I really like CW keys, and I own a few of them, but a couple of things bother me. First is the cost, I have shelled out a few bucks for some keys and only one had the best ratio of cost to performance and that is my Czech Army key, it is the best key I own.
Last week, I was using an old key that I got a when I got back into ham radio 9 years ago which is the brass key made by Ameco. I picked that one up because it was what I had as a Novice back in High School. I was using it the other day and it was horrible. At the contact point I could hear in my headphones the start of a dit or dah and it dropped out then in when I mashed the key contacts together. It sounded like a 600 Hz static right before the dit or dah. Enter my homebrew key. It is small, built in a 1.4 x 1.4 x 0.6 inch Hammond case. The heart of the key is a small microswitch. The microswitch makes a good, solid, clean, make and break giving me nice clean sounding sidetones in my ear, and hopefully nice clean CW out of my rig.
I built it intentionally small to go with my ATS-4 and MTR, Steve Weber KD1JV radios. Did I mention price? The switch and case are just over five dollars total for both. The rest of the hardware is in my junkbox. The rubber feet are from my favorite antenna store, Home Depot. All in all, it makes a great key for portable use. I have parts to make a couple more and am tempted to put a real CW key knob on the key, which will make it look even sillier than it looks now, but what the heck, it works well. Isn't that what matters?