Kit Building
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Building electronic kits:

An interesting part of Amateur radio, and any other type of electronics is kit building.   Many of us remember the classic HeathKit line of projects.    I helped build a color TV in high school.   Nothing can give you an understanding of how something works better than building it yourself.   Scratch building can be even more rewarding, but it takes a lot more skill.   Starting with kits is a safer option until you're ready to do things like build your own circuit boards.

Some kits that I've built and can recommend:

bulletRepeater controllers:

NHRC Repeater Controllers

bulletSimple circuits, like Voice Operated Switches (VOX)

Electronic Rainbow

bulletA simple, but very cost effective TNC for APRS Trackers


Some tips for the first time Kit Builder:

Don't start too big.  Start with a simple kit.  HeathKit used to rank their kits in 'evenings'.   How many evenings did it take to build, test and aligning the kit?   Start with kits you can do in one evening with a minimum of test equipment.  

The soldering iron will be your most important tool.   A pen, not a gun is the type to use.   About 30-40 watts, no more.  

As you work, you want to tin the tip of your iron.   This means wiping the tip of the iron on a slightly damp sponge.   The tip has to look shiny and silver.   If it's not, you won't transfer heat to the things you're trying to solder.  It's like doing card tricks with mitts on.  

Apply heat to the WORK, not the solder.   If you're soldering a wire on a printed circuit board, lay the tip of the iron against both the copper on the board and the wire to be soldered.   Count to three, THEN apply the solder.   If your tip is tinned, you held it right, and your timing is good, you'll reach that magic moment when the solder flows into the hole, almost as if it's being sucked in.    Once you see it happen right, you'll know what I mean.  Move the iron away from the board and let the solder cool without any vibration.

Anything other than this and you have a glob of solder laying on the surface or a cold solder joint.  These cause intermittent connections that can be a pain to find.

If the kit doesn't work the first time, welcome to the art of trouble shooting.   This is also a part of kit building.   If you can't find something obvious, go to bed for the night and start fresh the next day.   Sometimes a fresh perspective helps.   You can also get a friend to check your work.    The more common things are cold solder joints, a solder bridge, a backwards component, or a color code error.   Don't get frustrated.   Just take a break and take a second look.  If a part was backwards, you might need to replace it.   Not always, but sometimes that happens.   Look for any part that's getting too hot when you power it up.   That's a sign of a short.   

Don't put it off... order a kit and try it.   Join an electronics mailing list and ask for advice.   The sense of accomplishment when you've made a kit that works is great.

This domain name,, is available for sale.   Please contact me if you think this name can help your kit building business.   



Except for portions owned by others, Copyright: Ray Vaughan, 2008