CW key dilemma

Well here we are it's almost the end of 2017 as I was out for a pint with my Ipad and looking at some of the blogs  I follow. I came across PE4BAS's blog and after reading his post I checked out the blogs that he follows to see what else was new in blog world. As I scrolled down I came across the blogs that have not posted in over a month. Low and behold there was VE3WDM.....it has been over 4 weeks since my last post!! I have to be honest this is not the first time I have gone for a month without posting. There was a time when I was posting twice a week and for sure once a week, since our move to Toronto I have not been on the radio as much as I would like. In the evenings  after dinner I just feel too tired to get on the radio. Anyway......I did get on the radio this weekend and found the RAC Canada Winter contest in full swing. I was not prepared to give the contest a full out go but I was able to make a leisurely 7 contacts. With my modest setup I was able to contact CW coast to coast in Canada and a station in France. What I like to do is have QRZ.COM going in the background on the computer as I make a contact I look them up and read about their station.

Some time ago I purchased a Begali Key, the Contour key. I have read lots about having a good key, of how it makes sending the code an art. I have to say that from day one the Contour key and I have had a love-hate relationship! The craftsmanship of the key is next to none as are all of the Begali keys. I am not sure if it's just this key or the contour keys but for way to long when ever I use this key I send extra dots and dashes or the spacing gets screwed up. I used to think it was just me and my sloppy fist until I did more portable op's and used the Mini Palm paddle.  I just never seemed to miss a beat with this paddle there was no extra anything and the code was very smooth all the time. I have contacted Begali and exchanged many emails about adjusting the key, cleaning the contacts on the key and spacing the contacts on the key. It just seems to be the same old frustration with the Contour key. When I got on the radio today for the RAC contest I started out with the Begali key and after sending some very simple but very embarrassing exchanges I switched to the Mini Palm Paddle and exchanges were sent with not one error. I would put the Begali key up for sale in a second but it has my call engraved in it. I still think nothing can be said for a good quality key but it seems the Begali Contour is just not for me.
Mike Weir, VE3WDM, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Ontario, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

8 Responses to “CW key dilemma”

  • Walter Underwood (K6WRU):

    Maybe you can buy a replacement, non-engraved base from Begali and sell the key.

    wunder

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Good morning Walter, I will look into that but I’m thinking it would cost more to get rid of it than keep it.
    73 and Happy New Year
    Mike

  • Pete W6LAW:

    I have used a Mini Palm paddle for years. Had it mounted on my right handlebar of my BMW cycle next to a Morse Express Christmas straight key. Loved it. Always worked great on the long highways with the cruise control on!!
    dit dit.

  • Clint - KA7OEI:

    I have a Begali Signature and the right-hand contacts became flaky, with the resistance often being in the 100s of ohms, but varying from nearly zero to open. It was bad enough that I went back to my Bencher – but it bothered me since fixing the problem should have been easy to do!

    After several bouts of cleaning, making sure that set screws were tight, etc. – all of which seemed to help for a short time – I even put a dab of silver conductive grease on the tiny spring in the bottom screw that holds the bearing in place that also helps to guarantee a connection between the base and the lever, but to no avail.

    I finally noticed a nearly-hidden Allen-key grub screw – the one that attaches the lever arm to a vertical shaft and thus the ground: This screw was very loose and tightening it fixed all of the ills. The aluminum lever is very darkly anodized and doesn’t make good contact unless this screw is secure. Since tightening this grub screw, it has been 100%.

    Checking for these hidden screws has likely been suggested previously, but just in case someone else that reads this has a similar problem…

  • mike ve3wdm:

    Good afternoon Pete, I guess it would pass the time if you were out on a long ride.
    73 and thanks for stopping by and sharing.
    Mike

  • mike ve3wdm:

    Good afternoon Clint, thanks for the great information and the issue and solutions you tried were right down the same road I have been going on. I will for sure check to see if there is an issue with this grub screw…..and any others I may find.
    73 and thanks for taking the time to share your information.
    Mike

  • Nolan Kienitz - KI5IO:

    Mike – I’ve had a similar experience with my Begali Signature that I’ve had for a couple years. Just could not get comfortable with the key and just could not get a fluid motion with it’s use. Kept adding/subtracting dits/dahs no matter what I tried.

    My call was also engraved on the key, but I was able to sell it to another OM in Southeast Texas and told him of a place that would make a very nice self-stick nameplate he could get and put over the call sign. I had to do that on a Begali Blade that I was gifted from another OM. His call was engraved and the label I got with my call has covered that up and looks quite nice.

    Since the sale of the Signature I got a TBK-II single-lever paddle that is working far better for me … albeit I am still practicing with it to continue to improve.

    As we have always heard: Practice, practice, practice and then … practice some more.

    Seems like several OMs using iambics migrate to a single-lever paddle key and after the transition are far more comfortable with their operation.

    Food for thought anyway.

    HNY to everyone.

  • Phil G0BVD:

    Hi Mike, I own a Bencher BY1 never been used on a live qso, getting back into CW last qso was 1985!! I have been told purchase a Begali magnetic key is the one you have magnetic? 73 Phil

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