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Looking for these keys to add to the collection.

                           1934 MAC key                                                                               1936 Junior

I rotate through my collection of McElroy keys, showcasing a different key on the air each month.   The February 2018 key is:

In late 1934, the Japanese Navy contacted McElroy to produce keys.  He rejected the offer, but sent a copy of the documents to the Navy Department offering to put his design in the US Navy's hands.  The Navy rejected McElroy's offer.  McElroy made the whole thing public.  So, in 1936, Mcelroy was awarded a contract to manufacture keys for the Navy's Bureau of Engineering.   The key was given  a Government ID of CMK 26009.   All the semi-automatic keys manufactured by anyone for the Navy had the 26009 ID number, but had different three letter designators on the front (probably manufacturer).   The key had to have several differences from the Civilian models, including a lanyard cord holder between the terminals for the Cord and Wedge.   It came with robust contacts and adjustment fittings.  It also had a treaded hole in the end of the pendulum that would allow an extension to slow down the key.   

Tom French's Serial number list only shows three of these keys exist.  I believe four have been located.  Only approximately 250 were manufactured.  

Multiple versions of the Civilain models are known.   All have cheaper hardware (knobs and contacts).  All have the "US Navy" removed by grinding or from the molds.    Some have Property of  (blank).   Only one known key had no casting (also in my collection)

For February 2018, the 1937 Property of US Navy Key, Serial number 60.  

As a note about my keys, the 1938 Deluxe McElroy keys came with a creative invention from McElroy called the dot stabilizer.   It controls the relax tension on the dot spring to eliminate scratchy dots.   Only the 1938 Deluxe has the factory model.   All my other keys have a dot stabilizer.  It has been brought into this century by Jim, W0EB.   He is manufacturing dot stabilizers for virtually all semi-automatic keys.   You can access Jim at W0EB@cox.net.

These keys were all acquired in various states of disrepair.   Without a doubt, most needed replacement feet.  In some cases, the finger pieces and knobs were wrong or broken.   I found Donnie Garrett WA9TGT to be an awesome source for replacement parts for McElroy and many other types of keys.   He also has some very nice weights for various keys.   You can assess him at http://www.2bradioparts.com/.


See complete McElroy key collection below, it is almost complete with all McElroy Keys.:


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.


On August 15, 2017, I received the following email from Jim, K0MAN, a station I have never worked on the air.    His email:

Don I just wanted to give you a compliment as your Mother also ran phone patches for us at Camp Eagle, 101st Airborne in Viet Nam. I can remember her QSL Card hanging on the wall behind me. WB6BUW "Rosie" was a great operator and she had a way to keep the conversations going with very little dead time, those GI's seemed to follow her instructions to the T!  She was one of the only female operators that ran patches for us at that time so she was hard to forget. Thank her for her service as she and a lot of the other Hams that ran patches made our lives more livable in those days.  After being wounded I worked at the MARS Station AB8AAE @ Camp Eagle Viet Nam.

I heard you on 20 meters this morning, 14026 Mhz cw while I was working on a Kenwood R-5000 alignment and installing some filters for another Ham.
Best 73's
Jim Sedoris KØMAN

I 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 working with my wife in her Real Estate Company.   I am a licensed realtor, but spend my time doing the paperwork from contract to closing.   A sometimes complicated procedure.   We live in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. At 7,500 feet (2,286 meters) above sea level, you really don't need much of a tower.   

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 75,000 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 Keller Williams 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.  If anyone every needs the best realtor in SW Colorado, they should give her a call.

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.

Property is five acres located approximately 12 miles south of Pagosa Springs, Colorado.   

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

Yellow Circle-68 Ft Vertical with 60 radials and 160 Base Coil  (Bands TX 160, 80, 60, 30)

Gray X- SAL30- Shared Apex Loop ( RX antenna for 160/80/60/40/30 meters)

Pink Line- 40 Meter Dipole aimed Europe,

Green Line- 40 Meter Dipole East/West,

Dark Blue Line, 40 Meter Dipole aimed Japan,

REd Line-30 Meter Dipole aimed East/West.

Red Circle in lower center-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. 

My First Real Key:

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



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 still missing from the collection)

1934 MacKey, 1935 MacKey (Shallow Vee), 1935 Mackey (Deep Vee), 1936A MacKey(Type 1), 1936A MacKey (Type 2), 1936B MacKey,  Junior Mackey,  CMK 26009 Navy Key, 1937 Civilian Key (Property of -----), 1937 Civilian Key (no casting marks), 1938 A Deluxe, 1938 B 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 McElroy Key Collection:

Seventeen Keys in Total

1935 MacKey, Shallow V model.  Serial number is Brass Plate 5510,   This was McElroy's upgrade from the fragile 1934 Key.  The keyThis 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. The adjustment screws have small plastic insulators to keep from grounding the fixed contacts.    Dual Pivot design with a separate pivot for the dash, eliminating the "wear and slop" that is prevalent in later model keys.  The 1935 Shallow key had the lower pivot for the main pendulum in the casting.   

1935 MacKey, Deep V model.  Serial number is Brass Plate 5779.   This key followed the Shallow V key, retaining most of the basic design characteristics of the Shallow V, but lowering the connection point on the left support arm.   This key also replaced the cast lower main pendulum pivot with the adjustable screw.  This required drilling a hole in the base of the key and eliminated some works from the underside of the key.   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.

This is the last of the 1936 series of three keys, the 1936B key.   It is identical to the 1936A Type 2 other than McElroy changed the main pivot from Cast Bronze to C shaped stamped metal pivot bracket that is riveted to the main pendulum arm.  The main spring is a bit longer than my versions of the 1936A keys, making it a bit slower.    This key is Serial Numer 7096.   

In late 1936, McElroy was awarded a contract with the Navy's Bureau of Engineering to produce keys for the US Navy.  Perhaps only 250 of these keys were manufactured.   Only four have been located now.   The CMK-26009, Contract 47606 has a totally different base casting than the 1936 model, particularly the C shaped damper mechanism.   This is CMK-26009 key Serial number 60.

1937 MacKey Serial number 7755.  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.  On the side is "Property of ......".    The base casting was developed for the US Navy contract key.   With the cost of the casting molds, McElroy made many of these keys for the civilian market and had the USN ground off or left out of the later castings.

1937 Civilian Model.   Serial Number 7561.   This key is from Tom French's personal collection.   Tom's note on the key stated' Rare, only one known with the no cast lettering on the left side.   

1938A McElroy Deluxe.  Serial number 238.  Introduced in mid 1937.   New damper, larger name plate.   New series of serial numbers (three digits).    The first truly deluxe model with a circuit closer, larger adjustment screws, and the first dot stabilizer.  It also had the first of the marbalite finishes.   This particular key was found in Germany with Greg, DF2IC.  This is the last of the dual pivot keys, separate pivot for dash and main pendulum.  

  The 1938 A Deluxe is the only McElroy key that I know of that had a vertical dot spring with the Dot Stabilizer.   


1938B 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.   

The 1941 A400 Key retained the cast base, but eliminated the wings that allowed the key to operate on its side.   This was an inexpensive key that was retailed at $5.95, including the wooden box.   This particular key was shipped with a wiring defect that was not repaired for many years.  The contacts have no noticable use indicating the key is close to new condition.

1941 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.



A Special McElroy Key

The November 1938 Issue of QST describes the contributions of W1BDS to his community through amateur radio.  On the afternoon of September 21, 1938, a hurricane struck and wrecked communities around Westerly, RI.   All communication was down.   W1BDS, Bill Burgess, and a group of amateurs, reassembled their stations and worked non-stop for days.     In 1939,  William S Paley, the President of CBS awarded Bill Burgess the William S Paley award for outstanding service by an amateur radio operator for 1938.   Bill Hallligan, the owner of Hallicrafters, was seeking to "borrow" the SX-16 Hallicrafters receiver that Burgess had used during the hurricane.   Halligan was going to display the receiver at the 1939 National Radio Show.  Halligan contacted Ted McElroy and asked him to travel to the home of Bill Burgess and acquire the receiver.   

McElroy took two keys as gifts for Bill Burgess.   One was a Stream Key hand key manufactured in 1938.   The second key was a 1939 Deluxe Bug, Serial number 3487.

Burgess sold the key to Tom French in late 1991.   Tom sold the key to Mike Amaral, N1MX in 2014.   I acquired the key from Mike in January 2018. 

The 1939 Deluxe Key given personally by McElroy to Burgess, Serial 3487.

Photograph of Bill Burgess and Ted Mcelroy.



Skimmer Station:

The skimmer station consists of the DXE-ARAV3-1P active Vertical Antenna.  This is ground mounted over 16 radials about 20 feet long.   

The antenna feed goes to the DXE-RPA-1 receive Preamp.     To protect the skimmer receiver from overload, the DXE-RG5000HD RF limiter and the MFJ 1708 RF Actuated Antenna Switch.  The Antenna Switch is keyed to open the Skimmer Antenna feed on Transmit by using the keyout line from the K3s.   


The Receiver is the QS1R.    The Bodnar GPS disciplined Oscillator is used to stabilize the frequency of the QS1R.   That is a necessary addition as the QS1R drifts with temperature.  The QS1R is capable of monitoring seven HF (up to Six meters) bands at one time.

The QS1R feeds a software program called Aggregator available from the Reverse Beacon Network,   Aggregator collects data from the QS1R and feeds filtered information to the RBN network.   Feeds are limited to stations calling CQ on the lower bands and any station on Six meters.   Aggregator can be programmed to monitor different bands at different times of the day, for example the lower seven bands at night and the higher seven bands during the day.

The Skimmer station is located in the storage area under the house, away from the operating station to reduce local spots from local transmission.   The computer is accessed via a remote computer control program called Team Viewer.   It is freeware to home use.   The Skimmer computer can be accessed from any computer on the internet with the access code and password.

The QS1R antenna feed in interrupted by a MFJ 1708 RF activated antenna switch.   The switch is activated by the KEYOUT line from the K3s.   The MFJ unit has an adjustable delay built in.  This allows QSK operation with the MFJ relay only recreating the antenna connection when there is an extended pause in the local transmission.  The MFJ switch is mounted directly to the QS1R to minimize RFI on the coax between the MFJ switcb and the QS1R receiver.

The spots from Aggregator can be used locally to feed local spot sources.   My station has three bandspreads running using DXAtlas Band Master Programs.   I monitor the band I am on, plus two other bands of my choice.


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 




8643609 Last modified: 2018-02-12 02:21:46, 34020 bytes

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