Is a single lever paddle a “sideswiper”?

Can a single lever paddle be used as a sideswiper or cootie key?  And if so, how would you wire it? The original sideswiper or cootie key (sometimes also called a douple-speed key) was introduced decades before the electronic keyer and paddle were even dreamed of.  But mechanically and electrically they are very similar.  In a cootie key, the single lever is moved back and forth between a pair of keying contacts, with dots and dashes made by hand.  In a single paddle, the lever is moved back and forth between contacts which control the creation of dots and dashes in the electronic keyer. So a proper answer to the original question would be “A single lever paddle is a sideswiper– if it is wired that way.”

For a good overview of cootie key sending, read Jerry Bartachek’s  “The Art of Sides-swipery.” Another great resource for cootie keys and sideswipery is the Sideswiper Net.

In practice, any single lever paddle can be wired for use as a cootie key, but some will work better than others.  Ideally you want to set a contact spacing of about 1/8 inch, so a larger single paddle will generally work better than the smaller ones.

A single-lever paddle has three terminals or wire connections– dot, dash, and common.  To convert a single-lever  paddle for use as a cootie, it is simply a matter of installing a wire connection or “link” between the dot and dash contacts.  The cootie key is hooked up like a straight key, so you would connect your two conductor cable to the common terminal and either the dot or dash terminal (each of which is already connected to the other).

This is one of those things that is often easier to do than to describe, so I’ll put it another way.Set up your rig or oscillator for use with a straight key, and connect a key using a cable that you can transfer to the cootie key.  When correctly wired, there should be a continuous tone when the key is closed (when you press down on the knob).  Take the two wires connected to the key and transfer them to the paddle, one to the ground or common terminal and the other to both the dot and dash terminals.  That’s all there is to it.

One further benefit of this simplicity is that you can connect a straight key, a cootie key, and even a bug in parallel, at the same time, with a single connection to your transceiver or oscillator.

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