I started this mission back in August of 2021, and I put it on hold in October to chase my Senator status. I’ve since kicked it into high gear. As of 11-24-2021 I’m sitting at 17 QSOs with 2 unconfirmed. The map to the left shows where each of the ops are located. My location is the big circle.
I started trying to learn CW as far back as 2013, and I finally got brave enough to try a CW QSO in 2014. On April 6, 2014 I called CQ on 10m and had a 20 minute QSO with W5ZIT. It was my first and last CW QSO for another 2 years.
Fast forward to March 2016, and I finally got brave enough to try calling CQ using CW again. I made a successful QSO and discovered there were online clubs for CW. One of the clubs that I joined was the Straight Key Century Club. On March 31, 2016 I was given my number 15375. Things were good for a few months.
From March 31 to June 19, 2016 I made 70 QSOs with members of the SKCC organization, but I didn’t know there were awards. At the time I had 58 QSOs that qualified towards the Centurian award. After June 19, 2016 I quit CW because of noise on the band and kids that wouldn’t let me play. It took several more years and a few circumstances to get me back in action.
In the early 2021 year I had two good friends of mine (Eddie, KO4NLL and Billy, KO4NLK) take and pass their FCC examinations. Then they passed their General exams, and I was hooked on helping them set up stations and get on the air. I too started to get back on the air. I purchased an Icom IC-7300 just like my friends! In March 2021 (there’s something about March!) I started playing radio again by chasing FT8. During the 13 Colonies Special Event I also got brave enough to chase a few parks on CW. They were simple exchanges and nice enough to slow down for me. Then I wanted the TM13COL France Bonus station, and the only way to get it was CW. I started chasing more POTA on CW, and then one night on July 7, 2021 I had a 30 minute ragchew with Art, WB8CCR, and he asked a great question.
“I see you work a lot of FT8. How do you like and what do you like best about it?” I later emailed Art because I couldn’t send my answer at the speed I was going (slow), and I was starting to get ear fatigue, too. It really had me thinking. I used to enjoy CW. I was really good at it back in 2016, but I let a few hiccups get in the way. They were just excuses.
Then one day the FT8 program was shut down and never opened again! On July 22, 2021 I decided to take the plunge back into CW with SKCC. Head first. Full speed ahead (which wasn’t fast and very sloppy). So here’s how my run for Senator went:
QSOs are “Qualifying QSOs” for SKCC award purposes for this timeline
From July 2021 to 7 Aug 2021 I finished my first 100 QSOs for Centurian
10 Aug 2021 —> Tx1 +50 QSOs
21 Aug 2021 —> Tx2 +50 QSOs
8 Sep 2021 —> Tx3 +50 QSOs
14 Sep 2021 —> Tx4 +50 QSOs
24 Sept 2021 —> Tx5 +50 QSOs
4 Oct 2021 —> Tx6 +50 QSOs
11 Oct 2021 —> Tx7 +50 QSOs
18 Oct 2021 —> Tx8 +50 QSOs
5 Nov 2021 —> Senator! +200 QSOs
There are so many more awards to shoot for in the SKCC organization. Centurian, Tribune, and Senator are main awards, but there are ragchew awards, marathon awards, triple key awards (TKA), WAS, Prefix awards, and others. If you’re a veteran of CW or a newcomer, please consider the Straight Key Century Club, and Keep CW Alive!
Playing radio with the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC) is fun, and I wanted to try out a new key so I went to Lowe’s and spent about $20 on some stuff to make a Cootie or Side Swiper.
4 – small brackets with screws
3 – #10-32 x 3/4″ screws
8 – #10-32 nuts
1 – hacksaw blade
2 – furniture slider felts
– wood or some kind of base
1 – zip tie
– a few feet of wire (2 or 3 conductor)
1 – mono or stereo plug that fits your rig
The first step was to sand the paint off of the saw blade. I used a wire wheel to make this easy. Then I cut a 4.5″ piece of the blade for the spring arm. I drilled the original hole in the end of the saw blade so the screws could pass through. Then I sandwiched the blade between two brackets and secured it with a screw and nut. I used a cutoff wheel to shorten the screw so I could reach the other hole in the bracket when I mount it to the base.
The next step was finding the center of the poplar board that I cut for the base to mount the parts onto. I found the center and mounted the spring arm and the pivot base first. Once it was centered I drilled two pilot holes in the poplar and then secured the spring arm and pivot base assembly to the base.
Once the pivot base was in place I started finding the locations for the left and right contacts. I could have moved them a little closer to the spring arm to allow for more adjustment, but if I need less spacing I could change the 3/4″ screw for a 1″ screw. After attaching the left and right contacts to the base, I threaded one nut onto each screw and then placed the screws (contacts) into the brackets and secured them with another nut. At this point the Cootie was almost ready. Now we need to wire it up.
To wire mine up I chose to use three wires. If I wanted to use it like a single lever paddle I could. You could use two wires and a jumper from the left and right contacts if you did not plan on using it as anything but a sideswiper. For the SKCC, all code must be sent manually so to make this Cootie compliant with the rules I chose to use gator clips to short the two contacts together (as shown in the image above). I wired mine with the dots on the right side and the dashes on the left and the ground/common on the pivot base. I used a USB cable for my wires and connected it to my Icom IC-7300 according to the owner’s manual (page 18-4). A true cootie would only need a mono plug, but I chose to make it where I could use it for Parks on the Air as either an electronic bug (using the IC-7300 settings) or as a single paddle (again with IC-7300 settings).
After a long CW QSO with Rob, W2ITT, I decided that I should turn the screws around for the contacts and grind them to a point. I also mounted the wires under the bracket to eliminate two nuts. The contacts were developing some chatter or bounce, and I didn’t like it. I kept having to sand the heads of the screws, and I think this ultimately will solve the chatter issue.
See that plug on the front of my iPortable Pro 2? That is not a factory addition, but I think it should be standard. As a CW enthusiast, it became an annoyance to have to go to the back of the case to switch keys. I’ve been working on this idea in my head for quite some time, and I finally had a few minutes to make it happen.
The process is really simple. Using a 3 conductor wire is a plus, but I don’t have that so I used two sets of twisted pair and further twisted the two pair together using a drill. Then you just connect the Tip, Ring, and Sleeve together of the plug and jack. Drill a hole in the panel, and then attach the jack to the panel, and plug in the plug into your rig.
The parts I used:
– about 2.5 feet of 3 conductor wire
– one 1/4″ stereo jack
– one 1/4″ stereo plug