Saturday, December 29, 2012


K3/100 build and under the Christmas tree.
I have the best wife in the entire world.

When it came time to make our Christmas lists this year, I had mentioned that it had been ten years since I bought my last ham transceiver -- I finished the KPA100 for the K2 in the fall of 2002. And while it might be time to look at something new, modern transceivers are not cheap. In the end, I decided to ask for contributions toward the "K3" fund -- money I would use to buy an Elecraft K3 at some point in the future.

Before Christmas, my wife had hinted she had gotten me something expensive. She would tease me that she had purchased a Cessna 140 or a Harley-Davidson. She did it often enough I wasn't sure what to believe.

Inside these boxes is a bit of joy.
However, due to some shipping difficulties, my present didn't arrive until three days after Christmas.

Needless to say, I was surprised to open the box find a stock K3/100!

She had the presence of mind to get me the unassembled version, instead of the factory-built. While it's a bit more work, I really enjoyed assembling my K2/100, so I figured I'd get some enjoyment out of this.

Biggest problem, though, was where to build. The Micro-Shack is, well, micro. The entire desk surface is barely 5 by 2 1/2 feet. Most of my tools are still down at the QTH in Gwinnett county. Nevertheless, I figured I'd do what I could with what I had, rather than wait a week or so until I could get to my big workbench.

K3/100 goes together on the world's smallest workbench.
As it stands, I had enough room for the job.

It was already late in the day when I got started, so I decided to forgo the Elecraft-recommended inventory. I've built a number of their kits, and I can't say I've ever been shorted a part. Indeed, they always seemed to ship me extras. In retrospect, this wasn't such a bad idea. If you've never built a kit before, inventorying the kit is a great idea.

Since all the boards are pre-assembled, there's no need to warm up a soldering iron. However, there's plenty of mechanical assembly. I thought it was weird that Elecraft has one put the left and right side panels on, only to have you remove them a few steps later.

I had never really seen the insides of a K3 before, and the pictures don't do it justice. In some ways, it really is like an over-sized K2, with the mechanical rigidity coming from the main board. Once you get the casing on, it's really pretty rugged.

Initial power-on successful.
Assembly was pretty much a joy, except for the limited work space. I had a great sigh of relief the first time I powered the K3 on, since it was clear I hadn't messed it up somehow.

I did have one item I did mess up during assembly. It was the KREF3 board. The instructions indicate you are to cut off any leads that might be longer than certain components on the board. I found a through-hole connector lead that I thought was a bit long, and when I tried to trim it, I also managed to bust capacitor C2 off the board. Fortunately, this component isn't used for anything critical. My guess is that it is used for FM only, but there's not really any documentation as to what the TXMIXFIL signal does. I've already contacted Elecraft support as to how they suggest we fix this.

After about six hours of work, my K3/100 was all assembled and calibrated. I only ran into one issue -- I had no dummy load to perform the Transmitter Gain Calibration. I ended up doing the calibration manually using the antennas I have on hand. Not perfect perhaps, but it will do until I can get my hands on a dummy load.

K3/100 assembled and operational.
Now that it's assembled, I have to go an order the other options I need. Unfortunately, the KAT100 doesn't work with the K3. I went ahead and used some of that "K3 Fund" money and ordered the KAT3 antenna tuner as well as the KXV3A transverter adapter. That should do me for quite some time.

Now, I need to sit back and read this thick operating manual so I know how to use my new rig! See you on the bands.

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