I first learned about the Elecraft K2 on the QRP-L email reflector over three years ago when I joined. I saw a K2 at FDIM in May 1999, and I got to use one at the FPQRP meeting in October. I was very impressed with what I heard about it, and by what I saw when using it. I started saving to buy one in December 1999 and January 2000. |
On February 2, 2000 I checked the QRP-L HTML postings, and there was a K2 for sale. It turned out that Diz, WB8QYY (now W8DIZ), had bought it and he asked if I would like to buy it for $510, what he paid for it! I had a month to save my money, and at the end of the month, on Sunday, March 5, K2 #177 was mine! I had fun just looking at it in the box! The packaging and manual were beautiful!
There was only one problem -- My dad said I could only work on the K2 for an equal amount of time that I studied math. I had a few hours built up when I got the K2, so by the Sunday night that I got it, the control board and the display board was done except for the LCD. The reason for this is that the leads on it didn't protrude all of the way through the circuit board, and I wasn't sure what to do about this. However, I vaguely remembered something about it on the Elecraft website, so I looked there but didn't see anything. I emailed Elecraft, and, not getting a response the same day, looked on the website again. This time I saw a note saying that it was okay to put in the LCD with short pins! I went ahead and soldered the LCD onto the board.
On initial power up I was thrilled. No smoke! :-) However, the LCD contrast was awful - it had to be viewed at about a 45 degree angle up from straight on to be read. I considered this a minor problem and went ahead with the construction of the RF board. The installaton of the resistors and capacitors was the most tedious part. I didn't mind winding the cores, though. By Wednesday I was to the next stop -- the varactor diodes. The had not been included with the kit, but Diz had ordered them from Elecraft. On Wednesday night, on the way to a meeting, my dad was able to pick up the diodes from Diz. I got them in on Thursday, but I was missing two. I called Diz and found out that they were in an upgrade package. I put those in and had the 40 meter recieve working by Thursday night.
I did the rest of the RF board on Friday and Saturday, and had it running Saturday afternoon. However, it wouldn't transmit!
I troubleshot this problem on Saturday afternoon and evening, and I traced the problem down to the TX buffer IC. I thought the IC was bad because the signal was being weakened, not amplified, as it went through this stage. On Sunday afternoon my dad took a look and we saw that the resistors around that part were in wrong! After replacing them, we had the transmitter working. However, it didn't transmit on 80m, 17m, and 15m. I tracked the 17/15 problem down to a missing circuit in the filter. I don't know what was wrong with 80, but after a few re-heated solder joints, it was also working on TX. I tuned it on all bands and built the Noise Blanker Sunday night. It was exciting to have another button working. :-) I had a QSO with WB8QYY on 40m on Tuesday, and also got the 160m/2nd RX Ant working on Tuesday. The display was still not working right. We worked on it, and corresponded with Elecraft, for a week or two. My dad was looking at it, and R15 and R16 were switched! I had checked these before, but I guess I only looked at the values, not placement on the board. I turned it on and the LCD contrast was perfect! I finally was finished with the K2!
I have since bought the SSB option (no contacts with that yet) and the computer interface board. Now I have even MORE buttons working :-). I have since received the Antenna Tuner option from Elecraft.
See the K2 Bicycle mobile page for info on how I converted the K2 to be mounted on my bicycle. It made it's debut in May 2000 at the Dayton FDIM Building Contest. I haven't had many QSO's with the K2 because I like building much more than operating.
Everyone seemed very impressed with the K2 setup at FDIM. I didn't get to see many of the other displays because I was hanging around answering so many questions. It was really fun to see everyone's enthusiasm, though. Wayne and Eric set up right next to me, and were giving advice on how to fix the RF that is getting into the control lines. It was great to get that kind of service! The best part came when they were giving the awards for the building contest, and they called me up last (I had not even entered the judging!), and told me I would receive a K2 autotuner kit (given to me later that night) from QRP-ARCI and Elecraft!
I have some pictures of the bike taken at FDIM. They can be found on the bike mobile page.
By late 2001 I was hardly ever using the K2 due to other interests and lack of time and working antennas, so when Wayne K9DI (a member of FPQRP) wanted to buy a K2, I offered to sell him mine. I sold it to him in January 2002. I know it will get a lot more use there.