Vintage J-38 telegraph key.

Its finally arrived. My Lionel J-38 Morse key from the world war 2 era.

I found the key on Ebay at a fairly reasonable price but because the auction ended in the middle of the night I decided to set a stupidly high bidding amount so I cold hopefully win the auction.

In the end I really didn’t need to bother the price never increased at the end of the auction so I won the key for $61 and $42 for shipping. So not cheap, but the condition of the key really did warrant the price.

It had been stuck in customs for 3 weeks in the UK until I got the bill from UK Customs asking for yet more money due to a calculation error on the VAT oh and this letter will cost you £8. So another £20.41 was spent unlocking the key from the customs.

Anyway. Its here now.  After a very long and quite awful day of work I decided to break out the Brasso and have a go at cleaning the key. I did learn 1 thing about stripping these things down, and that is to keep the left / right parts of the key separate. That proved really useful advice and everything went back exactly in the same place with no fuss.

These keys are lovely to use. Thus far I haven’t plugged it into a radio (that happens this weekend) but just getting the gap spacing, feel and tension right really makes this key a true pleasure to get your hands on.

The first portable outing with this key will be with my newly constructed FOXX3 transceiver. I’m really looking forward to sitting outside and using the key to talk to the world. Albeit slowly and quite quietly. But that’s some of the joy or going out portable.

I did make a small video of the before and after the cleaning processes, I think you will agree the key looks a lot better.

Dan Trudgian, MØTGN, is a regular contributor to and writes from Wiltshire, England. He's a radio nut, IT guru, general good guy and an all round good egg. Contact him him here.

3 Responses to “Vintage J-38 telegraph key.”

  • Paul, N6SFC:

    I have a small collection, maybe 6 or 8 keys including a McElroy and a Brown Bros. These are beautiful keys, but my favorite is the good ol’ Lionel J-38. I love the feel and subtle sound they make. Enjoy!

  • Jake Smart N7JRA:

    I have a J-38 key in original box for sale. It appears to be brand new. (I’ve never used it.)

  • w8ljz:

    Have a fine white metal J-38 I use.

    Just got a J38 (Artec) and wonder if anyone is interested in buying it?

    [email protected]

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