K2-building and support impressions

Jeff Gold (JGold@tntech.edu)
Wed, 17 Feb 1999 10:51:01 -0600

Howdi: Well been seeing the posting of those fortunate hams who have their priorities straight and have finished their K2s. I have been doing 14 or more hour days and on a 6+ day schedule. Luckily I have been sick one or so days so did find some time to start on my K2. I have built and reviewed many of the available kits over the last 7 or so years. The kits themselves and the finished products have come a long way. Most of the kits you see talked about on this list are pretty good deals.. easy to build, affordable and work great (*the $50 Small Wonders 40+ is an excellent example). I guess for quite a while I was wishing that someday I would be able to build a multiband portable rig with some of the nice bells and whistles. Figured it would be another 3-4 years from now. So when I saw the K2 from Elecraft.. boy did I get excited. The fact that Wayne Burdick was one of the two developers gave me immediate confidence. I have had fantastic success with the original Norcal 40 and at LEAST one version of each of the updated models.. impressed that the very first kit Norcal did worked about as good as the commercial version. Well thought out and performed extremely well. When this kit became a reality, started selling off a number of rigs to make room and get the cash together. Taking the parts and the case out of the box first overwhelmed me with shear numbers and then impressed me with the quality of all included. The manual is a very thick and very professional document. Very good quality print, VERY clear unambigous directions, great diagrams and such. The only part that worried me was being a Field Tester for the product and not liking to run into problems while building. I continue to use building as a very effective form of psychotherapy.. I go "into my cave" as my wife describes it, and come out a much more relaxed and happy individual. The parts were bagged seperately for each of the sections. You basically build the controller board... does all types of computer magic, then the front panel, which has the many buttons and controls and lcd bar graph and digital frequency readout. The REALLY neat concepts have to do with incredibly well thought out design. No wires, the controls mount on the board (as with Wayne's other designs), the kit has a built in DVM and digital frequency counter so you have the tools for tune up built into the rig. The tuning knob is like one you would find on a small kenwood, or other commercial radio, heavy weight, great feel. Looking at the 100's (now in 1,0000s) I was overwhelmed and got a bit anxious and thought about dropping out of the Field Test. Had two wonderful experiences. One was the fantastic support Eric gave me personally via email (Wayne was out of town), and other Field Testers. There were actually only a limitted number of changes in the manual for such a large project. I basically made the changes.. Wayne and Eric have a very nice Web site for Field Testers with official changes in building procedures and any corrections or warning. Didn't take too long to change manual. I just followed along in the manual and ended up enjoying every minute of the building experience. Did not encounter even one problem or area of ambiguity while building up the controller and front panel and section of RF board needed to run first power on tests. At first I thought it would be nice to have a section by section photo of parts placements, especially on RF board where there are MANY parts. I found that this or any other additional information were completely uneccessary. The parts placement coincide so well with the directions that I just put a part in and the next one went exactly where I would expect it to be. This was a real positive aspect of building. The boards are of absolutely the highest quality I have seen with very clear silk screening. I believe the next item I experienced has been written about and can't be explained suffeciently in words. This is the first power up test which comes after the controller, front panel and some relays and such are placed on RF board. You then put the sides and some parts of the case together. EVERYTHING snaps together perfectly. The mechanical fit if fantastic and very easy. So there you are with what looks like a commercial produced rig with digital display, plenty of buttons and knobs to play with and your first test. I really took my time, used a meter to measure each resistor and capacitor I put in.. wasn't quite so nervous about the smoke test. Powered the rig up.. heard the relays a clacking (not for TX/REC-do band switching and other stuff) and the display read and then the frequency read out. I did have one small problem.. my rig did all the tests at this point with no problem .. my 10ths digit on display was a bit messed up.. took about no time and got email from other testers, Wayne and Eric. My mind was immediately put to rest when what they suggested might be the problem made 100% sense. I had a bit of problem with the pins on the LCD display.. took about 2 minutes, just went back and reheated the places I could get to without taking anything apart.. powered up.. all is well with world.. except maybe my family's ear drums from my very strong decibal vocal response to the fix :*) I feel very confident that the first full production run will be the most amazing kit for quite a few years... from dealing with Wayne and Eric.. they instill confidence in their product and 100% of its support. I would doubt if anything other than an extremely minor (if anything at all) will show up in the next run. the neatest part is going to be having a full function rig with all the bells and whistles that I will have built myself. So confident about it.. gonna sell my 850 72 Jeff, AC4HF

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