Re: Ensemble Kit and Intimidation From Nubee
Fear not (well, not too much). Yours is a familiar story - I retired back in December, and had a couple of SoftRock kits purchased several years ago sitting on the shelf. I was a bit concerned about the size of the parts, but took the leap and now have built 6 SoftRocks, and have a couple more in process. I had surgery on my right hand this morning, and am currently working on an Ensemble RxTx, even with my hand all bandaged up and the anesthesia still wearing off! What fun!
Others have offered good advice on the mechanics of doing it. It takes a little practice, a steady hand, and if your eyes are like mine, good magnification. I bought one that you wear on the head, has 3 levels of magnification, and flips up. It was only about $10. I found that an iron with 1/64" conical tip and adjustable temperature is a huge asset. A home made tool for holding parts in place while tacking the first end works great and is nothing more than a piece of wood carved off of a popsickle stick. When going to hold a place in part, it is most important to sneak up on it very slowly. These parts have eyes on all sides, and are a bit skittish, but if approached slowly and deliberately, will stay in place nicely while you stick them in place.
For most newbie builds, I think it is important to follow the fantastic instructions that WB5RVZ put together, and test each stage as it is completed. He deserves HUGE kudos and thanks for all the effort he has put into the instructions.
While building, also review the schematic and try to understand what the device is doing and how it works. It will really help if you need to troubleshoot anything.
Most importantly, take your time - it is not a race - double check every part value and placement before it is permanently in place. Measure every resistor with an ohmeter - it is easy to misread the color codes on some resistors.
I just finished building a KD1JV MTR which is almost almost all surface mount with parts much smaller than the SoftRocks. Working on the Ensemble RxTx now, these parts seem huge!! It's the natural progression of the addiction to building with surface mount devices that you too will no doubt quickly succumb to. You will also need to start putting $ away for the acquisition of an endless stream of kits.
Dive in - good luck. If you have a question, ask it here - there are so many astoundingly knowledgeable and helpful people here that will gladly help.
73, Tom N0BS
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, Richard Lawn <rjlawn@...> wrote:
> My kit just arrived today and I have to admit to being more than a little
> intimidated by it as I've never worked with such small components and
> surface mount devices. I've been watching video tutorials and reading
> articles on soldering methods. Still looks rather daunting but I want to
> give it a try. I just retired and need things to keep myself busy, and
> hopefully not frustrated. Any tips from people who remember their first
> time at this would be appreciated.
- Some things I found to be very very helpful during my build.
I had read somewhere that a cake pan with 1" sides was good to corral those flying parts... it damn sure is let me tell you! I got mine (18" x 24") at Costco for about $7.00
A fixture of some sort to hold that PCB in place so both hands are free is a gods send. I built mine but they are available at reasonable cost; very handy.
A toothpick or some other sort of 'hold down' to 'clamp' those pesky SMTs in place is indispencible.
And magnification is a must evfen if you see well because you will want to check every solder joint and connection for splashes and bridges and cold joints. I use a large 6" magnifying glass that is part of my articulated lamp but I have a cheap headband type also for those 'closeup' jobs.
Lastly I love the temp controlled iron I got from Fry's for about $25.00.
Now get going... I love the Softrock 40-R; a completely new dimension in listening to CW. I hear signals that my Icom wont pull out of the mud. I'm starting on an Ensemble RXTX in a few days and I have a Cube in the works. I can't stop, I can't stop, Help me, I can't stop!!! LOL