Where to start? - Books? Courses? Online? Kits?

Discussion in 'Homebrew and Kit Projects' started by KI7MDI, Apr 8, 2017.

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  1. KI7MDI

    KI7MDI Subscriber QRZ Page

    I am very new to the hobby. I just got my Technician license less than two weeks ago. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do in Ham Radio at first. There are so many different possibilities to choose from. But I have decided to give Home Brew a try. I've had a mild interest in electronics for a while, but have never pursued it. I know that I've got a long way to go!

    I thought I would start with a few simple kits. I have one of the Ultra Picokeyer kits from HamGadgets that I plan on using to practice CW with. However, I thought that I can put kits together all day long, but I won't understand what I'm doing. Sure, I can solder in the capacitor that comes with the kit, but why did was that particular capacitor used? I'd like to, at least, have a basic to mid-range understanding of the electronics used.

    I was hoping that I could get some recommendations on where to start. Books, courses, YouTube videos, etc.

    Randy - KI7MDI
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  2. K8ERV

    K8ERV Ham Member QRZ Page

    Check for a ham club in your area. Good source for advice and maybe loaner books. Also your library.

    TOM K8ERV Montrose Colo
  3. KE0ZU

    KE0ZU Ham Member QRZ Page

    I would suggest you get a copy of the ARRL handbook from the 70s or earlier, read, and re-read the first few chapters a couple of times. This will give you good knowledge of the basics, and you'll have a better idea where you want to go next.

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  4. VK2TIL

    VK2TIL Ham Member QRZ Page

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  5. VK3YE

    VK3YE Ham Member QRZ Page

    Randy. Get yourself a 40m SSB Bitx40 transceiver for $59 - http://www.hfsigs.com/bitx40v3_circuit.html

    It's a preassembled/prealigned transceiver but you do have some personal involvement with choosing the box, making holes and cutouts and soldering plugs, sockets, controls etc.

    The 7 watt SSB output is enough for solid contacts.

    While Techs can't use 7 MHz SSB, the Bitx does form a good receiver with a calibrated frequency readout which is essential for experiments.

    In particular that gives a good basis for testing any 7 MHz CW transmitter you might wish to build (as well as being an excellent companion receiver when using it).

    A suitable 7 MHz CW transmitter uses 3 to 5 transistors. It needs to be at least 1 watt output. Crystal control is OK provided it has a variable frequency oscillator to allow the frequency to be shifted several kilohertz.

    Minimum requirements for them are discussed in more detail at

    Consider these when considering the designs on the web - what drives an oscilloscope is not necessarily the best to make contacts on.

    More tips for project selection appear on my website at http://home.alphalink.com.au/~parkerp/qrp/equipment.htm

    Operating and antennas is discussed in more detail in some of my other videos or my 'Minimum QRP' & 'Hand-carried QRP Antennas' books ( http://home.alphalink.com.au/~parkerp/vk3yebooks.htm ) .

    If you're unfamililar with the Bitx, a review of the older version (free running VFO) is at

    This is what they sound like on air (working another Bitx)

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  6. VK4FFAB

    VK4FFAB Subscriber QRZ Page

    Its the best book we have, but its not a very beginner friendly book. I really only ever used a few chapters out of mine and then mostly went off an found other source of information. If i was starting again, i would start with a book on general electronics and eat up all those fundamental principles first, then move to other projects.

    @@Randy - KI7MDI, I am assuming you want to learn radio electronics here and now just monkey see, monkey do Lego homebrewing. I would start with a breadboard, a pile of cheep components and a book on general electronics and learn all those fundamentals that will hold you in good stead when things start to get complex. I have been homebrewing now for 3 years, I knew nothing when i started and of late I have been going back a lot to learn and understand things that are fundamental that I should have learned when i first started rather than bypassing understanding and going straight to building complex things.

    Kits are not a very good learning tool. Most of them are place all resistors, caps, IC, trannys in that order. But what do you do when it does not work? Where do you start to fault find your way through them to fix the problem? where do you even start? I have kits that have not worked out the box, most i eventually got working as i gained more knowledge but still have one I look at now and again to find where I went wrong.Eventually i might work it out, who knows.

    Once you have some test gear and that fundamental understanding, start building functional blocks of a radio, mixers, filters, amplifiers, firstly in simulation LTSpice etc and then in hardware and start mixing and matching them into functional transmitters and receivers. Anyway, that is what i would do if i was starting homebrewing now, rather than trying to build complex systems straight up. Then move onto replicating others builds.

    And yes you need test equipment, 2 multimeters, so you can measure current and voltage at the same time, LCR meter for measuring component values, signal generator because you need to inject signals to test circuits you build, oscilloscope so you can see whats going on and make accurate measurements on signals in circuits and lab power supply with current limiting so do dont let the smoke out when you stick your fingers into a circuit and short something to ground that should not be shorted to ground HIHI.

    Wish you the best of luck whatever you choose.
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2017
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  7. OH2FFY

    OH2FFY Ham Member QRZ Page

    Building up your own station can bring a LOT of joy , and is really what Ham Radio was meant to be about.
    Many Hams end up being consumer goods junkies and end up knowing very little about electronics - which is sad.
    I commend you for your interest in Home-Brew.

    Now this is where I say something which may seem odd. , and that is , go buy a commercially built radio and get on the air - FIRST.

    Then over time build up your skills in assembly through small kits ,that may not be radio related , and build up on good experiences.
    Nothing will feel more like a kick in the teeth like starting a transceiver kit and then failing miserably.
    That sort of bad outcome can put you off building forever......

    So don't bite off more than you can chew....

    ARRL publications from the 70's - 80's period contains a wealth of knowledge on building , , being sure not to forget the great books from W1FB.

    In time get a transceiver kit if thats the way that you wish to go , and try to learn from it , not merely put it together....
    Afterall , Chinese factories are FULL of people that assemble electronics every day , but don't know how it works.

    Surround yourself with other Ham builders , either in person or via the Internet ... find guys that have the technical knowledge to help you debug your problems, which WILL occur.

    Avoid the people that that talk a lot ..... but do not have any proof of what they say in their own station.
    Keyboard experts are EVERYWHERE and are happy to offer you their own old wives tails or other incorrect advice for free.


    I hope this helps. :)

    gregW:) OH2FFY
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  8. KI7MDI

    KI7MDI Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks for all the replies.

    I have joined one of the local clubs. In fact, I joined it while I was still studying for the Technician test. From what I can gather from listening, there are quite a few in the club that do a lot of soldering. I'm not sure what type of soldering, but that will be one of my goals for the next meeting. There are a few other clubs in my area that I can check out. One of the perks of living in a major metropolitan area.

    I've got a couple of ARRL books coming from a used book website. I plan on hitting a couple of used bookstores over the next week to look for more.

    All the links that everyone have posted, I've either looked at or have saved for the future.

    There is a Hamfest in Phoenix next weekend. I am going to check that out.

    I've got a Baofeng UV5RA radio just to get on the air. I am waiting until I get my General license before I get anything more substantial.

    I would like to try and keep a record of my progress. I am either going to start a blog or add one to my website. I'll keep everyone posted here until I figure out what I want to do.

    Again, thank you for the advice, links and encouragement.

    -Randy - KI7MDI
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  9. VK4FFAB

    VK4FFAB Subscriber QRZ Page

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  10. VE3LYX

    VE3LYX Ham Member QRZ Page

    First build a crystal set. Next build a one tube regen. Next build a one tube transmitter . By then the world will be ur oyster. Just build, don't look for much help. If something doesnt work measure voltages for the tube or device used. If no signal check capacitors. Every circuit has two parts. One supplies the active devices power (tube or transistor). The other part supplys the signal , either Rf or Audio freq. Rf sig use very small capacitors measured in pf or "puffs" Audio freq uses large capacitor measured mfd or uf. usually .1uf for instance. Avoid folks who want to make it complicated and are trying to impress you with their ability to do fancy math. Build build build and DO NOT be afraid to fail. One day the light bulb will pop on and you will be fine. the advice on old handbooks is golden advice. Take it.
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