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Default [KB6NU] How to "ragchew" on CW

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How to "ragchew" on CW

Posted: 10 Dec 2018 11:26 AM PST

Dictionaries differ on the origin of the term chew the rag, but in amateur
radio, it means to have a nice, long conversation. For me, its one of the
joys of amateur radio, although fewer and fewer of us seem to think so. How
else do you explain the success of FT8?

Indeed, ragchewing seems to be quickly becoming a lost art. A couple of
days ago I got an email from a fellow CWOps member who offered an
explanation. He wrote:

A few weeks ago, I was surprised to read a reflector post by a fine CW
contester asking advice on how to get started ragchewing.

That post made me wonder if there are fluent speakers of CW who just need
some tips on how to relax and enjoy talking off the tip of their key with
another lover of our fine mode and language.¬* So I reached out to Tim, our
club newsletter editor with an impulsive and possibly harebrained idea to
write an article on ragchewing and how to do it.

I realize that no single operator could write that article, because I only
have a few tips of my own to share.¬* And most of those have been learned
from some other ham like you, and some whose calls Ive forgotten over the
years. Having already reached out to my go-to ragchew Traffic List, I now
want to canvas you, the top ten QTX scorers in the club, for suggestions to
get an aspiring ragchewer onto the bands and having fun.

Would you be willing to reply to this email contributing your thoughts
about what makes a great ragchew or ragchewer?¬* What would you say to
someone who knows the code but feels awkward or uncertain in abandoning the
contest exchange and sitting back for a ragchew?¬* How do you know what to
talk about?¬* Any secrets for getting past RST, QTH, NAME, RIG, and WX?¬* Did
a ragchew ever mean a lot to you, and if so, why?¬* How did you get to be so
good at making conversation?¬* Even one or two tips will greatly enrich the

I was honored that he would ask my opinion, so here goes. I think that
first of all, you have to approach nearly every CW contact as an
opportunity for a ragchew. That is to say an opportunity to make contact
with another human being.

Have you ever struck up a conversation with a stranger in a bar or at a
sporting event or the grocery store? Well, approach a CW contact in the
same way. In the grocery store, you might comment on the price of potatoes.
On the air, you might comment on band conditions or on a feature of the
other operators rig.

Heres another tip. One way to get past a conversation about the weather is
to just not mention it at all. Even when the other operator gives me a full
weather report, often Ill just ignore that and move on to other topics.

One way to determine what those other topics might be is to call up the
other operators QRZ.Com page. Often, hams describe their vocations and
other avocations on their QRZ.Com page. These are often good conversation
starters. Im a freelance writer, and one guy that I worked noted that he
was a publisher on his QRZ.Com page. That got us started on an interesting
discussion of the publishing business.

Ask questions. In real life, you might ask your neighbor how he or she
likes the car they have or if theyve seen a new movie. On the air, you
might ask the other operator what kind of key theyre using and how they
like it.¬* If you want to be more provocative‚ÄĒand you all know that I like
to stir the pot once in a while‚ÄĒyou might ask them if theyre an ARRL member
and what they think about some of the things that the ARRL has been doing

Finally, the best advice that I can give is to get on the air and practice.
I can certainly see where it might be difficult for a contester to become a
ragchewer. They are two different modes of operation. The way contests are
run these days, contesters rarely have to touch a key.

The only way to develop the fluency between the mind and the fingers is to
practice. And, as you make more and more conversational contacts, youll
find that thoughts will flow more easily between the mind and the fingers.
Its a real joy when that happens.

Having said all that, what are your tips for CW ragchewing?

The post How to ragchew on CW appeared first on KB6NUs Ham Radio Blog.

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