Fine Tune Your Morse Code Skills With This Mint Tin Practice Keyer


Hackaday reader [svofski] wrote in to share a device he built, which would be useful to any ham operators out there trying to hone their CW skills. He calls his practice keyer the Morseshnik, and it is a combination of various items [svofski] found while digging through his parts drawer.

He disassembled an old hard drive, saving its read arm to serve as the keyer’s paddle. He purchased some small angle brackets to create a set of contacts for the device, between which the lever sits, automatically centered by a pair of springs.

An MSP430, which was also collecting dust in [svofski’s] junk pile, resides inside the Morseshnik’s mint tin base on a small DIY PCB. It allows him to toggle between manual and automatic keying modes with the flick of a switch as he whiles his time away practicing his dits and dahs.

Continue reading to see a short video of the Morseshnik in action, and swing by his site for code and PCB schematics should you want to build one of your own.


9 thoughts on “Fine Tune Your Morse Code Skills With This Mint Tin Practice Keyer

  1. Cool project all the way around. I have a couple of hard drive read arms that are scheduled to end up in tiny, portable straight keys. The bearings are buttery-smooth.

    I am curious as to whether, in the author’s design, the sheet-metal surface of the tin provides sufficient stability for the bearing. I envision the key being a bit “mushy” because the vertical bearing would have the tendency to tilt as the tin’s lid flexes.

    It might improve the feel of the key to fit a piece of 0.060 aluminum plate– or maybe even a chunk of copper clad– to the underside of the lid to stiffen it up.

    1. You are correct, the surface is a bit mushy and it could have been remedied by adding something more substantial underneath, like pieces of fiberglass board like you said. But even though I think it could be a problem for a pro, for me at this point it’s not really something to worry about — I struggle to reproduce the patterns correctly.

      @rue_mohr: I have built a buzzer from a 7400 before. But I had to use this MSP430 for something after all :)

  2. I don’t want to be a pain, but… This is neither a a straight key or paddles to use with an iambic keyer. Why not practice send with a simple straight key? Something most stations have as a back up or easy to improvise. This requires circuitry not required by a simple straight key. Never dawned on me to use HD arm components to make a home made key or set of paddles, now I need to remember to remember that.

    1. This is not a iambic keyer, it’s a simple automatic keyer.

      “Why not practice with a simple straight key”

      I guess it’s a matter of preference. Basically you can put my construction on a side, switch it into manual mode and use it as a straight key.

      HDDs have many nice parts to reuse for a million of things. I have built in the past a straight key using a little ikea wrench and the magnet was like a spring. But I didn’t really like the process of straight keying too much.

  3. Never (yes, I’m said NEVER!) use such paddle, if you really want to be a good CW op. Your hand placed in “uncomfortable” position. Yes, harddrive has an excellent mechanics, but yor hand is the “main part” of your CW skills. I can send more than 30 WPM on the key, so, just trust me ;).

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