For those who tried to chase me up on Mt Pilchuck today, I’m sorry for the problem I had with the keyer. After two contacts, random dashes, no dashes, and then strings of dashes started happening. It was intermittent, and the paddle wouldn’t do anything at times. I twisted, poked and prodded to no avail. Finally the radio didn’t recognize the paddle at all, and I surrendered. Holding the paddle sideways I worked it as a tiny straight key as best I could. It was slow, and it was ugly!
At home now, everything works fine. The cable and paddle are good, and the radio works fine - even after sitting on a bed of ice cubes here for a couple hours. It was about 36 degrees up there and sunny. The radio was sitting on a snowy ledge on the rock in front of me. My best guess now is that I got some snow into the rig through the key/paddle socket.
As a famous ham once said “After all… tomorrow is another day”!
That sounds very much like the problem I had with my paddle on an activation. I also turned it sideways and used it as a straight key, but with some spasmodic letters.
It turned out to be the cable. Winding the cable up around the paddle many times eventually damaged the inner conductors enough that they became erratic. Very frustrating and must have sounded very strange to the chasers. I cut the last 4 or 6 inches of cable off and resoldered it to the paddle, just to prove the connector and radio were ok.
I thought my problem was with the cable too - the paddle is too simple and easy to visually check. The problem is gone now, and no amount of flexing and tugging brings it back. Like I said, I even put the rig on ice looking for the trouble. I’m now convinced I was just careless with the plug and all the loose snow. Of course, a spare paddle is going along for the next trip!
73, Fred - N7KRN
Well you made it work…that’s the old ham spirit. The snow was most likely the problem. A bit of off topic, but it may be of help to some. I had very similar problems with an AME Morse paddle. From what I could find, the internal keyer on the K1 and FT-817, and probably most others, work on resistance, not just making and breaking a connection. This caused me no end of frustration with an AME Mini-B paddle. It would work fine for a day or two, then begin to insert random dahs in with the dits, and vice versa. I tried everything with no luck. The cord seemed to have no effect, but taking the key apart and re-assembling it did, at least for a few days. Long story short; the key is made from aluminum, the paddle arm pins and contacts are stainless steal. Galvanic Corrosion! It was affecting the resistance the keyer was seeing, leading to random strings of hog Morse. I picked up a product called Ox-Gard at Lowes and gave the pins and contact screws a very thin coating, the problem was solved. Its been over a year and the key has seen humidity, rain, and snow (but not in the plug, HI) with no problems whatsoever. I’m sure the snow was causing your intermittent keying, but I have seen a few other activators using a Mini-B, this may be of help to them. All the best, and I’ll listen for you on the hills.
Great information Bob, I’ll keep that in mind and perhaps use some Ox-Gard on the paddle contacts and antenna links. Thanks!
73, Fred - N7KRN
I agree with Bob - nice job improvising and using the paddle as a straight key - a true ham adventure! For my first dozen or so activations I used a homebrew paddle built with circuit board material for the “swing arm” contacting a brass common post. It wasn’t long before the copper on the circuit board material tarnished, which affected the contact resistance and caused random code. Chasers hung in there and copied me through my struggles no doubt thinking that was possibly my usual code expertise !! I switched to an old Ham Key paddle that typically has no issues in any environment with my KX-1. I recently built a CW “adapter” for my Radio Shack HTX-10 to use for the 10 meter Challenge - the “adapter” has a built in PIC keyer and I use the same Ham Key and cable I use with my KX-1. The adapter arrangement produced perfect CW on the bench to a dummy load. Field use however exhibited the same symptoms you described. In my situation RF was on the key line causing the keyer to barf whatever code it could. If cleaning contacts on your keyer doesn’t solve the problem you may have an issue with RF - In any case you’re improving your straight key skills !!
good luck and 73 Rick WB0USI
Thanks Rick, for another “good to know” troubleshooting clue. I don’t want to subject our dedicated chasers to very much of my straight key practice though - that would probably start a new reflector category: “Cruel and Unusual”.
73, Fred - N7KRN