I learned CW using a straight key, an Army surplus J-38 which I still have and use on special occasions ( Thanks Mr. Roberts, W0DDZ for the gift! It was my 15th birthday). Soon more speed was needed and I graduated to a Vibroplex Bug. As the new electronic keyers came and went, something called IAMBIC keying crept into vogue, but I never learned how to do that. All of my CW was and is done by the old fashioned Vibroplex method, even though I now use an electronic keyer. The difference is a single paddle with dot and dash contacts on the outside, vs. two paddles that meet in the middle. Don't get me wrong, the Iambic keying is better and faster for most, as well as easier to send with. I just never learned to do it. Thank goodness most modern electronic keyers support both modes.
Over the ensuing years I have built many homemade keys and keyer paddles. There is a extra boost to the ego when you tell the fellow at the other end of the QSO : "the entire rig here is homebrew".
Shown in the cover shot and pictures 2 and 3 is the Brass Base version of the Single Lever Keyer. This and all the St. Louis keys are made from parts gleaned from old "telephone type switches" as shown in picture 4 .
Large relays are another good source of springy contact material, and often have silver points for contacts.
The handle is also from the telephone switch, and is pressed onto the end of a long lever as the metal is heated and the plastic melts. In this version, the switch is held upright by a small brass bracket, and the wires terminate on standoff insulators.
Next is shown my workhorse Plexiglas base Single Lever Keyer Paddle. This was made many years ago for everyday USE, not to be pretty, and it has done a great job for me. With this I have worked over 340 countries.
Making your own key for use or display is a FUN project.
Further construction info and parts sources at
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