Doing surgery on the Elecraft K3 part 1

It's time for some surgery.
I contacted Elecraft to see what upgrades were available for my K3 and since my rig is not the 100 watt model it eliminated some upgrades. I have already done some modification upgrades to my rig already. There sure is something to be said for opening up your rig and waving a hot soldering iron over it for the first time. I will admit I never get used to the modifications that involve soldering. The next upgrade for my rig was replacing P30 and P35 which are headers. The new headers are gold plated and transfer data from the radio's brain to the rest of the rig. The new gold headers are more reliable and all new K3's are being shipped with these. P30 is a small 5 pin header but P35 is a 30 pin header! Before undertaking this task you need to have the "right" tools for the job. I am a firm believer that the right tools can be the difference between success and and the "oh my god" results. In this first post I'm going over the equipment I will be using.
First off an anti static mat with a wrist strap, when dealing with state of the art radios this is a must! A medium quality soldering station makes your soldering jobs a pleasure. I have the WellerWES51, this is a nice temperature controled unit. The tips can be changed out for varied soldering jobs and what's nice with this grade of soldering stations the tips heat up very fast and stay hot.
A soldering station would not be complete without some solder. I have in the past built the Elecraft KX1, 2 Elecraft K2's and at least 25 or more other projects having to do with ham radio. The solder I use is what's called SN63PB37. So what does this's make up is 63% tin and 37% lead. This solder flows well and does not take real high temps to get it flowing. For the job at hand with my K3 I am using a diameter of .020. Also a good idea is to get a nice solder stand. The one I have was reasonably priced and allows me too gently pull and I have enough solder. I am not fighting with tangled solder or solder that keeps
rolling off the desk. When you solder there is smoke and it's a good idea to pickup a fume fan of some type. I purchased the Fume trap brand of fans. It works great and keeps the fumes away from you breathing them in.  You then have the hand tools that again have to be chosen and purchased wisely. You don't have to break the bank but don't go for super cheap. For this job I will be using my screw drivers, tweezers and diagonal cutters. Finally with this project I have to remove old solder from the pads that are on the K3's PC board. This is a part of the project if things go bad they can go really bad! In the past I have used the hand held spring loaded desoldering pump. They are ok but not great, I took the plunge and purchased the Hakko 808 desoldering tool. This has been one my best investments! This are most of the tools that I am going to be using and for this post that's about all I'm going to talk about. My next post (part 2) I am going to get into the steps I used to change P30 and P35 headers.

Mike Weir, VE9KK, is a regular contributor to and writes from New Brunswick, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

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