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Elecraft K3 Build Photo Diary

Before moving any further, you need to do a smoke test :cry:. Put the Anderson Power Pole connector on the supplied power cord and plug it in. You turn the rig on to see if it powers up and check for smoke. If successful, nothing terribly exciting happens except the screen displays like this:


The next part of the build is to install the Reference Oscillator Board. Here is a pic of what it looks like:


You have to carefully install the TCXO on the board and use a zip tie to keep it from falling out. The manual says that it does matter which side the zip tie lock is on so you have to read carefully. I ordered the optional 1ppm (+/- 0.5 ppm) TCXO which has a little plastic insulator that goes between the TCXO and the socket. Here is a pic with the TCXO installed.


Next you must trim any of the posts on the back side of the board that may be sticking out too far. On my board, there was only one or two that needed to be trimmed.


Next you mount the oscillator board onto the main RF deck and secure it to the display shield. There is a specific way you are supposed to use the supplied lock washers when you do this (which is a little tricky) so make sure and read the instructions carefully.


Now we move on to the Synthesizer board. Here is what the front of the board looks like:


And here's the back:


You have to trim the leads on the back of this board also and be careful not to accidentally get a little tiny diode or resistor by mistake.

The synthesizer gets plugged in right next to the oscillator board and once again you need to pay attention to the instructions regarding the screw and lock washer details.


Now you plug in the supplied coax cables. Although these already have crimped on connector that make it really easy, you still have to be careful. You also need to check the tips for burs and lead length. I had one connector that had a little bur on it that had to be taken care of before it would install properly.

Moving on to the top cover, you install the stiffener bracket.


Assembling the speaker onto the cover involves trimming the speaker mat, attaching the speaker using the supplied nuts and washers, and placing the cover over the rear magnet.


As you can see, the rig is coming right along.
Since I bought the 100 watt Power Amplifier option, we have to install the shield for it. You also have to move the frame stiffener that we used on the top cover install to the chassis for this option.


Here is the bottom of the main RF board. There are a few stand offs that get installed on the bottom where the covers will attach which you can see in the picture.


After that is done, the bottom stand and feet get attached to the front half of the bottom cover.


The Noise Blanker board is installed


Insert the battery


I bought the General RX board option, so now that board is installed.


Attach the front half of the bottom cover and put some adhesive thermal transfer pads over the low power amplifier transistors. These will contact the other part of the bottom cover, making it act as a heat sink.


Now the bottom cover is attached. Note the difference in the screws in the middle that attach to the LPAs


Finally, the 10 watt Elecraft K3 is assembled. If you purchased the 10 watt version, you would just finish the build by putting some plates across the back, but this the 100 watt version so I'll install the fans later.


Now it's time to do the calibration and testing before installing the 100 watt PA.
Well, I tried to finish the initial build before installing the 100 watt PA section by performing the necessary calibration. I ran into problems. When I try to run the calibration routine, I get an error message that you're not supposed to get. It's displaying ERR VCO 00005.


I tried all of the troubleshooting steps listed for these types of errors, but I couldn't get it to go.

I also have another problem, which is that now the unit will not power completely off. The only way to completely power it off is by pulling the power plug. Here is what it looks like:


What is also weird is that when you plug the power cable back in, the unit starts up automatically. I'm pretty sure it didn't do this before I tried the synthesizer calibration, but I could be mistaken. The manual says to try pulling the boards one at a time to try and locate this problem (which I did), but I couldn't find it. I even pulled the display off and inspected all of those pins but I didn't find anything unusual.

I called Elecraft tech support and left a message and got a call back about 1/2 an hour later. They had me try a couple of things that I had already tried and then told me to send it to them so they could look at it. I hope it's not something I did wrong!
That really does suck, up until this I was really entertaining the idea of building one of these.
That really does suck, up until this I was really entertaining the idea of building one of these.

I wouldn't be discouraged because of this minor set back. The build has been very fun and the K3 build design is very well thought out. I'm sure this is some simple thing that I did wrong or just some fluke problem. When I have more info, I'll be sure to update everyone so the same mistake can be avoided.
I had an opportunity to do some troubleshooting with another K3 owner yesterday...actually someone who was one of the very first run of purchasers: W6NIA. I took my rig over there and we tried swapping his synthesizer board for mine to see if that would solve the problem. It did not. So, there is something wrong somewhere on mine that is not obvious. It's probably something simple like a stray solder splash or something I screwed up, but it's going back to the factory to find out. When I talked to tech support on the phone Friday, they said that they would give me a full report on what they find.

So, while it's a bummer that my rig isn't working right now, the upside is that I can now report out what the tech support process is like. Every Elecraft owner I've ever talked to raves about the support, so it's my turn to find out. If nothing else, it gives me something else to write about :)

BTW, I did get to play with W6NIA's fully loaded K3, and all I have to say is WOW!! I have never used a rig this good before, and it blew me away. I think I'm going to have a lot to write about in the upcoming review!
WOW, Kudos on having the chutzpah to build this rig. I have looked at their stuff for years now and never had the guts to try it. It looked like fun in the ad but I didnt realize that it required NO soldering. I didnt realize it was just an assembly job, a LONG and tedious one. but hey this is fun right! On a serious note you have inspired me and it might make the list for a future project.

I bet their repair dept will be cheaper than yaesu or kenwood or icom. I wouldnt be worried.

It really does look like fun.
Thanks Linearone.

I can assure you that the assembly process was very fun. It's not really that complicated, as I hope I've shown. I'm not done with it yet because I still have the 100 watt PA to install. There are also a lot of other options that you can purchase to install, as well. I've had a small setback with mine, but it doesn't seem to happen very often. I've spent some time searching the Elecraft listserv (I refuse to call a listserv a "reflector") and found virtually no problems reported from other kit builders. Of course, nothing in manufacturing is perfect, which is why it is important to find out about the customer service experience. If anyone has read any of my other recent product reviews, they will remember that I also had a few minor issues with the Yaesu VX-8r and discovered several serious problems with the Yaesu FTM-350 that were fixed as a result of the reviews by me and other members here.

Keep in mind, that I bought this rig on reputation alone and have only seen it in person at Dayton. I've talked extensively with W6NIA about it, as well and decided to try it out over some other rigs that I could have purchased. After what I saw this weekend when I played with one, I don't think it was a bad decision. After I get this rig going, I'll have plenty of info and demos to show. And if kit building isn't your thing, you can always purchase one built and tested from the factory.
What did they say that error code meant when you called them the first time?

They first had me check to make sure all the boards were plugged in properly with no misaligned pins. I had already done that, but I did it again. When that didn't work, they asked what type of test equipment I had. Since I've pretty much sold all my test equipment, I couldn't be much help on the phone. Then they said that I would have to send it in and it would be fully covered under warranty unless it was something serious that I damaged. If it was something I did wrong, they said they would "work with me" on it. I guess we'll find out what that means, LOL.
The Post Office got the rig delivered today to Elecraft today. Hopefully it's still in one piece! Here is the notification I got from Customer Service:

Your K3 has arrived at Elecraft and is being checked into the service process within the next 24 hours.

Currently the turn around time to perform service and completely test your K3 is approximately 2 weeks.

You will be contacted prior to returning your K3 to you by either the technical staff or sales.

If you have any questions, please contact madelyn@elecraft.com.

Thank you,

Elecraft Service Department
Very frustrating. I built my K3, one of the early ones, serial number 222. I'm glad to say I didn't have a problem like that. Guess you were just unlucky. Sending it back from the UK would have been problematic. The only problem I had was the screen behind the front panel didn't have a hole drilled with a bush in it for one of the screws just below the carry handle. Elecraft sent me a new panel but I drilled the one I had and used a nut so I could get on and finish it. I didn't have the patience to take photos at each stage!
The Post Office got the rig delivered today to Elecraft today. Hopefully it's still in one piece! Here is the notification I got from Customer Service:
I talked to my friend from elecraft on friday night about your issue and it does seem pretty rare. I am interested in the problem.I also got to check out a prototype LPA board which has some nice revisions.

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