Building up one of the many shortwave radio receiver kits available from dedicated companies is a great short cut to learning about how the technology works without having to source the parts yourself or mess around making a circuit board. Usually sold complete with everything you need to make a radio these kits are a great hands on learning tool with models rated for all age groups and skill levels.
Starting with the easiest type of kit the classic spring loaded circuit board requires no soldering or placement of electronic components. Everything needed to build a shortwave receiver is already installed on the board with each component lead terminated in a short spring. A circuit is formed by linking between springs with short pieces of wire allowing infinite experimentation without fear of damaging any electronic components by repeated soldering.
This type of kit has been around for decades and is a good option when introducing children into the wonderful world of electronics, along with dedicated kits there are more general types available populated with a good selection of parts to make numerous circuits.
Shortwave Radio Valve Kits
Part of the joy of constructing your own electronic projects is the freedom to try out new or old ways of doing things. Although the use of valves in radio technology has mostly been superseded by the transistor a whole new generation of valves are still used today especially in some high power applications. Even for someone used to building kits with transistors it can be an interesting experience to construct and operate valve circuits and there are plenty of kits out on the market that make learning or teaching this side of electronics quick and easy.
Modern valves are much more efficient than vintage types but they will still need a substantial amount of voltage and current to get them running properly when compared to transistors. Having a good stock of batteries will give you plenty of time to play with the new circuit or the project could be powered from a compatible variable voltage power supply.
Printed Circuit Board Shortwave Radio Kits
For D.I.Y shortwave radios that offer the ultimate in complexity and features there are many printed circuit board (PCB) kits that can be a bit more of a challenge but the finished products are more robust and can easily be cased or incorporated into bigger pieces of equipment.
Electronics theory isn’t really needed but its advisable to know (or learn) something about the components you will be using even if its just recognizing the individual types of components, how to read their value and any polarity they may have.
You’ll need a soldering iron to complete the work along with solder suitable for electronic circuit building, a 1mm diameter solder thickness will usually cover nearly all general PCB construction.
When purchasing any electronic kit always make sure that nothing else is needed to finish the project, more than often you will require a few different batteries and sometimes items like loudspeakers or earphones are not supplied.
Any good kit supplier will state the specifications of the missing items and they are for the most part inexpensive and easy to get hold of.
Moving Beyond Ready Made Electronic Kits
Once you have a firm grasp of how a circuit is put together with good component recognition skills there are countless ways you can create working radios and transmitters without buying a kit first.
A solder free solution for quickly building up projects breadboard consists of a plastic base filled with holes that accept standard sized electronic component leads. Arranged in rows with each individual row being connected underneath by a copper strip the devices are connected to each other by placing them in the same row.
Even a breadboard with 10 rows will allow the construction of fairly complex circuits quickly with total flexibility when it comes to adjusting or changing the circuit to get better results or fix problems.
Much the same construction as the breadboard instead this option is a more permanent solution to circuit building as the components are soldered onto thin copper strips on the boards underside. Circuits built this way are robust enough to be used in finished projects and many one off special items in the electronics industry are produced using this method.
Requiring a lot more skill nesting is the process of taking a blank piece of copper and building the components up in a bird nest fashion. Some prototype makers will make a cut down the middle of the board to create two halves of separate copper plate making one the positive and the other the negative supply then build the circuit.
This method will need a good knowledge of electronics, some good soldering skills and the ability to model the circuit in your mind as you put it all together. Nesting is never electrically suitable or strong enough to be used in a final product release but for the experienced constructed can be a very quick way of testing an idea.