Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Keys to a Key

Been a while.
Busy getting the next generation ready for the real world.
Sort of.
Also been hamming it up!
Radio ham I mean.
Also got back into CW, which in ham talk is carrier wave or for you laymans out there, morse code.
I got me some new keys, as opposed to the old key, and I wanted to share some thoughts.

Here's my old key.
The key I started with way back when, a Viking Speed-X.
Not a great key, but a good inexpensive key.
Oh yes, telegraph keys can get a bit pricey.
Anyways, since I'm getting back in the whole thing I figured there must be some newfangled keys by now; the last time I shopped for a key was like thirty years ago.
Off to the eVilness!

Navy Flameproof key!
I believe produced during the war by four different manufacturers.  Called Flameproof because the key was sealed where contact was made therefore it wouldn't/shouldn't start any fires/explosions if there were any flammable fumes in the air.
Great key!
Sort of takes some getting used to because it's difficult to practice with unless it's plugged in.
I believe contact is made on an upstroke so you hear both the key up and down.
Better to plug it in and hear a tone.

The Vizkey Camelback.
Steppin up the plate now!
I had to wait like five weeks for this puppy!
The camelback design is because of course, the hump on the lever.
Machined in brass and SS, it is a very nice key.
Except it's a bit touchy.
I mean for me and my style of keying, it's a bit difficult to adjust.  There is definitely a sweet spot, and if I'm not in that sweet spot, I sound like my five year old nephew trying to call CQ.
Very strange!
The Viking key, while simpler in design, has a wider range of operation.  I mean you don't need to be right on in your adjustments in order to send decent code.
On the Vizkey, for me, it has to be 'right there' or my dits sound strained and hurried; just plain bad.
I was a little disappointed when I first got it for I had hard time setting it up.
Again, that's just me.

Now we're talking.
I mean keying.
PB213 by Phil Boyle, G0NVT.
After fooling with it a bit and reading the instructions! this key is really really really nice.
Did I say this key was really nice?
It's honking big!

Not an illusion, that's the Vizkey right behind.
This is a man sized key for man sized morse code!
Sorry for the inferior images, this key is hard to shoot since its all chrome and black.
This key has two adjustments as usual, but besides the spring load, the contact is in the rear and spring loaded upwards also.
It has a very unique feel, not like a regular key and not unlike the Navy Flameproof, except smoother.
Phil has made some changes to the original 213 design and I like it.
Flat Tire Approved!
Spend the cash, it's worth it.
I didn't think keys would be that different.
Of course I don't have years of CW time though long ago when I first got my ticket I was all CW all the time.  My Viking treated me well.
If you the reader, have been following along at home, then you also know that these aren't the only keys I have.
I also have two other inexpensive keys I fool with.
Bottom line is, the key does make a difference in the way you send code.
It can make it easier, or harder, and just plain more enjoyable!
Okay, I'll say it again: image is everything.
So if you have a honking big key then at least you look like you know what you're doing!
I mean if you got a key like that, you better be sending at like 5 gagillion words a minute!
I'm up to around 10.
Words per minute that is.
Of course this is not the end of Quest for Key (QFK).
There is this guy in Italy...
More on that later.

Saturday, August 27, 2016


That's right.
WWD baby!
Once I get going there's no stopping me!
I think.
Well, here's the evidence:

My new to me transceiver!
Oh yeah baby a dual band VHF/UHF radio!
First of all lemme tell you, ham radio has changed since the last time I keyed a microphone.
Now everyone is linked up on the internets via things called nodes and you can pretty much talk world wide on UHF.
That's like the 70cm  band in ham talk.
Back in the olden days UHF was pretty much dead.
I mean you could talk on it, but no one did cause most of the action was on VHF.
By the way, VHF stands for Very High Frequency.
Guess what UHF is...
That's right!
Ultra High Frequency!
Boy, you gotta hand it to those FCC dudes to come up with some fancy names for radio frequencies.
Anyways, I've been monitoring this thing called the Winsystem, a system of repeaters and nodes that are pretty much world wide.
Interesting to listen to say, England on the FM side of radio.
The only times I ever got into Europe was on CW (carrier wave) using Morse code.
Now the world is just a mike key away!
So anyways, I was thinking long and hard between paychecks about what kind of station I wanted to do.
First of all, I wanted to have independent power:

There's my deep cycle 12 volt marine battery sitting outside on my lanai.
Along with all the wires sticking out from under my window.
I may eventually use two batteries running is series so I have some reserve power.
For now I got this:

Slow rate trickle charger, about 1.5 amps.
That will be the back up, you know, in case it rains cause the next step is a solar charging panel.
Looks I need about 25 watts, but I'm still researching that part.
Because of my building I'm only getting direct sun about half the day, that's why I need the back up trickle charger.
I'm running a sort of portable antenna for now, but a real one is on the way.
I sort of wanted to make sure I wanted to really get back into being a ham until spending the big bucks.
Which I'm starting to spend.
Oh boy.
Actually it's not so bad since there's like tons of used stuff on the eVilness and it's not like you can reinvent the radio.
One of the first things I got was a new microphone.
I mean sounding good is everything.
If you know what I mean.
So off I went in search of audio bliss:

That's right static fans!
The World Wide Turner +3 desk mike!
You are not a radio operator unless you've had one of these babies!
All good except these were designed for CB radio and for AM and SSB use.
Not for FM.
Which is what I'm talking on.
Thankfully it sounds pretty good on FM because I got two of em.
You know, one for a back up.
Okay, so I'm on my way!
Burning up the airwaves!
World Wide Domination (WWD) is next!
I even found my old key: