Straight keys for activating?

Does anyone that uses a straight key for activating have one they’d recommend? Does anyone use a straight key for activation? I am aware of the Palm PPK but other than that haven’t found much for portable use. Definitely open to homebrew/DIY suggestions in addition to commercial ones.


Hi Joe,
For normal operations, I use a Palm Mini. For cold operations, where fingers might not do so well, I use a J-45 leg clip key. Not the lightest, however, the key does fold into the clip for protection and reduced volume.
All best, Ken K6HPX

1 Like

Hi Joe,
I’ve looked into the Palm straight key and although it looks nice (and is very light) I wonder if it is a little too light for comfortable straight keying? I’m currently wiring up an old Czech army key to use on the hills. Not the lightest but I do very much like the action.

The old J37 keys are fairly lightweight from memory? There a few 3d printed light keys online but I’ve no idea what they’re like to use:

1 Like

Hi Joe

Try this Clansmam military key. Very nice feeling and lightweight. And cheap… :slight_smile:
Pedro, CT1DBS


I use Whiterook mini paddles and keys when I activate with my KX3 or FT-817. They are lightweight with a plastic base that one can interchange with a leg-strap base. There also is a straight key version. See Mini CW Paddles, Morse Code Keys & Keyers : Electronics USA

Scott WA9STI
Los Angeles

I have a hi-mound key that i use for some portable work but have never used it for SOTA. I took it on a recent activation as one of my regular contacts wanted a skcc contact. I have an skcc number but rarely declare it as i almost 100% use a paddle, which disqualifies the contact under skcc rules.

I also use a leg mount key similar to K6HPX except mine is a J-37. I find them highly reliable, and it allows me to hold my log pad in my left hand, write with my right and also send with the right. it is a little heavier than some but as Ken said it folds into the clip. The leg clip can get uncomfortable after an hour; but, I am rarely on a summit for that long.

I have the Palm Mini Paddle, and the Palm PPK for back-up. I use the Palm Mini Paddle on nearly all activations.

Last year I hit an unknown combination of keys whilst on an activation, and couldn’t get the Mini Paddle working at the time, so I had to rely on the Palm PPK - boy was I glad I had it with me. I sorted out the Mini Paddle when I got home.

I learnt on a straight key before going to sea, so can send on one comfortably at 20-22 WPM, but I was a bit slower on this one at about 16-17 WPM, so it did the job and saved the day. Whilst it is small, light and compact, and is great for SOTA, I prefer a bigger key.

The Czech army key above has a nice action, although I would prefer a different knob. The best morse key know I ever found is the one on the British Air Ministry Bathtub and Type “D” morse keys, but that’s only my personal preference.


1 Like

Hi Ed, The J-45 is a J-37 mounted on the hinged clip. Later produced with a “KY-xxx” number on the clip band.

Best, Ken, K6HPX

Is there any other kind of activation? It always seems to be cold where I go in Scotland! As well as the dreaded cold fingers (enhanced by Reynaud’s), I often suffer from rain or snow on the key. An update to its housing is in hand. At least the combination of bad hands and bad weather gives me every excuse to send poor quality morse. :laughing:

73, Gerald G4OIG (GM4OIG/P)
Straight keys forever - the KISS principle applies!


Why didn’t I think of this Gerald?! I have been waiting for summer wx to activate with code when I have this perfectly reasonable excuse, er explanation, sitting right there! :grinning:

Look for my last message on reflector
vy 73 de Mariusz

Try a sensor key (I cobbled one together from three transistors in a Darlington arrangement). It may not be suitable for QRQ, but even with my off hand I manage to produce tolerable signals.

1 Like

Hi Joe,
I like the American Morse straight key - available leg strap too.



Oh, I forgot to mention that shivering in the cold helps with the transmission of utter nonsense. I really admire the commitment of chasers when I am operating under such conditions. My last activation (Windy Standard GM/SS-071, 30/12/2017) must have been the worst ever in terms of utter drivel being sent courtesy of the snow falling at the time which repeatedly bridged the contacts.

Another issue I have found while operating in bad weather is rain preventing use of my smart phone. On one summit I was about to self-spot and a drop of rain landed and I watched in amazement as everything I had just written was erased in reverse order.

Here’s to hoping for dry calm conditions on the next few outings!

73, Gerald G4OIG

Good thinking, David. I hadn’t considered taking a backup key :ok_hand:

1 Like

If you can find one, the Jardillier French field key is a great one. Will hold up to punishment.

Another option is the American Morse KK1B

1 Like

Thanks much for all the suggestions – very helpful! A few I’d seen, but most I hadn’t.