Morse code machine – Learn how to make – TELEGRAPHIC APPARATUS
Excerpt from the book: Things To Make by Archibald William Published – 1918
The easily made but practical apparatus described in this chapter supplies an incentive for learning the Morse telegraphic code, which is used for sending sound signals, and for visible signals transmitted by means of flags, lamps, and heliograph mirrors. Signaling is so interesting, and on occasion can be so useful, that no apology is needed for introducing signaling apparatus into this book.
The apparatus in question is a double-instrument outfit, which enables an operator at either end of the line to cause a “buzzer” or “tapper” to work at the other end when he depresses a key and closes an electric circuit.
Each unit consists of three main parts—
(1) the transmitting key;
(2) the receiving buzzer or tapper;
(3) the electric battery.
The principles of installation are shown in Fig. 33. One unit only is illustrated, but, as the other is an exact duplicate, the working of the system will be followed easily.
A wooden lever, L, is pivoted on a support, A. Passing through it at the forward end is a metal bar having at the top a knob, K, which can be grasped conveniently in the fingers; at the other a brass screw, O, which is normally pulled down against the contact, N, by the spiral spring, S.
The contact M under K is in connection with the binding post T1 and N with binding post T3; K is joined up to T2, and O to T4.
T3 and T4 are connected with one of the line wires; T1 with the other wire through a battery, B; T3 with the other wire through the buzzer, R. 
[Footnote 1: For the buzzer may be substituted the tapper, described on a later page.]
Assuming both keys to be at rest, as in Fig. 33, the two buzzers are evidently in circuit with the line wires, though no current is passing. If the stem of K is depressed to make contact with M, the electric circuit of which the battery, B, forms part is completed, and the buzzer at the other end of the lines comes into action. Since the depression of K raises O off N, the “home” buzzer’s connection with the line wires is broken, to prevent the current being short-circuited. The fact that this buzzer is periodically in the circuit, even when the key is being worked, makes it possible for the operator at the other end to attract attention by depressing his key if he cannot read the signals sent.
Making the Keys
Transmitting keys can be bought cheaply, but not so cheap as they can be made. The only expense entailed in home manufacture is that of the screw terminals for connecting the keys with the lines and buzzers. These cost only a penny each, and, if the strict economy is the order of the day, can be dispensed with should the apparatus not have to be disconnected frequently.
The size of the key is immaterial. The keys made by me have levers 1 inch wide and 5-1/2 inches long, oak being chosen as material, on account of its toughness. K is in each case a small wooden knob on a piece of 3/16-inch brass rod; O a 1-1/2-inch brass screw; A a piece of sheet brass 3-1/2 inches long, marked off carefully, drilled 1/8 inch from the centre of each end for the pivot screws, and in four places for the holding-down screws, and bent up at the ends to form two standards. If you do not possess any brass strip, the lever may be supported on wooden uprights glued and screwed to the base.
Contact M is a small piece of brass attached to the base by a screw at one end and by T1 at the other. K was drilled near the end to take the short coil of insulated wire joining it to T2, and O was similarly connected with T4.
The spring, S, should be fairly strong. A steel spiral with a loop at each end is most easily fitted. Drill holes in the lever and base large enough for the spring to pass through freely, make a small cross hole through the lever hole for a pin, and cut a slot across the base hole for a pin to hold the bottom of the spring. Adjust the lever by means of screw O so that there is a space of about 1/4-inch between K and M when O and N are in contact, and after the spring has been put in position give the screw a turn or two to bring K down to within 1/16 inch of M. This will put the required tension on the spring.
For these I selected a couple of small electric bells, costing 2s. 6d. each. Their normal rate of vibration being much too slow for telegraphic purposes, I cut off the hammers to reduce the inertia, and so adjusted the contact screw that the armature had to move less than one-hundredth of an inch to break the circuit. This gave so high a rate of vibration that the key could not make and break the circuit quickly enough to prevent the buzzer sounding.
A Morse Tapper or Sounder
In postal telegraph offices a “sounder,” and not a “buzzer,” is generally used to communicate the signals. Instead of continuous noise, lasting as long as the key at the transmitting station is held down, the operator at the receiving station hears only a series of taps made by an instrument called a “sounder.” The principle of this simple device is illustrated by the working diagrams in Fig. 35. M is a horseshoe magnet fixed to a base, A. Close to it is an armature, AR, of soft iron, attached to a lever, L, which works on a pivot and is held up against a regulating screw, P1, by the pull of the spring SP. When current passes through the magnet the armature is attracted, and the point of the screw S2 strikes against P2; while the breaking of the circuit causes L to fly back against S1. The time intervening between the “down” and “up” clicks tells the operator whether a long or a short—dash or a dot—is being signaled.
Materials.—A horseshoe magnet and armature taken from an electric bell provide the most essential parts of our home-made instrument in a cheap form. If these are available, expense will be limited to a few pence. Oak or walnut are the best woods to use for the lever, being more resonant than the softer woods, and for the standard B and stop V. Any common wood is good enough for the base A.
The lever L is 6 inches long, 1/2 inch deep, and 3/8-inch wide, and is pivoted at a point 4-1/4 inches from the stop end. The hole should be bored through it as squarely as possible, so that it may lie centrally without B being out of the square. A piece of metal is screwed to its top face under the adjusting screw S1.
The spring is attached to L and A in the manner already described on p. 89 in connection with the “buzzer.”
The plate P2 should be stout enough not to spring under the impact of the lever. Fig. 36 is an end view of the standard B. The drilling of the pivot hole through this requires care. The screw S2 should be so adjusted as to prevent the armature actually touching the cores of the magnets when attracted. The ends of the magnet winding wire, after being scraped, are clipped tightly against the base by the binding posts T1 T2.
If sounders are used in place of buzzers they are connected up with the keys, batteries, and line wires in the manner shown in Fig. 33.
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The dry cells used for electric bells are the most convenient batteries to use. They can now be purchased at all prices from a shilling upwards, and give about 1-1/2 volts when in good condition. One cell at each end will suffice for short distances, or for considerable distances if large conductors are used. If a single cell fails to work the buzzer strongly through the circuit, another cell must be added.
For ease in transport ,it will be found advisable to mount key, buzzer, and battery on a common baseboard, which should be provided with a cover and handle. The three parts are interconnected with one another, and the line wire terminals as sketched in Fig. 34. This arrangement makes the apparatus very compact and self-contained. As a finishing touch fit the lid inside with clips for holding a stiff-backed writing pad and pencil for the recording of messages.
Lines.—Fencing made of stout galvanized iron wires strung on wooden posts supplies excellent conductors for practice purposes, provided the posts be quite dry. In wet weather ,there will be leakage. (Fencing with metal posts is, of course, unsuitable, as every post short-circuits the current.) The two wires selected for land lines must be scraped quite bright at the points where the connections are to be made.
It is an easy matter to rig up a telegraph line of galvanized wire 1/12 to 1/8 inch in diameter, strung along insulators (the necks of bottles serve the purpose excellently) supported on trees, posts, or rough poles. The length of the line will be limited by the battery power available, but a 6-volt battery at each end will probably suffice for all experimental purposes. A second wire is not needed if one terminal at each end is connected with a copper plate sunk in the ground, or with a metal fence, drain-pipe, etc.