Who would spend 30 hours+ building an Elecraft K2? (plus: special pricing)
Who would spend 30 hours+ building an Elecraft K2? Well, me, for one.
I built the very first K2, not long after Eric and I sketched out the design on napkins right in the middle of Field Day at Henry Coe state park. (Some claim this is mythology, but I was there :) That first unit wasn’t even painted, and we had yet to design the option modules.
Since then, nearly another 8,000 times someone else has asked that same question, concluding that the answer was “yes." It’s worth asking why.
The K2 is very light in weight for an all-HF-band/multi-mode desktop-style rig (3 lbs). The transmitter puts out 15 watts (100 W with the bolt-on KPA100 top cover), and the receiver has been proven crunch-proof over many subsequent Field Days.
Is that why this little radio--our first product--just refuses to become obsolete?
Maybe it's the crisp sound of the 100% analog superhet RX strip. Or the continuously tunable, variable-passband 4.9 MHz crystal filter. Or the blazingly fast break-in CW.
Could it be ease of operation? The K2 has only the most essential controls--excellent for first-time users--and an embarrassingly small number of menu entries compared to most modern rigs.
But when I think back on it, now, I believe the real reason for the K2’s popularity must be that it’s fun to build. Not just fun, but rewarding: transforming several bags of carefully labeled bagged components and hardware into a complete ham transceiver, then putting it on the air. (Somewhere I have a logbook page that says “First QSO on prototype K2!” that I should frame. It was a unique experience.)
Speaking of parts, 100% of those used in the K2 have leads. There’s nothing wrong with surface mount construction, but leaded parts are easier to handle, harder to lose, and more clearly labeled. This makes for a reassuring, enjoyable assembly process, even if you’ve had just a little prior experience building.
What got me started on this email was a quick browse through some of the over 300 reviews of the K2 posted on eHam.net:
The enjoyment and pride of building really shines through. This is why Eric and I started the company in 1998, and it’s why we still offer the K2 only as a full kit. (Yes, you’ll need a good soldering iron. Our tech support team will be happy to recommend one if you’re shopping around.)
Many customers have teamed up with their kids or grandkids on the build. In my book, this beats letting them binge-watch Netflix all weekend. Even if your co-builders aren’t hams (yet), they’ll have great fun helping you identify and install parts.
That, in fact, is pretty easy. One of the best things about the K2 is the assembly manual:
The manual is written in tutorial style, including finer points like the resistor color code, photos of all parts and modules, and detailed signal tracing/troubleshooting instructions. The manual has been refined to the point that it’s virtually foolproof. Of course if you have any difficulties, you can always ask a question on the Elecraft reflector, day or night, or check in with customer support.
For those of you who are just now thinking about tackling the K2, we’ve decided to sweeten the deal a little. Consider it an early Valentine’s gift. You can find our K2 specials near the top of this page:
I’ll leave you with this photo of two early production K2s. It was taken in 1999 from inside a VW van I used to own (the radio is reliable, the van wasn’t). S/N 00002, in the foreground, was being operated by Eric, WA6HHQ, except that he’s also the photographer. In the background is yours truly, complete with a Field-Day’s worth of facial hair and tie-dyed T-shirt, operating S/N 00001.