A couple of days ago, this turned up in the mail:
Now, you have to understand how exciting this was for me. I’m trying to find an analogy here. Mmm….the first time I made out with a girl? Well, I’m not THAT much of a nerd, but close. For a start, I haven’t owned a straight key in about 15 years, and the ones I owned in the past weren’t of very high quality. My last key was a cheap practice key, and I only had a few on-air QSO’s with it. So…….this was going to be my first decent straight key. Secondly, seeing this key in the flesh is a bit like seeing your favorite celebrity in person. You’ve seen them in magazines and on TV, and you can’t quite believe that they are really in front of you. Well, I haven’t seen the KK1 on TV, but I’ve seen it plenty in magazines and online and have been considering it for a while now. I was thinking that for the main station key, perhaps I need something a little larger and heavier, but my ham budget is limited. Doug Hauff, the chief bottle washer at American Morse Equipment told me that it didn’t need to be held down while operating, so I thought that perhaps this little key was going to be substantial enough to be the main key while using my FT-817 at home, as well as while on portable operations.
Ordering is a breeze. You click the appropriate button on Doug’s website, pay by Paypal, Paypal send you an acknowledgement of your payment, and that’s it. A couple of days later the above package turned up in my mailbox.
Here’s what I got when I opened the packet:
On opening the outer plastic pack, here’s a look at what’s inside:
I like the fact that instead of including an assembly manual, Doug points you to his website, which has a downloadable pdf file with complete assembly instructions. This is really the way to go.
Before doing anything, I spent a good 15 minutes looking the parts over, and in particular, marveling at how well machined the aluminum base, operating lever and other parts were. It’s a pleasure to look at well made parts like this, so I did. I had a good look at everything before proceeding.
I emptied the parts into the lid of a Quaker Oats box. The lid has a small lip that prevents small washers, screws, springs etc from escaping. Lots of things you could use here. An egg carton would work also:
I eat a lot of oatmeal, so it’s nice to find a use for the lid before I toss it. I’m thinking I should get back into building crystal sets so that I can use the cylindrical card oatmeal containers for winding coils on.
Although some owners spend quite a bit of time polishing and buffing the aluminum base and brass parts of the key, as well as performing other customizations, such as fixing a knob to the paddle, the only thing you do need to do before assembly is to deburr the clevis (it’s the two vertical “posts” sticking up out of the aluminum base). I used a fine file; you can also use fine sandpaper or a small pocket knife. Only a light touch is required here, so go easy on it; it doesn’t take much.
I won’t say much about the assembly. The instructions are detailed and straightforward to follow. Anything in the instructions that doesn’t make immediate sense to you will most likely become apparent after looking at the pieces and the photos in the instructions. I only had one slight uncertainty during the assembly process, and that was the following instruction:
“Locate the 4-40 x 1/2 ground end machine screw. There are two ½ inch screws, the smaller is the 4-40; you can easily see the ground end.”
The other 1/2 inch screw, according to the parts list, is a 6-32 x 1/2. Well, the problem I had was that both my 1/2 inch screws looked exactly the same. The pitch was the same and the ends both looked the same. Although the ends of both my screws were ground a little, but as this screw is going to be used as the electrical contact for the key, I think that perhaps the end was supposed to be ground smoother than it actually was. Anyway, the thread on the screw fit the thread in the hole easily, so I went ahead with the assembly, deciding that if I had problems further down the road, I would contact Doug for a replacement part.
I had one extra part – an extra #0/1 washer. No problem. I’d rather have one part too many than one too few.
The assembly didn’t take long, at the end of which, I had this:
Yours could look even more beautiful if you want to polish the main parts. It looks perfectly nice to me the way it is, so for the time being, it stays the way it is. Maybe one day I’ll find myself with a little time on my hands and a can of brass polish to hand.
One more thing before it could be used – a cord and plug. I found an audio connecting cable that had come from Radio Shack and hadn’t been used in a long time. It had a molded 1/8″ jack on each end. I cut it in half, and used one half to make a cord for this key, along with heat-shrink tubing.
Here’s the finished item:
I have never used a straight key that was this small before, and was pleasantly surprised. For the size (approx 1.5″ x 3″ x 1.375″ tall), it is quite heavy, and it definitely stayed put on my wooden desk top while I was keying it. It’s not very apparent from these pictures, but the key comes with 4 clear rubber “bumpers” that you stick to the bottom of the base, and these do a splendid job of keeping the key in place while you’re pumping brass. I also tried it on a tile countertop with no problems, so if you have any concerns about the possibility of a small key scooting all over the place while you’re trying to key your transmitter, I don’t think that’s going to happen with the KK1.
I did at first find it a little unusual using a straight key with a paddle instead of a knob. Some have attached their own knobs; I will most likely keep my key the way it is. I seem to be getting used to it. Having not used a straight key in 15 years, I was disappointed to find that I need to work on my sending in order to develop a more natural rhythm. At first, I wondered if a larger key with a knob would help. It may, but I think that lack of practice is the bigger factor here.
This key was fun to assemble and will be a pleasure to own. For $36 plus shipping you have a straight key that can be used as the main key in your station as well as an excellent key for portable ops too. It’s well made and looks great. I can’t keep my eyes off it. Kudos to Doug Hauff W6AME, and his company American Morse Equipment.
Now please excuse me while I go make a cup of tea and come back to the computer to apply for my FISTS and SKCC memberships!
This news just in: I just heard from Doug that he has turned the 6-32 x 1/2 inch screw into a 4-40 and eliminated the end grind, so I did have the correct part. He just hadn’t made the change in the documentation. You can grind this screw yourself with a piece of sandpaper if you wish; my key is working fine using the screw as supplied.
More news just in: I’ve been using this key for almost a week now and have gotten fully used to using it. I’m pleasantly surprised at how such a modestly sized key not only feels solid and stable on my desk, but also feels natural for sending code. Any shortcomings in my sending are due to operator error, and not to the key. I wholeheartedly recommend this key. Great value for money!