Keyer Paddles

Vibroplex Paddle | Autotronic Paddle


Brown Brothers Machine Company --- Model BTL = based key, twin lever paddle.
It measures 3.5X4.5 in., Year 1964. Look here under Hand Keys (Brown Bro) for Jim Zimmerman's (KG6VI) excellent article on the Brown Bro keys.

Ham Key Company HK-1

Ham Key Co.

Dual-lever squeeze paddles Mfg. by the Ham Key Company. The paddles were reversible for wide or close finger spacing. These were introduced in 1974 and several models were made, all resembling the Brown Brothers line. The HK-1 was HKC's answer to the Bro's model BTL-A paddles. The operation and feel of the two paddles are quite different. --

Ham Key Company HK-3

Ham Key

This model was introduced in 1974 by Ham Key Company, It resembled the Brown Brothers model ST-A



The "FYO" paddle invented by Joseph A. Hills (W8FYO) of Dayton, Ohio was offered for a year or two around 1962 and was the prototype for the successful Bencher paddles. Hills made two versions, The iambic model and the non-iambic. The presence of a split ring and the spring arrangement are the only substantial differences between the two. Here you see the iambic model.

William M. Nye Company

Here is the Nye M/SSK-1 super squeeze keyer on the left and a combination M/SSK-1 and straight Key on the right.

The company was founded in 1972 by William Nye in Bellevue, Washington who retired in 1986. Bill Nye, Jr. (WB7TNN) and his wife Sally operate the company, and they employ a part time key assembler and an electronics technician.

William Nye was born in North Dakota in 1912 and moved to the Seattle area in 1924. He has been an amateur radio operator (W7DZ) since age 12. He owned a business machine company until he sold it and retired in 1971. He established the William M. Nye Company as a retirement business.

The Nye company bought the SPEED-X trademark from the E.F. Johnson Company in the fall of 1972. The Nye company bought tooling to manufacture keys, low pass filters, matchboxes, and sounders. Bill Jr. does not believe that they bought the tooling to manufacture bugs.

Nye's present line of keys are manufactured on site, though casting, painting, and some machine functions are contracted out. Small parts are manufactured on site using a variety of stamping and drilling machines. Many of these machines have been modified by Bill Jr. to power them with air or hydraulic pressure. He is an inveterate tinkerer, and does most of the manufacture of small parts himself. Screws are bought from vendors, and key assembly is done by a part time employee.

Nye is using the same key casting molds that were used by the Les Logan and E.F. Johnson Companies. These molds were re-worked in 1972 by a machine shop. This involved polishing, milling, and filling them. These molds were acquired from the Johnson company, and it is doubtful that new ones have been made since the 1930's. Their key bases are cast in Zinc by a sub-contractor in the Seattle area. Zinc is used because of ease of casting, low cost, and solid weight. Information gathered from the N7CFO KEYLETTER'S, Story by Lynn A. Burlingame N7CFO

Trac Key


Trac Electronics Inc. 1106 Rand Bldg. Buffalo, NY 14203 --- Show here is there iambic paddles "TRAC-KEY" and TRAC cmos Electronic Keyer model TE-122.


El-Key Picture

The El-Key is a heavy non-iambic set of paddles that were manufactured in the late ' 50s and early ' 60s by Bob Poucel W2AYJ -- "Poucel Electronics Co.". The bases were delivered to Bob [Poucel] completely finished, plated and ready for assembly. The other component parts were also manufactured out of house, and all that Bob had to do was assemble and adjust the keys. The name El-Key was short for Electronic Keyer. Approximately 400 were made between the years 1956-1960. The design was based on a homebrewed set of paddles...They were available in black,gray and Chrome.

[Information pieced together with permission from Lynn-- N7CFO Keyletter's 1992-97]

El-Key Ad Pic

The Mercury Paddles by N2DAN

Each Mercury is made from a four pound block of solid brass. The base and all upper parts are cut, triple polished, then triple chrome plated. The paddle has large and utra-strong dual levers, super precise bearings, and uses Alnico magnets to produce a positive snap-like action. the contacts are solid silver with rhodium plating and capable of handling anything from a solid state electronic keyer to a microwave oven converted for moonbounce operation. A new owner's call letters are engraved on the base and the paddle were on-the-air tested before shipping to ensure everything is perfect. Shown here is number 179 and its feel during use is exquisite. Unlike most magnet-tensioned paddles, they have real personality and super smooth action that even surpasses springs. Steve Nurkiewicz N2DAN hand crafted each set of paddles. I am sorry to say Steve pass away last year around May 97......He only made around 300 of these. I had one ordered right before He went to Ham Haven. Needless to say these paddles are in great demand. They are very hard to find. I have heard several Ham's say they wouldn't sell at any price. Most serious CW ops say there isn't a better set of paddles that were ever made.... I looked for over a year for a set putting ads in all the CW publications offering top dollar. Well as luck would have it I ended up with TWO sets of his Original paddles. Number 179 and 231. Bencher has bought the rights to the paddles and plan on going into production soon. I called Bencher and asked if I could please buy Serial Number one of the new paddles, I lucked out again and will be receiving Serial Number 1 from Bencher.... I had several collectors say this is collecting at its finest ! So being I have two sets of Steve's original sets of paddles, I have one up for TRADE! The paddles sold for around $425.00 right before He pass away, I am open to trading off one of the sets....If your a serious collector and don't mind giving up a couple of your first borns and interested in a TRADE please email me or call me Toll Free at 870-BUYKEYS ! I have never seen a set of these paddles for sale on the open market.

Vibroplex Paddle

Vibroplex Paddle

Produced: 1960 - present
Patents: None
Plate types: D6-D9
Base colors: Beige, chrome, gray crackle, gold, black texture.
Variants: Beige "Deluxe" model; nameplate orientation.

      Harry Beecher introduced the first fully automatic electronic keyer in his April 1940 QST article, "Electronic Keying." Operating this device required a new type of mechanical key. Beecher recommended: "The switching arrangement is an ordinary bug with the bar connecting the dash and dot terminals removed and the proper wires installed. The dot contact is, of course, rendered non-vibrating."

      After the end of World War II , electronic keyers began to be manufactured in large numbers for both the amateur and commercial radio operators. Neither mutilated bugs nor jack-switches proved to be the ideal solution for actuating these keyers. Keyer paddles specifically designed for the new electronic keyers started appearing on the market. Vibroplex finally joined the electronic revolution by offering the "Vibro-Keyer" in 1960 . (The spelling was changed to "Vibrokeyer" in the early 1980's) The frame, pivots, lever and contacts of this single-lever paddle all came from the Orginal. A small phillips-head screw filled the tapped hole in the left arm where the bug's dot lever stop screw would have gone.

      The new paddle arrived with great confusion. The 1960 ARRL Handbook introduced Vibroplex's entry into this market the Vibro-Keyer, with a beige crackle finish. In its February 1960 review, QST mentioned that the base had a "wrinkle gray" finish, like the standard bugs at that time. In fact, it appeared with a beige finish. At the same time, Harrison Radio offered the Vibrokeyer with a "special gray finish" to match the Hallicrafters TO keyer the company was promoting. Then there were the red fingerpieces, "the Deluxe Vibroplex contacts, main frame and super finished parts", and the red plastic button atop the frame. Was this a Standard or a Deluxe paddle? A real Deluxe Vibrokeyer, with a chrome plated base, appeared in the spring of 1961. At the same time, the beige-based model became the Standard model. In the early 1980's , after the Company had been sold and moved to Maine, the Standard model base color was changed to gray to conform to the rest of the line. Today, the Vibrokeyer made in Alabama comes in three models: The "Gold," with a 24K plated base and jewel bearings, the "Deluxe," with a chrome-plated base and jewel bearings, and the "Standard," with a "crisp textured finish black base" Vibrokeyer offered three variations nameplates. At first, the plate was mounted transversely, and faced to the rear, away from the operator. Shortly thereafter, it was turned to face the right side. Today, the plate on the Alabama Vibrokeyer faces the operator. The paddle's shown are beige Serial number 267879 --- 833 Broadway New York --- Information compiled from various sources including The Vibroplex Co. INC. by William R. Holly K1BH and The Vibroplex collector's guide by Tom french W1IMQ

Vibroplex Deluxe Iambic Model

Produced: 1979-Present
Patents: None
Plate Types: D8-D9
Base Colors: Gray crackle, chrome, gold-plated brass plate, gold plated, black t exture.
Variants: None.

In 1978, Peter Garsoe bought Vibroplex from Vinnie La Hiff, packed up all the machinery, stock, and the meager records, and moved the whole lot to Portland, Maine, where he had several other business interests including a small hand tool manufacturing company. The tool company used similar technology to the Vibroplex Keys, and Garsoe, rightfully as it turned out, assumed that the two companies would be able to share facilities and operat ing personnel at a savings in costs to both. Garsoe had all the old machinery refurbished and old dies rebuilt or replaced. He then streamlined the product line to meet current market conditions. The Lightning Bug and Champion were dropped,several changes in the key lineup were made. The most noticeable was the addition of a new member of the family: the Iambic, which was similar in style to the Vibro Keyer. The Iambic is, as the name states, a dual lever electronic keyer paddle. It used the cast Original bug frame, and the early ads show a small phillips screw plugging the tapped hole in the left arm intended for the bug's main lever return spring adjustment screw. But most, if not all, of the units actually shipped had frames drilled specially for the Iambic, without the extra hole. In contrast to the introduction of the VibroKeyer, there was no confusion with the Iambic. From the start, it was offered either as a Standard model with a gray crackle-painted base, or as a Deluxe model with chromed base. About 1983 , a third model, the Iambic Presentation, was introduced. Like the Presentation model of the bug, this was the Deluxe model with a gold plated brass plate on the base. With the addition of the "Presentation Gold" from Alabama in 1995 , the Iambic is now available in four models. This latest model does away with the brass plate; the steel base itself is gold plated. Today, the Standard model has the latest "crisp black textured finish" used on the Standard model bug and Vibrokeyer. This unit is Serial number 4430 ----Information was compiled from various sources including The Vibroplex Co., INC. by William R. Holly K1BH and The Vibroplex collector's guide by Tom French W1IMQ

Autronic Paddle


      Interest in electronic keying among radio amateurs grew quickly after WWII, and it soon became clear that the keyer/paddle system would eventually predominate. By the late 1950's stand-alone paddles (as opposed to paddles incorporated into keyers} were being offered commercially. In 1960 , the Electrophysics Corporation, a California manufacturer of marine electronics located in Newport Beach, came out with a paddle it called the "Autronic." The price was $16.95

      The Autoronic was designed by John Jay Jakosky, W6QJR, and his son, John, Jr, K6ONJ. The senior Jakosky had been a railroad telegraph operator years earlier, and had held a two-letter ham call before the war.

      Paddles preceding the Autronic, wether commercial or home-brew, were simple in design and construction. They were of the single-lever type. Most of them were made like a sideswiper with electrically separated left and right contacts. Many homebrew creations were cut-down bugs [like the Vibroplex Zephyr!] or used a hacksaw blade for the lever. Jakosky's design involved a cast base, a "pivoted bifurcated yoke" that moved either with or independently of the main lever, and unusually long paddles on the lever. In June 1961 the Jakoskys applied for a patent on the key; patent no. 3,098,898 was issued on July 23 1963.

      The entire Jakosky family participated in the manufacture of the Autronic. During summer vacation from high school, John Jr's son (John III) assembled paddles. Electrophysics also offered a transistorized Autronic Keyer for use with the paddle. It had speed, weight and mode (automatic or semiautomatic) controls and a built-in sidetone monitor with speaker. Since the principal products of the company were marine oriented, it promoted the appropriateness of its Autronic key and keyer for shipboard use, even in its advertising to hams In QST and 73 Magazine.

      The underbase of the Autronic shown identifies its maker with the cast-in legend "Electrophysics Corporation / Newport Beach, Calif. " in small letters. In 1965 the company moved to Costa Mesa. The last ads for the Autronic paddle, at $19.95, appeared in 1968. There sales were limited. Soon after, the company sold off some of its product lines, including the key, but manufacture of the Autronic was not continued by the purchaser.

( Collected from bits and pieces from " N7CFO Keyletters 1992-1997) , ---- " TVC W1IMQ the Vail Correspondent 1992-1997 " --- N6TT the Telegraph-Wireless World , who bought a new set in 1966 and used them for 20 years.

Autotronic pic3 Autotronic Ad