Saturday, 6 August 2016

German Klopfertaste ( knocker key) M99 1914- Refurbishment

A few weeks ago, I was trawling the French Ebay site, and saw a very dirty, rusty, looking object, that sort of resembled a morse key... It had no knob on it, but it did have some interesting impressions on the side edges of the triple "sandwich" wooden base  .. I couldn`t resist the "buy it now" offer, and contacted the seller for postal costs. Before he had answered, I decided that I had better press the "buy it now" button, before anyone else did.
Here are some pics that were shown on the Ebay Sales page.

As you can see, it was in a "sorry state"... and certainly was going to be a bit of a challenge to bring it back to a working key again...

Eventually, the key arrived at my house, and I just could not wait to see how it worked.. as I usually have CWCOM running when my laptop is on, I used a couple of croc clips and flying leads to attach it to another key, piggyback style, and did a quick test transmission.... It worked  !.. probably the first time it has done that for a good 50 years ! .. So.. next step... down to the workshop, and start to dismantle it.

I started by removing the very tiny screws holding the electrical contact spring between the rocker arm and the main "yoke" support columns.

It was a very tiny screw, and a bit tricky, with my big fingers and thumbs... !..

Once that spring and the two tiny screws had been safely put to one side, it was reasonably easy to remove the rocker arm   and the pivot yoke, to put in the vice to be "buffed up" with the electric drill and rotary wire brush.

I tried to keep all the bits and pieces in some sort of "exploded" order, so that I could easily rebuild the key, when all the parts, had been cleaned and buffed up with the rotary wire brush.   Having my camera handy, and taking pictures at each stage, will also help, if some of the parts have been moved !..
Once the rocker arm and yoke had been cleaned up, I was "on a roll"... and the next job was to remove the "eyes"  where the original screws would have passed through to secure it to the desk/work bench  went through... these were and extremely tight "push-fit".. so I had to use a "drift" ( a conveniently sized piece of round brass rod). to knock them through from the underside.. After them came the front and rear contact bars...

On this particular type of key, the German engineering used a sprung steel contact plate,... this was said to reduce the "knock" noise, when in use.. and that also gives the key it`s name. " Knopfer Taste"  (Knock Key). Being steel, with steel machine screws, and given the amount of time they have been together, it was not surprising that they had rusted a bit, and just would not move with a small screwdriver... and so I had to resort to "brute force"... well.. a gentle tap with a strong screwdriver against the side of the spring steel plate, soon shifted it enough to continue using the smaller screwdriver to remove the machine screw completely...

Once all the bits had been cleaned, including the heads of the wood screws, and all the screw thread fixings.

 it was time to consider putting it all back together, and  what to use for a Knob on the key, because, as you can see from the original, it had gone missing some time ago..

Looking on Google images for a similar key.. ( at this stage, I had no idea what kind of key it was, where it was made, or anything, except it came from France).. but eventually, I did find a pic that looked very much like my key, and that Identified it as the M99 Klopfertaste... and it had a "flat knob" on it... At first, I decided I would try to make one from an existing wooden knob, but that did not seem to come out right in the finish... so, once again, I used Ebay, to source the knob... I found a supplier of Black Plastic Cooking Pot Lid Knobs... and they were just the right size, complete with machine screw to fit !.. Not a "true" replica, but for me.. near enough..

Before I put it all back together, I gave all the bits, including the wooden base, as coat of spray lacquer, to try and preserve the nice clean brass, and also to preserve the logos on the sides.  Then left them to dry overnight, before the final re-construction began... 

So , here are some pictures of  the finished refurbished key...

So there it was... all clean and shiny as a new pin... and, to me,.. a joy to look at.... however.. I just HAD to wire it up again, piggyback fashion, and have some fun with sending some morse with it....

 It has a very smooth and very light "feel" to it, and it will definitely be used on a day to day basis... as all my keys do,

Satisfied that it was working properly, I decided that it needed a longer base, because, as you can see, the knob "hangs over the front end" of the base, which doesn`t matter if it is screwed down to the bench... but working "free" it is just not possible, unless held firmly with the left hand.. Using a longer base, and a foam rubber sponge material ( thin washing up sponge) the key is quite stable on the desk and is a delight to use.

I also utilised the "eye" holes, to feed a couple of stiff insulated wires to the necessary contact points, and under the key to the base, where a proper long lead and jack plug can be soldered on to the eyes on the underside of the long base.  ( I fixed the Key base to the new base by a couple of wood screws up into the underside of the key)..

I am very pleased with the way it has turned out,... and it is a joy to use.  I am sure that the original operators thought so too...

The SF logo, and the Date Mark, explained....

Well, since I started using this delightful little key, I was eager to find out some history about it, and first stop was the seller on ebay.... he informed me, that it had been in his loft for many years, but he did not know what it was, except that it belonged to his Grandmother.    I wonder if she used it   ? ? ?   he did not say...

EDIT ......... 10 August 2016.     This key has a very interesting history, and is associated with a Hero of the French Resistance during World War 2..    a story about it`s history, and that of the hero will be published on this blogsite , on the 102nd anniversary of this key date, entitled, A morse key connection.  See the entry.... "Morse Key Connection" ....

    intrigued, I wanted to know more about the logos and the date mark on the sides. and, as luck would have it, a German contact on CWCOM came to the rescue.  Guy, did a lot of research into the M99 and advised me that the date on the side, would refer to 11 AUGUST 1914...(Just a two weeks into World War 1, but at that time France and Germany, were not actually fighting !)..   and that the key was probably made for the early ham radio market, ( but not in Germany at that time.) (see below  ***** for Guy`s explanation).... .

 Here is the information that he found out... for which I am eternally grateful, to my good friend Guy in Germany,... as it really "brings to life " this old key....

Date of Manufacture. The key has a date impressed  on one side which is quite clear 11.8.14…. I am assured by a German friend, who has done a lot of the research work behind this key, that date would be 11th August 1914. .. Which means it was made 2 weeks after the start of the First World War. … From the other markings on the other side, my German Friend, has found that the F over S insignia, refers to the company of…  Ferdinand Schuchhardt, Telegraphenbauanstalt, Berlin SO.16, Germany. Established in 1886.

Who was it made for, and where it was used.?
      There is a “crown” like “logo” on the side, and this was really tricky to track down, as it is not  easy to track a picture on google internet search for “images”… however,  Once again, my German friend used his “local knowledge”, and a lot of intuition and guesswork, I would think.. Eventually he found a picture of the “crest” on a flag of the Post Office !.. … an almost identical match to the one on the key !.. And by this means, we have now associated it to being an “ownership mark” to indicate that it was “post office property”..

At that time there were different systems and different Keys using Closed Current - or Open Current-Apparatus.
   The difference between the old and new M99 may illustrate that.

*****  The first Ham-activities of private nature were done in Germany around 1920, 6 years after your "new" key was made, and that not licensed by the Reichstelegraphyadministration. The Railway stations that used the old M99 were connected by wire and did not use the new M99, that was used for Sf or sans fils or wireless technic.
Older version of M99   note full brass rocker

 And Finally..... ! ... here is a short video of me using the key.... you can click on the square to make it full screen.. and you need your phones on, or your speakers active. !   

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