Saturday, March 12, 2011

BugNapper by Rich WB9LPU

As promised, a little bit more on WB9LPU's BugNapper, which is a device for slowing down bugs.  First off, why even bother?  The answer is simple.  There are times when I like to send Morse Code "manually" as opposed to using an electronic keyer and paddles.  Yes, the straight key is the way to go, but sending with a straight key for a long period of time at a rate of 15 - 18 WPM gets very tiring.  On top of that, if you have arthritis in your hands like I do, after a while, sending with a straight key can actually become painful!  The side to side motion of a bug is less tiring and wearing on the wrist and fingers.  But most bugs, even with a heavy weight, will only slow down to about 25 - 22 WPM.  This can vary depending on the make and model of the bug.

The answer up to now has been to add a lot of extra weight or to extend the length of the pendulum with tubes or other types of devices.  Rich WB9LPU's approach is to use two magnets of opposite polarity in close proximity to one another.  The closer the magnets, the more their attraction for one another, thereby slowing down the vibrations of the pendulum, which in turn, slows down the speed of the dits.

If you click on the above image to see it full sized, you can see the adjusting knob for the pendulum magnet right near the Vibroplex "Bug" on the metal label.  The opposing permanent magnet is underneath it and is mounted on the metal bar which says "BugNapper" on it.  In my book, there are two main advantages to a BugNapper over other solutions:

1) Cosmetics - the BugNapper is not obtrusive at all and actually looks like part of the bug itself.  No wacky extensions or weights coming off at weird angles.  No added clothespins, alligator clips. solder rolls - whatever we have used in the past to dampen the pendulum vibrations to slow down the dits.

2) Adjustability - the BugNapper takes the guesswork out of slowing things down and offers repeatability.  No more guessing of how much weight to add; or how much extension to add.  Just twist the knurled thumbscrew and you can change the bug's speed reliably and pretty predictably once you get used to it, which takes all of a few minutes.

Rich sends a complete instruction manual on a CD along with the BugNapper.  Installation is very simple and does not require you to disassemble your bug, other than temporarily removing the weight and the dit spring.  The only tools you will need are the two Allen wrenches that Rich includes and your own flat bladed screw driver.  If you're a mechanical klutz of the highest order, like me, expect installation to take all of about 10 minutes or so.

Here's some video.  I apologize for my fist.  Currently not owning a tripod, it's hard to hold a camera with one hand and send code with the other, when normally you can't walk and chew gum at the same time.  In addition, I still have a bit of tweaking to do with the bug's adjustment screws for optimum spacing and tension.  Just so you know that any cruddy sending you hear is MY fault and is in no way due to the BugNapper.

For a CW lover, Rich's device is the greatest thing since sliced bread.  I heartily recommend the BugNapper to anyone who desires to use a bug; but so far has been wary of not being able to send with one for fear of runaway speed.  You can visit WB9LPU's website by clicking here.  I can tell you one thing ..... if I ever win that lottery, in addition to purchasing that K3, I think I'd like to buy a couple of Rich's keys to have in my shack, also!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


  1. vy FB! You have no detectable swing, which is a good thing. You might (if you're going whole-hog with the mods) look into the secured damper and elastomer trick to tame the extra dits. Yes, it can be done without unsightliness.

    That was a great demo. Thank you!

    Guy - W6MSU
    '51 Deluxe

  2. Thomas6:52 AM

    I bought one of these as well - very pleased. The lowest speed obtainable with good dot-space ratio is about 13 wpm! About half of what i could achieve even with double weights on my Vibroplex. Excellent when practising and learning to use a bug, or for slow QSO:s! My best recommendations de OH6NT