A Very Simple CW Key and Keyer

So I finally got around to building a very simple CW practice setup. Initially, after a little window shopping for keys and keyers, and being frustrated with the prices I saw, I thought there had to be something cheaper. I became determined to wade through the sometimes confusion terminology, figure out what exactly I needed and make it. What I found was that making a paddle or key is so simple it’s almost disappointing, but it turned out to be super exciting nonetheless. I found “plans” for what the maker was calling The Hackey, which is a simple 3-wire iambic key that uses an old hacksaw blade for the dit and dah switches. Pretty brilliant, simple and cheap. So I started collecting parts as I’d find them. I finally got the parts for the paddle together… now what? For a paddle or iambic key to work, you have to have a keyer. This is a point that I had some trouble with initially.

The key and keyer are separate devices. A key can refer to a straight key, paddle or iambic key. With a straight key, the user controls the dit and dah length, letter spacing, word spacing, everything. This can be very difficult for a beginner to learn to send clear code especially at a reasonable speed. For a paddle or iambic key to work, you need an electronic keyer and generates the dit and dah tones automatically for you. This is not to say that it will generate code for you. It just generates the dits and dahs at the correct length and spacing. A keyer for a paddle will just generate a dit or dah repeatedly, with the correct spacing, while you hold that the paddle to that side. A paddle key is such that the paddle is ground and the two contacts are dit or dah. A paddles and greatly increase the speed and accuracy of your code. An iambic keyer has two “paddles” with a center contact, such that the center is ground and the each paddles is dit or dah. The iambic key will generate a dit with one side or dah or alternating dits and dahs of the paddles are squeezed to the center contact. This method can be used to send fast code with minimal physical input.

Much of this is probably over-simplified. I’ll expand on this post as I learn more about keys and keyers.