Thursday, March 18, 2010

My new SKCC Key Arrives

I walked into the door when I got home from work and I noticed a package sitting there waiting for me.  I knew it must be what I have been waiting for: My new SKCC Club Pump Key!!!  You would have thought I was 10 years old again on Christmas morning because I quickly opened the box to reveal the treasure inside.  After unwrapping the well packed key, the first thing I noticed was that the key was bigger than I originally thought.  And heavier!  The Ohio Slow Net was about to start so I figured what a great way to try it out.  So I brought it down to the shack and hooked it up.  After a quick adjustment, I checked into the Ohio Slow Net.  My new key was on the air!  The net operates at about 13 wpm so this would be a good test to see how it operates when doing some slow code.

While waiting to be called to check out, I started looking at the key some more.  The key ships with a piece of rubber to keep it in one place on the operating desk.  It does not have any rubber feet on the bottom.  The base is finished beautifully!  It has a speckled-copper look.  The finish appears to be very durable and have a hammered feel to it.  The brass is polished well, but it is not a complete mirror like finish.  At certain angles, you can see some polishing marks so I would say it has a semi-mirror like, brushed-brass look.  The adjustment knobs are large and easy to adjust and smooth to turn.  The front knob adjusts the tension of the key while the back knob adjust the gap between the contacts.  I like to set mine to a nice, snappy, and quick feel that requires a light touch (more on that later).  Wait a second, they are dismissing me from the net.  I will be right back.

After a quick QNX from the net, I changed frequency to the Buckeye Net that starts in 30 minutes.  The Buckeye net runs at about 25wpm.  Let's see what this key can do when operating at higher speeds.  Now, I am not a speed demon when it comes to straight keys, but I can operate at 25wpm easily on a good key.  Ok, the net is firing up.  Time to check in.

Ok, they key feels nice at higher speeds.  I am pretty lazy when sending on a straight key so I usually rest my wrist on the desk and use my wrist motion to send the code.  However, with a pump key, they are designed to have the entire forearm make the movement.  When I send this way, I find the key to respond very well at high speeds.  When sending with my wrist on the desk, the key does not feel as well.  I loosened the tension (using the front knob) and it feels better with my wrist resting on the desk.  Using this arrangement, I switched back to using my entire forearm and I found that I had trouble controlling the key.  Adding more tension eliminates this problem.   The back knob provides a locking nut to lock the contact spacing.  The front knob lacks the locking nut. I would think that because the front knob is under tension with the spring, a locking nut is not needed.

I logged into the SKCC page to work some fellow club members.  My first contact was Jim, KK7YJ.  A couple dits felt like it did not get a good contact.  I then worked Art, WB8ENE.  Only once did a dit feel like it did not get a solid contact.  Next was Willie, N4XE (what a great call!), and the key felt fine.  Larry, AE4LD then called and we had a great contact.  Imagine, working the CEO of the company that makes the new key!  He let me know if I had any questions to call him.  He also warned me about dropping it on my foot. HI!

In my excitement to use the key, I neglected to get the instruction manual out.  I should have done this first because it gave some instructions on how to adjust the key properly.  Once I did the adjustments, the key felt better than before and felt fine both with my wrist resting on the desk or by using my entire forearm.

In conclusion, I really like this key!  It is well made, very solid, looks wonderful, and has a very smooth action when adjusted correctly.  Don't do what I did and neglect to read the instructions.  My new SKCC key is a wonderful addition to my key collection.  Thanks Key Concepts!