How to Make an Attractive, Heavy Base for a Straight Key

My friend is getting back into ham radio for the first time since he was a boy, and one of the first things he wants is a straight key. I’ve steered him toward the Nye Viking Speed-X key. You can spend lots of money on keys nowadays, and I admit that some of them are mighty pretty. But the eham reviews of the Speed-X key suggest that looks aren’t everything. Unless you’re willing to spend a fortune for a luxury-model, I say put your money on the Speed-X. It’s worth every penny.

Probably the best way to mount this key is to screw it down to your desk if you’re willing to. Or you can buy a nice heavy aluminum base for this key straight from Nye Viking. But here’s how you can make an attractive, heavy base for not a whole lot of money. Here’s the finished product (I made this years ago):

I found this inexpensive piece of wood at Michael’s (an arts and crafts store). It was unfinished with the edges already routed as shown. When you find your own piece of wood like this, figure out where you want to mount your key. I used nuts and bolts to mount my key, but wood screws probably would have been better (by the time you’re done with this project, you’ll have a hard time getting to any nuts on the underside because they will be covered with felt). If you do decide to use nuts and bolts, drill holes for the bolts now so that you know where those holes are in the next step.

Flip the piece of wood upside down and go to work hollowing out as much of it as you can, starting about a half inch in from each edge. I can’t remember if I used a chisel, a Dremel tool, or both, but either would work. Just be careful not to hollow out so much that you punch through to the other side! Leave enough wood in the spots where you’re going to bolt or screw down your key so that you have a good strong mount when you’re done.

Once you hollow out the underside of your piece of wood, take a hot glue gun and glue in as much lead shot as you can stuff in there. This is what makes the base nice and heavy so that your key doesn’t jump around while you’re pounding out CW.

Give the block of wood a quick sanding, stain it with your favorite stain, varnish it, and mount your key! If you are using nuts and bolts, I recommend using a bit of Locktite to keep them from coming loose.

The last step is to glue a piece of felt to the underside of the block of wood. This hides the unsightly gob of lead shot and glue you’ve put in there, and it lets you slide the thing around on your desk smoothly. Don’t worry, it won’t make it too slippery. If you’ve put enough lead shot in there it will stay put just fine while you’re pounding brass. Here’s a look at the underside of mine:

If you build one of these yourself, let me know! I’d love to hear from you.

Items required:
Wooden base (available from craft store)
Felt (also available from craft store)
Lead shot (available from sporting goods store)
Nuts & bolts (or wood screws) to mount key
Dremel tool and/or wood-chisel
Hot glue gun
Wood Stain
Varnish

Todd Mitchell, NØIP, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Minnesota, USA. He can be contacted at [email protected].

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