CW Fun: Fun With Morse Code, by W9PPG, Bill Weinhardt

     Updated 26September 2001       URL is


Here is W9PPG’s third column on using Morse Code. Article ©1996 Wm. J. Weinhardt. Email


by W9PPG, Bill Weinhardt

he first thing that comes to mind for having fun operating with Morse code is operating on the 30 meter band. This band is a purely CW or digital band with no voice operation permitted. In addition, power is limited to 250 watts and most folks use rather simple wire or vertical antennas so everyone is just about on an equal footing. This band is not particularly crowded so operation here can be a real pleasure.

It also seems to me that on this band, people tend to get into more lengthy and interesting conversations than on some of the other bands. Even the DX QSO’s are often much more than the quick exchange of signal report, QTH, and name.

ith my temporary wire antenna and 100 watts I worked the Clipperton Island DX pedition several years ago on 30 meters. Although there was a pile up, I got them the third time I tried. It would have been much more difficult with my station on some of the other bands. I have had many very interesting QSO’s on this band as well. I have talked with a surprising number of truckers operating mobile CW on 30.

ield Day is always fun for a CW operator particularly since CW contacts are given a multiplier of two while a voice contact is only one. Contacts can be made very quickly particularly when there is someone helping to log.

y favorite operating event is Straight Key Night which is a 24 hour period on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. This is not really a contest as there are no awards, but participants may vote on who has the best fist or who was the most interesting contact. The only stipulation is that you must use a straight key.

uite a few participants bring out their vintage ham gear for this event. You will talk to those using Johnson Vikings, Heath DX-100’s and various receivers by Hallicrafters, National, and Hammurlund. Last SKN I had a lengthy QSO on 80 meters with a fellow in Wisconsin using an old handbook setup of a regenerative receiver and a crystal controlled 6L6 oscillator.

or last SKN I put an old World Radio Labs Globe Scout and Hammurlund HQ-140 on the air. I really had a ball….not too many QSO’s since I only had a few crystals that worked. Most of the contacts were lengthy and very interesting. I also use an old McElroy "Stream Key" that is probably at least 50 years old and may even date back to pre WW2 days.

istorical note: The "Stream Key" was manufactured by the T.R. McElroy company. Ted McElroy who founded the company was recognized as the "World Champion Telegrapher". He won a number of code copying competitions in the 1930’s and could copy code at 69 words per minute. He founded his own company which manufactured keys, bugs, and a variety of automatic code sending devices.

here seems to be a resurgence of building older tube-type CW rigs if the last several SKN’s can be used as a measure judging from what others told me that they were using. This type of gear used to abound in the handbook, QST, and other ham radio journals. Even today, the parts are not all that difficult to obtain at hamfests. Just look in the boxes under the tables.

have most of the parts to build a mid 1930’s vintage rig. I am told by real old timers that it was very popular with hams of that era. It makes use of some receiving type tubes of the time……a 47 as the crystal oscillator and a pair of 46’s in parallel as the amplifier. Should run about 50 watts or so with a 500 volt power supply. This is another of my many projects for when I get the time.

‘ve been asked just what equipment I operate at my station. The transceiver is a Heath SB-1400. It was made for Heath by Yaesu just before Heath went out of business and really is a Yaesu FT-747 in disguise with the Heath name on it. It is a rather basic rig without many "bells and whistles." For an antenna, I use a home brew variation of G5RV antenna. It is a wire antenna 104 feet long fed in the center with open wire balanced feedline. Using an antenna tuner with this, I am able to operate all the HF bands.

or those who are curious, the length of the open wire feedline is however much it took to get from the back of the tuner to the center of the antenna. No, the antenna is not symmetrical either. One half of it droops down over the front roof of the house while the other half is straight. The antenna tuner is an MFJ Versa Tuner capable of handling 300 watts.

or a key I use a Vibroplex "bug". This is a semi-automatic mechanical key where the "dits" are made automatically by a contact on a vibrating spring and the "dahs" are individually made by the operator. I also use a straight key sometimes for sending more slowly.

‘ll be looking for you on the CW bands for Straight Key Night next New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.


article ©1996 William Weinhardt, email me for permission to use

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