Tuesday, October 12, 2010

October SKCC Week End Sprint

Saturday 10/10/10 The The Straight Key Century Club held it's October edition of the Week End Sprint.  This is the opportunity I have been waiting for to give the new NT9K Pro-Pump club key a thorough and proper breaking in.  As I mentioned in a previous post the Pro-Pump shares characteristics in common with some northern European straight keys.  I think the Scandinavians were on to something when they built these massive long lever hand keys. 

I have the key placed on a small side table to the left of my operating position.  The shorter table lets my arm hang down more naturally to my side and I send grasping the knob alone.  I don't rest any part of my arm or wrist on the table or arm of my chair.  What I can report with certainty is that even after three hours of generating Morse Code one dot and dash at a time this key is user friendly.  I was a bit skeptical at first of the "arm off the table style" of sending but now after using this key in both easy ragchews and marathon cw sessions (for me anyway) during the WES I am all but a convert.  I'm not going to write a thesis on leverage and pivot points or discuss the merits of placing electrical contacts in front of or behind the fulcrum, but simply state I love this key.  Strings of dots like the letter H .... and the number 5 ..... just flow from the key in precision machine gun fashion.  I have been experimenting with the tension adjustment of the lever's coil spring.  The range is huge and I have not yet settled on a specific tension.  Until recently I had the key set stiffer but I noticed during the sprint as my sessions grew longer I found myself backing off the tension for a lighter feel.  Sending with a straight key for long periods is something that has to be experienced and the individual has to flush out the technique that produces the best sounding code without straining the appendages.  

Following is my log from the sprint.  A new personal best in the books for me.  I contacted 56 stations in 23 different states and  logged one contact each with France and British Columbia.  I've added a third color to the log to show some 80 meter (3.5 MHz) contacts I made on Saturday night.  Around midnight the action on 40 meters died down and I figured everybody must have migrated down to 80 meters.  Sure enough with a press of the band switch the receiver came alive with the music of Morse.  I punched the tune control and the auto tuner's relays clattered to life.  Eventually a match was established and I set out in search and pounce mode successfully bagging some contacts on a third band. Knowing there would be some losses due to sending a signal to a non-resonant wire I bumped up the power to 100 watts from my normal 50 watt setting.  Evidently some signal was radiating because nobody asked for a repeat and 7 out 9 stations reported 599 back to me.  (SKCC events are unique in the fact that operators make an attempt to send a meaningful signal report unlike the big contests where 599 is the default report regardless of the perceived  signal strength.)  

Red  14 MHz  (20 meters)
Blue  7 MHz  (40 meters)
    Green  3.5 MHz  (80 meters)

7.054  K0LUW  Nebraska
7.050  W0YZZ  Missouri
7.120  KB1ODO  Vermont
7.120  N0UMP  Missouri
7.117  KA3LOC  Kansas
7.109  WA0BGV  Missouri
7.117  AJ4SB  Florida
7.051  W7GVE  Arizona
7.113  WA5VQM  Texas
7.113  NV5F  Texas
7.113  VE7LAJ  British Columbia
7.113  N5RDN  Texas
7.120  AC0PR  North Dakota
7.112  KG0PP  Colorado
3.555  W9HLY  Indiana
3.552  K0LUW  Nebraska
3.552  W9IXV  Indiana
3.553  W3NP  West Virginia
3.558  W9LW  Indiana
3.558  NE0S  Missouri
3.558  WD0ECO  Missouri
3.553  WA0BGV  Missouri
3.555  K8WSN  Michigan
7.112  WI0S  Minnesota
7.055  WQ9Z  Illinois
7.053  KX9DX  Illinois
7.058  K0LWV  Missouri
7.056  W4CU  Florida
7.055  W4HAY  Tennessee
14.048  WA0YEI  Texas
14.059  F6HKA  France
14.051  W4CU  Florida
14.053  W6LFB  Texas
14.052  W5ZR  Louisiana
14.050  W7GVE  Arizona
14.052  NZ1D  Florida
14.052  KG2G  Florida
14.052  NG7Z  Washington
7.100  KB2RAW  New York
14.053  W5APS  Texas
7.055  K8JD  Michigan
7.114  W9DLN  Wisconsin
7.111  N3MVX  Pennsylvania
7.117  K2XS  New York
7.113  W3NP  Pennsylvania
7.115  W1DV  New York
7.056  KD2JC  New Jersey
7.113  NE0S  Missouri
7.113  K2VT  New Jersey
7.113  WB2SGS  New York
7.113  K8HW  Michigan
7.113  AI4UN  Georgia
14.055  KK5J  Oklahoma
7.117  AB2BJ  New Jersey
7.116  K8WSN  Michigan
7.051  W9HLY  Indiana

Band conditions were favorable throughout the 24 hour sprint period at KD8JHJ.  There was several other contests going on at the same time but it was easy enough to seek out the CQ WES calls or find a spot to call and run.  I did switch off between the straight key and the Vibroplex bug as usual.  If I hear the signature sound of a semi-auto key I like to answer back using my bug.  The Vibroplex is also great for sending long strings of CQ's.  If the responding station is keying with a straight key I switch to the straight key and match the others speed.  This morning I checked the scores at the SKCC website and I am ranked 25th out of 109 participants. 


  1. Great score and nice to see the WV 80 meter contact. Your comment about the key is especially interesting to me. I saw a U-tube video recently using the "full arm method" and thought it looked very difficult.... I'm glad to hear it isn't. Sometimes looks can be deceiving.

    Missed this event since it was our anniversary this weekend. We spent it riding an old "rail-trail" at North Bend State Park here in WV. We got in 50 miles in two days. My age is catching up with me. MY ATB wore me out. As bad as I hate to admit it, next year may be the year for a more comfortable bike.

  2. Thanks John, There is also a video link on the GHD key website. I did not like the full arm method at first. I started with a flat knob speed-x like a J-38 and although I still use that key with my wrist flat on the desk the arm up method has become my perfered way.

    My favorite thing about a new key is using it the first couple of weeks and getting to know its personality and of course playing with its adjustments.

    You might get a kick out of this. When I operate my MFJ qrp rig with the speed-x I hold the key sideways in my right hand and squeeze the key between my thumb and fingers. I have the flat aluminum base from Nye that I got from Morse Express so there is only about an inch between the top of the knob and the bottom of the base which extends out just past the knob. I can send well that way.

    Nice job with 50 in two days. It was a beautiful weekend. My son and I got out for a little ride on Sunday. You outdid me though- we only went about 7 miles. When I become advanced in years I would like to ride a recumbent trike. These are great because you don't have to worry about balance. Technology and design with the trikes have come along way and there are some very performance oriented models out there. Heck I'd like to have one now. It would be a great platform for photography.

  3. Nicely done Sir. 25th out of 109 is great! Glad the new key is working out for you.

  4. Thanks Mike,
    Update on the scores: It's been a week now and more logs have been posted. I've dropped one place down to 26th but that's out of 153 entries so fine with me!