Getting a bug
- In the past couple of months I've found two very good not-too-expensive bugs. One on eBay, a Vibroplex Lightning for $100. This one was made in the 70s and looks to me like it was never used. I had only to clean the contacts with metal polish. You can google "eBay Vibroplex." There always seem to be Vibroplexes for sale there, in great shape, for $100 or less. I also bought a $200 VizKey 90 Degree Bug from Tom K4VIZ. This is a handmade bug, of highly-refined design. It works exceedingly well and is very easy to adjust.
The best way to learn to use a bug is to slow it way down, so that it produces dits at approximately 4 dits per second. This is appropriate for sending at 10 to 12 wpm. You can slow a bug down by setting the dit paddle travel at 1/8 inch or more and making other adjustments accordingly. You will probably also have to add weight and/or extend the pendulum to get a bug to slow down sufficiently (most bugs like to run at a minimum speed of about 8 dits per second or 20 wpm). You can buy an "Extend-a-dot" from Vibroplex which will slow down various models; you need to get the one appropriate to the pendulum design--round or flat (Lightning). The VizKey 90 Degree Bug can be slowed by extending the pendulum by slipping a length of hardware-store brass tubing over it so the weight extends just beyond the edge of the key. A smaller piece of tubing inserted into the larger then accepts the weight. The VizKey can also be slowed to a more limited degree by moving the weight to the very end of the pendulum so that the damper intercepts the weight rather than the pendulum proper. The VizKey works fine adjusted like this.
Learning to use a bug requires mastering several very small movements of the hand and wrist. You can master this very quickly if your bug is making dits relatively slowly. If you try to learn the skill at higher speeds, it will be very challenging. As they say in so many areas of skill mastery, "to go fast, go slow."