Whiterook MK-32 mini cootie.
I have always been interested in Morse code and also its history, so it was only a matter of time before I discovered the Sideswiper and its place in telegraphy.
Although I have only been using a cootie for a short time I find that its adds a new dimension to the code and that is always interesting to me. I did a lot of reading once I became interested in the art of sideswiping and eventually got started with a commercially available plastic cootie produced by Electronics.USA (see picture of the red base cootie, first cootie). Its pretty small and light as a feather but it was designed as a portable key - but by holding it firmly with one hand you can get some pretty good sideswiping from it. Anyway, it was a quick way to get something that I could practice with to begin to get an idea of what sideswiping was like... [W0SJS].
Modified Vibroplex VibroKeyer.
About the same time I found the SSN website and looked at all the different key's of the members. One of Dave, N1EA's keys caught my eye .. his modified Vibroplex Vibro Keyer. I remembered that I had one that was given to me some years ago by a friend who lives out in Washington state. He warned me that it was is sad shape and had been stored for years in a garage workshop but sent it along as a gift and with the hopes that some day I might get it fixed up. Well, when I went back through a box of old gear and parts and found it I remembered why it was boxed up. It was beat up, dirty and greasy with some broken parts. I remember thinking when I first got it that it was so sad that a piece of gear was so poorly treated.
Anyway, I decided to try and give it some new life and took it apart and started out by literally washing and de-greasing it. (see the before picture on the left, making cootie) Once it had thoroughly dried off I took all the best parts and combined them with some parts from a Vibroplex Deluxe bug that I had run for years and years CW/m to make my version of a modified Vibroplex Vibro Keyer cootie. I repainted the base using some black crinkle finish paint I had left from some Brown Brother's key fix-ups and then reassembled all of the best parts and wired it to operate like a sideswiper. The result turned out pretty good, (see the after picture on the right, restored cootie).
Finally, I swapped out the standard red knob and paddle for a set of plastic paddles to give the same feel to both sides of the key and reduce the distance between the left and right tapping surfaces, (see the picture here on the left, finished cootie). [W0SJS].
The Vizkey Cootie Key by Tom K4VIZ.
I recently took the plunge and purchased a manufactured cootie from Tom, K4VIZ, his Vizkey Cootie and have had it on the air for a few days now. I am sure that as time goes on I will enjoy it more and more but it did not take long to discover the qualities of Tom's work in this key. First, Tom was very personable and attentive to my order, even sending an unsolicited email to confirm the order and ask a question. The turn-around time between my order and the arrival of the key was only a few days, and the key arrived packed carefully and in perfect condition.
Physically, the key is a very appropriate size in my estimation, not so big that the base overwhelms the mechanism but of a size so that the base, mechanism and weight complement each other. From front to back the base measures 3.5 inches (8.8 cm) and is 2.0 inches (5 cm) wide. The height to the center of the paddle from desktop is 1 3/8 inches (3.5 cm). By contrast, the base depth is exactly the same as my Brown Brothers CTL-A and the height to the center of the paddle of the CTL-A is 1 ½ inches (4 cm), or about the same as the Vizkey. The weight of the Vizkey is a bit less than the Brown Brothers but similar enough that you know the key will sit well on the table. The finish and workmanship is flawless and esthetically pleasing, which is also important to me. The working surfaces, the contacts, are standard silver contacts that you would find on any high quality key and the placement has been carefully calculated so that when the contacts close on either side they fit perfectly, flat surface to flat surface. This enhances the operation of the key and gives the feeling that it is very “sure-footed”.
Although I am relatively new to the art of Side-Swipery (TU Jerry, KDØCA for the terminology) I found that the keys movement and tension to be just right for me - firm and precise and with just enough flex in the swiper that you easily fall into a good rhythm. In contrast, I find that when I use my retro-fit VibroCootie the stiffness of the arm and lack of flex makes for a more jerky feel, and although it may sound pretty much the same on the receive end the pleasure on the sending end is not as nice as with the Vizkey. The feel of the movement of the Vizkey and the MK-32 are similar and if I were to rate the “enjoyment” factor between using the Vizkey, VibroCootie and MK-32 I would have to say that the Vizkey is #1, no contest here, and that the VibroCootie is nice but for me ranks #3. For pictures of these three cooties and my other keys and gear:
please visit my website.
I am the type of person that enjoys making or creating things myself so the satisfaction of renovating and converting my old Vibroplex Vibro Keyer to a cootie was great. But, I also appreciate the craftsmanship of others and Tom's Vizkey is definitely classy and, to me, worth the price based on the workmanship, operation and years of pleasure it will continue to bring. Also, Tom tells me that all of his keys are warranted 100% for as long as he has his shop, and to me that says something about his pride in his craft.
So, if your looking for a cootie that will satisfy your Side-Swipery needs I would definitely recommend the Vizkey Cootie!