Waterproof iambic paddles?

Has such a thing as waterproof iambic paddles ever been invented?
I can’t see a reason why not?



Just spotted this book too, that I’ve not seen before:


Hi Mark,
Once manufactured a cave diver’s light that used a small sliding magnet outside its case as a power switch. No reason one couldn’t use a back-and forth magnet to operate a dot reed switch one way and a dash reed switch the other. Depending on design, no limit on speed or depth. Bounce time on reed switches is so small that most existing CW keying circuits will easily handle it.


Thanks for the info Ken. I’m guessing the easiest option would be touch sensitive paddles, making a solid state design?

No feel however.


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Yes, have done those as well, for a Morse key.
Your point about tactile feedback is true. For either technology, tactile feedback could be provided by whatever one chooses for mechanical stops.
That said, distilled water, (rain) is almost nonconductive; maybe waterproofing is not really necessary.
Use a Mercury paddle at home QTH, and really appreciate its tactile feedback.

Here’s the earlier article about the iambic touch-paddle:

scroll down to page 8


Why would you need waterproof paddles? Does this have to do with British weather?

73 Heinz


Lake District weather - it’s either raining or about to rain.

I’ve got a specific application in mind that requires the paddles to be waterproof, although not necessarily in operation.

Thanks, Mark.


Maybe based on a capacitive touch paddle like this:

or this:

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You could try putting the paddle in a plastic bag with a zip tie to close the opening. Alternatively, to get the best feel, a long poly tube with the key at one (closed) end and reached with your bare arm through the open end.

But whether these would work in a strong wind is questionable. :slight_smile:

Or try a straight key. The bath tub key as used on Lancaster bombers is supposed to be waterproof. Still available on certain online auction sites but not cheap.

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Do you really mean waterproof (impervious to water)? I doubt you intend to immerse your paddles in water but rather use them in the rain.

In which case, paddles enclosed in a box should be rain-resistant. I’ve used my Palm Pico twin paddles (which have a plastic enclosure) in light rain without them malfunctioning. I found the limiting factor was not the key but my rig (e.g. KX2) which even under cover gets condensation under the display screen (from the high humidity from fog or rain at the summit) forcing me to go QRT prematurely.

I’ve also operated with my PP paddles inside my winter jacket pocket (magnetically held on a small metal sheet) with a 1.5m audio cable back to the rig, but that’s more for avoiding cold fingers in winter than the rain.

Heavy rain or light rain in a driving wind would be more of a challenge.


Hi Andy

Shower proof then. I suspect that military key development never reached iambic paddles, which is probably where I thought someone might go. I dare say there are dust proof/waterproof straight keys, not so sure about paddles.


They also have really terrible feel because of all the gasketing.

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I think that’s it, Mark.

For most of the 20th century the demand for weather-resistant Morse keys [and here we mean straight keys] would be coming from the military for use in the field and not from radio amateurs who – apart from a few oddballs – were using desktop SK’s in their shacks. Unless someone knows better, I suspect the sideswiper (cootie) and ’bug’ were not used (or used much) in the field by the military [Morse historians, please correct me if you know otherwise].

The widespread use of single- and dual-paddle keyers surely must date from the availability of cheap ICs that contain the logic [which as far as I can see the 8044 Series Keyer-on-a-Chip was the first in 1975]. By this time, the military were migrating away from Morse to voice and data modes. According to the Bravo Two Zero book I read (about the SAS foot patrols in the first Gulf war) special forces used straight keys if they used Morse at all.

It seems in conclusion that field use of paddle keyers is mainly for amateurs with amateur solutions at making them water resistant.

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Paddles in a plastic bag such as a freezer bag. Elastic band around the end of the bag where the cable comes out.

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Andy, are you suggesting operating the paddles/levers through the plastic bag? I use the lightest of touch with my thumb and forefinger and make mistakes wearing even thin gloves. I could never make my iambic paddles weep, sing or cry via a freezer bag.

I can send when wearing thick fleece/Thinsulate gloves. I’m fairly sure you can send with a few thou of plastic over the paddles.

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IIRC the T1154 as used in the Lancaster was specified to send at “up to” 12 WPM…

Ok, I’ll add a bit of context. I’ve installed my FT-857D on my motorbike. I’d like to install a morse key (static use only) but have it all good to go. Preferably paddles but a straight key would be ok. So some waterproofing would be good, not too expensive, appropriate size.

I appreciate this is fairly unorthodox but I’m really loving the install having had the goal of making it available for instant on and go.

The ATAS-120A has been very impressive. Furthest contact has been New Zealand SSB 50w.

It makes a great SOTA chasing radio, I never dreamed when I originally asked the question on the reflector so long ago about decent chasing rigs it would end up installed on a motorbike.

The radio itself is installed in a waterproof peli case.

Cheers Mark


I have built three or four pressure operated paddles that would work submerged. The circuit is similar to the VK3IL design but uses proper components, not insect droppings that have an urge to jump off the board at the approach of a soldering iron.
I sprayed the completed board with paddles with clear automotive enamel so condensation or even submersion would not be an issue.

I built them into a plastic box with cork feet but maybe magnets would be better for some.

While they work faultlessly I found the lack of movement unsatisfying and a bit soulless. I am currently using Putikeeg paddles. They aren’t particularly shower proof nor resistant to suicidal bugs crawling over the mechanical bits looking for a meal. But there are for me more pleasurable to use and cost around $50 (aud) to my door.

If anyone is interested in making pressure operated paddles PM me and I can send details. Also VK3IL has published his design.



They are rubbish as you say. But then the crew used gloves and were not operating under ideal conditions- I doubt they cared much about the keys.