Of course, the basic tool is the straight key. It's what you see in all the old Spaghetti Westerns. Looks something like this.
Well, I found out that these are pretty hard on the arm after a while. You have to fight a lot of tension to press the key down and close the circuit and you do so by banging it up and down. [Edit (6/25/08 6:30pm): I just discovered that my key was set at a very high tension which made it abnormally hard to press. And I thought it was just me... As advised by my cw friend and mentor, NG3K, I've loosened the tension screw in the middle and now it runs a lot easier! In any case, it is still irritating to go up and down up and down over and over again...] That is hard on the muscles and tendons in the arm, especially if you key code at fast speeds. It is hard to get very high speeds with a straight key considering the motion required to make one sound.
So, most hams that operate cw use other kinds of keys. One is called the iambic paddle. It is a pair of paddles - you tap one to make the DAH and the other to make the DIT. It requires a lot less movement and strain. Also, if you hold both at once, it alternates between DAH - DIT - DAH - DIT so you don't have to. You can see the paddle key in action here at youtube. Guess I will have to get one of these lovelies for my new rig.
I am getting closer to the purchase of my rig, by the way. I was reading the manual today on my break and it looks great. I heard that Yaesu manuals were very well done, and I found that they surely are! The information is clear, concise, large-sized, well spaced, and full of appropriate and useful diagrams that are plainly marked. Each page covers a certain topic and only presents what I, the user, needs to know. Very good document design. The information architect inside me was extremely pleased. I almost want to buy from them just to show my support for their attention to usability and my user need for information. But, well, I think the real reason is cw. :)