Saturday, October 19, 2013

The K2 is packed up until we move

The K2 is packed and ready for the move
As time moves on things around the house are being packed up including my K2 build. We have a conditional offer on our house and once that all goes through (hopefully by Wednesday of this week) things will start to move very fast as we have a small window between selling and buying a new place. I do have some pic's of my toroids that I have wound up to this point and wanted to post them just for other kits builders to see. These are not all the toroids that are involved in the kit but the ones thus far that I have wound. The Bifilar is not below as that was in the last post with pics.





Friday, September 27, 2013

Things are on hold here at VE3WDM

Packing things up for a short time
Julie and I have decided to move from out large home since the kids are gone and we have more rooms than we know what to do with! We are now about 60 min's from Toronto where we both work and the commute is really starting to get to us. I have been doing it for about 15 years and Julie for 6, so it's time to move close to the city.........hey we said why not live right in the city!!!! So we have our home up for sale..........well not yet as I have to do some polishing up before it hits the market. We decided to move to a condo in Toronto right on lake Ontario looking out onto the lake and  into the downtown. We are very excited about this upcoming move as we both will be about 10-15 minutes from work. Because of the move the K2 project has to
Coming up Bifilar toroid winding
shut down for a few months as I get ready, pack and then move and set up again. I sure am going to miss this part of the hobby but it has to be done.I do have some pics of progress over the past month that I can blog about but it's the finding the time to get things written and posted that is the problem. So there will be posts now and then but just wanted to let the readership know the blog is not dormant and shut down......just a short hiatus that's all. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Looking into the crystal ball........kinda

It's crystal time
With posting about the toroid's I did get a little ahead of myself........I did say and I will post regarding Bi-filar toroid's but first I wanted to take a step back to the crystals. These were mounted and can's grounded well before you have to do the toroid thing! I wanted to take this post to look at the crystals both their mounting and the grounding of the cans. First off as I have said WAY to many times but I say it because it's important and can save you a POOP  load of time and that is to make sure you CAREFULLY  inventory your crystals. Problems can arise if you mount them in the wrong spot.....your alignment and testing can turn into a nightmare! Once these babies are in they are hard to remove and adding the extra heat to remove them can destroy them. So lets spend a moment on mounting them to the board. Here is what I do........
Installing the crystals
1. I check and double check to make sure I am mounting the proper crystal and mounting it in the proper place.
2. I tape the crystal in place by using some painters masking tape (very easy to remove) with a row of crystals I will run one long piece of tape across the top of the crystals and then to the board. Don't worry about a flush fit to the board at this moment that can be tweaked once the crystal is in place.
5 crystals that were taped
3. At SHORT INTERVALS solder the crystals in place. You don't want to heat the crystals up to hot as they can become damaged. NOTE.....you are only soldering one leg of each crystal at this time.
4. Remove tape and reheat each leg single soldered leg while pushing down on the crystal to seat in firm and square on the board. Again applying heat at short intervals.
5. Solder all second legs of crystals and then trim flush with board.
Grounding the can of the crystal
Now comes the fun part and when you really have to take your time and check and double check things. I like to make the final build look as neat as possible and here is a step that takes some to to get it right. In the kit building process the manual has been asking you to keep the clipped leads and this is where they come in handy. You can take these clipped leads and use them to ground the cans of the crystals. Again care must be taken to not heat the crystals up to much as to damage them. I have a few trick up my sleeve to help the builder to avoid heat damage while grounding the can.

Here are the steps I do to ground the crystal can's
  1. I find a discarded lead in my container of "discarded leads" I take my time to shape the lead to fit neatly on the top of the crystal (some leads you are told to solder to the side as well). 
    Add flux to top
  2. I then add some flux to the top of the crystal to be grounded and then add some solder to the top of the crystal. The flux allows the solder to flow nicely and not much heat is needed to do this. 
  3. I then fit the preformed ground lead in place. I make sure the lead has an extra long tail as it goes through the board. This way I can hold it in place as I add a little solder to the soldering iron tip and then tac the ground lead to the top of the crystal. 
  4. Making sure the lead looks neat I then solder the lead at the circuit board.
    All done
  5. I now can go back to the top of the crystal and add more solder if needed. 
I find this way allows me to not heat the crystals up to much and possibly damaging them.  For side mounted ground leads I follow the same method and it seems to have worked very well for me.
Keep the spare leads

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A new YouTube video about prepping a toroid.

Last week I received an email from Patrick ON4CDJ he was asking me to break down the solder blob method I use to strip off the coating on the magnet wire. So instead of writing a  long post with pictures I decided to put a video together. So here it is and do email me if you have questions or something you would like to see added.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


When I first started kit building some years ago it was the dreaded toroid winding that I never looked forward too. After winding and rewinding over time it has not become a dark task, it has taken some time to get the hang of it but I can say that I  no longer get uptight about the process. I have learned some tricks and some never ever skip steps when it comes to toroids. 
I am in the process of building my second K2 rig from Elecraft and there are lots of toroids to be wound. Now having said that if you want you can order per-wound toroids from the toroid guy. If you do order toroids that are per-wound I would encourage you to try to wind your own as well. What I have found is it's only practice that is needed to get the hang of the winding thing. In the past I have built many Elecraft kits were toroids have been involved, I have learned as I said some tricks, some must do stuff and things to stay away from when it comes to this art. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Something is going on............

Now and then I check out the statistics of this blog, in the past the visits per day have been in around 20 to 30. My other blog on the other hand has in and around 400-500 visits per day.  But 20-30 visits per day is not bad I think for a brand specific blog. Not everyone is building things and an Elecraft k2 to even narrow it down more. I am very happy with this blog to just put it out there to help out fellow builders and those who are building an Elecraft K2. To my surprise today I was checking the visit to this blog and between yesterday and today it has spiked to 80!!! Not sure what is going on there but I hope it keeps up.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The build continues..........

The three components
The summer sure has put a dent in my K2 build, if you had asked me months ago I would had thought I would fly through the build over the summer. We have had some very hot days here (in the 40's C with the humid-ex) I work outdoors and those temps just do it out of me Im not as young as I used to be. After dinner and some house chores I was done for the evening and as I repeately said  in my blog "if your tired stay away from the build mistakes will be made" Things have been very slow going with the K2 build BUT it was time to get down to some custom component bending and placement again. This involves some component placement on the back of the RF board. One has to be very careful when identifying the spot on the PC board where the parts are to be soldered. I have
Here is the spot...notice trace humps to right
found that once the board is turned over many spots seems to look the same. I had to look for some very defining identifiers to make sure I was in the correct spot. For the spot I was looking for there was two trace humps to the right that made this area stand out and helped me identify component placement. This part of the build involved 3 components and their leads had to be contorted in and around solder pads. The first component I dealt with was the disc capacitor, it's large and really no lead bending is needed. This component seems to only need it's leads cut short and soldered. CAUTION.....check and double check you have the correct spot for these parts. With my first K2 build I was very very careful I checked and double checked parts....I did this part of the build and posted it on my other blog, it was pointed out to me by a reader that one of the parts was in the wrong spot!!!! With a  second look it became very clear I was out to the left with my part placement.
There is a smaller capacitor that has to have it's leads straightened out and some contorting added for proper placement. Take your time with the lead bending and make sure the bare leads do not come close or into contact with other solder pads on the board. I tried to keep the leads as short as possible so the component could not be moved about. This would stop inadvertent movement and accidental shorting. The last component and what I found to be the most challenging was the inductor. It's a large inductor that has to fit into a tiny spot. I had to try and re-try to get the inductor in just the right spot. The leads ended up having some very sharp bends so care must be taking to not pull on the leads or to much bending as the leads will snap off. I had to make use of my magnifying x 2 magnification lens  to make sure the leads were well away from solder pads on the board. One lead ended up being very short so care had to be taken when soldering as to not damage the inductor.
The completed result

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Some components just won't fit

It's just not going to fit on the board
As your K2 build progress's  you will come to a point were a component just does not want  to fit into the board. It's time to get the creative juices flowing and move into  your artistic side of kit building. I have found that some diodes and capacitors need to have a lead makeover so they will fit on the board without any stress to the component. If a part does not seem to fit on the board it's important not to force it into place as damage could occur. What I do is first off check to make sure I have the right part and then make sure it's going into the right slot on the board. If all checks out and it just seems to be a miss match
First bend 90 degrees out
between part and board all is not lost. I find this to happens manly with capacitors most of the time. I have found that "tweaking" the components leads will do the trick. With most of the capacitors I find bending the leads out at 90 degrees and then bending each lead so they are parallel with each other does the trick. The second bend is a very tight bend and I find this seems to be the distance needed.....BUT.....you may have to practice. This is another use for the spare component leads, to practice on. In the picture below you will notice there is very little distance between the two bends. This is all that is need to allow the component to fit without stress on the board.
Second bend to bring them parallel.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Something to be aware of

There something to be aware during the front panel build that was not included in my first K2 build. On page 28 of the Elecraft manual you are asked to place 2 rubber pads in the upper corners of the front panel board. I did this and forgot all about it.....until.......the first alignment and test part 1 on page 43. In this checkout you get the privilege to assemble the K2's RF board, Front panel along with the front plate and control board. The rig at this point is really starting to take shape. When I tried to secure the front panel (including the front plate) to the 2 D fasteners that are on the side panels the bottom was easy but at the top there was some resistance in lining up the hole on the front panel with the thread on the 2 D fastener each
Where rubber pad and 2 D fastener meet.
 side panel. I have built lots of Elecraft products and have come to learn that when feeling resistance like this it's not a good thing and something is just not right. After removing and re-assembling the front panel board many times!!!! Even filing away at some parts of the board I felt at the time was causing the problem it jumped out at me....it was those rubber pads on the front panel board that were coming to rest on the 2 D fasteners that was causing the resistance!!! So after about 2 hours of mucking around it turns out that all was ok. So just be aware that when the front panel board goes together there is going to be some resistance between the upper front side panels 2 D fasteners and the upper left and right front panel board. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A bump in the road......

Key setup passed
It's been twelve plus day since the last post, the summer is here now and the out of doors is calling my name! The K2 build has not been on the back burner there has been progress and excitement as well. At this moment the K2 is back in the Panavise and parts are being added to the RF board. Before we get to that I did have a bit of an adventure with my last checkout........Alignment and test part 1.
Volt meter probe check
The relay test was perfect with hearing all the relay's clicking and talking to one another. I did not have to build the RF Probe or the Voltmeter probe as I had them from my last build. The testing of the voltmeter probe was good, the 4 MHz oscillator was within spec, the Audio and tone generator test was great,  I was able to adjust R1 for 3.80 volts no problem, keyer test and AGC threshold tests all were good! It was the S-meter alignment were things went south, my Cal S lo came in at 255 and I was not even able to preform the Cal S Hi at all!!! So it was off to the Elecraft reflector to find out what was going on. Don
R1 adjustment
W3FPR got back to me with the not so good news...."Your Cal S Lo is way  off" I was asked to check various components, make voltage and resistance checks. At one point there was thought I had issues with either U2 or Q12 on the control board. At one point I found the Control board to RF board connector was not seating and it was due to a washer that was under the Control board and not allow
Washer lifting board
connectors to seat fully. I remedied this but the problem was not fixed.  In the end after many emails and checking it turned out to be something very minor. The Front panel board was not fully plugged into the RF board. Once that was looked after the Cal S Lo and Cal S Hi all went as planned. Finally it was off to the bargraph Current test and it went very well. It's now off to Part 2 in the RF board assembly, it was what seemed to be touch and go with the first alignment and checkout but after it was all said and done just a closer look at inter board connections could had saved me over a week of emails, sweating and uncounted voltage checks, soldering connection checks, proper component placement such as diodes and finally the second guessing that goes on throughout the whole event!!
Washer that needed to be moved
One of many emails to sort out issue
Final and good reading
All is well now and it's off to new adventures in the build. I did want to take a moment to thank Don W3FPR for all his help and all those on the reflector who offer their advice to get you over the hurdles. 
 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Hold on the k2 is being powered on for the first time!

This is going to be the first time I have powered up the K2 and more or less it's the first (of many) moments of truth. There are some messages you should see when you turn the radio on for the first time.
The K2 is alive and well

There is a short time that goes by (seems like forever) and then a second message will appear if all is well.

This is the next screen you want to see. 

Now each time you turn on the K2 you are going to have the friendly greeting of........
I am in the final stages of the first alignment and test. In this section I test the Audio amplifier and tone generator, keyer, AGC threshold, S meter alignment and bargraph current test. Stay tuned as some of these test DID NOT turn out as planned. I turned to the Elecraft reflector for help.....and help they did!

Monday, May 27, 2013

The K2 is starting to take more shape

The K2 is starting to take shape
I have now completed the first section of the RF board build. This is a very exciting stage as the front panel, control board and RF board are fitted together and power is applied and the K2 for the first time comes to life!! Well that is the plan as long as all the checkout with the RF board goes as planned. My resistance checks on the RF board went well. I did have to send off an email to Elecraft about one of the readings but all was well. It turned out to be a "builder (me) can't read the meter correctly" so all checked out with the
removing the tape
resistance checks. It was time to get out some side panels and bottom panels and prep them for assembly. There is some tape to be removed from the panels and a razor knife will help out with this. On my first K2 the tape was not that firmly applied but since then this tape is very hard to remove....BUT....under the tape is a very important bar metal finish. There are some 2D fasteners to put on and it's important to pay attention and put them on the correct way. No big deal if you mess this up it just means you will have to stop the assemble and redo the 2D fastener as things will not line up. The tilt bail is also going on at this point and I have always had trouble with this baby. Even following the Elecraft instructions this stand has always been a challenge to get in under the feet that secure it in place. As I mentioned earlier in the build it's very important to make sure the "J" and "P" connectors are all square on the board. During this part of
2D on bottom installed correct
the assembly you for the first time are going to mate "J" and "P" connectors to each other. One thing I wanted to bring to your attention, during the front panel build you were instructed to place two rubber sticky type feet to the two top corners of the board. Well I had forgotten about these feet I put on....until.....this assembly. The control board  and RF board mated together very well. When I added the front panel board (which included the front plate and the knobs and so on.) to the control/RF board things seemed wrong. The front panel had some resistance to it not wanting to mate with the 2D fasteners at the top! Before I realized what it was I had taken the three boards apart over 4 times looking for the trouble.....then I saw it! It was the two rubber feet on the front panel board they were lining up with the 2D fasteners on the front side panels. This was how it was supposed to work the rubber protected the board from the 2D fastener. The resistance I was feeling was normal and it would be great if Elecraft included this in the assembly instructions as it would had saved me some time.When I take the unit apart I will post about this as then I can add some pictures to make it more clear what I mean. It's now time to power up the unit and see how is works! Then I move onto my first alignment of the radio.
Proper mating of "P" and "J" connectors.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Front panel almost complete


Front panel almost complete.
Installing encoder wires
With the front panel almost complete it's adding the VFO encoder that completes the front panel build. Before the VFO encoder can be added you are asked to install 4 component leads to the board that eventually will be the VFO encoders connection to the front panel board. The best way I found to put these leads on is using my alligator clip vise. I place the front panel board in my Pana vise and the leads are held in place with the alligator clip vise.The picture to the right is not the best quality but gives you an idea of the concept. Other methods I have tried with my previous K2 build did not work as well as this method.
The VFO encoder requires some assembly onto a circuit board as well as some components to install as well.  Elecraft introduced a new encoder in March 2012, the old encoder did not have a circuit board. Also the encoder's shaft is a bit larger and a new style VFO knob is included. Old K2 VFO knobs will not fit over this shaft.  Regarding the PC board make sure you trim the leads on the bottom of the PC board. If the leads are not trimmed there is a possibility the leads will come in contact with the control board. The control board and front panel board are in time going to be attached to each other and the tolerances between the two boards at certain point  are very close.  I did find a 4 pin SIP (J connector as Elecraft calls them) connector in the bag of VFO parts. I emailed Elecraft as I thought this could be used in place of running the 4 component leads. They had no idea how the 4 pin "J" connector made it's way into the parts bag. I was advised to use the 4 component leads as the assembly manual states.  When the time comes to fit the front panel PC board  to the front cover  you will also add the nut that secures the VFO encoder to the front cover plate.  Just a word of caution here is to make sure you DO NOT over tighten the encoder nut. If over tightened the VFO readout (once you get to that part of the build) will be very erratic. I find the nut if torqued to just  beyond finger tight is good.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Onto the RF board...let the adventure begin!

The RF board 
Relays are in
With the front control board and front panel board done and in the books it's now time to move onto the RF board. This is where toroids are wound, crystals are installed along with "can" grounds as well as a host of adventures in soldering and chekout testing! Oh and I am working on another page for the blog having to do with the front panel. I have the control board page....and soon a front panel board page will be released on the blog. I have installed the MANY relays and a word of caution here is to check and double check to make sure once all the relays are installed that you have soldered ALL the terminals!! It is very very easy to miss one and when it comes time to do a checkout involving the relays things will not work out as planned if you have left an unsoldered terminal on one or more of the relays. I am speaking from experience as with my first K2 build I did have some issued that came back to unsoldered relay terminals. Now it's time to add just a few resistors, caps and sip connectors (or J connectors according to Elecraft)....along with a few other this and that's. Not to keep harping on the cautions....but....caution is to be taken when mounting all "J" connectors. Upright and square with the board is the way to go. As mentioned before in the blog take your time with these connectors. The nice part about this section of the build is the RF board does not have to be complete before you get a chance to power things up. You soon will have the joy of seeing the Elecraft K2 come to life with an LED readout and everything!!
Resistors anyone!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A way to mount control knobs right the first time!

Starting to look like a K2
The front panel is now complete I mounted the VFO without any problems...but...On page 32 you are asked to secure the front plate and PC board (via a standoff) with a 4-40x 3/16 flat head screw.  According to the front plate you will see this screw should be beveled. I used the 4-40 82 degree flat head screw here.  Once the front plate and front panel are together  the radio starts to take some shape. It's now time to add the control knobs and I am a fuss pot and want the knobs to be the same height off the front panel plate. I have found a sure way of doing this and it adds a nice finish to the radio when all the knobs are placed the same distance off the front plate. Here is how I do it and it's simple, cheap and works every time!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Diffuser and LED confusion

Front panel with diffuser and LCD
During the front panel build you are going to eventually arrive at the diffuser and LCD installation. This I have found to be one of the more confusing parts and I have seen many questions asked about this process on the Elecraft reflector. Lets start with the diffuser, you will notice each side of this device is covered in a white plastic. Our first impression is to peal it off or at some point it will be pealed off......DO NOT PEAL OFF THIS COATING....this coating stays on and does not come off at all. The diffuser has to be mounted
Diffuser
not flat against the PC board but 1/8 of an inch above the board. To do this locate the small PC board you used to mount the push-buttons onto the front panel. At one end of this PC board you are able to snap off (being very careful) 4 pieces that are going to be used for the spacers of the diffuser. The Elecraft instructions tell you to use elastics to hold the diffuser in place. This is a great method and has worked very well for me. The soldering of the diffuser has to be done on the top of the board as U1 is on the other side of the board. The only caution is to watch where your soldering iron is while soldering the
Diffuser spacers
diffuser pins. You don't want to melt any of the components with the hot soldering iron shaft. After soldering the spacers are removed and the diffuser will be 1/8 off the board.......it's Elecraft magic!!
Now it's time to mount the LCD and again this has a white plastic on the bottom....DO NOT PEAL OFF THIS COATING.....this has to stay on and be careful as I have found it has a tendency to want to come off. Elecraft is very very clear if you peal this off the LCD will not work and it's not covered under warranty. Now you will notice (and are told in the Elecraft manual) a clear plastic film on the top of the LCD for the time being just leave it alone. They do mention also that a clear protective film could be on the bottom of the LCD as well (I have not come across that) but if it's there it has to come off....BUT NOT THE WHITE PLASTIC.....Make sure the LCD is flat against the diffuser before soldering all the pins and these pins also are soldered on the top of the board. Be aware of where your soldering iron is while doing this as to not damage any other components. Once this is done you have mounted the diffuser and LCD!  

White plastic on LCD
diffuser spacers

Monday, April 22, 2013

Front panel is on the bench

Switches added to front panel board
The boss keeps a close eye
I have now moved onto the Panel board and this involves some steps were you have to take your time...or....you may end up redoing things! With this board things start to take shape in the form of what looks like a radio. The push buttons are mounted in this stage and Elecraft has offered up a tool to allow you to seat each switch so it's level and the proper height as well. Take your time here and make sure all is well before the final soldering of each switch. If you ordered the Rework internal Mic adapter (which I did) you are now going to add some parts that otherwise would have to be added at a later day when you decided to make the rig an SSB rig. There are some cap's, a resistor pack, a resistor and finally Q3. I don't want to be preaching but if you plan on at some point using the rig for SSB you may want to add this Rework option
Rework parts for SSB Mic option
that allows you to change out mic's with just changing some  jumpers as well as make the K2 SSB ready. Once the K2 is built sure you can add these parts but it means taking the rig apart and soldering them in.Well now it's time to move on to the next step including the LCD and this is a section of the build were taking your time and checking and double checking are key!