Tips on Building Amateur Radio Kits

Constructing your ham radio equipment can be a good project, but be sure you have the patience for it first.

| March/April 1974

Kit building can be a good way to provide yourself with a ham radio rig. It's not for everyone, however, and you should think over the following points before you commit yourself. 

Price: When you buy a kit, you aren't necessarily saving money. Unless you're willing to pay for the fun of construction and are fairly sure it will be fun for you, you may want to consider buying used equipment (either factory made or originally built from a kit by somebody else). Both stores and private individuals trade and sell a lot of secondhand gear, and you have access to this market by mail through advertisements in radio magazines. (Try QST, published monthly by the American Radio Relay League.) Dealers who advertise used equipment in QST sometimes offer both free trial and a guarantee period on mail-order sales. Don't hesitate to telephone and discuss terms such as discounts for cash payments, etc . . . a three-minute toll call can pay for itself.

Labor: For a single-sideband transceiver such as the Heath SB-102, figure two or three hours per night for a month or so to build the kit. Your speed depends on your aptitude and experience . . . but, if you're smart, you'll proceed very slowly and carefully with the construction. If you're not the patient type, buy a piece of used gear somebody else has built.

Again, remember that all those hours you're putting in aren't necessarily saving you money. My transceiver kit cost $385 plus postage, and the finished product is available secondhand from reputable dealers for $375 plus postage with 10 days' free trial and 30 days' guarantee. Even lower prices can be found on the unguaranteed private resale market. Over 100 hours of my labor, then, was worth about -$10.00.

Space: You'll need a large, well-lit workbench or dining-room table for several weeks. When you're not working, the area should be inaccessible to small children, animals and pernicious house guests.

Tools: You need about $20.00 worth of hand tools to construct a kit, plus a "dummy load "- $11.00 and up - to test a transmitter (since you must not put a signal into an antenna until you're licensed). Many kits also require a multimeter or vacuum tube voltmeter for final alignment or adjustment. Since Heath's advertisements don't necessarily tell you whether or not this is the case, you may wish to write first and ask what instruments are required for the kit you think you want.

B. J. Watkins
8/23/2012 1:32:25 AM

When was this article written? Heathkit has been out of business for years...

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