Last weekend was the SKCC WES (WeekEnd Sprintathon) for February 2018. For the last couple of years, in these sprints I had favoured the use of a sideswiper neglecting the use of straight vertical keys. Hence, for this WES I decided to go back to basics and try the Sheunemann Kleine Hantaste (previously known as the Schurr Kleine Handtaste): http://www.scheunemann-morsetasten.de/handtaste.htm.
This is a small and flat key clearly designed for “American-style” keying: i.e., with the arm resting on a flat surface, the wrist fixed but relaxed, and the “rocking of the forearm up and down slightly” doing most of the work. (http://www.mtechnologies.com/wordpress/?p=16). The concave “bowl-shaped” wooden knob helps in this regard. The small length overall conceals the fact that this key actually has a relatively long arm, since its pivot is not at its center but at its very far end. Another significant detail is that the contact is made a couple of centimeters from the knob, on a small piece of gold placed on a block of acrylic. This softens the contact at the beginning of each dot or dash while dampening any vibration that might linger on the end.
However, I was out of practice, which meant that some use for the wrist was difficult to avoid, and soon I found my entire forearm frozen solid while still pumping at the key from the shoulder. Little was left from having to stand up and jump on both feet to create each dot or dash! Well, maybe not as much, but clearly not a most satisfactory technique. Conclusion: more straight-keying practice is needed while keeping the forearm and wrist fully relaxed.
Nevertheless, in spite of the frozen arm and all, more than a handful of QSOs were logged. The 20M band had a very low noise and – to my surprise given recent results – several signals were being heard at S5 and above. I concentrated my efforts in this band and at the end was able to log 16 QRP contacts, four of them in Europe (FRA x3 & POR) and the rest in nine different US States (CO, FL, KS, LA, MO, MS, OK, SD & TX) (see picture at the top). It has been a while since I was able to claim such kind of harvest in an SKCC WES.
Clearly, this was not the result of any advantage provided by my unique straight-key performance, but rather of the HF propagation in the 20M band being supported by the surprising emergence on the face of the sun of a rare sunspot: Group AR2699 (https://sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov/assets/usermovies/20180212044424/movie/20180212044424_1024_hmiic.mp4).
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