Warning

 

Close

Confirm Action

Are you sure you wish to do this?

Confirm Cancel
BCM
User Panel

Posted: 2/17/2017 1:34:35 AM EDT
So I finally bought a paddle.  Want to get into CW without spending a small fortune and now I'm thinking I may have to do just that to be happy.

Here's the deal.  New key is a Vibroplex Square Racer Deluxe.

Mind you, I have never seen let alone used a paddle before so I am approaching this from the level of total n00b.

The instructions specifically say "On SQUARE RACERS, lever arms with paddles are shipped removed from the key to prevent damage in shipping!" Mine were attached.  Hmmm.

The thing that is already frustrating me is the magnets will not stay adjusted at all.  If I put a 1/16 gap (huge and makes the key feel really slow and mushy) they will eventually move and contact/stick to the lever arm which is obviously no good and destroys the feel.  It only takes a few minutes of use.  In the four hours of practice I put in tonight I had to readjust it about every five minutes.

I finally figured out the adjustments where I use it the best and I'm already making good progress.  I like the magnets about a sticky note width (using it like a feeler gauge and adjusting until I just get drag) from the lever arms but that's obviously not going to work for long with this thing.  Any further from the arms and I feel it returns too slow and is too light.  I figured out that 3/4" spacing at the tips of the paddles seems to work the best and I have the contacts set to where the very end of the paddles moves exactly 1/16".

So, any ideas on what to do about the moving magnets short of sending it back and getting a much more expensive key?  Also, since I have never seen a paddle before, how do the adjustments I decided on sound?  Too much travel?  Not enough?  I want to learn the correct way from the beginning.
Link Posted: 2/17/2017 4:08:10 AM EDT
[#1]
Congrats on getting into CW.
I'm not familiar with the key you got. Mine is a simple Bencher dual paddle. It's not the best but it works fine to 30 WPM. I use a home made, single paddle key for fast speed.
Paddle adjustments depend on personal preferences. I like very little gap and soft touch but I've seen some guys use as much as 1/4 gap in their paddles.
Magnetic return should be very nice and usually magnetic paddles can be adjusted to very little gap. The biggest benefit of magnetic return is very little contact bounce but it depends on the key model and quality.
Does your key have any springs attached to the levers? Maybe increased spring tension may help to eliminate the problem you are having? Can you take a picture of the key?
Vibroplex get mixed reviews. Some people love them, many hate them.

Also, check out K3ZN CW keys. I had a chance to play with his magnetic return, dual paddle keys and was very impressed. Sending 40+ WPM was super easy. Check him out. He also sells single paddle keys that many people prefer.
Begali is another, high quality manufacturer. Their keys not only work well but look great too. Current Euro to Dollar exchange rate makes their keys relatively inexpensive. They use gold plated contacts, ball bearings and the manufacturing quality is second to none. check them out.

Kent is another good, inexpensive key.

Keep in mind that it takes a lot of practice to get used to send CW with a straight key or a paddle.
Think about learning to send with your left hand. You'll thank me later, when you start making a lot of contacts. You can transmit with your left hand and write down notes with right hand. This is what I was told when I learned CW and I'm very glad I did listen to this advise. It's SO convenient!
Link Posted: 2/17/2017 12:00:09 PM EDT
[#2]
I looked at the N3ZN and Begali keys but didn't want to drop the dime until I knew I wanted to stick with it.

I was practicing HARD for about six hours last night.  It was 1:30am before I finally dragged myself away.  My lower arm was losing feeling.  It's definitely something I want to stick with.  I though it would be a lot harder to pick up.  Just kept keying email contents, cola can ingredients, even the instructions for the key.  Basically doing it like sight reading music.  See text, key text without thinking about it.  Definitely picking this up quickly.  Have the entire alphabet, a few punctuations, and the numbers committed.  I have the keyer set at 20 (my first goal for effective speed) and am effectively sending 10-12 with just enough mistakes to keep me interested.  I've been concentrating on the iambic technique and starting off right so I don't learn any bad habits.  The characters are starting to get automatic so I don't have to think about the actual sequence - just see or think letter and key it.

I will probably hit the lower portions of the bands this weekend and look for some slow keyers to QSO.  Problem I have now is if I set the keyer to under 15 my sending falls apart.  Never thought that would be a problem!  Also need to work on copying code but I noticed last night towards the end that my ability to copy went way up with all the sending.

Anyway, back to the key.  I put paper spacers in between the magnets to set the gap and hot snotted the hell out of the magnets to keep them from sliding.  It works a treat!  Ugly but works.  I still think the magnets could be about twice as strong as they are.

I'll stick with this key for a bit.  First, the weak return is FORCING me to be quick on the release.  Building a good technique.  Second, I'm not sure how the action of something like the N3ZN magnetic keys feels.  I know the adjustments look about a billion times more accurate and repeatable.
Link Posted: 2/17/2017 12:29:08 PM EDT
[#3]
I don't know anything about the Square Racer, so all I can do is wish you good luck with it.

I have 3 keys from N3ZN.  Two single lever paddles, and also the straight key.  With the paddles, I did have to adjust the contact spacing to my liking when they first arrived.  Never had to touch them since. I've never had to adjust the magnets on either paddle.  So once you get them set, I don't think you will ever have to worry about the settings changing.  I've had one paddle for over four years, and the other for about three years.

The straight key is very easy to adjust, and it is rock solid too.  Nothing ever changes.  

I also have a Begalli Blade, straight key. It is a very nice, well made key.  But for some reason, the N3ZN straight key just feels right to me.  So the Blade just sits on the shelf, and is not being used.


As for practice, you might try shorter sessions.  I think 20 minutes is a good length of time, and then take a break.  Maybe try that several times a day, rather than one long session.
Link Posted: 2/17/2017 2:15:38 PM EDT
[#4]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:

Anyway, back to the key.  I put paper spacers in between the magnets to set the gap and hot snotted the hell out of the magnets to keep them from sliding.  It works a treat!  Ugly but works.  I still think the magnets could be about twice as strong as they are.
View Quote


Try thread locker (loctite.)  Pull the magnets out a bit, apply a dab next to the block, set the magnets where you want them and remove the excess with a cotton swab.

Should provide enough friction and is easily cleaned up in the future should you wish to sell it.
Link Posted: 2/17/2017 4:16:58 PM EDT
[#5]
Congratulations on operating CW. As far as getting a signal out, it's the equivalent of adding a full-gallon amplifier.

The magnet problem is an old one, especially if the magnets are set too close to the moving arms. IMHO, there should be a set screw or locking nut to hold them in place.

If you're looking for QRS QSOs, check out the Straight Key Century Club operating frequencies.
Link Posted: 2/17/2017 4:47:01 PM EDT
[#6]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Quoted:
Congratulations on operating CW. As far as getting a signal out, it's the equivalent of adding a full-gallon amplifier.

The magnet problem is an old one, especially if the magnets are set too close to the moving arms. IMHO, there should be a set screw or locking nut to hold them in place.

If you're looking for QRS QSOs, check out the Straight Key Century Club operating frequencies.
View Quote


I could easily add some set screws on the mill.  Would even look factory.  For now the hot glue is working so I have time to think about it.  I think I'm going to give this key a shot over the next few months as I develop skill.  I've got it on my desk at work here connected to the 7300 and every once in a while will key out a few sentences for practice.

I think for better practice I'm going to start listening to the ARRL files a sentence at a time.  Hear sentence and copy it then re key it.  I'll get both TX and RX practice then and RX is where I need to focus before I go live.

If the weather looks good this weekend (and there are no major network outages I need to attend to!) I'll set up the antenna and find a n00bs freq.

Definitely agree on the CW getting through.  It's almost like JT65 for range in suboptimum conditions except you can do more than exchange signal reports!  Can't wait until I get halfway proficient.  I find it fascinating how CWers pack in tight during contests.  It's solid wall to wall CW - very bandwidth efficient.
Close Join Our Mail List to Stay Up To Date! Win a FREE Membership!

Sign up for the ARFCOM weekly newsletter and be entered to win a free ARFCOM membership. One new winner* is announced every week!

You will receive an email every Friday morning featuring the latest chatter from the hottest topics, breaking news surrounding legislation, as well as exclusive deals only available to ARFCOM email subscribers.


By signing up you agree to our User Agreement. *Must have a registered ARFCOM account to win.
Top Top