This is without a doubt the finest Morse code instrument I have ever laid a finger and thumb on during my short time in amateur radio. It should be fairly evident based on the ham radio content of this blog that I love all things Morse code related. In particular I am fascinated by the the little switch mechanisms we radiotelegraphers use to generate our dits and dahs.
This iambic paddle dubbed the "Ironman" is a new color scheme for the ZN-9A series paddles custom made by Tony Baleno, N3ZN of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I had been looking at his website in the past and after some time had gone by I went back for another peek at Tony's amazing creations. Upon opening the updated home page I was captivated by the stunning image I beheld. Stainless steel, carbon fiber, machined aluminum and a handsome gray textured finish combined in perfect measure with a cool name too.
In short order we had exchanged a couple emails and the deal was done. Luckily there was just enough time to fill my order before production was suspended allowing time for Tony to prepare for the upcoming Dayton Hamfest.
A project of mine that has paralleled the development of my Morse code sending and receiving skills is a study of the evolution of the equipment used in Morse code operation. From my first shaky cw contact using a simple straight key I built my confidence and month by month increased my speed. As my abilities expanded I played around with single lever paddles, built a Sideswiper and learned how to use a Vibroplex bug. This past Christmas I blogged about my first dual paddle key, the Vibroplex Iambic. Although I am a fan of the Vibroplex Company and its century old heritage I wanted to experience the culmination of 200 years of Morse code key development. After all the Vibroplex Iambic is a design over 30 years old. It has been quite a journey these past two years. One part immersing myself in historical study of the code and its associated equipment and another part actual hands on practice using various keys in my amateur radio pursuits. Often I lament how lucky we radio amateurs are today to have such a varied and interesting choice of data entry vehicles at our fingertips. My ubiquitous qwerty keyboard has nowhere near the class of these Morse instruments past and present.
Click the image for a closer view and check out the fine threads on the 10-56 contact adjustment screws. Very precise contact spacing can be attained allowing for high speed operation. I have the spacing set at .0015" Tight! Another feature of the ZN-9A not found on any of my other keys is magnetic lever return which is adjustable by screwing the knurled knobs in and out. This along with sealed cartridge bearings at both the top and bottom of the low mass lever arm trunnions is a sure fire recipe for high speed precision.
I now have six contacts in the log using the Ironman for a total of about an hour and a half of actual on-air sending and I am seriously happy with this key. During the last two contacts I had the electronic keyer set at 20 words per minutes and sending was effortless. I have to really concentrate on leaving small spaces between characters so my code is legible and not run together and hard to copy. The ZN-9A just begs to go fast. I look forward to continuing to develop my copying ability and I am confident the Ironman will easily do its part pushing the speed envelope.