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I rotate through my collection of McElroy keys, showcasing a different key on the air each month.   The current key is:

1935 McElroy Deep V Serial 5779,   

See complete McElroy key collection below:



Originally licensed in May, 1962 as WN5CGI (14 years old). Took the novice test in Ft Worth, TX with my mother and father. (WN5CGH and WN5CGJ).  Moved to Southern California in June, 1962. Didn't know anyone, so studied and took General Test in August, 1962. License was WB6BEE. Mom and Dad eventully became WB6BUW and WB6BUX sometime later. Both are SK now. Took Advanced test a few years later. Received the Heathkit Maurader transmitter and Warrior Amplifier as Christmas gifts.

Left Southern California for Hawaii in 1967. Stationed at CINCPACFLT as a Radioman with the Navy. While there, one of the main operators for KH6SP, the submarine base amateur station.

During that time, my mother WB6BUW spent her days in Southern California using her Collins equipment to run phone patches for injured servicemen that were on the hospital ship USS Repose (AHS-16) back to their friends and family on the mainland.  Photograph and QSL card below are of my mother during her active days on the radio in the late 1960's.   My father had built the nice console cabinet for my mother's Collins S line.  Her most prized possession.



Moved to Northern California (above Sacramento in 1970). Very active on RTTY during those years using WWII Model 19 equipment, including a paper tape machine.

Pretty inactive during the 90's. Moved to Colorado in 2004. Forgot to renew my license and let the 2 year period go by. A good friend emailed and said my call was on the "available" list. Couldn't believe I let it go by. Took the General exam in Durango, CO in 2011. Received a KD0 call sign. Immediately applied for my old call back and was successful. Who wants a 2X3 call anyway, so it was waiting for me. It's a great CW call and easy to remember. Drug out my dad's IC 751a from the attic, put up the wire antenna and re-entered a world of ham radio that didn't look anything like what it did in the mid-eighties. Took the extra class in 2012, just before 65th birthday while on a street rod trip to Palm Desert, CA. The local club there gave me the test.

Now running a street rod and vintage land cruiser shop in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. At 7,500 feet (2,286 meters) above sea level, you really don't need much of a tower. You can check out that website at www.wolfcreekrodworks.com. If you like street rods and vintage land cruisers, you will enjoy all the photographs of past and current projects.

Two personal vehicles, 1965 FJ40 Toyota Land Cruiser and 1938 Chevrolet Coupe. Lower photos are the Land Cruiser crossing the Golden Crack on the Golden Spike Trail in Moab, UT and the 38 Chevy leaving our house in a snow storm in late April. Engine in the red car is 502 cubic inch big block chevy, fuel injected, 515 HP. Gets about 18 MPG on the highway, passes everthing. It's never been on a trailer. Just turning 62,000 miles and still drives like a dream.

My wife is Wen Saunders. Wen is a 35 year professional photojournalist that specialised in photographing rodeo, weddings, families and street rods. Her real passion was for black and white photography. We have a darkroom built in our home. You can check out her photography web site at www.wendysaunders.com. She is now a real estate agent for Re-Max in the beautiful Pagosa Springs area of Colorado. You can check out her real estate website at www.wensaunders.com. She never heard of ham radio until she met me. She's still skeptical, I think.

The QTH in Summer: View from Front Deck and Rear Deck

And in the Winter. Those mountains in the center photo are the Continental Divide for the US. Rivers on the East side flow east or south, Rivers on the West side flow West or South.

And, our guard dog, Abby, taking her job seriously (and a bit grayer in the face now days). Abby with her two brothers, Elvis (yellow cat, recently SK) and Sebastian (black/white cat). Sebastian keeps the critters under control.

And, the equipment:  Elecraft K3s, P3, KAT 500, KPA 500.  Wattmeter is a N8LP LP 100a. Logging program is DXLab Suite. QS1R receiver for SDR/Skimmer.


White Circle- MA 550 Tower, 55 Ft, self supporting with Optibeam OB 9-5 20/17/15/12/10 Beam.

Yellow Circle-68 Ft Vertical with 60 radials and 160 Base Coil,

Gray X- SAL30- Shared Apex Loop RX antenna for 160/80 meters

Pink Line- 30 Meter Dipole aimed Europe,

Red Line-40 Meter Extended Double Zepp aimed Japan,

Green Line- 40 Meter Dipole East/West,

Dark Blue Line, 30 Meter Dipole aimed Japan,

Orange Line-30 Meter Extended Double Zepp aimed East/West.

Red Circle in lower right-Active Receive Vertical for RBN Skimmer


99.99 Percent Pure CW.

A Photograph is worth a thousand words.



FOC Member No 2041  ARRL A1 Operator Club


My Key Collection. 

1964 Vibroplex Original Presentation.  Serial 240134.  Purchased new in 1965 with High School Graduation money.                                  

1938 Martin Flash Key, Model 6.   Serial number 1152.   Only about 1,000 keys made my the sons of Horace Martin before Brunnell bought the company in 1939.   Serial numbers started at 1000, so this is probably the 152rd key made.   The key in new, never been put into service.   

Almost perfect condition Vibroplex Original from 1925.   Pinstriping and Chrome in excellent condition.  Serial number is 95428.

My Mcelroy Key Collection   The information for this collection came from the Book on McElroy written by the late Tom French.   I have number 21 of his 75 hard cover copies.     

Major Variations of Bugs manufactured by Ted McElroy:  (Keys in RED are in the collection)

1934 MacKey, 1935 MacKey (Shallow Vee), 1935 Mackey (Deep Vee), 1936A MacKey(Type 1), 1936A MacKey (Type 2), 1936B MacKey,  Junior Mackey, 1937 MacKey, 1938 Deluxe, 1938 Standard, 1939 Deluxe,1939 Standard, 1940 Model 500, 1940 Model 600, 1941 Model A-400, 1941 Model P-500, 1941 Model S-600 and 1944 TAC CP 500, 1944 TAC CP 800, 1945 CP 510 and 1945 CP 810.

The Collection:

1935 MacKey, Deep V model.  Serial number is Brass Plate 5779.   This was McEloy's upgrade from the fragile 1934 key.   This key has cast supports for the dot and dash contact.   The Deep V is the contact arms and the adjustment screws "push" the V arms in to adjust the contact spacing.   Dual Pivot design with a separate pivot for the dash, eliminating the "wear and slop" that is prevalent in later model keys.   Tom French indicated that only six of the Deep V model are known to exist.

1936A Type 1 McElroy.    Serial Number is 5081.   Very few of this version were manufactured.   This is different than the more common Type 2 bug, in the way the fixed contact buss was constructed.  This key has two L shaped buss bars that are joined in the middle.   The connnections are opposite side of the key in the middle.   Tom French indicated only five of these keys suspected to exist.

Mcelroy 1936 A Type 2 key.   Serial number Brass  5945.   Three models of the 1936 key were made.   The first 1936a had a split bar that contained the dot and dash contacts.  Similar to the 1935 Deep V with two independent bars.  The second generation 1936a had a solid U shaped bar for the fixed dash and dot contacts.   The "A" is the type of dual pivot.   The "A" pivot was cast in Bronze n 1936.  (Chrome in 1935).   This is the 1936 A with the solid Contact bar.   Later in 36, the dual pivot was changed to the style that carried over to 1937.

1937 MacKey Serial number 7648.  Mcelroy changed the damper in 1937 to the overhanging type.   The damper was more fragile and often broke in handling.   The 37 has the "B" type dual pivot that came into existence in late 1936.   This key has a circuit closer that was rare and special order.  On the side is "Property of ......".    Many of these keys were manufactured for the USN and the civilian units had the USN ground off or left out of the casting.

1938 McElroy Deluxe.  Serial number 1554.   Total changes from prior years.   Single pivot as with the Vibroplex models.  This was the one and only year that McElroy offered the Dot stabilizer.  The Dot Stabilizer was a bar that restricted the dot spring contact from over extending.   The result was more defined dots.   This was the year that the marbalized base came out.    This particular key was restored by Tom G3HGE.   I acquired it from my good friend Dan M0CVR.  This is my favorite of the McElroy keys.                                                             

1939 McElroy Deluxe.   The last of the T Bar Keys with a serial number.  This one is 3286.  Tom French considered this to be the best looking of the McElroy Bugs

1940 McElroy Model 600 Key.   The last of the T Bar Keys.   Stainless steel pivots, otherwise the same as the 1939 model other than the Metal Nameplate.  Decals replaced the nameplate.   

1940 McElroy P 500 key.   No serial numbers on these keys.  This key represents another major shift in McElroy key design.  This key is the first year that the T bar shape was eliminate.   The 1939 key was a T Bar, similar to 1938 but a different casting and no metal label.   

The last of McElroy's production.   The 1941 S 600 Super Stream Key.    McElroy said he would never make a key with a chrome base.   This apparently was a change of mind, although he stated the chrome was a special color so as not to interfer with the operator's vision.   


After  the war years, McElroy formed a partnership with another fellow.  The name of the company was Telegraph Apparatus Company.    They produced several keys for the after war civilian market.   The first key was advertized in 1944 and was the CP 500.

The CP 500 was patterned after the P500 from 1940.   The base is huge and immovable when keying.   The frame and damper were changed form the style of the P500 to something very similar to the Vibroplex models of the day.  The CP 500 was the painted base.  The CP 800 was the deluxe with the chrome base.


 The second bug from Telegraph Apparatus Co is the TAC 510.  This is the key known as the "hole in the wall" key.  This name came from the round hole in the frame.  This is also 1945 era.    The key came in Chrome as a TAC 810.






Antennas, Antennas and Antennas

Homebrew 68 Foot (20.7 Meter) Vertical, 60 radials over poor mountain shale earth,  160 meter base coil.  Remote tuner.  Useful for 17 M, 30M, 40M, 80M and 160M.

US Towers MA 550, tubular tower.   T2X TailTwister Rotor at base.   Whole tower rotates.   Antenna is Optibeam OB9-5 for 20-17-15-12-10 meters.

Below is the SAL 30 Shared Apex Loop hidden in the trees behind the house

The Shack



The equipment stashed inside XYL approved cabinet with doors that close..

Around 1963-1964 I was a young man starting my college education in Long Beach, California.  I was a new ham with a Novice class ticket, and I decided to go to the local Federal Communications Commission Office in Long Beach and take my General Class exam.  At the time, the General license required a CW receiving test at 13 words per minute and a written test.  I passed the code and written exam and with the generous permission of my landlord set up an amateur station in my rented apartment with a vertical on the roof.  One of my early contacts was with another young ham named Don who lived in Lakewood, California not far from Long Beach.  Don’s mother and father were both radio amateurs and had  a fancy Collins Radio station in their home. At the time Collins gear was high end equipment and I just had to see it.  Don invited me over for a visit and I was given his QSL card for the “eye ball” QSO.  Don’s amateur radio call sign was WB6BEE.  Don recently became a member of the FOC and I immediately recognized his call sign. Digging around in my boxes of old, dusty, cards I found his QSL with WB6BEE in bold black letters and a photo of a much younger Don in front of his own Heathkit gear. Don now lives in Colorado and I am in Tennessee.  I spotted Don on the FOC RBN and we have since made a couple of very enjoyable QSOs. We are reunited by the FOC after more than 50 years!
161 de John AK4Z 



7589686 Last modified: 2016-09-24 23:57:16, 20226 bytes

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