Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Construction Of Elecraft KAT100 Automatic Antenna Tuner

Yesterday afternoon on my way home from work, I stopped at my mail service, and picked up my Elecraft KAT100 kit. I rushed home like a kid at Christmas, opened the box, did the parts inventory, cleaned the bench, set up my PanaVise, and clamped the main Printed Circuit Board into it.

If you're a homebrewer, or have worked in Electronics Assembly, you're no doubt familiar with the PanaVise line of products.

If you're not, you should be.

PanaVise makes many different products, but the ones I use the most are for holding printed circuit boards while you assemble and solder them.

The rig seen holding the board is the "Model 300 Standard Base", mounted to the "Model 312 Tray Base Mount", and holding the "Model 315 Circuit Board Holder".

I also have the "Model 303 Standard Head" , the "Model 376 Self-Centering, Extra Wide Opening Head", and a few other items they make, like the soft-jaws for the "Standard Head".

These tools are not cheap, but as I joked about the test gear I recently bought, their cost will be "amortized" out over the many, many, many times I use them. It's such a JOY to be able to make proper solder connections without having the board flop all over the bench, and to be able to flip/pivot the board from front-to-back to insert the components, that these things pay for themselves just in diminished aggravation the FIRST time you use them!

Plus they mounting base I have the vise base attached to has handy little compartments to put small parts in.

So, not that we have the board mounted, let's get started, shall we?

The first parts to be soldered into the board are the capacitors, so I sorted them out, and put them in the tray compartments.

Then I looked in the assembly manual, for what value capacitor corresponds to the component designator silk-screened on the board, and inserted the capacitor, bending the leads on the backside of the board to hold it in place before soldering it, "C47" in this case.

Some are checked off because I'd already started inserting them before I decided to take pictures to show my friends here how the kit goes together.

So I find the correct location on the board and insert the capacitor.

One thing important to do is to verify that you've inserted the correct part before soldering it down, a variation of the "Measure TWICE, Cut ONCE" rule.

Yes, these are fairly small parts, and I NEED my magnifying lamp to read the part value!

As you insert the parts, bend the leads out to hold them in place before you solder them.

 This is what they look like under magnification, before soldering.

The parts are then soldered in, using my Weller WESD Temperature Controlled Soldering Station.

Then the leads are clipped, and I move on to the next group of parts to be inserted and soldered.

This kit I'm assembling is made by Elecraft, who make high-quality, high-performance radio kits. The parts are all high-quality, and in particular their circuit boards are among the best I've ever seen.

Everything about the boards is flawless, from the plated-through holes, to the solder plating and solder mask and the silk-screen and the fact they're spotless when you get them just screams "QUALITY"!

I've seen "Commercial Quality" equipment that didn't have boards this nice. Whoever their board house is certainly has their act together.

I'll continue this tomorrow or the next night, but right now it's 2230 hours, and I have to hit the rack.

Good night, all!


  1. Looks like an ambitious project. Nice workbench setup there.

  2. Took me a while after "The Kids" moved out, but I now have a decently lighted, semi-organized workspace.

    And the "complexity" of this kit is nothing compared to the K2 radio itself......

  3. Did you ever do a review of the K2?
    Not that I don't love my Kenwood TS-480SAT.

    1. Hi, terry

      I built my K2 with all the goodies (noise blanker, SSB adapter, DSP module, and 100 Watt amp) in my "pre-blog" days, so no reviews.

      Besides, I don't think I could add much to all the praise that's been heaped on it. It's a remarkably good little radio, especially considering that you can build it yourself.

      I'll have a post about using it on the Battleship Iowa for the Boy Scout JOTA event later this month.

    2. Any update on the build? I'm all anticipation.

    3. Look through the blog. It's been built for a while now.

      I used it with my Buddistick for JOTA, and with the Disc-Cage antenna on the Battleship Iowa for the Veteran's Appreciation Day event.

      Works GREAT!

    4. Turns out I'm an idiot. I had bookmarked this post instead of your blog. I thought you just weren't posting. I've fixed it now. {sigh}

    5. BTDT!~

      And I'll be using it again on December 7th for Pearl Harbor Day aboard the Iowa.

      eHam has a listing for NI6BB under their "Events" section.


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