This blog post was contributed by Dan Romanchik, KB6NU, an amateur radio operator for 40 years and an experienced EE.
A couple of years ago, a group of local hams were talking on the club repeater, and the talk got around to building stuff. One of the guys said, “You can’t really build anything anymore.” I almost fell out of my chair. That’s simply not true. There are still many companies out there selling kits that are not only fun to build, but are useful additions to the ham shack. There are even reports that Heathkit plans to start selling kits again.
Here are a couple of sources:
- Elecraft (www.elecraft.com). In my mind, Elecraft has become the premiere ham radio kit company, if not the premiere ham radio company, period. The new K3, for example, outperforms just about anything on the market by many accounts. Personally, I have built the KX-1, which is a real blast to operate from a park bench or to take on vacation. I also have and use the W1 wattmeter.
- TenTec (www.tentec.com/categories/Kits). While perhaps known more for their ready-made rigs, they also sell a line of single-band transceivers and receiver kits.
- QRP Kits (www.qrpkits.com). QRPKits.com sells kits that cater to the QRP crowd, that is hams who like to operate low power. They offer many different radios and accessories.
Below are some other companies whose kits have good reputations, but with which I have no personal experience:
- Small Wonder Labs (www.smallwonderlabs.com)
- Wilderness Radio (www.fix.net/~jparker/wild.html)
- Milestone Technologies (www.mtechnologies.com)
- Ham Gadgets (www.hamgadgets.com)
- Almost All Digital Electronics (www.aade.com/index.html)
- FAR Circuits (www.farcircuits.net)
- Jackson Harbor (www.wb9kzy.com/ham.htm)
- QRPme (www.qrpme.com)
QRP clubs are also a good source of cool kits. QRP operators are natural builders and tinkerers, and many of their designs are quite unique. They also like sharing what they’ve done with other hams. Check out the offering of the American QRP Club (www.amqrp.org), the Four State QRP Club (www.wa0itp.com/4sqrpkitindex.html), and the Arizona SQRPions (http://www.azscqrpions.com).
Ready to rock and roll? Here are a couple Web sites that you might want to check out before you dive in:
- Electronic Construction from A to Z (www.mtechnologies.com/building/atoz.htm). This site includes a page that lists all the tools you’ll need to become a successful kit builder.
- Crystal Sets to Sideband: A Guide to Building an Amateur Radio Station (www.qsl.net/k3pd/book.html). This site not only discusses kit building, but also radio theory.
- The Joy of Kit Building by N6HI (http://members.cox.net/jrehak/wm-2kit.htm).
I hope that I’ve whetted your appetite for building a kit or two. They’re a lot of fun to build, and you really do get a rush from operating a radio or using a piece of test equipment that you built yourself.
If you know of other kit sources, or if you’ve built a kit lately, I’d like to hear about it. Leave a comment below or e-mail me at email@example.com.
For more on ham radio, see: Ham radio in the 21st century.