PG4I's keys.



After having acquired my license in 1977 and making a couple of QSO's with a straight key, I switched to a Bencher paddle which served me for several years. I was a very active contester using the callsign PA3ABA and also was participating in several multi-multi stations. At some point I became more interested in the technical aspects of Amateur Radio and until 2018 I hardly made any QSO's but spent most of the time homebrewing equipment. Then a friend (now YL3JD) told me he was interested in learning CW which somehow motivated me to get back on the air. Being a member of the SKCC (Straight Key Century Club) I began participating in their activities and discovered the joy of operating mechanical keys: straight keys, bugs and sideswipers. 50 percent of my QSO's now are done with a bug or sideswiper with the occasional QRS QSO using a straight key. My first sideswiper was a metal ruler screwed onto a piece of wood and attached to a table with a clamp screw! [PG4I].

The Begali Sculpture Swing.

PG4I's Begali Sculpture Swing Sideswiper, click to enlarge picture. My daily key is the Begali Sculpture Swing. Although my only experience with a commercial sideswiper I would call it the ultimate key! Just about everything on this key is adjustable. Contact tension, contact distance, lever tension/damping, return force and arm length. All very easy to control. I like using this key with a light touch and a relatively short arm for the higher speeds up to 25 wpm. But at the same time, using the key at around 12 wpm with the same configuration is no problem. [PG4I].

Homebrew Hacksaw Blade SideSwiper.

PG4I's Homebrew Hacksaw Blade Sideswiper, click to enlarge picture. I made several attempts trying to create a sideswiper with a hacksaw blade. The metal base was taken from an old bug which needed a much heavier base anyway. The first versions would still move around the table and vibrate uncontrollably. The base was made heavier by adding a thick piece of brass. A couple of small magnets were used to provide some damping. Contacts were made from an old relay. Overall, this key was cheap to make and operation is easy. I tend to take this key with me on holidays because of it's robustness. [PG4I].

Long Arm QRS Sideswiper.

PG4I's Long Arm QRS Sideswiper., click to enlarge picture. This key came with an internet sale and was included with homebrew transceiver. The flexible arm is mounted onto a heavy piece of wood as a base. When I got this key it was in a very bad state, so I filled up all the holes in the wooden base with some filler, sanded it and painted it black to cover up all the scars. A piece of shrink tube was glued to the base to provide some damping. Because of the long arm this key is suitable for lower speeds. It has a very distinct sound. [PG4I].

Vibrokeyer Sideswiper.

PG4I's Vibrokeyer Sideswiper., click to enlarge picture. This key was given to me by PA0DIN (SK). He told me it used to belong to a blind hamradio operator. The base of this key was full of holes and had a dull beige color. The holes were used to attach the key to a table when operating. After sanding and filling up the holes I painted the base black and it looked much nicer. Because dots and dashed are swapped on my paddles, I converted the key from right-handed to left-handed by turning the lever upside down and moving all of the contacts to the other side. But I never liked the feel of this key as a paddle. So I converted the key to a sideswiper by removing the big knob and copying the thumb piece to the other side. Sending with this key as a sideswiper is a bit odd because of the rigidness of the lever, there is no flex. But if you increase the contact spacing, it can produce reasonable code. [PG4I].