, so that it won't move when I'm using it. That is a long-winded way of saying that your key should be in a place that it won't slide when you use it. Most ops I know mount their keys on a piece of wood and some screw the key to their desktop. The nicer straight keys on the market have heavy bases and non-slip feet under them for this reason.

The set screws on each side of the key's pivot should be tightened enough to allow the key to "rock" freely, but not bind up. The set screw on the end of the key's shaft (long screw) and the screw over the spring near the knob should each be adjusted so that a piece of paper could not be wedged, (or maybe could just be wedged, depending upon how this feels to you), between the end of the the long screw and the key's base and the contact point under the key's shaft. The adjustment over the spring near the knob should not "over bind" the spring, but should allow for the key to "rock" and return freely. After some use you will know how this adjustment feels best for you. After you have made these adjustments the key should work easily at the pivots and have a nice tight, precision feel to it, without being "mushy" or loose. Most of all though it will be comfortable to use.

With practice, you will increase your sending speed to about 17 - 20 wpm without making errors. Speeds faster than this and you will want to use the bug-type mechanical or electronic keying devices to reduce the fatigue factor. I personally think that about 15 wpm is the optimum speed to do manual keying. It's a comfortable speed to send and you can do it virtually error free without unnecessary fatigue.

Hope this helps - 73

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Post by K4VD » Mon Feb 05, 2007 2:58 am

Hi Steve:

Excellent post. While many will say that setting up a key is all about personal taste (and I agree), it is also good to have a starting point. Once a person has a good starting point, they can easily progress from that point.

Thanks for the good advice.
Kev, K4VD
SKCC 605
FISTS 11712 CC 1798

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Joined: Tue Aug 15, 2006 10:19 pm
Location: Glendale, AZ - DM33vo

Post by KJ7BS » Wed Feb 14, 2007 6:53 am

I am going to run a four-part series, if I get permission, that details how to set up a straight key, paddles, bencher paddles, and a bug. Each part will be in a separate month's The SKCC Centurion. :)
Mark Saunders, KJ7BS
Glendale, AZ
Editor, The SKCC Centurion
SKCC 2240 C56

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Location: Vancouver, WA.

Post by KA7CTT » Wed Feb 14, 2007 4:50 pm

Hey Mark...I like that idea.
Have a bug and can not seem to master it and have often thought it was because I do not know how to properly set it up.
Looking forward to your article.

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