Ham Radio For Dummies
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Building your own ham radio gear — even just a simple speaker switch — is a great ham tradition. By putting equipment together yourself, you become familiar with the operation, repair, and maintenance of your existing equipment.

If you’re just getting started in electronics, start your building adventures with kits. Today, kits are available from many sources. For an up-to-date list of companies selling ham equipment kits, check out the list of vendors at ac6v.com. Non-ham vendors such as Adafruit and Sparkfun have many useful kits, accessories, tools, and parts.

Choose simple kits until you’re confident about your technique. Kits are great budget-saving ways to add test instruments to your workbench and various gadgets to your radio station. Also, you don’t have to do the metalwork, and the finished result looks great.

After you build a few kits, you’ll be ready to move up to building a complete radio. Although the Elecraft K3 is the top-of-the-line radio kit available today, numerous smaller QRP radio kits are available from other vendors.

You can build most kits by using just the maintenance tools you keep on hand for your ham radio. Concentrate on advancing your soldering skills. Strive to make the completed kit look like a master built it, and take pride in the quality of your work. Read the manual and use the schematic to understand how the kit works. Observe how the kit is put together mechanically, particularly the front-panel displays and controls.

You may also like to try the kitlike projects at Instructables and Makezine. They are a good halfway point between kits and from-scratch projects.

About This Article

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H. Ward Silver has experienced a 20-year career as an electrical engineer developing instrumentation and medical electronics. He also spent 8 years in broadcasting, both programming and engineering. In 2000, he turned to teaching and writing as a second career, producing Ham Radios For Dummies in 2004. He supports Seattle University’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department in laboratory instruction. He is an avid Amateur Radio operator, Extra Class, first licensed in 1972. Each month, his columns and articles can be found in the national ham radio magazine, QST, published by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). He is the author of the ARRL’s online courses in Antenna Design and Construction, Analog Electronics, and Digital Electronics. When not in front of a computer screen, you will find him working on his mandolin technique and compositions.

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