Updated 1-14-2008

February 2008 Column



Electronic Speed Key

Hand key shown for size.

Inside appears that one part has changed - note hole with missing componet.

Under shows detail of key and wiring.


Hi John,

I was stunned reading your current QST article. My dad, W9NU/W9IPT was an avid homebrew ham. He got his ticket in 1932 and built most of his equipment. He is now an SK but did build this exact Electronic Keyer in 1963 I used it for years until he bought his HAL1550 Keyer which I use today.

After he passed away my sister sent me some of his old equipment but not the Keyer. I'm guessing she threw it away or sold it in some flea market in Florida.

Dad was a research engineer for Caterpillar Tractor Company in Peoria, Illinois. He was a genius and built all his equipment to exact standards.

This could be his keyer. Who knows? Unfortunately the keyer is behind dad's shoulder in the photo. (see link below)


Thank you, Jerry Page, KN9WRX/WA7YQQ/ W7KPL

Howdy from Texas John

Way back in the 1960s, around 1965, I built a keyer just like the one you describe from the ARRL Handbook...don't know which one I had back then, but got my license in 1963....so likely a 63 or 64 handbook.

I bought a chassis, the relay(if I remember about a 10K sensitive plate circuit relay), the electrolytics and the power transformer, and scrounged the rest of the parts...I was in college at the time....and my part time job paid about $1.00 an hour...minimum wage back then....so I didn't have a lot of spending money.

The pots weren't what they were supposed to be (I think linear) but what I could come up with, but it worked fine...used it with a SB-100 transceiver. Made a fair amount of clackity clackity noise..........probably made a couple hundred contacts with it. Worked all states...probably close to DXCC.

What I could not scrounge, I bought at Les Couch..a surplus place over by Albany that the locals visited..to buy parts cut out of surplus equipment....I was engineering student at RPI in Troy NY.....it was the 'goodie store'.

I used that for about 5 years, then around 1970, built an iambic keyer with ICs....and the keyer sat around. I think I finally decided it was time to go about 10 years ago when I hadn't touched it in years.....

It didn't have a cabinet...tubes and transformer stuck up above the chassis, the on off switch and a pilot light and the 3 controls on the front panel of the small aluminum chassis, and used a barrier strip on the back to connect the external paddles..Not sure what I had a at first, but later got a Brown Brothers paddles.

Before that period, there had been several commercial keyers....

I wrote an article about some of them...found some pics on the web...for my county hunting monthly news letter..it was in this issue

http://www.chnewsonline.com/CountyHunterNewsNovember2007.pdf (Keyers are on pages 20-24)

some of them had paddles built in. (1950s)

I know there were some other commercial keyers..the Hallicrafters T.O. keyer (at big bucks), and EICO had a keyer to go along with the 720 transmitter and modulator and VFO in the 60s....again $$$$$.

Don't recognize the paddle assembly. Maybe someone else will


Hi John,

Do you have access to old QST's?  If so, please check page 42 or the December 1951 issue. 

I suspect that your keyer is a W6OWP design.  Bart published this article in 1951 and later went into commercial roduction of the keyer under the name, "Duo-Matic".  I wrote a history of Bart's keyers in my newsletter. If you wish, I can send a copy in PDF but it runs nearly 6 MB, and I am not sure if the ARRL account will handle an attachment of that size.

Bart used a modified Logan Speed-X bug for the paddles in the one in the article and Speed-X parts in the commercial model.  I have one of the commercial models if you want photos.

If the W6OWP call seems familiar, Bart was well known in ARRL circles.  He passed away a year or so ago- there was an extensive obit in QST. I  used to see  him every year at the SeaPac convention.  He was a great guy.





John Dilks, K2TQN    125 Warf Road, Egg Harbor Township, NJ 08234-8501   e-mail: K2TQN@arrl.net