What Kit to Build, Part Three
I have recommended that the first two kits to be built by a beginner be
the VE3DNL marker generator and the Embedded Research TiCK 4 keyer kit. Now
that you have built these and got them working, it is time to take the
next step up in complexity. It is a huge step, but you are more than ready
My recommendation for the next kit is the Small Wonder Labs SW+ 40
designed by Dave Benson, NN1G. This kit is available as a parts and board kit
from Small Wonder Labs for $55. It is a 40 Meter CW Transceiver that puts
out about 2-3 Watts, and has a real VFO plus a superhet receiver. There are
similar kits on the market in about the same price range, but none of
them comes close to the SW40+ in value or bang for the buck. Why? Because
of the Elmer 101 edition of QRPp, which was the fall issue produced by
NorCal QRP Club and I am the editor, which I will say up front. This issue was
the result of a 3 month series of articles that appeared here on qrp-l where
several experts took the SW40+ kit and explained how to build it in step
by step format, and more importantly why it was designed the way it was.
What you are getting is a radio design course. Not only do you get to
build a radio, but you will learn how and why it works. It is an excellent
book and there is nothing else out there that comes close for the price. The
Elmer 101 issue of QRPp is available for $12 (which includes shipping
and handling) from Paul Harden at Quicksilver Press, P.O. Box 757, Socorro,
NM 87801. Or, you can order it as part of the 98 QRPp back issues from me
for $24 (which includes shipping). The 98 QRPp back issues contain all 4 of
the 98 issues of QRPp, including the 2N2/40 issue.
Why do I recommend the SW+? Well there are 2 basic entries in this
price class, the SST and the SW+. The SST sells for $85 and includes
connectors and case. The SW+ is $55, a $30 savings. But you say, it doesn't
include the connectors and case. Well, tell you what, you can buy the
connectors and controls for $5 easily at any hamfest, you'll probably have them in
your junk box or a friend will. And, the Elmer 101 book has a great article
on building a case from plastic sheet by Bill Jones. It looks and works
fantastic, and is very, very easy to do. But if you want, you can put
it in a stock Radio Shack case, or one of those computer switch boxes, lots of
possibilities here. The Bill Jones case will only cost about $1 to
build. So you should be able to build the SW+ in a case for $60 or so, which is
a $25 savings over the SST.
But there are a couple of other reasons that I like the SW+ over the
SST. First there is the tuning. The SST uses a varactor tuning scheme, and
you only get about 10 -12 khz and it is restricted to where ever it falls on
the band (they have picked out crystals to give you the QRP hot spots). But
the SW+ uses a true VFO, and it can be set to any 40 - 50 kHz segment of the
40 meter band that you want. Think about this. If you build it for the
Novice band, and you upgrade, all that you have to do is unsolder the toroid
and take off a turn (or is it add?? I can never remember) to put it on the
general portion of the band, but it is adjustable as to where it is on
the band, where the SST is not. Then later on your interest turns to
working DX down on the bottom of the band, you can move the VFO coverage down there
just as easily. But you can't do that with the SST!!
The second point is the availability of the Elmer 101 book to go along
with the building of the radio. It is not available for the SST. Remember,
we want to learn the how and why of the design as well as build the radios.
How do the two designs compare? Well, about the same as far as receiver
sensitivity goes and selectivity as far as I can tell. They both use
NE602 front ends and are very similar radios. The difference though is in the
price, the VFO vs. the Varactor Tuned VXO, and the availability of the
Elmer 101 series.
When you build this kit, there are literally hundreds of people on the
list who have built this kit before you, and help is just a posting away.
Plus, Dave Benson is one of the best at customer service, if not the best.
Alignment is very easy, and you will get to use your VE3DNL to peak the
receiver, mark the dial for tuning, and let you know where you are on
the band. No special test equipment is needed. The manual is fantastic,
the parts and board are top of the line, and it is about a 5 to 10 hour
project. And when you finish, you have a QRP transceiver that is capable of
providing all the contacts that you want to make. Oh, and the TiCK keyer that you
built in Project 2, it works great with the SWL40+ transceiver.
Don't be afraid to take this next step. You built the VE3DNL and got it
working. You built the TiCK keyer and it works too!! You have the
skills and ability to build a real, honest to goodness CW Transceiver with
Superhet Receiver, and it won't break the bank to do it. In fact, you probably
have spent about $100 to get where you are after you finish the first 3
projects, and you have learned a ton, and it has been fun.
Tomorrow, Kit #4 and we take a step sideways in complexity, but you
build a very, very useful station accessory which is almost a necessity for easy
72, Doug, KI6DS