Simple Solution for a CW Paddle/Key Selector

I really enjoy CW, it's my preferred mode. However, it's not just the mode I enjoy, but the different tools of the trade. There are paddles, straight keys, bugs and the variations on the those themes, single lever, double lever, and then iterations within iterations of key and paddle design. Well, I enjoy all of them. I collect keys, paddles and bugs, but not just to look at, I love getting them on the air. I have a K3 which allows me to connect a straight key or bug into one plug and a paddle into another which allows me to switch seamlessly between a paddle and a bug or straight key. However, I wanted to have a straight key, maybe a couple of bugs, and paddle ready to go on demand and in addition a WinKeyer that interfaces with my contesting software that has to be plugged into the radio also. I needed a more efficient method of changing between the keys rather than  leaning over reaching down among the tangle of wires and cable, feeling for the plug before I could make the change.

I needed a switch, one that would allow me to select the key or paddle that I wanted to use. So I begin looking for a switch to suit my needs among ham equipment suppliers, but found nothing. I finally found a couple of schematics on the web to build my own and decided to take that path.

I was about to start ordering the parts when a friend of mine was visiting the shack. I told him about building the switch and his response was; "why do you want to that, you can a switch on EBay that will be relatively cheap and do the job". He told me I wasn't Googling with the right words. He suggested I try "3.5mm audio switch ". Who knew? Much to my surprise and delight several devices came up that would meet my needs. Here is the link to the one I bought.

A cable with an 1/8" on one end (switchbox) and a 1/4" connector on the other, (K3 plug)  works for the K3. Simply connect the switch via the cable to the radio and then plug in your keys, paddle, etc. into the switch. As can be seen below I have a straight key, bug and Winkeyer plugged into the switch, while the paddle is plugged directly into the radio. I actually have an empty port in the switch where I usually have a second bug plugged in. You could actually get a second switch that would allow multiple paddles to be at your disposal as well.

So when I'm chatting with my CW buddies I can change my method of sending code with the push of a button. I can answer a CQ'er with a like kind instrument. A guy calling CQ with a bug, I can answer with a bug, etc.. Very easy and very economical. There are 8 position switches available as well.

Mike Crownover, AD5A, is a regular contributor to and writes from Texas, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

4 Responses to “Simple Solution for a CW Paddle/Key Selector”

  • Darryl Lindberg -KD5QJA:

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for posting this information! The switch was exactly what I needed. Like you, I was just about to order up the parts to attempt to make myself a switch for my paddle, bug, and straight key when I thought I would check the good old internet to see if I save myself some time by copying someone else’s (successful) design. Your note came up and I realized that there was way no way I could come up with a better home brew solution, so ordered the switch you recommended.

    Thanks again.



  • Jan OK1AVG:

    Hi Mike- I saw simple wired connection key together with paddle. It consist of two diodes (and wires). I am not able to find it now. Do you have any info?
    73 Jan

  • Pat K7GUD:

    Thanks for posting this. Just what I was looking for but not finding 🙂

  • KO5USA:

    Actually, no switch is required. I made a small bank of connectors that I plug each key into (paddle, straight key, bug not the electronic key, my radio has a separate socket for that one) ) and wired the sockets parallel . Each is is always live. I can use the sk when I need to match slow senders 20 words and less, I can use the bug that is set for 20. I have a couple of vintage keys also. I can plug all these keys in, they are all live and I just select the key I want to use pending the need or the mood. Works grate for me.

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