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Bill Smith Magnavert Morse Key

Documentation Issues

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Alan Wood 404/08/2016 21:06:42
119 forum posts
4 photos

I wonder if anyone has built Bill's Magnavert bug key ? While I have completed a number of his projects successfully I find the book for the key very erratic and confusing. Given it was written in 2012 when he was turning 90 and losing mobility I can understand it. Sadly he is no longer with us.

Has anyone else out there made this morse key and suffered and solved the issues it raises ?


David Ring31/03/2019 23:28:02
2 forum posts

Hello Alan,

My name is David Ring, I hold USA call sign N1EA. I was one of Bill Smith's friends, and I am the owner of his Magnavert semi-automatic key. If I can send you any information let me know. I'm happy to hear your comments on Bill's writing, I thought most of my difficulty was because I didn't know clockmakers terms, which Bill used as frequently and correctly as he could, but I found his descriptions of placement of objects - one object was behind the other - or inferior to the other as I would say, or proximate, or mediate, as the physicians have taught me, superior, inferior, etc. Just like port and starboard are very useful especially on a ship because they give a frame of reference, not like left and right which lack that. In any event, if I can supply measurements or photographs, let me know. I have currently lent out the Magnavert for a fellow key lover's enjoyment and for my edification because when the key was shipped to me by Bill's widow, the pendulum mechanism came all apart, and without an engineering diagram, I'm not 100% sure that the alignment is correct as it bent when shipped. Also I am an excellent telegrapher and the dots were bothering me, I could not produce enough of them, but Bill said he got continuous dots, so I must have assembled the key wrong. There are multiple layers of linkages in the dot lever and perhaps I got them out of layered order. Maybe I have ACBDE instead of ABCDE. Being off one thickness can make a difference.



Alan Wood 401/04/2019 17:04:10
119 forum posts
4 photos

Good afternoon David, nice to hear from you.

This was a post I made sometime ago and have since completed the keyer and it is now used by WX4WX in Melbourne Florida. The finished key worked really well (lots of dots) and I understand it is in regular use by Lance.

You can find details and the background story on my blog at


I have a collection of all Bill's books and videos and I did manage to visit Bill and Judy around a year before he died.

Great character and a brilliant engineer.



David Ring01/04/2019 21:40:24
2 forum posts

I how to work Lance using it. I've dropped him an email.

Hopefully we will hear you on the air,


David N1EA

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