Got an itch to try a Cootie Key?

Many folks that have purchased W1SFR keys eventually get a hankering to use them as a Cootie key. There are a couple of simple ways to do that. The easiest way it to get a 3.5mm stereo to mono adapter. Of course you’ll have to consult your radio manual and do what is necessary for it to accept a key in straight key mode.

The other way is to simply short the two contact posts under the base of the key. That can be as simple as a couple of alligator clips to a hard bridge soldered between the two posts. Either way you will most likely want to increase the contact spacing a bit to give you a bit more room to get your swing going cuz it’s a different feel than using it in paddle mode.

Here’s my most recent key, the “Torsion Bar Cootie/Paddle”. It comes wired as a regular single lever paddle, but is easily converted. Because the action is low to the deck, and the key has some decent rubber feet (not those stick on jobs, but real rubber feet with screws tapped into the base) it’s pretty amazing how well it sticks when in use. The contact mechanism is also a big contributor to it’s smooth action.

Sending with a cootie key is so much more personal than a standard paddle. Because you control the spacing, duration, and timing of every dit, dah and in between, your messaging takes on a whole different “feel”. Now…I’m not talking about sending out a bunch of slop, but like listening to a good bug op, a good cootie op is a joy to listen to.

Want to hear what some great sideswiper ops sound like? Give a listen to the guys on the sideswiper net. There are several nets around the world at different times, so it’s best to go to the website and check out the schedules. I try to make the Thursday night net on 7044 at 8PM DST. Also on the site is an amazing compendium of information about swipers and tons of pictures of keys made by scores of cootie lovers.

See you on the net!

Steve, W1SFR

3 thoughts on “Got an itch to try a Cootie Key?

  1. Steve, I stumbled across your uTube demo of your new magnetic Cootie key, but when I search your web site I fail to see it discussed. Looks like a very nice key. which I’d like to know more about. Have I overlooked something? Thanks. Mike Pilgrim, K5MP
    PS. I’m the guy who created the SKCC Cootie User list (on which I see your entry), and then I decided to initiate the Cootie Corner topic on the SKCCyahoogroups page to draw attention to that list and to an obvious market for increased knowledge and product ideas.
    Glad to see your recent comment there. Maybe this can help drum up some new Cootie interest and desire for your products.


    • Hi Mike, thanks for your comments! Well, I get quite a few requests for me to make that key, but it was a one-off made from scrap in my shop. I took a LOT of work so not really feasible to produce them commercially. When people ask me how much, I tell them $365 and that’s usually the last I hear from them HiHi. My most recent key is a fantastic cootie key and the culmination of my work with the torsion bar concept. I have no reason to change it since I think it meets my criteria for a great key at a very reasonable price. I’m behind your cootie User List 100% and hope more ops give them a try. They take a little effort to get used to, but once you’re there there’s nothing like it IMHO. Best 73, Steve, w1SFR


  2. Pingback: Operating notes: Homebrew keys, callsign fun - KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog

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