What Kit to Build, Part Four
This series is being written to encourage new QRPers to build their own
gear. It is made up of recommendations from me that are my opinion. I
get around a lot of QRPers, and I listen to what they have to say. Most of
my recommendations are based on my personal experience, but I also take
into account what others have told me. The goal here is to give a guideline
so that someone who has never built anything before will be able to learn
how to build QRP kits. I don't thing you want to start your building career
with a NC20 or a K2, those are not beginner's kits. But what you can
do is start simple, and as you build you will gain confidence and experience,
which will soon enable you to successfully build advanced kits. But you
have to learn to walk before you can run.
My recommendations also take into account what I think is the best bang
for the buck. The kits that offer the best value for your money. One thing
constant about QRP kits is that they are constantly changing. Just a
few years ago, DC receivers were the norm, and superhet receivers were few
and far between in QRP kits. Now, we have transceivers that have dds vfo's,
built in keyers, frequency counters built in (audio and visual), etc.
etc. That is called progress. QRPers are very conscious of value. They
expect and deserve quality. These recommendations are my opinion. Nothing
more, nothing less.
I have been asked many times by beginners to suggest a kit or kits to
build. Guys come up to me, introduce themselves, and say, "I want to build
radios, but I don't know where to start. Can you suggest a kit?" This series
is my answer to that question.
My first three recommendations have been the VE3DNL Marker Generator
from Jay Bromley and the Ft. Smith QRP Group, the TiCK 4 Keyer from Embedded
Research, and the SWL+ from Dave Benson at Small Wonder Labs. The next
project that I recommend that you build is the ZM-2 Tuner from Emtech.
Why do you need to build a tuner? Well, it is one of the things that
you need to match the antenna that we are going to build later to your QRP
rig. By building your tuner, you will get an understanding of what goes into
a tuner, and how it works. The Emtech ZM-2 is the tuner of choice by
hundreds of QRPers. Why? Because it is easy to use, the cost is only $50, it is
so physically small that it is a natural to take along backpacking or
camping, and best of all, it is a kit. Every time you build a kit, you get
personal satisfaction. You built it, and if it breaks, you can fix it.
Emtech was started several years ago by the late Roy Gregson. It is now
being run by his son, Scott. The company is located in Washington, and
it gives first class service with all of its kits.
This tuner is amazing. It is a Z-Match configuration, and it will match
anything. It even has a neat little SWR indicator that is so easy and
simple to use that you won't believe it. The LED SWR indicator was
designed by Dan Tayloe and it uses an LED to indicate when you reach the null.
The LED goes out!! Simple huh?
Building the tuner. You will use point to point wiring here, and you
will hang the components off the controls and switches. It gives you a new
experience in building, but don't worry, the instructions are very good,
and if you have trouble, again, there are literally hundreds of guys on the
list who have built this thing. I think it is the tuner de jour for the
Arizona Scorpions, in fact it may be required to have one to belong to that
Let me caution you about one thing. The capacitors have to be isolated
from ground, and you need to be careful that you drill the mounting holes
accurately in the front panel. Emtech gives you a drilling template,
and it isn't hard, but you do need to be careful. By the way, the tuner uses
two polyvaricon variable caps, like those used in transistor radios, and you
will look at them and say, "There is no way those will work." But you
will soon find out that they do work, and work well. I was surprised myself
at how well they do work. I have had my tuner for 2 years, and it is still
going strong. When I go out in the field, I use this tuner exclusively,
because of its light weight, small size and ability to handle any type
of antenna feed line, coax or balanced line. I also use it a lot in the
shack. It just is easier to use. Plus it doesn't take up very much space.
Here is the information that you need to order a ZM-2 Tuner from Emtech.
First of all the url of their web page: http://emtech.steadynet.com/
** VISUAL SWR INDICATOR
** TUNES WIRE ANTENNAS SUCH AS --RANDOM, LONG, SHORT, that's all the wire I had!
** TUNES BALANCE FED ANTENNAS SUCH AS, LOOPS, DELTAS, DIPOLES, VERTICALS, V's.
** TUNES (from field reports) GUTTERS, WINDOW FRAMES, SWING SETS, AND --BED SPRINGS?
** TUNES OUT COAX FED ANTENNA MISMATCHES TO MAKE THE RADIO HAPPY!
** DOES ALL THE ABOVE AT 80 THRU 10 METERS, AND USUALLY MUCH FASTER THAN OTHER ATU's!
** DID I SAY 15 WATTS MAX!
** THE ZM-2 IS A NATURAL TO GO TO THE FIELD, AND AT HOME IN THE SHACK!
An evening project for many, maybe two evenings for others. Very easy
construction, via pictorial drawings. All parts furnished, including a stick-on panel layout. Big knobs for
vernier tuning because the ZM-2 tunes so sharp. One large toroid to wind using a unique method that is fast and
extremely easy. One small toriod to wind. Wire is furnished.
Kit is complete, no other parts to try to find. Size is 5-1/16" x 2-5/8" x 1-5/8". Price is $50.00 shipping included.
Send a check or money order for $50 in US funds to:
1127 POINDEXTER AVE W
BREMERTON, WA 98312
Price includes shipping. Washington residents please add 8.2% sales
The above information is from the Emtech web page. Hope it helps.
Tomorrow, #5 in the "Which Kit to Build Series", and with apologies to
L.B. Cebik, I am going to recommend the best beginner antenna that I know of.
(You will put together your own kit on this one.)
72, Doug, KI6DS