06 June 2014

Elegance and Simplicity: The "Palm Single" Keyer

Did you ask yourself sometimes why there are two paddles on you keyer?
The Schurr Keyer
You don't do squeeze. You just hit your fingers on the DIT or on the DAH lever, for you never learned it properly. So one lever should be sufficient if on one side there is a DIT and on the other side there is a DAH! You got the chance to test it with the Palm-Radio miniature single lever morse paddle.

Palm Single

After learning many moons ago the art of CW on a hand bug an OM gave me an old double keyer which was for me the start to new adventures. I combined it with the SuperCmos II keyer and I was astonished how easy it was to give also at speeds above 60 characters per minute. I was even faster than my ears could cope with. But the old keyer lacked precision, and being some sort of mechanical freak I invested in my double keyer made by Schurr, later followed by the travel keyer from Schurr, which you see on the first photo. These bugs are a mechanical wonder and work after 20 years just as in day one.

But what is a mechanical device if it is not properly adjusted. So Gerhard (DK6TP) taught me how to set up a keyer:

  1. Turn the screw for the DIT contact so that you hear the tone without touching the lever. Then turn the screw just so far back, that the tone vanishes.
  2. Do the same procedure with the DAH lever. When done right you will have trouble to slide a piece of paper into the contact gap and the front of the lever moves barely a millimeter.
  3. Now it's to to adjust the pressure screws on both sides. This will take some training for you have to get used to your fingers or better the power which you want to apply on the levers. I use very little pressure to press a lever: Just a slight touch and the sign follows. And don't forget: You have to do it for every finger. They work differently. One thing could be a problem: I am right-handed, so I use my left hand for the keyer. Once adjusted I can't just switch my hand. This will not work. 

Some years ago I heard that Palm-Radio was developing a Mini Paddle, I ordered at once, knowing, that Dieter (DJ6TE) and Hannes (DL9SCO) were radio- and mechanical freaks. I was sure that this keyer would have the same precision as the keyers from Schurr. My confidence came from a radio-kit (the QRP-14) which they developed and had in a tiny case over 900 parts.

My most complicated radio: QRP 14
And I was right. This Mini Paddle was perfect. But not at once. I first had to understand the mechanics, and it took me some time to adjust the controls. The feeling was different compared to my big keyers. The case was tiny and I had no quick mount or magnets. In the beginning I did hold it with my right hand. Later I sellotaped it to the table,  pinned it down with my FT-817 or some books. And of course I took it with me with various other QRP-Rigs.

Do you see the palm?
It worked after some adjustments with the same precision and durability as my Schurr.

Time passed by and I never did change my keyers. No sense in changing the best with something I was not convinced of. The only thing which mad me sad: I nearly stopped working portable and so the Mini Paddle was seldom used. From time to time I connected it to a radio in my shack, and there was no lack of precision, but I had trouble fixing it on a wooden table. So before I carry on: Please Palm-Radio make a decent and nice rack were the proud owner of your miniature mechanical wonders could mount HIS keyer, use it without playing cat and mouse and show it his fellow hams in his shack.

You know, sometimes a man must have a new toy, even if he does not really need it. But that's the fun with amateur radio: You've got it all, but new things which do the same things sometimes bring an improvement.

And then there was a hint: Palm_radio was doing a single lever keyer. As told before, I always wondered why I should use two levers when one would be sufficient. But I never got the chance to lay my hands on one. So with the experience of the excellent mechanical work of Palm-Radio I thought: Just give it a try and I was missing a keyer for my new/old SOLF+.

The technical specs looked promising:
  • Automatic centering of the lever- no manual adjustments required.
  • Paddle pressure per side individually adjustable from approximately 2 to 40 grams.
  • Galvanized, gold-plated contacts.
  • And of course: small, light, retractable, ... a typical Palm Radio Product. 
I hadn't been following the development of Palm-Radio so I was astonish when the keyer arrived in a flight box.
Flight Case
Every piece had its place secured by taps, there was a quick-mount frame in it and a manual. Very well done. But Sir Hajo doesn't like to RTFM and knows it all. After connecting it I at once noticed that the feeling was different to the Mini Paddle: The paddle had to much "play".

Side View of the Palm Single
The hex key was in the case so I tried to adjust the contact gap very carefully, so that the screws would not damage the construction. But it turned out that I should have RTFM. To make a long story short, Hannes gave me some hints and now it works like a charme.

The innards of the keyer
The way I found out how to do it? I took my magnifier and studied the functions. There are more tricks in the bag than I can tell: This things is stable as a rock. After doing the same adjustments like I did on the Schurr's and the Mini Paddle this keyer works with an astonishing precision although the main construction is some sort of "plastic" and there is no metal involved, except of course the galvanized, gold-plated contacts.

Above new connector / Down my old one on the Mini
And there is one more thing: When I have one complaint about the old keyer: I used it, but it back into it's housing a carton, which I still have, pushed in the connector, disassembled it, ... I had to resolder it several times. But now a perfect plug which I am sure of will hold some years. Again well done.

I am still astonished how easy this keyer is to use and my time to change from the double paddle to the single was second to none. I used it in my top speed 160 and I made no mistakes. The best thing is the feeling: The lever at least for my fingers has a form which pleases and gives the feeling of having something in it's hand, not just a cheap lever. This is one to stay and use.

PS: I still need a solution to fix it on my table, for the times they are a-changing and I will at least for the moment make contacts from home and not from the fields.

Stay Tuned!