When I saw a Facebook post about a straight key fabricated with a 3D printer, I was intrigued. I headed over to KC5ILR’s eBay listing to take a look and wound up buying one for $21.95 plus shipping. (This was one of two impulse purchases I made recently. I’ll post about the other one later.) These keys are also available on the C.W. Morse website.
Here are the advertised specifications from the eBay listing:
Width: 1.45" Length of Base: 2.68" Overall Length: 4 1/8" Weight : <1 oz. Action: Single Max .100" gap. Spring: Coil Chrome Color: Black & Red Style: Camel Back Arm Wiring: Stranded Copper Contacts: Solid Aluminum Resin: Biodegradable PLA Polymer Construction: 3D Thermal Printed Screws: 18-8 Stainless Steel 3MM Socket Head Cap Screws Nuts: 3MM Stainless Steel Jam Nuts
The key was promptly shipped and I received it a few days later. Using a 3mm hex key, I was able to easily adjust the spring tension and contact spacing to my liking. For a plastic key, it has a pretty good feel to it. The feel is crisp and there is no side-to-side slop. The hardware used is all quality stuff. It doesn’t have the solid feel of a more expensive, all-metal key but I wasn’t expecting that.
Given its very light weight, I found that it needs to be attached to some kind of base to keep it steady during use. The base of the key has two counter-sunk holes for mounting. I’ll definitely be making up some sort of base for it in the near future.
Although this key looks like a toy, it’s actually a pretty decent straight key. At this price, I think it would a great starter key for beginners. If nothing else, it’s an interesting conversation piece. I’ll probably be using it mostly for portable outings where I’m operating from a picnic table.
My trusty J-38 can rest easy; there’s no chance of it being replaced by this little, plastic key. I am, however, looking forward to spending some time with it on the air. Congratulations to KC5ILR and his son for coming up with this cool little key.
After seeing this post, Joseph KC5ILR and his boys graciously sent me one of their new, non-skid bases for my key. Like the key, the base was produced with a 3D printer. Although it weighs next to nothing, the new base greatly improves the stability of the key.
73, Craig WB3GCK