I have just done a search of the Internet for books on the building of a telegraph speed key. None were found. Nor was anything found about the making a vertical telegraph speed key. Thus, this book appears to be the very first one ever written on the subject.
This key stands 7-1/4” tall, has a 3” x 3-3/4” x 3/4” thick brass base and is nickel plated. It will be one of the best performing keys that you own and you can take great pride in having built one of the world’s most unusual speed keys.
It has no dot contact post, no dot spring on the weight rod and no silver contacts. Instead, there is a collet on the weight rod that has a strong magnet bonded on its bottom. This magnet passes over a reed switch mounted in a 5/32”OD brass tube and closes it to make dots for the transmitter. The avoidance of friction from the normal dot spring and its silver contacts is why the key usually makes such an unbelievable number of dots. All other components of a normal speed key are present. The book is 60 pages, 8-1/2 x 11 and is spiral bound. It contains drawings and 145 color photographs of the step by step construction to guide the builder.
Here is the history of the original vertical speed key, and how my vertical keys came about. Around 90 years ago, Martin, the inventor of the Vibroplex telegraph speed key manufactured the world’s first vertical telegraph speed key. Its purpose was said to conserve space on the operator’s desk. Although highly collectable, no firm has made one since then. Thus, my above key is the first one offered since that date. The Martin key was so complex that I could not determine how it worked by a study of photographs. I had to resort to the patent drawings for an understanding. Most owners of the Martin vertical key are not very happy with how it performs.
Many years ago, on ham radio, I met a friend, Shelby (Coach) Rye, AD4WQ. He learned that I had made two speed keys earlier in my life and a code keyer switch later. He encouraged me to make another speed key. After much consideration, it seemed that to be of interest, such a key would have to be of a highly unusual design and be an excellent performer. A vertical key seemed to be the answer.
I accidentally solved the problem of how to make a short height, high performance, vertical speed key, with the paddles at finger height 62 years ago. This was while making a code keyer as my project in a mechanical engineering class, while a student at the University of Tennessee. Thus, I was in an excellent position to make an unusual, vertical speed key design of great simplicity, and high performance, compared to the Martin key.
A key was designed and made in short order and Coach came to check it out. We were both surprised to learn that instead of the usual 15 or so dots made by a normal Vibroplex speed key, this key made 105 of them before giving up. Coach has used his version of the key for the past 6 years and says it is the best of all of his speed keys. During this period, I ended up building eight highly unusual speed keys-most of them vertical.
At that time, 6 years ago, I did not think it logical to write a book for making the key, by a clockmaking author unknown in CW circles. However, since my book, How TO RESTORE TELEGRAPH KEYS, has become the bible for key collectors, and much of my restoration work has been seen on the Internet by CW people. Thus it now seems possible to justify the work and expense of publishing a book on how to make the key.
Those who have HOW TO RESTORE TELEGRAPH KEYS will find it a great adjunct to this book.