A warm Christmas wish to everyone celebrating this holiday. Over here in Taiwan it is business as usual since December 25 was axed as a day off many years ago. Nevertheless, we do have some Christmas cheer and we will save up the rest for Chinese New Year next February.

Like many of you, I also haven’t had much radio time lately. Life is busy with my three full time jobs (father, housekeeper and teacher) and both the sun and local noise haven’t given me much pleasure when turning on the radio. But I did get a new toy and have been playing with it for the last two weeks. My always lovely wife was so nice to purchase some telegraph keys in China on her last trip there. The one I’m playing with now is this beauty….


a NOS D-117 straight key from the Tianjin City Xinxing Communication Devices Factory. All shiny and very heavy: almost a kilogram. Unfortunately the box had been taped over, but after carefully peeling away the paper the stamped on date of packing was just visible and it read 1973. So I got a real piece of history in my hands as it was made during the cultural revolution. Even after 41 years the spring was still as stiff as a board. After keying with it for only a few minutes I could already feel my wrist getting sore. 24 hours of compressing the spring helped a bit, although my elmer and QSL manager PG2W would still find the tension too high. As faith would have it, my first on-air QSO with this key was with BG3FB who happens to live in Tianjin City, the place where the key was made 41 years ago.

So how do I like this key? It’s a joy to operate. Solid as a rock and if I bring the spring tension further down (and reduce my heavy pounding a bit) even the last bit of sliding will be gone. In overall performance I rate it just below the Junker key; you can’t beat German excellence. A keeper and if you can get your hands on one I recommend it heartilly.

A couple more days till Straight Key Night and the SKCC January Celebration. So get those straight keys and bugs out and start practising. 73!

Hans "Fong" van den Boogert, BX2ABT, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Taiwan. Contact him at [email protected].

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