Sunday, March 12, 2006

K2 Update. UPS delivered to the office on Friday the box with the kit in it, a box packed within a box, and I opened it yesterday. I was amazed at how small the box that held the kit was. But, then, the unit when built will be only 3 inches high, 7.9 inches wide, and 8.3 inches deep, not including the plugs and things that stick out some from the back.

The kit box contained a very nice, plastic spiral bound "owners manual" that, mainly, lists the inventory and then tells you how to put the thing together. It leads the builder step by step through what appears to be a well considered process.

The parts are in various plastic bags that correspond to various phases of construction. There are also small envelopes with parts in them. Finally, there are the case materials, five pieces that will, somehow, fit together to make a enclosure.

But the first thing to do is to inventory the parts, and that's what I've been doing this weekend. (If anything is missing, then one emails the company and it sends the missing part or parts.) During the inventory process I sort out the various components, and group similar components in small zip lock bags in which I put a little note showing the part number and the value of the part. For example, a particular resistor with a value of, say, 100 ohms, would have a note in the zip lock bag that would say "R1 [if that's the part number] and 100".

The parts are very small, and their identifying information usually consists of tiny letters and numbers or color codes printed on the part. To see this information, I use a lamp that has a fluorescent bulb wrapped around a big magnifying glass. The lamp/magnifier is affixed to the end of an articulated arm clamped to my work table.

The resistors are among the tiny parts that are color coded. This is a problem because I am color blind. So I make a guess on the colors and then check my guess with a digital volt-ohm multitester ("DVM"), another Christmas gift.

There are 869 pieces to the kit, most of which need to be soldered in at least two places. Over the last several years, I have been making do with a cheap, 20 watt soldering iron from Radio Shack. But the Elecraft people urge the builder to use a "soldering station". This is a soldering device that allows the user to control the temperature and to change soldering tips as necessary. So I have ordered one of the soldering stations that Elecraft recommends.

Great care is to be taken in the choice of solder. There are many kinds and they come in numerous diameters. But only certain "rosin-core" solder types will do, and the diameter must be within certain limits. (I have to use the magnifier to do the soldering.)

On Elecraft's website there is some good help for builders, including photographs and a "reflector" where builders can exchange information on their projects and get help from engineers at the company.

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