How to Buy Amateur Radio Kits to Build

Some of the key choices when considering how to buy amateur radio kits to build.

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Building kits can be an excellent way to build up an amateur radio station, especially if funds are limited, or for many people it grows their experience and understanding of electronic and RF circuitry. Building equipment can be a key part of the hobby for many people as it is constructive and educational.

Building equipment has been one of the mainstays of amateur radio, and many people find great enjoyment and fulfilment from building their own equipment.

Although it is still possible to buy the basic components and build circuits and equipment from scratch, often buying and then building a kit can be more time efficient and provide a better finished item at the end.

Buying amateur radio kits: what is available

Although most people buy completed equipment, there is still a very good selection of kits that can be bought.

There is a good selection of kits that can be bought for items like low power, “QRP” transmitters and transceivers as well as some receivers on their own. These are normally for Morse only as this considerably simplifies the circuitry, making these kits quite easy to build.

In addition to this, there are many kits for ancillary items like VSWR meters, antenna equipment, small power amplifiers for VHF, etc. All of these kits and more can be easily bought and built.

Although one of the issues with kit building may be that a suitable case of box is not available, this is not always true and often a special case is available as part of the kit or as an additional option.

When considering whether to buy a kit for a particular piece of equipment, be it test equipment, QRP transceiver or whatever, it is worth looking at the cost. Some of the kits can be obtained at very low prices and make the possibility of building some equipment very attractive, even if it is not the main station rig.

Kit building: what is needed

One of the considerations when buying an amateur radio kit, regards the additional equipment that may be needed. Several items may be needed to ensure that the kit can be built ad tested. These may include the following items.

  • Soldering iron:   Most kits will require the use of a soldering iron to solder the components, typically onto a printed circuit board. May be some additional items like a solder sucker may be needed if any repair or rework is needed.
  • Basic tools:   Normally basic tools like wire cutters, screwdriver and may be spanners and pliers, etc will be needed. Normally specialised tools will not be needed - only the basics are normally required.
  • Test meter:   A basic multimeter is always helpful, especially to diagnose any faults that may occur, although normally most kits should work fine first time if the instructions are followed and all the components are in the right locations.
  • Oscilloscope:   An oscilloscope is a nice item to have to help with any repairs, but for most simple kit projects one will not be needed.

These are some of the items that might be needed, but for most kits, only very basic tools and test instruments are needed.

Amateur radio kits available

There are several different types of kit available to buy and build covering a large range of types of equipment and degrees of complexity.

  • Low power, QRP transmitters and transceivers:   There are many kits available for low power HF band QRP operation. These kit designs typically use a crystal controlled oscillator for fixed frequency operation. The kits normally include a printed circuit board into which the components can be inserted and soldered. Construction should take around an evening. Some more advanced kits are also available, but they still tend to be single band. Cases are sometimes available and may or may not be included as part of the kit.
  • Simple receivers:   There are some kits available to buy for simple receivers. These again typically cover an HF amateur band. The receiver kits typically use the direct conversion principle and as a result they can be sued for Morse of single sideband reception.
  • RF amplifiers:   There are some kits to buy and build for RF power amplifiers. Often these are designed for use with low power HF transmitters, raising the output power to 20 watts or so. Some kits are also available for use at VHF.
  • Ancillary items:   There are many kits available for ancillary items - everything from Morse practice oscillators to timers, small amplifiers and a host of other items.

Although fewer kits are available than there were some years ago, there are still many available for those who want to build some of their own equipment.

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