Kit tools

These are the staple tools I have when building a kit. The diagonal cutters are used over and over again so it's very advisable to not cheap out...or you will be purchasing a new pair and thus spending the same or more money in the end. Tweezers always come in handy I have two pair one pair is for the rough stuff the other for delicate endeavors. In other words one pair looks like it has gone through hell and back were as the other is in "like new". Get a set of good screw drivers and spare yourself stripping Philips's head screws. Insulated screwdrivers are a must for alignment tasks. Finally a ruler I found was always handy.
I have the Weller WES51 and it has served me well for years and there are many more temperature controlled ESD safe soldering stations out there. The only reason I chose this brand was because the various tips for this unit can be purchased in almost any electronics store. I never use the sponge to clean the tip as it cools the tip then has to reheat. I use a wire mesh type cleaner that you will see later. The solder is an SN63 PB37 and that means it melts great and will flow nicely. The diameters I have on hand are .031, .020 and .025 for SMD work. Don't go bargain basement with the soldering station. For your project to be a success this tool is a key element.
One of the nice options with a mid price range soldering station is the ability to change the tips. This is an assortment of the tips that I keep on hand for my many projects. From the very small tip for some SMD work to stockier one I can use when working with PL-259's and coax. The Weller tips I used most for the K2 construction are the ETA and ETR tips. I also have the ETB tip for stripping of the wire for toroid installations.
While we are on the subject of soldering no matter how good you are and how careful you may be mistakes are going to happen. It could be solder flowing where it was not supposed to go.Or for some reason a component was soldered into the wrong spot. This has happened to me  and it was the de-soldering tools that saved my hide!! In the picture there are three types, I have used all but one. The sucker is the blue tube it's spring loaded and works well just takes getting used to. In the center is the wick have not used it but I hear it works well. The red bulb sucker takes 3 hands so train your spouse!!
There has to be something that holds your project as you solder it and see the mess of parts become a finished project. To be honest I looked around lots for something to hold the board. I found the best thing (not cheap) to be the Panavise. This unit is the larger holding device in the picture and is very well constructed. This unit will hold all the K2 boards and adjusts to all angles for you to get the work done. The beige base plate is something I made to keep the vise in place. Now the smaller "thing" to the right is an alligator clip type holder. I find this great for holding toroid coils as use the soldering iron to remove insulation off the wire getting it ready for installation...more on that later.
Something that is overlooked by lots of builders is the fume extractor. These units are all over the map with price. The unit I have is about 50.00 and works great! Now before you dismiss this unit as a luxury you have to understand that solder fumes are not the greatest thing to be breathing. Oh yes I can read your mind...I too thought I could hold my breath..BUT the smoke also can get into your eyes and that is just plane annoying. Don't tell me you are going to hold your breath and close your eyes. If you do please email me a picture of your completed project it would be interesting to see. This little unit has filter in the back and works great when soldering. The Elecraft manual for the K2 at times has you soldering 15 to 20 components at once so you really need this baby!!
A good light on a moveable arm to be a great friend to the kit builder. Now this one does have a magnifier on it but I have never used it to date. The other items in this picture are the ESD mat and wrist strap. These are have too items as static charges and IC's don't mix very well and will bring your project to a grinding halt!! The blue square thing in the wrist strap is holding the strap for the picture but is a demagnetization tool. The round tin is tip tinner to bring life back to your Weller tips.
 Can you see me of the best investments a kit builder can make is a decent magnifier to help with the seeing. I have found many parts in the K2 kit that you are do identify are impossible to read if not wearing a pair of these babies!! I use them for parts identification, help in toroid winding (more on that later) and checking out the printed circuit board for proper soldering. The other item is not a pot of gold but a tip cleaner for my soldering iron. This cleans the tip and will not cool it down as a wet sponge seems to do.


During your build you are going to be asked to make some resistance checks just to make sure before you power things up there is not going to be SMOKE believe me this is not something you are going to want to see. You don't have to go out and remortgage the house for a multimeter the average radio shack meter will do the trick. I did have a radio shack model and it was great and preformed well for years and I still have it to this day.  For the K2 construction a multimeter is a must to do the checkouts from one building stage to the next. I took the opportunity to purchase a Fluke meter when it went on sale. I found it to be more accurate and in the long run as I am going to be building many kits it will stand the test of time.
Having said that radio shack has great sales so wait it out and you will do fine. 
The gray box to the left is a capacitance meter. I never thought I would ever need one of these babies but the local electronic store had one and I bought it!! For a little icing on the cake these things are great. I found that most multimeter do not measure mico, nano or pico farads and lots of cap's in the K2 are in that range. So now your asking..."do I have to measure all the cap's!!!!" The answer is no not at all but I have come across from time to time cap's that are very hard to read even with magnifying goggles. You can take Elecrafts word at face value and just assume the cap is the right cap. But since I came across a great deal on a meter I like to use it. There is also the option with having this meter that if anything does go wrong that may involve a cap you have the luxury to to measure it.
Have you ever tried to get a wrench in a spot to then find you can't turn it. I have these great right angle babies for those hard to get places they are fantastic. I have been a firm believer in if you have the right tool the job will go easier. You may only use this type of wrench now and then during a build BUT when you need it they are a dream come true. The other items in the picture are the Elecraft 20 watt dummy load, Ngen and XG2 (now there is the XG3). These units are not required to build the K2 but make it more pleasant. You can get the K2 up and going with a multimeter and the on board K2 alignment features. ( with the exception of a dummy load and spectrogram for filter adjustment...more on that later) 
Last but far from least is t he Hakko 808 this was not a cheap purchase and I could not find it on sale anywhere so I bit the bullet and laid out the cash. I could not believe how this unit makes a soldering mistake look like it never happened and it is done in no time as well. You just put this unit up to the part that is soldered in, pull the trigger and the suction of the 808 removes the solder on both the top and bottom of the board. When done the part literally falls out.