The current project, to go along with the PFR-3A shown below are the Black Widow Baby Paddles for the PFR-3A, by Jerry Haigwood W5JH.
Jerry mentioned on several of the QRP e-mail reflectors that due to declining sales, he is thinking of stopping production of the kits. So I snapped one up while they are still available.
I have just begun my paddle kit, so I don't have any pictures yet. The first step is to finish the brass pieces. I am following Jerry's instructions to the "T". I picked up some 220 and 400 grit sandpaper from Home Depot. The process is pretty much just as Jerry describes. The 220 grit gives removes the tarnish and the 400 grit leaves a nice "brushed" finish. DO wear latex or cotton gloves while handling the finished pieces so you don't get finger oils on the brass which will speed up tarnishing and give an uneven look. I did the rough finishing with one gloved hand (ala' Michael Jackson) but found that two gloved hands works better when I did the final sanding. Changing hands prevents either from cramping (these are pretty small pieces to hold).
The next step will be to finish the brass pieces with some clear, protective lacquer. I do have to stop back in at Home Depot to pick up some 4/40 screws, to fill all the threaded holes before spraying so they don't get gunked up.
My spray booth was an old pizza box in the driveway. The spraying went very well. I used Rust-oleum Painter's Touch Ultra Cover 2 - Clear Gloss. It went on very nicely with no drips or runs.
The actual assembly of the paddle went without a hitch. Jerry's instructions are so well spelled out, they made the whole build a piece of cake. This is also a testament to his engineering capabilities and his ability to put together a quality kit. I only have one added tip that doesn't appear in the instructions. When inserting the screws into the plastic knurled finger pieces ...... don't tighten your vice too tightly! If you hear a "pop", you've split the plastic knurled piece. Not a tragedy; but not a perfect situation, either.
As opposed to the stock photo above this is how mine looks:
Here's how the radio build went:
This is how the kit come out of the box. The little packet that you see above the printed circuit board is a Hendricks Battery Status Indicator Kit. The PFR-3A doesn't normally come with one. There was a SNAFU when I placed my order; and it didn't get delivered for close to three months after I had placed my order. Doug tossed one of these kits in as a courtesy.
The first step was to inventory and separate out all the parts. Inexpensive aluminum muffin tins and recycled egg containers are just perfect for this chore:
Everything that was supposed to be there, was. No missing components or assemblies, which was a good thing. The second step was the beginning of construction. This is what the printed circuit board looked like as construction began. The following photo shows the first series of "thru hole" resistors soldered in. As you can see, if you click on the image, that the SMD parts came pre-mounted by the "factory". This became critical later on in the build.
After the first two stages of construction came the big first test - listening for actual 40 Meter signals. And much to my disappointment, I heard nothing. After doing some troubleshooting and some consulting on the PFR3 Yahoo Webpage, the designer, Steve Weber asked me to take a close look at U11, the 50 MHz Clock Oscillator chip on the circuit board. This is one of the SMD devices that comes pre-installed on the circuit board. From the voltage readings I was getting, he surmised it might have been soldered in upside down; and he was right. Doug Hendricks put me in touch with Dan Taloe N7VE, who sent me a new chip. I managed to get the old one off the board with only a little damage. I got the new one in and fixed the circuit trace; and began to receive the CW signals that I was looking for.
The rest of the build, transmitter sections and transmatch, went according to Hoyle - as smooth as a baby's bottom. Even with the problem I had, which was a fluke, I would heartily recommend the purchase of a PFR-3A to anyone, It's a great little rig and I love taking it outdoors and putting it through its paces. The receiver is excellent and just about anybody that I've heard with the rig, I have been able to work.
The PC board fully populated
The enclosure with the decals on
The built in tuner works great! I can slip this 'lil guy, a small 12V battery (although I can fill up the internal battery holders with AAs), an end fed wire or a doublet, and a paddle and headphones into a knapsack or day bag and have a great station available for a great day at the park or wherever.
Reflections on past projects
It's hard to believe that my K2, which is serial number 4090 is now going on six years old. It still sits on the operating table, chugging along like a finely built timepiece. It has served me well, allowing me to earn QRP WAS and QRP DXCC.
I am pleased, but not surprised as to how good Elecraft asembly manuals and Elecraft products are. If you take your time, read the manuals carefully, and do exactly as you are told, your build will be a 100% success. The manuals leave no stone unturned and leave nothing to chance. Every step is laid out in plain, unambiguous English. And I don't know if they're still doing it; but when I built my K2, the resistors came taped in exactly the correct sequence as needed.
Personally, I enjoyed winding the toroids and making up the RF Chokes and toroidal transformers. The winding itself is not hard, but you do have to be careful as to how you prepare the leads. The toroid wire comes with an enamel coating, which is solder resistant. If you don't get ALL the enamel off the leads, you'll get bad solder joints resulting in no connections. Emtech, which makes the famous QRP ZM2 antenna tuner offers a tremendous tutorial on how to prepare toroid leads. You can see it here. This was the method that I used and have been using ever since.
As far as the alignment procedure goes, I followed the manuals to the letter and did a pretty good job. About three years of use, I decided to have the radio gone over by a professional. Not that the radio wasn't performing as advertised, I just had lingering self doubts that I hadn't done as good as a job with the alignment as was possible. So I packed the radio up and sent it to Wilcox Engineering. Alan is a professional with a ton of experience; and I figured he could take a great radio and make it even better.
I was NOT disappointed! Alan put the "final touches" on my K2 and now the dial and the crystal filters are absolutely "spot on"! Alex provided timely and professionally courteous service and communication. I would not hesitate for a second to recommend him to put the final tweaks on your "baby".
And should you get into a build and find yourself in deeper than you had bargained for, Alan can also helo you out by finishing a build for you; or even doing the entire thing for you, if you're not up to it.