My new straight key


The Ameco Japanese-made key. Polished, mounted and ready to go.

Our club held a swap meet last weekend and the only item I had on the must-buy list was a straight key. Luckily, Richard, AL7MO, informed me he had a key, and it wouldn’t even cost me anything. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite ready for use, as it didn’t come with a base.


The Ameco, as it was handed to me at the swap meet.

Once at home, I fashioned a cable for the key from an old mono audio plug and connected it to my FT-817. After confirming it worked, I went into weekend project mode and set out to locate a decent base.

I wasn’t even sure what brand the key was, but I knew it was made in Japan, so I searched for “Japanese telegraph key” and immediately landed on AA5TB’s telegraph key page. I spotted my key, the Ameco Brass Key AM-K4, near the top of the page and checked out some mounting ideas. The most elegant look seemed to be simply a $1 piece of pine wood from Hobby Lobby.

I located a similar chunk of wood at a local craft shop and it only cost 79 cents. I also grabbed a tube of gel stain, then hit Lowe’s for polyurethane varnish and some brass mounting screws.

The base received sanding, a light stain and five coats of water-based polyurethane (I wanted the thing to gleam!). I took the key apart and polished it a bit, and took the opportunity to adjust the tension to my liking. I added some rubber bumpers to the base to keep the key stable on my desk.

Tonight I attached the key to the baseboard to finish the project. This thing is a joy to use. It’s lightweight, doesn’t slide around and looks good at my operating position. The key required a good bit of pressure initially, but some adjustment of the spring fixed that.


The materials I used to finish my new key: A 79 cent piece of wood, gel stain and polyurethane.


A view from the other side showing the shorting bar lever used to close the key to free up both hands for tuning.


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