W0UI MORSE CODE KEY COLLECTION

at  www.w0ui.com
(There are lots of photos - please be patient whilst they load)

My first code key (age 8 in 1963) for code practice was home made using 
scrap metal, washers and a rough cut piece of wood (see picture below).

Learning the code starting at age 8, I was first licensed in 1966 at the age of 11. 
Since then the International Morse Code has remained, 
to this day, as my primary amateur radio mode of communications. 
I believe that those who do not learn and use this valuable communications resource 
are limiting themselves in ways they'll never begin to understand.

Since the only language I am really good at is English, 
morse code was the natural choice allowing me to communicate 
with hams throughout the international amateur radio community. 

It's interesting to note that in recent Hollywood movies when all else fails,
communications via traditional International Morse Code still works.
Consider such films as: Independence Day, Transformers and perhaps others.

 

The following code keys are part of the my "collection," 
which is essentially the group of keys that to this day 
make up my amateur radio console and operation.

CLICK ON A PICTURE TO ENLARGE IT FOR A CLOSER VIEW

SIGNAL ELECTRIC  MANUFACTURING COMPANY
MODEL R-63 1/4-inch contact Heavy Duty Key
This late 1930's era lacquered brass key, similar to a Speed-X Model 321 key, was made by the 
Signal Electric Manufacturing Company in Menominee, Michigan
and featured what was called a "Navy-type knob." 
Electrical isolation (on the bottom of the key) was achieved by adding thin slices of mica cut from rock. 

This particular key belonged to my grandfather, PhM1c Kenneth J. Buck, Sr., 
who owned and operated the Michigan Academy of Radio Science in 
Detroit and Kalamazoo, Michigan through the late 1930s.
Former notable MARS staff and student
Wayne Chapman (WB4DND/W8IKR sk)  and  Carl E Lee (W8TZJ)
Instructor WAYNE CHAPMAN Carl E Lee
Kenneth J. Buck, Sr. was killed in action while serving on the 
US Minesweeper, the USS Skill (AM-115) off the coast of Italy.
CLICK ON A PICTURE TO ENLARGE IT FOR A CLOSER VIEW

  
PhM1c
Kenneth Buck, Sr.

According to a web page at: http://k8ir.com/signal/Brochure.htm 
HEAVY DUTY KEY (Navy Type)
This model represents the very finest in key design.
Built to the most exacting engineering specifications.
The rugged and sturdy all brass construction of this key has made it a particularly popular model with shipboard operators. 
Fine balance and accurate adjustments.
Comes equipped with navy type plastic knob.
Furnished with 3/16, 1/4 or 3/8 inch finest coin silver contacts.
Model R-63    List price was $4.50  

CLICK ON A PICTURE TO ENLARGE IT FOR A CLOSER VIEW

 SIGNAL ELECTRIC  MANUFACTURING COMPANY
MODEL R-48 1/4-inch contact Standard Key
This key, by the same company, was attached to this board. 
For years, I laid it across my lap as I drove around the country on vacations or to/from work. 
It provided countless hours of mobile code (CW) conversations.

CLICK ON A PICTURE TO ENLARGE IT FOR A CLOSER VIEW
According to a web page at: http://k8ir.com/signal/Brochure.htm 
STANDARD KEY (Navy Type)
Well designed and correctly balanced.
For the operator who wants a good standard key at a moderate price.
Very clean design, with polished key lever and lacquered fittings.
Equipped with platinor contacts.
Model R-48    List  $3.65

1986 VIBROPLEX VIBROKEYER
One of many "How to date your Vibroplex" sites is at:
http://www.radiotelegraphy.net/vibroplexdating.htm

My mentor, Ernie Longman (W8DA) - SK
My amateur radio mentor, Ernie Longman (W8DA, formerly W8SCU), 
never spent much time using his Astatic D-104 microphone. 
All his ham radio work I ever observed was done using the International Morse Code. 
Unfortunately, Ernie became a "Silent Key" during the Winter of 2002-3. 
His widow, Marion Longman (K8IZN, SK 2012), gave Ernie's 1986 Vibrokeyer to me as a memento gift.

CLICK ON A PICTURE TO ENLARGE IT FOR A CLOSER VIEW

1956   VIBROPLEX   BLUE RACER   STANDARD
One of many "How to date your Vibroplex" sites is at:
http://www.radiotelegraphy.net/vibroplexdating.htm

The key (below) I had bought from 
Tony Lameika (WA8GQY, SK 2002)
in 1967 at age 12 for $15 
(he let me make payments from my Jackson Citizen Patriot newspaper route). 
I always thought the original blue-gray color was a bit ugly but it worked just fine. 
Over the years I used it as either a true semi-automatic or keyer paddle 
(slight, non-permanent rewiring since undone). 


Above: My Blue Racer in 1967, age 12. 
Also you can see my grandfather's hand key.
(L-R: Johnson Adventurer transmitter, Hammarlund HQ-110c receiver)

In the late 1990's the original paint was peeling off badly. 
I contacted Vibroplex to see if they would restore the key for me 
but they replied that they no longer had the original proper blue paint 
nor could they restore the orange painted labeling on the base that had read "Blue Racer - Standard." 
Since I was intending to restore my Vibroplex Presentation "bug," 
I figured I'd have my Blue Racer "updated" as well.

I took the bug all apart and took the base to an auto bumper replating service. 
The fellow there stripped the original paint, nickel and then gold plated the unit for me at a cost of about $90. 
At the advise of the bumper replating facility, we did first nickel plating the base to encourage the gold to stick better. 
Without it, the gold would likely begin to flake off after a few years - BUT -
IMPORTANT NOTE - Found on the web page at: 
http://www.radioblvd.com/telegraph_keys.htm
Many of the Deluxe models suffer from pitting in the chrome plated base. 
Since the base was steel, it had to be copper plated first, then nickel plated and finally chrome plated. 
If any contamination was present on the steel surface, 
especially common in very small surface porosities, 
the plating process would be compromised at those small points. 
Most of the time the areas were so small they went unnoticed. 
After exposure to a humid area, corrosion begins at the small pin-point areas and it develops over time

Too bad I did not know the above before restoring my two bugs.
I did not first copper plate them. 
Now, ten years after, I regret to say that I am starting to see some unexpected changes in the appearance of the gold. 
Although, with care, I suspect these bugs will survive the rest of my natural life, 
I would strongly recommend you heed the advice cited from the aforementioned webpage when restoring yours.

After getting the base back, I had the underside engraved by a professional engraver and then reassembled it. 
Below is the final result. It may not be totally original but, golly, is it ever pretty!
CLICK ON A PICTURE TO ENLARGE IT FOR A CLOSER VIEW

After restoration
 
Original - Before restoration  

CLICK ON A PICTURE TO ENLARGE IT FOR A CLOSER VIEW

WILLIAM M. NYE SPEEDX HAND KEY
During 1947, the E. F. Johnson company acquired the Speedx trademark from the Speed-X Radio Manufacturing Company 
(from the 1930's). Johnson made the keys until the late 1960's. 
During 1975, the William M. Nye Company bought the Speed-X trademark from Johnson and 
these newly issued hand keys were brought to market.

William M Nye 
Speedx 
Model H15-682

CLICK ON A PICTURE TO ENLARGE IT FOR A CLOSER VIEW

1934-1937 era (STEWART JOHNSON) SPEED-X KEY
Based on available facts it appears that this bug was built by the
Speed-X Radio Manufacturing Company 
while under the ownership of Stewart Johnson.

In 2009 a family friend from church, STAN G, 
gave Woody a morse code key that had belonged to his father-in-law, 
Cecil O Smith (W9JUT  sk  - licensed in 1932).
As was the case with all Speed-X keys built in this era, 
this key carries no verifiable manufacturer data, serial numbers 
or other identifying marks.

It is hard to believe any professional manufacturer would 
create and sell any product without a manufacturer's name and/or serial number 
such as was the case with this company. 
This does make it hard to verify the actual build date. 
To this end we are forced to use available facts from family records and/or memory.

Speed-X Key Amateur radio license of the bug's owner, Cecil Smith, W9JUT
License of W9JUT
Cecil O Smith
Note that the FEDERAL RADIO COMMISSION predates the FCC
Federal Radio Commission actually predates the FCC

CLICK ON A PICTURE TO ENLARGE IT FOR A CLOSER VIEW
Additional information was found at:   http://www.radioblvd.com/telegraph_keys.htm

Speed-X Radio Manufacturing Co.
The Speed-X name is first associated with Electro Manufacturing Co. located in Fresno, California. 
In 1934, Stewart Johnson bought the Speed-X name and relocated the company to San Francisco. 
Johnson changed the name of the company to Speed-X Radio Manufacturing Company 
and the address was 30 Ninth St. in San Francisco. 
Johnson built Speed-X keys from 1934 until he sold the company to Les Logan in 1937. 
....  Earlier Speed-X bugs will have the combination of knob and paddle but the later Speed-X bugs use two paddles instead.


EARLY TELEGRAPH PRACTICE SET
These early combination telegraph keys and sounders were fairly common in the late 1800 and early 1900's. 
They served as both practice tools (all you had to do was add a simple 1.5 volt dry cell battery) and 
also could be used as part of an on line service. 
It wasn't too long, however, before the professional telegraphers had moved 
away from the "straight key" and into the semi-automatic "bugs" (mentioned above) 
for most telegraphic traffic. 


CLICK ON A PICTURE TO ENLARGE IT FOR A CLOSER VIEW

HEATHKIT HD-1410 AUTOMATIC KEYER 

This keyer was popular in the amateur radio service during the 1970's. 
I used mine in mobile service in my Chevrolet Suburban for several years, 
attached to a specially formulated bracket that positioned it near my right knee. 
My original unit is still near my current operating console.

CLICK ON A PICTURE TO ENLARGE IT FOR A CLOSER VIEW

A slight circuit modification enhanced the older keyer's ability to work 
with both older "vintage" and/or newer "current technology" amateur equipment. 
Below is a schematic indicating the modification.

  
CLICK ON A PICTURE TO ENLARGE IT FOR A CLOSER VIEW

HEATHKIT HD-10 KEYER

I bought this keyer at a hamfest. 
This particular unit had been previously modified. 
Someone added a "weighting circuit" enabling longer dits and dahs.

 
CLICK ON A PICTURE TO ENLARGE IT FOR A CLOSER VIEW

Recently I have been downsizing my collection of code keys.
To this end, the following keys are no longer part of my lineup. 

BROWN BROTHERS   CTL-B   COMBO PADDLE / KEY
Below: The Brown Brothers Machine Company (St. Louis, MO) Model CTL-B combination paddle / hand key. 
I sold this key via eBay during 2012.

Brown Bros. 
Model CTL-B
 

CLICK ON A PICTURE TO ENLARGE IT FOR A CLOSER VIEW

1955   VIBROPLEX   ORIGINAL DeLUXE  PRESENTATION
SEMI-AUTOMATIC MORSE CODE KEY
I sold this key via eBay during 2012.
One of many "How to date your Vibroplex" sites is at:
http://www.radiotelegraphy.net/vibroplexdating.htm

The original chrome base and gold top plate on my 
1955 Vibroplex ORIGINAL DeLUXE PRESENTATION
both had spots of rust and deterioration. 
With the addition of the gold plate atop the chrome-plated base, 
the Original DeLuxe was also known as a "Presentation"
The post WW2 units (circa 1945 to 1960) had the addition of a "jewelled-movement" identified by, 
not a standard adjustment but rather, a red dot on the top of the chrome frame.

I took the unit all apart and took it to the same auto bumper replater previously mentioned 
(see the discussion about the Vibroplex Blue Racer above). 
At the advise of the bumper replating facility, we did first nickel plating the base to encourage the gold to stick better. 
Without it, the gold would likely begin to flake off after a few years - BUT -
IMPORTANT NOTE - Found on the web page at: 
http://www.radioblvd.com/telegraph_keys.htm
Many of the Deluxe models suffer from pitting in the chrome plated base. 
Since the base was steel, it had to be copper plated first, then nickel plated and finally chrome plated. 
If any contamination was present on the steel surface,
especially common in very small surface porosities,
the plating process would be compromised at those small points. 
Most of the time the areas were so small they went unnoticed. 
After exposure to a humid area, corrosion begins at the small pin-point areas and it develops over time

Too bad I did not know the above before restoring my two bugs.
I did not first copper plate them. 
Now, ten years after, I regret to say that I am starting to see some unexpected changes in the appearance of the gold. 
Although, with care, I suspect these bugs will survive the rest of my natural life, 
I would strongly recommend you heed the advice cited from the aforementioned webpage when restoring yours.

Additionally, we re-gold plated the gold top piece.
To take off the top gold plate that sits atop the actual base, 
carefully remove the Vibroplex serial number tag 
(note the two small pin holes on the bottom of the base).
Use a small nail (or "tack") and gently tap out the two pins.

After World War Two, 
professional and amateur radio telegraphers saw the 
introduction of "electronic keyers" that, in many ways, 
rendered the traditional bug obsolete.
Due to the comparative rarity of the original production series, 
it appears that these early post World War II 
Original DeLuxe "Presentation" model bugs 
are now drawing higher prices amongst serious collectors.
CLICK ON A PICTURE TO ENLARGE IT FOR A CLOSER VIEW

Original - Before restoration
After restoration

To remove the Vibroplex serial number plate and the top gold plate carefully tap out the pins via the two small holes on the bottom

  CLICK ON A PICTURE TO ENLARGE IT FOR A CLOSER VIEW

CLICK HERE FOR THE MAIN 4L RANCH WEB PAGE

Since 22 May, 2010

free counter

Contact WOODY for questions or comments about this page via  email. 
All personal comments, pictures copyright 1996-2014 - R. Linwood (4L RANCH)
LAST MODIFIED: