Historical straight key on the summit

Santa brought me an old swedish key ■ ■● ■●●■ / ■●● ●■● / ●■●● ●■ ●■● ●●●

I only learned cw with a paddle. Now I’m really excited about the wonderful key with the long arm. It feels like serving the machine station SAQ in Grimeton. The only thing missing is the matching uniform with peaked cap. :policeman:

Uwe, DK8OA shared my feelings during our last activity together.

73 Chris


Great video Chris, and a wonderful winter shack you had there.

Now all you should do is join the SKCC … it’s free!

They are a bunch of friendly CW operators, and going after their awards will only improve your keying.
But beware : it’s like SOTA, once you’re addicted, there is no way back :wink:

GL es 73,


Excellent Chris, hope you have fun with your new (old) straight key :+1:

I must try and make/source a small SK for occasional portable use. At home my favourite SK is my Phil Boyle (G0NVT) Marconi replica, which is a joy to send on:

Please do join SKCC as Luc recommends, its a great community with quite relaxed on-air activities throughout the year.

73, Jonathan


Great to see these pics guys! I have a new key arriving today, not a straight key however. I gave up with those when I got above 18 wpm, when using one started to feel like hard work. This new key is the first key I have bought for over 20 years, I just felt like a change looking at my two Benchers. I hope I made the right decision and it suits my heavy handed style. It’s a good day in the G4OBK household - I got a £175 win on the February premium bonds which will mostly pay for my new iambic key… I won’t post a photo on here and blight the “historical thread” Chris, whilst the makers name on the key is historic, the design on my new key dates back to the late 1970s I understand, which doesn’t count as historical in my book, albeit it is a 50 years old design!

73 Phil G4OBK

PS If there were to be a straight key Chasers day I wouldn’t mind taking part, however unlike Chris I think it unlikely that I would want to use one on a summit as Chris and Uwe did.


Chris, it looks very nice and I hope it’s not as heavy to carry as Andy’s @MM0FMF anvil.

I’m hoping Tom @M1EYP or someone will organize another ‘minority modes & bands’ SOTA event for 2023 because I’ld like to see a ‘straight key / cootie / bug’ session.

My Palm PPK straight key is under-used for the same reason Phil @G4OBK mentioned, it’s hard work SK-keying for a long period when one isn’t used to it but if most activators & chasers were using a SK, I would feel more comfortable using mine.


This morse key was built in the Swiss telegraph factory Gustav Adolf Hasler (1880 to 1909). It is a special model, with 2 independent contacts (1x contact, 1x changeover or duplex) which was mainly used by the Swiss railway companies.

My key was used by the Rhaetian Railway Company and, after my licensing, became my only key for more than a year (approx. 500 QSOs). At the beginning of 1976 a Heathkit HD-1410 was added and later different paddles together with the ingenious Logikey K-5.


Fun subject Chris. A picture of my railway key, an early Ericsson abt 1880.


Talking about age, Phil G4OBK, made an estimate earlier in the thread, but I know Chris’ key design is older than that. I was in the military in 1965 and we had that same key. I have also spoken with a friend, an elderly HAM, who was 10 years ahead of me in the military. He had the same key in 1955. It was widely used in the training facilities and in different stations. Therefore, a good guess is the key design originated in the early 1950s, which makes your key 70+ years. In other words Chris - a (historic) key!
I think the correct word should be VINTAGE (over 50 years old but less than a 100)


Congratulations Chris for your effort in activating on a straight key.

I jumped out the sofa when I saw your spot and enjoyed the qso. You sounded great and dealt fine with the pile up.
It’s very good to have another CW op in the herd.

73 dit dit

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My apologies Lars, my earlier message wasn’t so clear. I have now amended the text. The key I was talking about was the one I just bought which arrived today (1970s design) - not the one Chris was using. I hope what I meant is now a little clearer. It isn’t a hand key that I bought so I won’t enter it into this excellent thread, that pictures lots of beautiful traditional mechanisms. I’ll send you a photo directly of my new key. I broke it in this afternoon before a visitor arrived and took me out of the shack. Withe the new key I logged Bruno @hb9cbr and @ea5dd, on HB/BE-178 (ATNO) and EA5/AT-002 respectively. I heard you in the pile ups today a couple of times, nothing unusual in that though hihi!

73 Phil G4OBK

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This is the tiny Russian ‘Spy Key’ I’ve used for almost all my portable operations. I’ve added a little base for it as it tilted on operation. Its bombproof. They turn up from time to time on EBay. I can use it at 18wpm with no real problems and have used it for over an hour at a time.

Here’s another similar one on review. A look at a Russian Morse Key for portable use - YouTube

Both keys are extremely well made.



I’m up for a straight key event, I have activated with a straight key occasionally. What amazes me is that the RBN still picks me up!

73, Colin


Would be up for a straight key weekend…chasing and activating

Only been using cw for a year, and learned using a paddle. My straight key is a Kent that I picked up second hand

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It didn’t the first time I tried a straight key but after a bit of practice I suddenly appeared on the map! :slight_smile:


I learnt CW on a Kent key, the experience was not good, but I did satisfy the GPO man that I could “send and receive at 12WPM”. I have a very light touch and having my wrist in space was uncomfortable to say the least. So for 30 years I have used a Bencher to send CW iambically. Then last year I decided to give SK a try. I tried an ex mil 15amper, but it did not cut the mustard (for me).
Then, Christine my XYL, found on You Tube a film from the American Army training on the J47 key. Being of Yorkshire stock I was not impressed with the current price of the J47 so I decided to make one from scratch… My design included:

  1. Low profile, the button is only 20mm above the bench
  2. Pre-loaded deep ball trunion bearings.
  3. Magnets instead of return spring.
  4. Small silver alloy contacts to raise the current density when using 15mA at 5V keying CCT.
  5. Contact wipe designed into the movement.
  6. Designed in over-travel .
  7. Low inertia and high strength stainless 304 components.

The result is the key in the picture except that I have now included a swan neck in the bar, lowering the button a further 5mm.
It does what I wanted and 12 months on I am getting better at rag chewing using my 40m HB QSK rig. Just need to teach it to spell!


I switched to iambic keying a few years after passing the Morse test and getting my full license (M0ALC) in the mid 90’s. But I too got back into straight-keying about four years ago after ~20 years of twin paddling.

Interesting to watch the video about the small Russian SK. The speaker confirmed my experience, i.e. it’s harder / more effort / less relaxing to use a small portable SK due to its short lever compared to the normal larger desk ones.

Whilst my Palm PPK is well engineered I wouldn’t want to use it for the CW rag-chews I have in the shack that I do with my Kent KT-1 Pro SK.

The video also highlights the problem in the field of mounting a small SK. Since I started SOTA, on almost all of my CW activations, I’ve used a homemade leg strap (a small steel plate attached to a long Velcro strip) to mount my Palm Pico twin paddles. It works beautifully because twin paddles of course have no rocking motion (only the gentle squeezing action between finger and thumb).

However, a SK on the leg strap - even set for low-force keying - causes a front-to-back rocking requiring use of one’s other hand to steady the key. And if I use a bit too much force on the key, that can break the magnetic force between the PPK’s magnetic base and the plate.

I have a board [made from the front & back hard covers of an old shopping catalogue with a steel plate glued in one corner] which I take if room, and on which I can also rest my log book.

The combination of short-lever action and imperfect mounting surface of the portable SK limits my sending speed to about ~18wpm. Fortunately, the overs are short with SOTA QSOs which helps.

73 Andy G8CPZ / M0ALC



I nearly always arrange my sitting position so I can rest the key, and if I can my elbow, on a decent sized rock. If I can’t i rest the key on an A4 board I rest my log book on.

I don’t trust the leg key - I’ve got up before to change the links and taken my radio with it (when wearing ear-phones!!) No to be repeated.


Hi Dave,

My priority for a sitting location is shelter from the wind usually with my back to rocks above my head. There’s rarely a convenient large rock in front of me to act as a low table for the key hence my using the leg strap on 99% of CW ops.

I use a 1m-long cable (with 3.5mm and 2.5mm jack plugs) between my Palm Pico paddles and the KX2 so I can stand up, lie on one side or sit with legs out whilst keying. That avoids yanking the rig about if I forget about being ‘wired’ into the radio.
2021-06xx Place Fell Leg Strap Keying 2
Rare photo (taken by Mark @M0NOM) of the author on hot summer joint activation

I tried the straight key with the leg strap a few times and gave up, and now use that homemade board shown in my last post. I suspect military users (like solo aeroplane pilots) in WWII, etc had a larger plate on their thigh to help reduce the rocking motion.


Impressive! More than 140 years old, still working perfectly and still hard to beat. Developed at a time when wireless telegraphy existed only in the imagination.

The irony of the story: When Heinrich Hertz was able to prove the essential basics of radio technology in 1886, he was asked what practical application his discovery would have. His answer: “None”
73 Chris


Absolutely! Probably older than me, because in 1955 I gave my first signs of myself.

By the way, radio technology must be innate to me. When I could hardly speak, every time we visited my grandparents I should have asked "WHERE IS ANTENNA?

73 Chris