Winter always brings thoughts of kit building for me as cold weather, a hot soldering gun, and a bag full of parts make for an enjoyable evening. A friend of mine, Ryan W1RYN, sent me information about a great aircraft monitoring receiver kit which can be built just as a board, or assembled into a metal case. The assembled kit in the case may be found here, but the same company sells the kit in multiple configurations.
Here are two images of the completed kit with the case:
I have ordered the parts kit and the enclosure, and I am anxious to assemble the kit. I love listening to the aircraft band, as well as ACARS transmissions, which this unit should receive quite well. In fact it may become my dedicated ACARS rig at some point in the future.
More Kits Than I Have Time For
I have other kits waiting to be built, as it seems there are always more and more interesting kits coming on the market which are just too good to turn away. I have several AM radio kits (call it an unfulfilled childhood dream), a pre-amp kit for satellite work, an inexpensive USB Oscilloscope kit, and at least a half-dozen other kits standing by. I may have to designate 2016 as the “Year of the Great Kit Building Catch-up!”
I have previously built a TenTec regenerative receiver and a digital L/C Meter, among other things, both of which were fun to build and a success right from the get-go. I do not want to jinx my next project, but I am hoping my lucky streak will continue!
A decent digital meter, a 15-25 watt soldering iron and a helping hand parts holder with alligator clips on it will go a long way to getting you started with kit building. Add a good light or two, some basic tools such as wire cutters, several styles of pliers for small parts, and some decent solder and you can assemble most of the beginner’s kits, and many of the advanced ones. In other words, it does not require a degree in electrical engineering to build kits, only for designing them!
I would recommend going slowly and carefully, and take time to study the parts and try to understand why a particular part is being used in the design. This will not seem to make a lot of sense in your first few kits, but after a while you will begin to understand the logic behind circuit design.
I would recommend starting with through-the-board projects rather than SMT (Surface Mount Technology) kits, as they are much easier to handle and the soldering need not be quite as precise. Also you are less likely to damage parts from overheating them as the component sizes are larger than the head of a pin!
Oh–one other thing: have a clean, large work area where you can leave projects out without being disturbed. This may be impossible depending on your situation, but a large area and the ability to work in stages without massive clean-ups or setup time will be worth a lot over time. I have learned to slow down and take more time than I need to build a kit, partly as a means of self-discipline, but also to allow me to enjoy the process while getting the most benefit from it along the way.
I hope winter finds you with more kits to build than you have time for; that way you know you will never be bored on those long, cold winter nights!