Many pieces of ham radio equipment are available as kits. Ten-Tec offers two kits in the $30 range that are good beginner projects. One is the 1054 4-band Shortwave Regenerative Receiver and the other is the 1056 "any band" CW/SSB Direct Conversion Receiver. The experience gained building either of these kits is similar to and is applicatable to many other projects. Here we'll walk through constructing a Ten-Tec 1054 Shortwave Receiver.
The Ten-Tec 1054 kit is shipped in a padded brown envelope. Inside are all of the parts and instructions that are needed to build this radio. A few additional items such as knobs, batteries, "walkman" style stereo earphones and an antenna are required before you have a complete installation.
The circuit board is the foundation for almost any modern electronics project. The Ten-Tec 1054 circuit board is glass epoxy. It feels rigid and high quality. For ease of construction it is designed for pin-in-hole, rather than surface mount, technology. The solder side is printed with a mask to minimize accidental solder bridges and the parts side has been printed with all of the component names/locations clearly labeled. I had no trouble figuring out where to insert parts and none of the lands came loose as I was soldering.
A good kit manual should include general "how to" information (how to solder, how to identify parts, etc) step-by-step construction details, trouble shooting hints and setup/alignment instructions. The Ten-Tec 1054 manaul covers these plus a variety of other topics useful to the novice kit builder or short wave listener. It gives basic information about the stations to be found on the bands covered by the 1054, propagation information and a brief history of the the regenerative receiver design. It even includes additional detailed circuit information for an "Elmer".
As you get ready to assemble your kit, pick a place to do the work. Good lighting is a must. You may also want to consider other family members. The kitchen table, while well lighted and clear, may be too much in the middle of things, especially if you have small children that aren't content to just watch. I found that the 1054 kit was a small enough project that I could use a cookie sheet and put away my mess at the end of a construction session.
The first step of assembling your kit should be to take inventory against the parts list to both be certain to you don't get stalled half way through your project waiting for something and so that you learn to recognize the parts you have. Here I used a muffin pan to sort the parts. Similar parts went into the same "bin". Once organized like this it was easy to locate individual parts as I built the kit.
Assembling a kit needs to be orderly and one part at a time. The old woodworking cliche "measure twice, cut once" applies to kit building also. It is always easier to install a part correctly the first time than to go back and correct an error. "Installing a part" must include
reading the manual and understanding the step,
finding the part and checking it to be certain that you have the correct one,
finding the correct PC board location,
installing the part correctly,
clipping any excess wire leads and, finally,
checking off the step as complete.
Proper soldering is, of course, key to a working receiver. Give your soldering iron a chance to warm up before starting to solder. Heat the connection to be soldered and then touch the solder to the connection so that it does the melting. A good solder joint should be a shiny cone, not a dull blob. Also, excess solder is what solder bridges and shorts are made of. Be careful with the extra solder that might be clinging to the tip of your iron. My solder stand had a special sponge so that I could wripe this solder off.
Spending hours putting a kit together and then powering it up for the first time can be a scary experience. What if it doesn't work? Where do I start debugging at? The 1054 contruction process is broken into two phases to help this situation. The first phase of assembly completes and tests out the audio stage shown above. Once the audio stage works, the RF/detector stage is assembled. Any problems are automatically isolated to one phase of construction or the other.
Here's my Ten-Tec 1054 ready for the front panel and knobs.
I found the Ten-Tec 1054 to be a good exercise in kit building but as a radio it leaves a lot to be desired. The unclibrated main tuning is really fast with no bandspread, the regen control is touchy and you tend to hear AC hum.
If you do build a 1054 here are a few hints:
Links to web sites offering amateur radio kits and additional information:
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