From the sublime

to the not so sublime.

I had a very nice QSO with Eric AC8LJ tonight on 40 Meters. Eric was running QRP from Charleston, WV – a newly built K1 at 5 Watts to a dipole up about 45 feet.  His signal was superb and by the way, he is friends with fellow blogger and good friend John N8ZYA who also hails from Charleston.

The best thing about the QSO with Eric was his fist – it was fantastic. His sending was top notch and made for an easy QSO.  The QSB was getting to us as the band changed; and I am so sorry that it was.  I hated for the QSO to end.

But end it did, and after it did, as I was entering the QSO information into my log, I was listening to another station call CQ just a few Hz up the band.  He had a superb signal also, but I hesitated to call him.

As Joan Rivers was famous for saying …….. “Can we talk?”

I didn’t answer the station a few Hz up, because just from his CQ, I could tell that it would have been painful. Look, I’m just another “Joe Ham” like the rest of you guys; I’m not a “CW Snob”, but I have learned a few things in my 35 years of being on the air.  Can I share a couple of things?

First off – don’t send “CQ” endlessly.  Right now as I type this K1ON is sending a CQ on 60 Meters.  His sending is just a skosh above my comfort zone; but it is superb.  Three CQs followed by “de” and then his call sign twice.  He is repeating this series once and then listening before starting again.


Now THAT’S the hallmark of a Ham who knows what he’s doing.

You don’t need to call CQ ten or twenty times before sending your call!  It’s not serving any useful purpose and in fact, it’s maddening.  And please use “de” in between CQ and your call sign.  I don’t remember any big announcement saying that we were going to drop it.  Besides, if you can call CQ umpteen times, do you really think you’re saving a lot of time by dropping the “de”?

Secondly, the Real Estate folk are famous for saying “Location, location, location”.  I think the CW folk need their own mantra. Can I suggest one?  How about “Spacing, spacing, spacing”?

Send at a speed that is comfortable for you.  And don’t rush it!  Let it flow, like a lazy river or fine wine.

Seriously, do you want to get on the air and have me torture your ears with


Or even worse,


I don’t think so.

Take your time and take a breath!  Nobody likes to read run on sentences and no one wants to have to decode run on, gibberish CW.  If you find yourself calling CQ endlessly, and you know your antenna working because RBN has spotters showing you at 100dB, it just might be your sending.

Listen to yourself, critically – you’ll be doing yourself a favor.

Hey, I know myself that there are times when my arthritis kicks in big time and I sound like I have dyslexia of the fingers.  That’s when I have to face facts and slow my own sending speed down by 5 WPM or so.  It’s not the end of the world.

Sending good CW is a good thing; but it takes practice. Don’t get discouraged. Take your time to do it right and I promise, the speed will increase as time goes on.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP – When you care to send the very least!

Larry Makoski, W2LJ, is a regular contributor to and writes from New Jersey, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

4 Responses to “From the sublime”

  • Bill - WA8MEA:

    “CW slobs” – GREAT description, Larry! This is one of the reasons why I don’t do as much CW any longer. “CW slobs”. I’m not a high speeder. However, I am also not plucking away at 5 wpm. 15 wpm is about my limit.

    You get the “CW slobs” who use a straight key, but their dots and dashes sound almost identical! Then you get the guys who will do this with either a straight key or an iambic – they run letters and/or total words together. No spaces between anything!



    (Now lets see who can decipher that load o’ CW slobbery….)

  • LarryW2LJ:

    Hi Bill!

    If I hear anything like that on the air, I’m just going to pass it right on by. Or say 73 VERY quickly.

    Larry W2LJ

  • Ernest Gregoire, AA1IK:

    This is an Excellent post Larry! One suggestion I’d like to make is for hams to record their keying. Send something like text from a magazine, then play it back a week or so later. That way they’d not really remember exactly what was sent. If you can’t understand what you sent, then how do you expect the ‘other guy’ to understand it.

    My hands hurt to much for prolonged paddle use, so I use a keyboard. This really cleans up my fist. I can send with paddles but its more of a chore, and at my age, the keyboard is a great way to go.

    73, de AA1IK


  • Charles (AD7UF):

    My CW copy skills are lacking, but I’ve seen forum post comments that resembled those samples! 🙂

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