After a lengthy hiatus from any serious building of electronic kits, a new offering from Doug, KI6DS at QrpKits.com caught my eye recently. Dubbed the “Survivor,” it’s a 75-meter SSB/CW kit designed by famed QRP designer Steve “melt solder” Weber, KD1JV. The Survivor owes its birth to the desire to duplicate the utility of a long-out-of-production kit offered by the NorCal QRP Club called the Epiphyte. On the Survivor web page, Doug describes how the designer of the Epiphyte used it for near-vertical incident sky-wave (NVIS), a reliable technique on the low bands for making contacts within a few hundred miles.
This kit appealed to me for a number of reasons. First, it’s SSB. I have to confess that, despite being a QRP’er, I don’t care much for CW outside of contesting. I’d rather ragchew using voice or data. Second, it’s fairly compact–not Altoids-tin compact, but small enough to fit in my backpack. Third, when I’m out on the trail in the middle of nowhere and out of VHF range, it gives me an option for being able to communicate in an emergency. Fourth, I haven’t built any rigs for several years and this looked like a fun one. So, I bought the kit.
Now, there are two ways to build a radio kit. One way is to just stuff the board with parts, wire everything together, and hope it works when you’re done. The other way is to study the schematic and the circuit description and build the radio in stages (the VFO, the product detector, etc.) and test each stage as you complete it. I’d done it the second way once before, quite a few years ago when I built the Wilderness Sierra multiband QRP CW rig. Not content to keep all that I learned to myself, I documented the experience as Elmer 102.
Here I’m going to do the same thing with the Survivor. If you’d like to follow along, you can download the construction manual via a link at the bottom of the Survivor web page. I’ll probably refer to it from time to time, and you’ll need the schematic to really follow along.
Aside from the construction manual, there’s another good resource for builders of the Survivor in the form of the Hendricks_SSB Yahoo Group. When I joined, the first things I found were posts describing some corrections to the construction manual and to the schematic diagram. Builders who went before me did a great job of reviewing the manual and pointing out the needed corrections.
So, the next few pages will summarize my experience as I build the Survivor. Let me know if you have any comments or see any errors I might have made. Enjoy!