For many years after I first learned the code in the Navy, I was a die-hard straight key user. Unfortunately, back in the 90s, I started to experience some wrist pain and switched to using iambic paddles. Recently, after working one of the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC) K3Y special event stations, I was inspired to sign up with SKCC and dust off my straight keys. Hopefully, I will be able to get my old straight key fist back in short order.
Since I do most of my operating while portable, I wanted a straight key that was easy to pack and use while sitting on the ground along some trail somewhere. I was looking for something small that I could add some magnets to for use with my little clipboard.
After doing some research, I decided on the American Morse MS2 miniature straight key. I built a set of Doug Hauff’s (W6AME) NorCal paddles from a kit many years ago and they are still in regular use. Doug’s machine shop produces some precision stuff.
The kit arrived a few days after I placed my order. Following the manual’s precautions, I emptied the parts into a baking pan. Some of the parts are pretty small and would disappear forever if dropped on the carpet. Even with my aging eyes, it only took about 45 minutes to assemble the kit. (A younger person with better eyes and steadier hands could have done it faster, I’m sure.) You need to supply your own cable and connector, so I dug an old audio patch cable out of my junk box and cut it in half.
The key is 2 inches long by 1 inch wide and is made from machine aluminum. The contact gap and spring tension are fully adjustable. The key (with my cable attached) only weighs about 2.7 ounces (76 grams).
After adjusting the contact spacing and the spring tension, I was surprised at how great this little key feels. The knob is a little different from most keys, but I was able to easily adapt to it. As expected, the overall quality of the key is outstanding.
My next project will be to attach some sort of base to it with magnets spaced to line up with the washers on the clipboard I use while portable. More on that in another post. I’m looking forward to making some SKCC contacts from out in the field.
72, Craig WB3GCK