A couple of years ago, a group of us were talking on the club repeater, and the talk got around to building stuff. One of the guys said, "You cant really build anything anymore." I almost fell out of my chair. That's simply not true. Heathkit may be just a fond memory, but there are still many companies out there selling kits that are not only fun to build, but are useful additions to the ham shack.
Here are a couple of sources:
* Elecraft (www.elecraft.com). In my mind, Elecraft has become the premiere ham radio kit company, if not the premiere ham radio company, period. The new K3, for example, outperforms just about anything on the market by many accounts. Personally, I have built the KX-1, which is a real blast to operate from a park bench or to take on vacation. I also have and use the W1 wattmeter.
* TenTec (radio.tentec.com/kits). While perhaps known more for their ready-made rigs, they also sell a line of single-band transceivers and receiver kits.
* QRP Kits (www.qrpkits.com). QRPKits.Com sells kits that were originally projects of the Northern California QRP Club. My current General Class students are going to build the DC40A kit ($40) as an exercise in building and as a way to learn about how radios work.
Below are some other companies whose kits have good reputations, but with which I have no personal experience:
* Small Wonder Labs (www.smallwonderlabs.com)
* Wilderness Radio (www.fix.net/~jparker/wild.html)
* Milestone Technologies (www.mtechnologies.com)
* Almost All Digital Electronics (www.aade.com/index.html)
* FAR Circuits (www.farcircuits.net)
* Jackson Harbor (home.att.net/~jacksonharbor/ham.htm)
* QRPme (www.qrpme.com/)
* Linear Amp UK (www.linamp.co.uk)
QRP clubs are also a good source of cool kits. The problem with QRP clubs is that they order parts only for a very short run of kits. Once they sell out, the kits are no longer available. Even so, here are some clubs that are worth checking out:
* American QRP Club (www.amqrp.org)
* Four State QRP Club (4sqrp.com/kits/kits.htm)
* NORTEX (www.kk5na.com/nortex.htm)
Ready to rock and roll? Here are a couple websites that you might want to check out before you dive in:
* Electronic Construction from A to Z (www.mtechnologies.com/building/atoz.htm). This site includes a page that lists all the tools you'll need to become a successful kit builder.
* Crystal Sets to Sideband: A Guide to Building an Amateur Radio Station (www.qsl.net/k3pd/book.html). This site not only discusses kit building, but also radio theory.
* The Art of Kit Building
I hope that I've whetted your appetite for building a kit or two. They're a lot of fun to build, and you really do get a rush from operating a radio or using a piece of test equipment that you built yourself.
What have you built lately? Let Dan know. Email him at