The K1 is a fine little radio, but if you're like me you want to be able to
do things that a K1 can't... hence the K2.
As one who was also a first-time builder and new ham (reading the QST review
on the K2, which by happenstance I came across at a local bookstore and
bought out of curiosity, is what made me decide to become a ham), I
definitely think that a K2 is easily something within the reach of
- you are the type of person who can follow well-written instructions
- you have even a little experience soldering, or are willing to practice
- you are the kind of person who can complete a project that can't be done
in one or two sittings
- you are the kind of person who either is detail-oriented, or who is
willing to be detail-oriented when it comes to building your kit
- you are the kind of person who can handle the occasional frustration,
think about a problem, and then overcome it, or you are willing to be
- you are the kind of person who WANTS to build their own radio and is
willing to put forth the necessary effort to do so
My biggest problem with building the kit was not letting life get me
distracted. I started building the kit in late October '00, stopped after
five days and maybe 20 hours were spent on it, went to Hawaii before
Thanksgiving (wish I'd had it there!), got busy at work, went to Florida for
Christmas, got busy at work... started getting ready for the birth of my
son... and then realized that if I didn't finish the durn thing quickly
there's no way I'd finish it before my son was 18! So, in mid-January, I
sat down for a couple more 4-6 hour shifts over several days and finished
it. I finished each option (KAT2, KSB2, etc.) a couple of weeks later. I
still have to build the KNB2 and KAF2, but have finished the KIO2 as well...
and I have the KPA2 and EC2 sitting in a box waiting to be built; they'll be
this winter's project, along with perhaps a KAT100.
The biggest pain was the toroids... not because winding them was hard but
stripping the insulation off sufficiently was a pain. The solder-blob
method worked best for me. I also continuity-tested each toroid after
installation, and repeatedly reflowed the solder on each installed toroid
'leg' while pulling the wire taunt until I achieved continuity. As a
result, I have never had a 'bad toroid' problem.
I looked at each trouble-shooting problem as well as each building step
(including toroids) as an education on solid state device construction and
My suggestions for first-time builders who want to tackle a K2:
- Don't try for marathon building efforts.
Instead, decide that you will spend an hour or two each day (in the evenings
when other distractions, i.e., wife, kid(s), work, etc., are gone) and then
you will find that the radio builds itself in a month or so. If you're like
me, you will find that you will spend extended periods of time on the
weekend when you have it, and the radio will come together that much faster.
- When you stop, stop at the end of a page, so it's easy to figure out
where to start again
- Decent soldering is necessary.
Read Tom NOSS's article on soldering, and examine your first soldering
efforts to ensure they are adequate. You might want to build one of the
smaller accessory kits (KSB2, KIO2, etc.) as a means of gaining confidence
and practicing soldering.
- Spend the $70 and up and buy a decent temperature-controlled soldering
- When building, don't proceed past a testing checkpoint until your K2
passes the test.
Each stage builds on previous stages. Trouble-shooting is hard enough
without making it harder by adding more variables. Test when you are
supposed to, and FIX any problems before proceeding.
- If you have a problem, don't hesitate to contact the reflector. That's
what it's here for.
And finally, remember that building your K2 is supposed to be fun! It is,
even if you run into a few problems. Once you're up and running, the pride
of using a rig you built yourself comes back each and every time another
operator asks you what you are using.
Good luck and hope you join the 'club'...
John Clifford KD7KGX
Heathkit HW-9 WARC/HFT-9/HM-9
Elecraft K2 #1678 /KSB2/KIO2/KBT2/KAT2/KNB2/KAF2/KPA100
Ten-Tec Omni VI/Opt1