Heavy Metal, Morse-Style
While I'm a poor CW op by local standards, CW is my favorite mode. Almost all of my rag chew QSO are in CW, running about 25 WPM where I can squeeze out a decent fist and not make my QSO partner too crazy.
Shown here are a collection of paddles I've accumulated over the years. They span the range and while not being put to ideal use here by my skill, they are all lovely and each has a story.
My first paddle dates from 1978. Bought it to go with a home-brew keyer cooked up from a QST feature article on the MicroTO. I was a kid then and to purchase the paddle I had to save up for a month doing odd jobs for my parents. Used it until taking off for college. In retrospect, I have no idea how I managed to keep track of this through college and then a number of moves. I was QRT from 1982-2007.
When getting back into radio in 2007, the first purchase was a small keyer kit. Had no radio then but the Bencher and the small keyer helped get the old memories rolling again.
One thing was certain though - my fingers definitely could not remember how to run a paddle after so many years!
Click here for the Bencher web page
I picked up the first Begali paddle at Dayton. Hoping it would somehow improve my fist as if by magic - which has not happened - it's been a great paddle from the start.
The unique feature of this paddle are the carbon fiber finger grips. Like all the Begalis, the action is crisp and firm. The matte black color looks great as well.
Until recently the Sculpture has been my main station paddle, hooked to the modern rigs.
A month or two after buying the Sculpture, a friend of mine called me on the phone and told me I had won their raffle which was a Begali Pearl, shown here.
The irony of this is that the guy calling me was the guy I bought the Sculpture from when he was helping Piero and Bruna at the Dayton hamfest earlier in the year.
I had bought the raffle tickets early in the year and had mostly forgot about the lucky draw. Lucky indeed!
This paddle has been used for the last few years for rag chewing, hooked to several hybrid radios of the 70-80s vintage including Yaesu and Kenwood models. The keyer is an Arduino-based homebrew type built on code from K3NG.
More about the homebrew keyer HERE.
More recently I've expanded the shelving in the shack and have setup some tube gear including a Collins S-Line. I bought this unusual looking Pearl model at Dayton to use with that station.
At the movement the keyer is an old MFJ using the Curtis 8044 keyer chip.
The lovely coloring of the paddle is done by Beretta - yes, the gun guys - as a special service for Begali. It's a turtle-shell sort of finish which is more or less brown but seems to change shade with lighting. Functionally it's identical to the chrome plated Pearl above.
Click here to open the Begali Paddles web page
After buying the last Begali, all the stations had paddles and I did not think I needed another one. A friend of mine KE5BR mentioned he had bought a paddle from Val RA1AOM which was custom made by hand. He liked it so much, he bought a 2nd one. I went over for show-and-tell and found the craftsmanship lovely.
After a few weeks of thinking about it, KE5BR sent me a photo of a paddle that Val had sent - this one having a red color rock. It was love at first sight. I ordered one from Val a couple of days later.
A few months after the paddle arrived and it's as beautiful as I had hoped. The base is a 3-part construction of stainless steel, with a sandwich of 2 colors of jasper rock, local to Russia.
The rock work is done by an Italian and can be made in many shapes and sizes.
The movement is built by hand in it's entirety by Val.
Show here is the key viewed from the front. Like the Begali, the tension is of a magnetic attraction type.
As a professional machinist in his earlier life, Val is able to make a variety of actions and will literally build whatever you can envision.
While Val lives in St Petersburg, his English language emails to me were clear and his response fast. He proactively kept me updated on the progress of the build, sending pictures of the paddle as it was coming together.
For more information on the construction of Val's paddles, click HERE
Here's a view of the paddle from the business end.
The feel of paddle is completely different from the Begali. I think that's because the lever arm of the RA1AOM is much longer by comparison. In use, the paddle is also very quiet, where the Begalis have a definite tap-tap sound. Again, not better or worse, just different. If I had to put words to it, I would say the action of the Begali is "precise" and the RA1AOM is "silky smooth." Again, not better or worse, but different.
Beyond the stone feature, another attraction of the RA1AOM is that it's the only one of it's exact type on earth. Now that's very cool indeed!
If I ever need another paddle down the road, I'm sure I will be asking Val to create another masterpiece.
Click here for RA1AOM QRZ page and for more photos of his excellent work