An Autronic Single Paddle Morse Key (2016-17)

I have been solely a single paddle key guy, and was taken with the look of the Autronic after looking to upgrade from my current key. But with the positive reviews, they now can go for quite a bit. I searched around – and found this small heritage vegetable seed company selling one of these keys, with the nice looking conical lock nuts. BUT – it was missing one of the contact posts entirely, as well as both of the springs. Eh, I think I can find somebody to help.

Here is what we are starting with.

But why is a seed company selling a key? The seller said this:

The history of the key is it was my Grandfather’s.  He served in the Navy many years ago.  He passed away in 1982.  My parents inherited the estate and this was part of all the stuff.  I just recently was given a bunch of items from moving my parents to a new location and the items I didn’t have a need for or sentimental attachment to , I put online.  So the missing parts, sorry to say, are long gone after all these years and moves.  I sure with your skills you will get back in top notch shape!

The package finally arrived, and after clearing off dinner from the table, took my new key to pieces and looked at what we had to work with.

We are missing parts these parts: contact post, contact screw, 2x plastic washers, 2x springs. Everything else looks nice; the plastic paddle finger pieces are in good shape, as is the paint on the cast aluminum base. Even the rubber feet are still sticky enough to keep from sliding around my stainless steel table. The bones here are good but some work is needed.

My original idea was to buy some similar parts and adapt them as needed. I would have the plastic washers 3D printed. While looking for those parts, I found the website of 2BRadioParts.com (Donnie WA9TGT). Since his original work supporting the Drake radios, he has moved onto the fabrication of MANY replacement parts for bugs and keys, including replacement finger pieces for the Autronic. So, I wrote him an email.

To my surprise, Donnie offered to perform a restoration. He had a similar Autronic to compare to.

His plan was to:

1. Fabricate TWO new contact posts and conical lock nut from 6061 aluminum
2. Fabricate a new pair of plastic washers. The two original ones would be placed ‘top side’ and these new ones below.
3. Convert a stainless steel screw into a replacement contact screw
4. Find similar springs and modify into replacements of the correct length and end tapers, modelled from his own key

Surprisingly, he was already mostly done in just two days!

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Autronic Key Restoration In Progress

My key on the left, his on the right. You can see the conical lock nut in progress in the center. The springs and contact posts are new. In a couple more days, it is all done and ready to ship.

The replacement contact screw is machined from a 6-40 stainless screw, with the same flat notch that all of the other screws.

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Replacement Contact Screw

And here it is, all done…

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What do the 2 adjusters that stick out from AUTRONIC labelled part do? They do different things. Its an interesting mechanism, using a center paddle arm and asymmetric yoke to produce the required self-centering without limiting the adjustability for dit and dah motions. Besides what you can see in the image, the top left side adjuster is a centering adjustment and the top right side is the dit spring force.

The patent and drawing may help: https://www.google.com/patents/US3098898

Here is a quick video of the key’s unique adjustment mechanism.

What remains to be done is to add a cable that will match how nice this looks. What would be really nice is some super-flexible stuff that will lay flat on the desk and matches the grey of the cast base. Maybe something like EcoFlex, or a fabric braided cable used for audio. I have some digging around to do. So, more to come.

Update Sept. 2017: I found a braided-jacket 1/8″ TRS audio cable from my local electronics store, with a grey tone that matches the wrinkle paint.

completed_autronic_key

 

This was my first project working as ‘project manager’ – I did some stuff but when it comes to the details, finding the right person with the skills, experience and tooling made all the difference.  This was made possible by the fantastic work of WA9TGT. Donnie is the man! At least from his website, restoration isn’t main business – he usually make up parts and replacement finger pieces for many keys – but when he does it, it is done VERY well. Be sure to check him out.


Thanks to Charlie WA2ONH, here are some related links:

Autronic Paddle

Later Autronic Ad for “Perfect Code”

N2FQ Autronic Cleaning Video

 

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