What paddle is the best?

What is the ideal paddle for CW operators? I think the following conditions are the requisites for that. In a word, it should be like our own fist. The only thing we require it to return quickly, even quicker than our fist. Anyway, this is my dogmatic opinion on the ideal paddle.

1)Weight of the paddle.
Whole weight should be heavy enough not to be moved with manipulation. On the other hand, more importantly, the moving system should be light enough as if we won't feel we are handling a paddle. It should be like a part of our body. It should have some tactile sensation that tells us we touch the finger pieces.

With these description, you might wonder if the touch keyer could be the best. The touch keyer has two problems. One is the rebound sensation at the touch portion. Even though I have never used it, it could jolt or rebound to keying, I am afraid. The other point is that it could be difficult to send QRQ compared with the ideal paddle. Thanks to the spring/magnetic return tension, the lever of a paddle might return quicker than our own fingers. It might be a problem when the sending exceeds certain speed.

2)Tension of the lever(s)
The tension is to move back the levers to the rest position. When we hit the finger piece for dash or dot, the tension should be minimum. On the other hand, it should enable the lever return the rest position as quick as possible. For this purpose, magnetic seems superior to spring. The magnetic for tension won't cast no weight so that the lever could move without any inertia. The tension spring that is very light as well as powerful for the size may be comparable to magnetic. So far, I have never used a paddle with tension spring better as for the quickness of return than magnetic tension.

3)Feel of keying
We have various impressions of feeling in sending. It is partly a subjective finding. It is often difficult to describe that feeling with a paddle. Assuming this difficulty, if we would describe the feel of keying, it would be the best that the paddle feels like a part of our body. Such a paddle is hardly available, though.

Actually, we often have the sensation of rebound for the keying feel. As soon as we hit the finger piece and the contacts are touched each other, we could feel some vibration feeling at the finger piece. In my view, it is an unnecessary vibration of the lever due to the relative small weight of the non moving parts comapred with that of the moving parts. The latter should be big enough to absorb the unnecessary vibration of the moving parts. John, K1JD, expressed this sensation as jolted. He thinks it is due to the non linearity of magnetic tension, which I could hardly agree with. I believe it is a problem of absorbing the unnecessary vibration of the moing system.

So far, the products of Begali seem to be highly estimated as for those characteristics. But there are different opinions as for the keying feel. John recommends me Stelath model while the others, like Bruce K6ZB, tells me Leonessa is the best. Atsu JE1TRV is using Sculpture.

Maybe, before choosing one of them, I should visit Begali to test each by myself. Or I should go on with my Mercury paddle compromising the keying feel. Never ending dream for an ideal paddle.


  1. Old dog with an old Bencher trick here.

    1. It is a problem of taste, Jim. I used to use that model years ago. But it was too light in touch.

  2. Hi Shin
    I struggled with these questions for years, and spent a lot of money looking for the ultimate key. I have various single levers from Begali and K3ZN and others, but the vertical and right angle bugs from K4VIZ seemed to have a wonderful fluid touch that was close to the ultimate. Unfortunately bugs all suffer from poor repeatability: you can hit the dit lever with exactly the same pressure twice, but the stream if dits never sound the same the second time. It is a mechanical disadvantage.
    Then I discovered JA3KAB's bug circuit which produces perfect dits and spaces between dits and dahs, but the dahs are purely manual.
    So now I have converted my K4VIZ bugs to single levers, which feel more like cootie keys (no mechanical stops; only very light spring leaf contacts). I put these through the JA3KAB circuit and have now achieved what for me us the perfect feel. I know bug purists would cry "sacrilege" but I make no apologies. I will send an article and photos to the FOC journal soon.

    But,all said, its a personal preference. My keys would certainly be unsuitable for the sort of speeds you can achieve.

    Season's greetings

    PS : Shostakovitch is almost always unremittingly bleak, but there are some rare exceptions!

    1. Hi John,

      Everyone has gone on a pilgrimage for an ideal paddle/key. You weren't an exception. And you have reached the electronic bug with the modified VIZ bug. You are doing just fine with that. In my experience, it was difficult to get the timing in transition between dot and dash with the electronic bug.

      Yes, Shostakovitch's music has bleak and harrowing characteristics. It may reflect his personality. and the age he spent in USSR was another reason, I guess. I believe he is a genius and will remain as a great composer in long time.


  3. As you know Shin, I'm a big Begali fan. The Sculpture mono and Stradivarius are my favorites. There are many factors going into one's favorite key choice. Fortunately there are many fine keys to choose from

    Seasons Greetings,

    1. Bill,

      I have not read your article on paddle. It seems a thorough study. My post in this blog is just what I thought of and a kind of sketch. There could be so many themes to talk about. The keying feel is of my main concern at present.

      But I may go on with this Mercury for some time. I just would like to test those Begali models.


  4. Shin,

    Last year, I purchased the N3ZN SE Bronze SLR. It is a dream machine and a work of art, both visually and operationally. I struggled for years with a Vibrokeyer. The N3ZN cured a lot of my sending mishaps. Also, Tony Baleno is great to deal with. If you haven't already done so, check out http://www.n3znkeys.com/p/242/zn-slr and http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/8229.



    1. Terry,

      I know of N3ZN paddle even though I have never tried any model. Thanks for the info. So far, I am going to use Mercury. See you soon. Merry Christmas to you and yours all.


    2. Terry,

      I know of N3ZN paddle even though I have never tried any model. Thanks for the info. So far, I am going to use Mercury. See you soon. Merry Christmas to you and yours all.


    3. I also have a N3ZN paddle and find the action is very similar to the Begali. Tony uses fine pitched adjustment screws and a short arm like the Begali keys. Begali uses more exotic materials that drive his cost up.

  5. Hi, Shin - always a fun topic:

    At the Dayton hamfest a few years ago, I tried a Begali single lever key and realized that for 40 years I had been forcing myself to be a squeezer when sending CW, but I was really much better at/comfortable with "slapping" the paddle.

    I bought the Bengali Mono Sculpture (at a cost that was probably more than I spent in total on equipment during my first decade as a ham...) and have loved it.

    When I began to remotely operate K4VV (now W4AAW) I either had to rig up switching, or simply replicate paddle/mic/headphones/footswitch on the remote setup. I took the easy way out and moved my now unused N3ZN ZN9 iambic key there. Being able to side by side use a very good iambic key *and* a very good single lever key has proven to me I am a slapper, not a squeezer.

    So, as a Christmas present to myself I bought a N3ZN SLR single lever key and am selling the SN9 to a local ham. I now have been able to do the side by side comparison of these two very good single lever keys.

    I can set up the spacing and closure pressure on both paddles so they are essentially identical - at least I can't tell the difference. The weight and stability are essentially equal.

    The difference (other than aesthetics) is purely the fingerpiece. The Begali Mono Sculpture has a tall but narrow fingerpiece while the N3ZN has a more traditional short but thicker fingerpiece.

    I think I like the feel of the N3ZN fingerpiece better. That probably represents less than 5% of the total cost of the paddle but is probably 95% of the difference in feel/comfort/accuracy for me. That ratio is not uncommon in many areas!

    The Begali key has two other inexpensive features I like: it comes with a simple plastic dust cover and it has a built in jack for the min-phone cable connection, vs. hard-wired connection at the paddle end.

    Bottom line: with the new N3ZN SLR on the remote setup, I hope my ragchew QSOs with JA1NUT will have many fewer errors in the future...

    73 and HNY from Carole and me, John K3TN