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kit, you may take longer. In any case, take your time (see
the sidebar Kit Building Tips). The construction manual is
very clear and there are enough diagrams to help you out
in critical places.
The audio amplifier has enough power to drive a small
speaker, but the volume is not great. It is better to use a
set of earphones for volume and listening comfort. The
radio operates from a single nine volt battery.
Let’s get this out straight away. You will definitely
need an antenna for all these kit radios. Don’t let this hold
you back! Ramsey recommends an outside wire at least
25 to 50 feet long, or longer. I ended up using about 15
feet of #22 hook-up wire stretched out along the floor and
got great reception. I keep wondering how much better
reception would be with that outside antenna. The
shortwave stations are plentiful.
Ramsey also sells a nice plastic enclosure for the
radio. It finishes it off nicely. The kit currently sells for
Another shortwave kit I built is the model 1054 from
ham equipment manufacturer Ten-Tec (see Figure 1). This
simple radio is of the regenerative type. It uses an
amplifier with feedback (regeneration) to put the circuit
into a near oscillating state. This greatly boosts amplifier
gain and makes it highly sensitive to weak signals. It also
narrows the bandwidth of the receiver making it more
selective, making it easier to separate closely adjacent
The tuning range is from 5. 9 to 16. 5 MHz — again,
the sweet spot for most shortwave listening. This kit has
two pushbutton switches that let you select four
different bands within that range. Continuous tuning
within each range is by way of a pot varying the bias on a
I have always been skeptical of regenerative receivers.
They are simple but can be ornery. This one is not. It has a
very controlled and smooth regeneration control. Along
with the frequency tuning, you can easily pick out stations
and optimize their reception.
The kit was easy to build. I did it in a few hours with
no errors. It also uses an IC audio power amplifier in the
output but again, headphones are your best bet for
What I said earlier about an antenna applies here, as
well. A long wire outside is recommended, but I used my
15 foot piece of hookup wire again with amazing results.
My only gripe about this kit is that it needs two nine
volt batteries. Performance is excellent and I can
recommend it without reservation. The kit is available
from Ten-Tec for $39.
There are several other shortwave kits on the market.
I haven’t tried them all but if you’re looking for a more
advanced SWL radio, take a look at MFJ Enterprises
MFJ-8100K. It covers the 3. 5 to 22 MHz range which
includes most of the popular ham bands, as well. The
price is $79.95.
If you want something other than shortwave, a good
choice is the VHF bands that are loaded with stations to
KIT BUILDING TIPS
1. Choose a simple kit to start with if you have never built
a kit or if it has been a while since you soldered
something. A power supply is always a good first kit
project since you can use it with many other projects.
2. Be sure you have the right tools. You will need a small
soldering iron in the 20 to 35 watt range with a small tip.
Use only rosin core solder of the 60/40 or 63/37 tin/lead
mix. You will need small side cutters, needlenose pliers, a
wire stripper, and a knife. A couple of small screwdrivers
are also useful in some kits. I have found that a good
bench light and magnifying glass are useful, as well. Your
local RadioShack should have all you need.
3. When you start, check to see if you have all the parts.
Check the components against the parts list. This is a pain
to do, but it does two things for you. First, it makes you
identify and recognize all of the components. Second, you
will discover any missing parts so you can contact the kit
company for replacements.
4. Scan through the instructions to see what is in store.
5. Follow directions. Read them twice. Then, DO WHAT IT
SAYS, NOT WHAT YOU WANT OR THINK IS CORRECT.
6. Go slow. We are all anxious to finish and use a kit, but
be patient. If you mess up, it will kill the project altogether
or introduce delays. It may also discourage you from
building more kits. Most kit companies do not provide
help and in most cases none is necessary if you follow
the instructions correctly.
7. Be especially cautious when installing the parts. Read
the resistor color code carefully. Watch for polarity
markings on electrolytic capacitors and diodes. Putting
these in backwards almost always results in damage to
the part itself and/or damage to other parts. Also watch
for the orientation of integrated circuits. If you put one in
backwards, you may damage it when you try to remove it.
8. Use a light touch when soldering. Do not overheat
PCBs or components. Use only enough heat to melt the
solder. Go light on the solder. Too much solder can short
out the PCB pattern or components.
9. If you do not know how to solder, get one of the
several solder practice kits available. I recommend the
Elenco Electronics AK100 — a neat electronic siren with
flashing LEDs. It includes a soldering iron, all for $17.95.
They have an easy to build AM/FM radio kit as well called
the AMFM108K for $36.50. Both are highly recommended
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