N5ESE Builds the the Cric-Key Keyer Kit (2021)
(Cheap and Easy Keyer & Paddles kitted by 4SQRP Club)

(click on picture above to see larger version)

Okay - how about this? $25 for an iambic keyer and paddles from 4SQRP Group.
Dangling out there in front of me, right there on the Internet, I knew I had to bite.
Cric-Key Kit

Here's what we got in the kit - a wooden base and all the components:


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The mechanical parts are cleverly fabriocated out of printed circuit materials.
First, the main board (Top & Bottom views):

(click on picture above to see larger version)

Above, the two round nibs and the small rectangular one get broken out as separate parts - they will
become part of the paddles later in assembly. The paddles (below, inside/outside) are also made
from printed circuit board (pcb) and will get split apart to make the dit and dah paddles.

(click on picture above to see larger version)

Below, you can see the final assembly - it's really quite amazing!

(click on picture above to see larger version)

Notice the clever use of two pcb cams to serve as paddle adjustments, along with the nylon screw
adjustment. The pcb's natural flex provides spring tension.


I knew they were refering to this keyer as an IAMBIC of which you'll find many
variations around the ham radio world: "A", "B", "Ultimatic" and a few others. This circuit was
built around only two 1970s-vintage 4000-series IC's, so I couldn't wrap my head around the
possibility that it could be iambic. To be truly iambic, in my mind, a keyer minimally needed to have:

    - self completing dots and dashes
    - dot and dash insertion
    - both paddles held together create alternating dots and dashes
Could this possibly meet the criteria?

Holy Smokes! This thing really is iambic - and it works amazingly well! Yes, the paddles
are made of 1/16" stock pcb board, so they are a more than a little "squishy" hitting the contacts.
It is not the "solid" feel that most CW operators seek. But I used it for a good hour or so
testing, and it is definitely a very usable keyer-paddles combo. I kept missing the last dot in
letter 'C' and 'R' and I was a basket case. I'm sure it's because I use a keyer with some advanced
(look-ahead-on-squeeze-operations) feature, and I'm so patheticly used to it that I can't simply blow
it off. I thought I was precise, but now I'm realizing the advanced keyers are covering for my
sloppy imprecision - HIHI. But I practiced for about 5 minutes, and once I got the feel for the
"release" on a squeeze letter, I could send pretty decent code up until about 18 wpm. So if you
don't have the burden of being a grizzly old set-in-your-ways greezer op, the cric-key is a
great way to get started. And, of course, with the addition of a stereo jack at the dit & dah input,
you can add a "real" paddle later and really tear up the airwaves!

One teensy gotcha that got me: When you go to make a cable for the cric-key, be sure to use a 3.5mm
MONO type key at the keyer's output jack. The circuit uses the long ground of the mono-shaft to
turn ON the keyer. I tried using a stereo jack here, thinking tip-and-ground, right? But nothing
happened. So use a 1/8" (3.5mm MONO plug at the keyer itself. Or find a workaround.

Monty N5ESE

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Overseer: Monty Northrup ... n5ese@n5ese.com ... leave e-mail ...