HOME-MADE TELEGRAPH KEYS, BUGS, PADDLES, AND COMMERCIAL NOVELTY KEYS
W1TP TELEGRAPH AND SCIENTIFIC INSTRUMENT MUSEUMS: http://w1tp.com

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HOME-MADE KEYS, BUGS, PADDLES, & COMMECIAL NOVELTY KEYS - - (9801-9900)

People have decided to make their own telegraph keys for many reasons. Some did it because they could not afford to buy commercially manufactured keys. Some built keys which they thought would be better than any that they could buy. Some people built them as works of art. You will find examples of each in the following collection.

(The instruments are in approximate chronological order: Oldest first.)
* = (Items no longer owned.) ** = (Items in other collections.)

9805 SIMPLE HOMEMADE KEY AND SOUNDER PROJECT:(17KB)
This project is designed to introduce children to the principles of the electric telegraph.
It uses readily available parts:(12KB)
2 Pieces of wood.
8 small screws.
2 large nails.
4 flat strips of metal. (One MUST be iron-bearing or "ferrous" metal).
20 feet of INSULATED wire from 18-28 guage (around 1/32 inch diameter).
2 flashlight batteries.
The Key:(14KB) consists of a strip of metal which can be pressed down to make contact with a screw.
The battery holder:(14KB) holds the flashlight batteries and makes electrical connection with each battery.
The Sounder:(12KB) consists of about 100 turns of wire wrapped around a nail which attracts the iron-bearing strip of metal and makes a clicking sound. When the sounder is deactivated, the metal springs upward, striking another nail and making a second clicking sound. Dots and dashes can be distinguished from each other by learning to tell the difference between the pull-in click, and the release-click.
For more details see: How to build a simple telegraph set. which is in the "general information" part of this museum.

9806 ANOTHER VERSION OF THE ABOVE PRACTICE SET:(24KB) This set was built by 13 year-old Claire Berry in KwaZulu, Natal, South Africa. It earned a high grade in a science project.
9806a ANOTHER VERSION OF THE ABOVE PRACTICE SET:(29KB)
9806b CLOSEUP VIEW OF SOUNDER ON ABOVE SET:(34KB)
9806c Here is a third version of the above set:(37KB)

9806d DO NOT MAKE A TELEGRAPH SET LIKE THIS ONE !!! The young builder has made the set with wire that has NO INSULATION on it. Each turn of the coil short-circuits to every other turn on the coil so the magnet does not work at all. Please use WELL INSULATED WIRE when you wind the coil.

9807 Here is an excellent Telegraph Science Project built by 5th. Grader Katie:(50KB)

9808 Here is an American 5th. grade student named Jasiah and the science fair project that won him first place in his school's Science Fair. He will be entering it in the County Science Fair in the Spring of 2015:

9810 EARLY HAND MADE WOODEN KEY AND SOUNDER:(24KB) This early key and sounder were probably built from one of the many sets of plans in children's books and magazines in the early 1900s.

9811 EARLY HAND MADE WOODEN SOUNDER:(12KB) A nicely constructed wooden sounder probably made from plans that were included in many magazines in the early 1900's.

9812 HAND MADE WOODEN SOUNDER:(28KB) A very simply constructed wooden sounder probably made from plans that were included in many magazines in the early 1900's.

9818 SUB-MINIATURE KEY MADE IN ROUMANIA:(27KB) This tiny key was found at the huge hamfest at Friedrichshaven, Germany in 1996. It was made by a roumanian student.

9820 * HOMEMADE STRAIGHT KEY:(35KB) This beautifully designed and machined straight key was obviously made by an expert machinist. It has a brass base with polished steel and brass hardware, ball bearings, and machined white plastic knobs.

9821 * HOMEMADE STRAIGHT KEY:(14KB) This key is not very well made but it has a nice ''feel''.

9823d INTERESTING OLD HOMEMADE CAMELBACK KEY AND SOUNDER ON BASE:(88KB)This camelback key and sounder set has been polished so that it looks new. The other pictures show it in the as-found condition. The key and sounder look very similar to those on the well-known Bunnell camelback KOB sets. The total lack of knurling on all of the adjusting screw heads and the rather sharp edges on the machined parts suggest strongly that the set was homemade. When you look at the bottom of the base you see that none of the screws that hold the set to the wood were tapped and that a very unusual technique has been used to hold the key and sounder to the base. The set was found by Civil War Insulator Collector Phil Hill who has allowed me to display his photographs of it.
9823 The KOB in the as-found state:(63KB)
9823a A different perspective view of the KOB:(49KB)
9823b A close-up view of the key:(41KB)
9823c A close-up view of the sounder:(98KB)
9823e A view of the bottom of the base showing the unusual method of holding the key and sounder on the base:(56KB)

9824 EXTRAORDINARY ELABORATE HOMEMADE CAMELBACK KEYS:(10KB)These two keys look elaborate enough to belong in the 1840's era.

9825 MINIATURE HOMEMADE CAMELBACK KEY:(8KB) This tiny and lovely 2" long brass camelback key was made by a very well known key collector.

9826 * GERMAN-MADE MINIATURE CAMELBACK KEY:(16KB) This tiny and lovely brass camelback key was made in Germany in 1998.
9826a Another view of the GERMAN MINIATURE KEY:(15KB)

9828 * ODD BUNNELL TRIUMPH KEY MODIFIED BY THE ADDITION OF A SOUNDER FRAME:(20KB) It is unclear why the owner of this key decided to add a sounder frame to the top of the key.

9829 * HOMEMADE BRASS IAMBIC PADDLE:(10KB) This is a carefully designed brass iambic paddle pehaps patterned after a Brown Brothers design. It has a fairly crisp action.

9830 * HOMEMADE PADDLE:(14KB) This is a carefully made but poorly designed brass paddle with some polished steel hardware. Interesting design. Does not work very well.

9831 THE FAMOUS QST J-38 PADDLE:(15KB) Many hundreds of these iambic paddles were made by hams after an article in the July, 1952 issue of QST described the basic design. The paddle is made by simply screwing together two J-38 straight keys and mounting the resulting mechanism vertically. This ugly paddle has a surprisingly good, crisp, light, ''feel'' and compares very favorably to a well adjusted Bencher paddle.
9831a Another view of the J-38 Paddle:(15KB)

9832 * UGLY UGLY UGLY HOMEMADE BUG:(16KB) This is one of the ugliest homemade keys that I have seen but it does function....sort-of.

9833 * UGLY UGLY UGLY HOMEMADE PADDLE MADE FROM A SAW BLADE:(16KB)This key was spotted but not acquired at the Rochester Hamfest in 2002.

9835 UNIQUE MINIATURE ADD-ON BUG FOR STRAIGHT KEY:(36KB) This tiny bug measures just 1-1/2x3-7/8 inches. It was designed to slip over the knob of a straight key and pivot on its bracket. It can also be moved up and down to act as the straight key's knob as you can see in the following pictures. The bug has a very crisp and smooth action which is unusual in a bug as small as this.
9835a Bug operating position:(36KB)
9835b Straight Key operating position (Notice legs folded out of the way:(36KB)
9835c Right side view:(36KB)
9835d Top View:(36KB)
9835e Closeup of miniature bug:(36KB)
9835f Closeup of Bunnell Straight Key:(36KB)
9835g Right side view with bug legs folded for use as straight key knob:(36KB)
9835h Left Side Closeup of bug with legs folded for use as straight key knob:(36KB)
9835i Left Side view with bug legs folded for use as straight key knob:(36KB)

9836 ** THE 'MONOVERT' SEMIAUTOMATIC TELEGRAPH SPEED KEY Designed and built by W. R. Smith (W4PAL), 2004 The Monovert speed key stands 7-1/2" tall, weighs 3-1/8 pounds, has a speed range of 13 to 38 WPM and has one arbor. The base is of 3/16" chrome plated brass and the foot is 1" thick chrome plated brass. The height was shortened by folding the dash bar above the arbor. This was made possible by passing the dot bar stop screw through a hole in the dash bar. I appear to be the first designer to do this. The key has a very smooth action. This is likely the first new vertical speed key design in about 80 years.
9836a Right side view of the MONOVERT Speed Key:
9836b Rear view of the MONOVERT Speed Key:

9836g ** THE 'MAGNEVERT' SEMIAUTOMATIC TELEGRAPH SPEED KEY/PADDLE Designed and built by W. R. Smith (W4PAL), 2005 The Magnevert speed key stands 7-3/4" tall, weighs 4-1/2 pounds, has a speed range of 15 to 35 WPM and has two arbors. The pendulum is supported on two 3/16" OD ball bearings, contains no mainspring and depends on the repulsive force of four rare earth magnets for its vibrations. Dashes are made in the conventional way but dots are made by a fifth rare earth magnet under the pendulum passing over a reed switch mounted in a small brass tube. The damper rotates outward to allow weight changes. By locking the pendulum with the stop opposite the damper, the key becomes a paddle for keying an electronic keyer. This is likely the first vertical speed key to use permanent magnets instead of a mainspring.
9836h Right side view of the MONOVERT Speed Key:
9836i Rear view of the MONOVERT Speed Key:

9837 ** THE 'DUOVERT' KEY: THE FIRST FULLY-AUTOMATIC VERTICAL BUG:(22KB) The Duovert key was designed and built by William R. Smith W4PAL in 2004. It is the world's first fully-automatic (both dots and dashes are made automatically) mechanical single-arbor speed key. It is 8 inches high and has a speed range from 15 to 35 WPM. The short height and single arbor are made possible by a through-the-dash-bar stop for the dot bar which has never been used in keys before. A magnet and reed switch operated by the dash lever can make up to 40 dashes. Speed adjustment is by moving weights only.
9837a Another view of the Duovert Bug:
9837b Another view of the Duovert Bug:

9838 ** THE SUB-SUB-MINIATURE STRAIGHT KEY: "THE NANOKEY" MADE BY W.R.SMITH, W4PAL: W.R. Smith is a world renowned watchmaker and a Radio Amateur. In 2006, he decided to apply his skills to making perhaps the world's smallest and most carefully machined straight key.
9838a Here is W.R.'s sub-miniature straight key next to a standard size telegraph key:
9838b Here is W.R.'s sub-miniature straight key placed in a jeweler's finger ring box for size comparison:
9838c Here is the metal base of W.R.'s sub-miniature straight key placed on a penny for size comparison:

9839 ** THE SUB-SUB-MINIATURE RIGHT ANGLE BUG: "THE MINIKEY" MADE BY W.R.SMITH, W4PAL: WR decided to make a tiny right-angle bug with several unique features that have never been included in a key before. His technique of passing the dot bar stop screw through a hole in the dash bar allowed him to make this key as small as it is. The key measures only 1-7/8" long by 5/16" wide ! The contacts are silver. Each screw post has been treated so it grips the adjusting screws thus eliminating the need for lock nuts. A finger pad on the ornate hand-turned post allows the operator to place a finger on the key to hold it in position while sending. The key has a signet paddle and the two posts in the upper right hand corner are the terminal posts. The speed range is 18 to 25 wpm.
9839a This is a much closer view of the mechanism of the sub-miniature "MINIKEY" bug:
9839b This view of the mechanism of the sub-miniature "MINIKEY" bug shows the post and finger pad that helps keep the key in position while sending:
9839c This is the sub-miniature "MINIKEY" bug in a typical jeweler's ring box for size comparison:

9840 ** TINY HAND-MADE MODEL OF VIBROPLEX MIDGET:(12KB) This tiny key was made by David Hale who took all the measurements from a full size Midget and dupicated it in miniature in virtually every detail. The following pictures show different views of the key and a picture of David Hale.
9840a Left side view of miniature Vibroplex Midget:(12KB)
9840b Left side view of miniature Vibroplex Midget:(10KB)
9840c Right side view of miniature Vibroplex Midget:(12KB)
9840d Right side size comparison view of miniature Vibroplex Midget:(14KB)
9840e Left side size comparison view of miniature Vibroplex Midget:(14KB)
9840f A photograph of David Hale and his miniature Vibroplex Midget:(17KB)

9841 ** TINY HAND-MADE 1/2 Scale WORKING MINIATURE MELEHAN VALIANT FULLY AUTOMATIC BUGS:(24KB) This is the most complex and ambitious project that I can imagine. Master machinist David Hale, W1KR obtained the original patent drawings for the magnificent Melehan Valiant full-automatic telegraph key from Randy Cole. In addition, he personally measured every dimension of my Melehan Valiant so that his 1/2 scale miniatures would be correct in every detail. The pictures listed under 9842 show the stages of construction of the bugs and the following pictures display the final product.
9841a ** Right-side view of a Miniature Melehan on a hand for size comparison:(41KB)
9841b ** Left-side view of a Miniature Melehan on a hand for size comparison:(41KB)
9841c ** Right-side view of a Miniature Melehan being operated:(35KB)
9841d ** Right-side close-up view of a Miniature Melehan:(31KB)
9841e ** Left-side close-up end view of a Miniature Melehan:(40KB)
9841f ** Left-side view of a Miniature Melehan on the original patent drawing:(60KB)
9841g ** Right-side view of a Miniature Melehan on the original patent drawing:(55KB)

9842c ** EARLY LOOKS AT THE UNFINISHED PAIR OF MINIATURE MELEHAN VALIANT BUGS:(24KB) This is the most complex and ambitious project that I can imagine. David Hale, W1KR obtained the original patent drawings for the magnificent Melehan Valiant full-automatic telegraph key from Randy Cole. In addition, he measured every detail of my Melehan so that his 1/2 scale miniatures would be correct in every detail. This view shows the two completed base assemblies placed behind boxes of the tiny screws and parts. He has even precisely duplicated the knurling on each screw.
Here is 9842d another, slightly closer view of the unfinished miniatures:(21KB) which he placed on display at the 3000 Rochester NH hamfest.
David also demonstrated a 9842b tiny miniature steam engine:(22KB) which he powered from a cappucino maker heated over a portable stove.
9842e The Unfinished Melehan Valiants in Spring, 2000:(20KB)
9842f Another view of the Unfinished Melehan Valiants in Spring, 2000:(21KB)

9843 ** A KEY-BUILDING FATHER AND SON AND A 'BIG' KEY:(18KB) David Hale, W1KR, made this oversize key for his son Max to play with... perhaps in hopes that it would stimulate his interest in CW. It was used in the "Left Foot Contest" in 1994. He built the key as a scaled-up version of a J-38. It is made of 3/4" plywood. The adjustable parts are carriage bolts and t-nuts with plywood knobs made with a hole saw. The contacts are made of copper pennies. The key now hangs on the wall of the Barre (VT) Town Elementary School. If anyone would like more information on how to build a key like this you may contact David Hale at DAVIDH@earth.goddard.edu

9843a ** A PHOTOGRAPH OF DAVID HALE - W1KR HOLDING HIS MINIATURE VIBROPLEX MIDGET AND MELEHAN VALIANT BUGS:(20KB)

9843b ** A PHOTOGRAPH OF DAVID HALE - W1KR'S MINIATURE VIBROPLEX MIDGET AND MELEHAN VALIANT BUGS:(38KB)

9844 ** EARLY LOOKS AT THE UNFINISHED PAIR OF MINIATURE VIBROPLEX VERTICAL BUGS:(20KB) The Vibroplex vertical or 'upright' key is one of the most sought-after collectible keys. David Hale - W1KR is currently working on building miniature versions of two of these complex keys. The following pictures show some of the parts and some of the machine tools which he made to facilitate his project.
9844a ** The special knurling chucks which David made for the project:(40KB)
9844b ** Closeup of the special knurling wheels which David made for the project:(39KB)

9847 ** HOMEMADE MELEHAN VALIANT WORK-ALIKE KEY:(53KB) This key was built by an unknown person and designed to make automatic dots AND dashes in a manner similar to that used by the Melehan Valiant. I am including many views of the key to help clarify its design.
9847a ** Another view of the homemade automatic key:(23KB)
9847b ** Another view of the homemade automatic key:(23KB)
9847c ** Another view of the homemade automatic key:(23KB)
9847d ** Another view of the homemade automatic key:(20KB)
9847e ** Another view of the homemade automatic key:(23KB)
9847f ** Another view of the homemade automatic key:(23KB)
9847g ** Another view of the homemade automatic key:(23KB)
9847h ** Another view of the homemade automatic key:(26KB)
9847i ** Another view of the homemade automatic key:(28KB)
9847j ** Another view of the homemade automatic key:(27KB)
9847k ** Another view of the homemade automatic key:(20KB)

9849 * HAND MADE COPIES OF FAMOUS VIBROPLEX KEYS BY MARTIN ODENBACH - DK4XL: THE VIBROPLEX VERTICAL:(16KB) Martin Odenbach - DK4XL is an expert machinist and he has made some very accurate reproductions of the rarest Vibroplex keys. As you can see below, his workmanship is superb. He travelled widely to visit major key collectors and made accurate measurements and drawings of their keys before beginning work on his keys.
9849a * Another view of the Vibroplex Vertical:(16KB)
9849b * Martin Odenbach's reproduction of the Vibroplex Midget:(28KB)
9849c * Another view of the Vibroplex Midget:(27KB)
9849d * Martin Odenbach's reproduction of the Vibroplex 'U' contact key:(24KB)
9849e * Another view of the Vibroplex 'U' contact key:(24KB)

9850 * JJ-38 JAPANESE COPY OF A J-38 WORLD WAR II UNITED STATES MILITARY KEY:(21KB) At first glance, this key appears to be a standard World War II vintage J-38 United States Military Key. However, it is marked JJ-38 and the key mechanism is the familiar imported Japanese design with the ball-bearings at the end of the trunnion that has been widely distributed in this country since the 1960's.

9853 ** THE WONDERFUL RICHARD MEISS - WB9LPU HOMEMADE KEYS:(3KB) These 17 keys demonstrate excellent machining and unique design characteristics.

9855 GERMAN 'LORENZ' CIGAR CUTTER TELEGRAPH KEY:(20KB) This extremely unusual Telegraph Key is actually a cigar cutter set up to trim two cigars simultaneously.
9855a A view of the Cigar Cutter Telegraph Key 'in action':20KB)
9855b A view of the base of the key showing the maker's name:(20KB)

9857 CRYSTAL RADIO RECEIVER MADE FROM SIGNAL ELECTRIC COMPANY TELEGRAPH KEY PARTS:(36KB)This unusual crystal radio receiver was made using signal electric telegraph company shorting switch levers for all of its conductors. It uses the classic ''cat's whiskers'' detector with a small crystal acting as a diode to detect the AM broadcast signals. The crystal is adjusted by moving the copper cat's whisker wire to a 'hot' place on the surface of the crystal. The label says that it is an EAM Toy.
9857a A close-up view of the 'cat's whisker' crystal detector mounted in a hole in a Signal Electric Co. telegraph shorting bar:(58KB)

9860 NOVELTY KEY / DESK STAPLER: (24KB) Nicely gold-plated stapler made into a surprisingly accurate copy of a pole-changer key right down to the wire connections. Pole changing switch becomes a staple remover. Stamped "Ted Arnold Ltd."
9860a Left side view of the NOVELTY KEY / DESK STAPLER: (33KB)

9870 "MORSEFLAME" TELEGRAPH KEY LIGHTER:(17KB) Nicely made Brass key on wooden base. Pressing key makes tone and activates butane cigarette lighter. w/book.

9880 WACO model 611 KOB / AM RADIO: (38KB) Very unusual full-sized massive Key and Sounder with brass hardware mounted on a black plastic base that contains an AM Radio! Key activates a code practice tone with radio on or off.

9882 THE TINY SUB-SUB-MINIATURE TUTTRUP GOLD KEY / PIN:(12KB) Terry Tuttrup (KD0QS) and his son Matt make and sell this wonderful and tiny gold and white-gold individually hand-crafted ''operating'' telegraph key. It measures just 5/8-inches long and can be pinned on a hat or lapel. The frame and pin is 14 Karat Yellow Gold. The lever is 14 Karat White Gold. The only parts which are not gold are the incredibly tiny spring and adjusting screw. The workmanship is excellent and it is a bargain at $ 89.95 plus $ 4.50 Shipping. The key includes a 6-month guarantee. (There are no electrical contacts.)
They also make an all-gold call-letter pin for: $ 59.95, $ 69.95, and $ 79.95 for 4, 5, and 6-letter calls respectively. (plus $ 4.50 postage/ins)
You may order them directly from: TUTTRUP DESIGNS, PO Box 483, Waseca, MN 56093 or telephone them at: (507) 835-7341,
or email them at: tutman89@clear.lakes.com
9882a A closer view of the tiny key:(8KB)
9882b A closer view of the tiny key showing the backing ''clutch'':(16KB)

9885 ** SUB-MINIATURE ''GI-JOE'' TOY TELEGRAPH KEY: (10KB) This tiny key was sold as a part of a GI-JOE toy military field radio set. It is in the Pete Malvasi, W2PM collection.
9885a * Another view showing the key and mini-headset: (10KB)

9887 ** SUB-MINIATURE ORT KEY PIN: (16KB) This tiny key was used as a lapel pin by members of ORT.

9890 * COMMERCIAL ADVERTISING GIFT AMBASSADOR KEY:(34KB) This typical inexpensive Japanese key with lever stamped "Ambassador", was mounted on a wooden board and given away to customers as an advertising gift.
9890a It has the company logo: "LIVE WIRES" painted on the bottom:(35KB)

9892 ** KA9TRQ HAND-MADE TELEGRAPH KEY:(18KB) These extremely attractive keys are hand-made by KA9TRQ. They measure 6"Long by 3" Wide and stand 1.5" high. They are made of satin finished brass and aluminum. Although it looks as though it has conventional contacts, it actually uses an embedded microswitch. If you are interested in obtaining one, contact George Glavas, KA9TRQ, 1126 Windcrest Acres, Galesburg, IL 61401. (309) 342-8409.

9893 ** EXTRAORDINARY HOME MADE MAC KEY BY Maurizio Melappioni, I6QON: This one of the two absolutely perfect hand made reproductions of the famous McElroy Standard 1938 bug made by Maurizio. The workmanship and attention to detail are wonderful.
9893a The technical drawings for the Mac Key:
9893b The two casings resting on technical drawings:
9893c A closer view of the mechanism and the label:

9895 ** VERY UNUSUAL HOMEMADE EARLY CAMELBACK TELEGRAPH KEY:(26KB) This magnificent very early camelback key was made by Bob Fuschetto using a design shown in a very early picture. Overall and close-up views of the original picture are shown below. It is impossible to determine whether the artist created this telegraph key from an existing design or whether it was a stylized impression of what a telegraph key might be.
9895a A view of the key showing it's size:(11KB)
9895b An overall view of the original picture:(51KB)
9895c A detailed closeup view of the original picture:(31KB)

9898 ** NS3E's HOMEMADE KEY KEY:(18KB) This attractive and humorous key was made by Ed Biter, NS3E who owns it.


NOTE: I AM ALWAYS LOOKING TO BUY OR TRADE TELEGRAPH KEYS !


Professor Tom Perera
Montclair State University

Internet On-Line Telegraph & Scientific Instrument Museum:
http://w1tp.com
or:
http://www.chss.montclair.edu/~pererat/telegrap.htm
Internet ENIGMA Museum: http://w1tp.com/enigma