My Keys

Through the years, I've had several keys for sending CW. Some of them were inexpensive and rather poor in quality, while others were pricey and excellent performers. Most of them I've sold at various hamfests around the country (a bad habit of mine). Currently, I have six keys, all of which are pictured and described below. Click on any picture for a larger image.

NØSA TP4 #037 Paddle

In 2010, I read an eHam review of a magnetic paddle made by Larry Naumann, NØSA, in St. Louis, Missouri. I just knew I had to have one, even though my Bencher Hex Key was an excellent performer. I'm not normally excessively impulsive, but I emailed Larry right away and ordered his TP4 paddle. After it arrived, it didn't take me long to get it adjusted to my liking and get on the air with it. It didn't disappoint me and will remain in my shack until K4EQ is no longer on the air.

Kent Twin Paddle 
I bought this Kent paddle to use with another station setup I have in my shack. I hadn't used this paddle before, so I wasn't sure if I would like it or not. After using it for a few days, I realized that it was a very good paddle and that it has a very good feel to it while sending. I wouldn't say it is better than my NØSA paddle, but it is certainly on a par with it.

NØSA STK #006 Straight Key 

Until I got this one, the two best straight keys I had used through the years were a Navy Flame Proof and a Speed-X. However, this key, another one by NØSA, excels over both of them. It's a super quality build so typical of any key Larry makes. Its magnetic return makes it easy on the arm and, consequently, easier to send good CW. And to top it off, it's just plain a thing of beauty.

NØSA Mini-Paddle

In 2017, about seven years after I bought my first NØSA paddle, I read where Larry had made more of his NØSA magnetic mini-paddles. It looked cool and I knew it would be great for portable operation with one of my QRP rigs. So, contrary to my supposed non-impulsive nature, I quickly ordered one from Larry. By then I had retired and had moved from Iowa to the St. Louis area, not far from where Larry lives. Despite its small size, this little mini-paddle feels good while sending and performs flawlessly.

NØSA B-B #004 Semi-Automatic Key

In early 2020, I was looking at Larry's page and saw pictures of some semi-automatic keys (bugs) he had made. I contacted him to see if he would sell one to me. He said yes and I went to his house to select one. The one I chose has a blue powder coating. The base is smaller than most bugs, about 13.5 cm x 7.5 cm, but it's heavy enough not to move while sending. Larry appropriately calls this model the "Blue Bug." Mine is B-B #004.

Larry uses a unique system that has a small magnet on the pendulum and a reed switch on the post that make it easy to adjust the dits with a small thumbscrew. There's no scratching when properly adjusted. I haven't used a bug for 40 years, so I'm still re-learning to send properly after so many years using paddles and iambic keying. I'm having a blast with this thing. I love it!

Skillman Semi-Auto Key

I got my Novice license in September 1960 when I was 13-years-old. My mentor was K8QDM, a high school student who lived across the street from us. He used a Skillman semi-automatic key (bug) for CW, so that's what I learned the code on. Guess what my parents gave me for Christmas that year? A Skillman semi-automatic key just like Jim's. You can tell from the picture why these were called "coffin" bugs. They were relatively inexpensive, made in Japan, and sold under various brand names. Although I rarely use mine anymore, it has remained in my shack all these years. I could never part with it.