Saturday, July 30, 2011

New / old melt solder project

With my Mom putting her house up for sale, I've started going through my Dad's workshop to start paring down the (large!) amounts of stuff. I found a kit that I had given my Dad for his birthday or Father's Day 10 or 12 years ago that he never finished.

It's a Norcal 20,  a 14 MHz single band QRP CW rig that was kitted by Dave Fifield AD6A circa 1999. I remember that the Norcal rigs had quite a following back in the day with the design emphasis on performance rather than minimal power consumption or "trail friendly-ness". Dave's company was called Red Hot Radio and the kits had a distinctive red anodized enclosure produced by Doug Hauff W6AME at American Morse Equipment. From a purely aesthetic point of view the Red Hot Norcal 20 will contrast nicely with Small Wonder Labs DSW-40 in it's blue Doug Hauff enclosure.

   The DSW-40 is a 40 meter CW rig that runs about 2.5 watts out with full break-in (QSK) operation. The big feature is the Direct Digital Synthesis (DDS) VFO with it's crystal-like stability. I'm not sure why, but the small kit market with it's affinity for single band radios is definitely a shadow of it's former self. In the late 90's and early 00's it seemed like there was a new single band radio kit every week. You had to monitor QRP-L (an internet e-mail reflector) for announcements because the kits would literally sell out in hours. Perhaps the decline is due to market saturation or competition from larger companies. I know that, for me, kit building has lost some of it's appeal. After a certain number of projects completed it comes down to a board stuffing exercise. I'm feeling an urge to design my own gear and do some scratch building but it probably won't happen until the cooler weather. A rainy Saturday spent sitting at the work bench tinkering is just a little slice of heaven. Fortunately for me my Dad was very detail oriented when building things, the assembly manual was in the kit box and I could see exactly how far he got by comparing the marked up instructions with the radio. I'll be able to pick up right where he left off.

American Morse Equipment
Small Wonder Labs