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Can I Build This Kit?

                 

                                                                 Beginner            Intermediate          Advanced
 

Kits offered by Oak Hills Research and Morse Express are rated according to the approximate degree of skill required to successfully build them.  The ratings are not absolute, by any means. but will give you an indication of factors to look at in considering your kit purchase.

Many factors go into the skill level assessment, but by far the most important is your ability to solder.  If you've never built a kit before, or have any doubts about your soldering skills, you should probably start out with a "beginner" kit.  The Elenco "Learn to Solder" kit is an excellent choice, as is the Rainbow VM-1 DC Voltage Monitor kit   (especially when built along with our A to Z of Electronic Construction tutorial).  Both will do an excellent job of teaching you to solder, and the Elenco kit even includes a soldering iron and cutting pliers.

Rating Factors

We look at each of these factors in relation to each kit, in conjunction with feedback from previous builders, our own impressions of the kit, and the nature and frequency of support calls.  When we say a kit requires intermediate or advanced skill levels, it can be for a combination of reasons but it can also be that a single factor presents more challenges.  For example, an OHR 100A single band transceiver is rated as intermediate, while the OHR 500 five-band transceiver is rated as advanced.  The OHR 500 is really no more difficult to build than an OHR 100A, but it is a much bigger project with more opportunities to make mistakes, and costs quite a bit more, so more is at stake.  The Jackson Harbor PK-3 Keyer kit presents some soldering challenges because of its size, but at $19.95 you are not risking much so it gets rated in the beginner class.

Soldering

At the beginner level of soldering difficulty, the circuit board will have large solder pads with considerable space between them, the board will be solder masked (bare copper visible only where solder is to be applied), and a silk-screened overlay on the component side showing the correct orientation for polarized parts.  At the advanced level could be exposed solder traces running between the pins of integrated circuits, toroid coils which must be stripped and tinned, or pehaps a circuit board with no silk-screened overlay.

Tools

A beginner level kit will require little more than a soldering iron and a pair of cutting pliers.  An intermediate kit may require other hand tools (screwdrivers, wire strippers etc) and a multimeter for testing and or aligment.  An advanced level kit may require less common tools or instruments such as an oscilloscope, frequency counter, or RF signal source.

Instructions

Beginner level instructions will give you a guide to parts identification, and step by step instructions for the entire project.  Advanced level instructions assume much more knowledge on your part, and you will find instructions like "install all of the components using the parts list and overlay diagram."

Building Time

There is generally a relationship between the time required to build a kit and the skill level.  Beginner kits may take only a few minutes to assemble, while advanced kits may take 20 hours or more.

Knowledge

Some kits assume you have absolutely no knowledge of electronics, while others require you to make building or alignment decisions based on an understanding of what the circuit will be doing.

Support

All kits sold by Morse Express and Oak Hills Research are supported by their manufacturers.  This means that if you have problems with a kit, the manufacturer will help you fix the problem.
 

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