REVIEW: Building the K2

Subject: REVIEW: Building the K2
From: Hendricks, Doug ( )
Date: Tue Nov 02 1999 - 15:30:55 EST

Last night, I finished one of the most pleasureable experiences I have ever
had in ham radio.  I completed my K2 from Elecraft.  This kit is not another
step up, it is several orders of magnitude better than any other ham radio
kit.  It was fun to build, it was educational, and the engineering and
design that goes into this kit makes others pale by comparison.

Eric Swartz and Wayne Burdick have outdone themselves and every other kit
designer with their work on the K2.  It was like reading a wonderful book, I
had to tear myself away from building it.  Several nights I stayed up until
2 AM or so building, and even then I hated to stop.

The manual is first rate.  The very best I have ever seen.

The parts are all high quality, but I have to ding the guys a bit here.  The
low value disc ceramics do not fit the holes.  You have to bend the leads,
and it is a pain.  I feel that all parts should be a drop in fit on a
commercial kit.  It would take one of two things to fix:  Find another
source for the caps, or do another version of the board and make the lead
spacing correct.  Most of them are off by .05"  (When I say most, there are
about 15 or 20 caps that you have to bend the leads on.)  I know this is a
minor detail, but it was the only thing that I have to criticize about the
kit.  The rest of it was wonderful.  The best part is that now the resistors
are on tape in the order that you use them.  NO more searching for the right
resistor, reading the color code, and verifying with a DVM!!  All the parts
are separated by type, and that is a neat feature.

The kit is built with 3 boards, a Front Panel, Control and RF Board.  They
fit together like a glove, and the case fits perfectly.  It is fun to put
this one together.

Also, the rig is so smart that you use it to test itself.   There are 3
major test points, and it is exciting to do them.  Wonderful troubleshooting
section if you have problems, and Elecraft is outstanding with customer
support.  Plus, they have a reflector and archive where you can contact over
600 other K2 builders.

My rig passed the receiver alignment tests with no problems, but I was
nervous about doing the transmitter alignment.  So, I hauled the kit over to
Dave Fifield's and he did it for me while I watched.  I was amazed at how
simple it was, and also that I was afraid of doing it myself.  I thought
that you needed sophisticated equipment to do it, not at all.  In fact, if
you have a DVM, a dummy load and a VE3DNL marker generator, you have all of
the test equipment that you need, Really!  Dave used his scope, WM-2, and HP
Signal Generator, but it was not needed.   The VE3DNL could have been used
to peak the receiver and set the coils on all of the bands.  If you are
building the K2 and don't have a signal generator, I suggest that you get a
VE3DNL to use, as it will work just fine. And, I built my K2 at my kitchen
counter, errr, the XYL's kitchen counter.  The reason?  Well, I knew that it
was going to take a long time and I did not want to isolate myself from my
wife, so I got the idea of building it at the kitchen counter from Ed
Loranger's posting about building his K2 standing up.  Ed, now there is
another guy who has built his K2 "standing up".  It also proves that you
don't need a fancy building area to build qrp rigs.

By the way, my K2 has an MDS of at least -140 on all bands!!  How do I know?
Well, Dave set the Signal Generator at -140 and you could hear the signal as
it swept by!!  I say at least -140 because that was as low as the HP would
go, and we had no problem hearing it at all.

I remember the first kit that I saw that took my breath away.  It was a
SB104A that Guy Baker, N0GB, built back in 1976 when I lived in Kansas.  I
was in awe!  I have thought about that kit many times, and have wished that
I would have saved up the money and bought one of them when it was
available.  Well, that regret is no more.  The K2 experience has erased it
from my list of things that I wished that I had done.  Now, I have built the
kit of my dreams.  Thank you Eric and Wayne.

My goal now is to get on the air and operate.  I will be on tonight on 20
and 15 meters if open, later on 40.  IF you hear KI6DS calling CQ, please
give me a call.  If you know me and have ever seen me grin, think of that as
you work me, because I know I will be grinning.  I have plans to work CW SS
this weekend with K2 #621.

Standard disclaimer.  I paid for my kit and was happy to do so.  I give
Elecraft and the K2 my highest recommendation.

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