When one KX1 is not enough. (For me, it seems.)

If you’ve been following this site for long, you’ll know I’m a big fan of the Elecraft KX1 [understatement alert].

I owned one for the better part of a decade, then sold it to purchase a KX2 in 2016. I almost instantly regretted selling it.

In 2020 I purchased another KX1 for $300; like my previous one, it was a four band model, with ATU and paddles. In fact, it even came with a number of other accessories like a proper Pelican 1060 case.

I made dozens of POTA activations with this little KX1 and named her “Ruby” (because I tend to name radios that are a permanent part of my collection).

Trouble in paradise

In the summer of 2021, though, Ruby started exhibiting some issues. This was not completely unexpected because:

  1. All KX1s started life as a kit. None were factory assembled and tested by Elecraft. Quality varies based on the original kit builder.
  2. I believe Ruby is pushing 20 years old.

The main issue was, after turning on the power switch, the rig wouldn’t completely power up. Instead of the typical two clicks we KX1 owners are accustomed to hearing, I only heard one click and neither the display nor any of the functions worked.

This was an intermittent issue–the next day it might power up as it should. I continued operating and tried to find the issue myself, but my skills at doing repairs on radios is very limited.

I took Ruby to Dr. Vlado who traced the issue to a faulty encoder. I purchased a replacement encoder from Elecraft (along with a number of other spares) and Ruby was back on the air!

Back on the air for a while…

A couple months later, I discovered that power output would drop to nearly zero watts after about 20-25 minutes on the air. Basically, when the radio would get warm from operating, power output was affected.

Vlado traced the issue to a cold solder joint and repaired it (while also double checking other joints). Ruby worked perfectly for a few more activations…then once again the same issue with power output dropping reared its ugly head.

Right before we left for Canada this summer, Vlado found yet another cold solder joint and made the repair.

Once we were back home from Canada, I put Ruby back on the air. I did a lot of SOTA/POTA chasing from home and took her on a couple activations.

All was going well until a few weeks ago (you may see this in an upcoming activation video) when once again, power output took a nose dive after the radio warmed up from operating.

It appears old Ruby is just littered with cold solder joints.

I brought her home and decided that I would pull her completely apart this winter and re-solder every point on her board.

Parts radio hunt

Last year, I started hunting for a second KX1. I didn’t care if it was fully functioning because I was mainly searching for a parts radio.

The KX1 has become–and you’ll know this if you’ve been looking for one as well– as rare as hen’s teeth. When they do appear on the market, they command a premium.

In a full year, looking pretty steadily, I only found one reasonable deal on what sounded like a quality KX1. I contacted the seller and he told me that within the one hour his ad was published, he received 10 offers. He asked if I wanted to be put on the waiting list if all ten fell through.

“Okay, I guess?”

I blame the KX1 price increase on a few factors:

  • Elecraft discontinued the KX1 several years ago. No more are being made.
  • Others are looking for spare KX1s.
  • The CW renaissance we’re going through (truly an amazing thing!)
  • The popularity of POTA and SOTA
  • It is still a very unique and capable field radio
  • And quite possibly me, being so public about my love and admiration of the KX1 (where’s that foot of mine so I can shoot it?)

If you’ve been looking for a KX1, you’ve no doubt noticed the low supply and high prices.

Frankly, I’ve even felt a bit guilty looking for a second KX1 knowing how few there were on the market.

Then an opportunity

A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a friend and–long story short–I discovered that a mutual friend of ours would be willing to sell me his KX1.

It was a three band model with ATU and paddles.

He was the original builder and, in fact, this was the third KX1 he’d built. I know him and his soldering work; it’s top-shelf and professional.

I knew I’d likely never get an opportunity to be only the second owner of a KX1 and to actually know that the builder is one of the best out there.

He offered it to me for a fair price based on the current market.  I didn’t want him to lose money by selling to me, so I agreed.

I’ve already taken the new KX1 on three activations and it’s performing flawlessly. In fact, I believe the built-in ATU is even doing a better job finding matches that the one in Ruby.

I still plan to work on Ruby this winter–it’ll make for a nice relaxing project some cold, snowy day. It’s the same process Vlado would have to go through (and he’d do it without hesitation) but I’d rather do it myself and save his time especially since it’ll be a bit tedious.

Oh yeah. The name for my new KX1?

Meet Ingrid!

Thank you for reading this post (which is arguably more of a confession and justification)! As always thank you for your support.

26 thoughts on “When one KX1 is not enough. (For me, it seems.)”

  1. Interesting post Thomas. I’m glad you were able to get a second KX1 and a good one at that. Have fun on your winter project. I’m getting mixed views on how cold our WNC winter will be as well as how wet/dry it will be. The weather service says one thing but the wooly caterpillars say the opposite.

    When re we going to see another monthly home built antenna project?

    W4MKH
    https://w4mkh.com

    1. I suspect this will be a moderate winter. I came to this conclusion after compiling several wooly worm sightings. 🙂 We’ve seen loads of them this year on the trails!

      My monthly antenna homebrew challenge had to end prematurely. Due to some family health issues in April followed by our two month trip to Canada and subsequent catch-up on life, I was completely derailed. I will continue to make the antennas I plotted to make, but not within a certain amount of time. I realized how unnecessarily stressful that would have been the way this year panned out.

      Cheers,
      Thomas

      1. LOL.

        I love homebrewing antennas so I was hoping to see you pick up the series again. But they can be time consuming to build and tune and I understand that a monthly series may not be practical.

        I can’t keep up with you in the field radio arena but I am glad that you keep adding to your stock. The wife doesn’t want me buying anymore so I have decided to not buy any new radios until I learn CW.

        I am really surprised how hard and how long it is taking to get back into the game after the move. I need to start blogging again and get into the field for some antenna testing before I can do a POTA activation. So many repeaters to get set up and numerous nets to get involved with. I just got my DMR on the air last night. I ended up having to write my codeplug from scratch. Still need to get DStar setup but with the 705 that should be easy.

        POTA should be easy too as I think the Pisgah National Forest covers the whole of western NC. You can almost stop anywhere and do an activation on the side of the road.

        73

        W4MKH
        https://w4mkh.com

  2. Of course the KX1 is rare. You keep touting what a wonderful radio it is! LOL! BTW, I concur with “Ingrid” as I am of Swedish descent. 🙂

  3. Huh? And I thought I was a little off the planet when I found a second working TenTec Argonaut 515 and paid more than the going rate for it. Finding a second KX1 is like finding a well built working ATS3b with all the band modules. My first KX1 is still working as it was built by an expert (not me).

    Oh well, this is a hobby and is supposed to be our escape from the problems of daily life and the world (it is for me and has been for 62 years). Thanks Thomas for sharing with us.

    Dave K8WPE

    1. And there you go, Dave! I do see escaping outdoors with my radio as a proper healthy mental escape from all of the day-to-day chaos that keeps our brains in high gear.

      Thank you.

    1. Oh no! That will never happen. Indeed, I never plan to do that to Ruby either. I amassed a small collection of replacement parts for my KX1s so I don’t really need a parts radio anymore.

  4. I should hate you! But oddly, I don’t… I’m happy you found a cheap KX1. Yeh!

    Of course I would have bid $400 for it… and drove a thousand miles to pick it up. So now you have plenty of eye candy!

    Luckily for me, I have my KX2. It has bigger knobs, so there!

    The receiver is amazing, she’s not temperamental. A little fidgety, I suppose, but playing radio is super fun, and she’s quite, sensitive, a sweet sexy thing!

    When I think about it, this way she won’t get jealous!

    de W7UDT (dit dit)

    1. Ha ha! 🙂

      I feel the same way when a friend snags a deal on a radio. I am so happy for them yet have a wee urge to be envious. 🙂 In the end I don’t because I firmly believe radios fall into the hands of people who will properly appreciate them in the end!

      And the KX2? With that radio in hand, there’s almost no need for any other radios. If I ever stumble upon a KX2, I’d grab it as a spare in a heartbeat.

  5. Having followed your blog and YT channel for some time, I’ve come to appreciate the love affair, for lack of a better phrase, that develops between operators and radios and now completely understand your need to name them. So glad you were able to get a replacement KX1.
    Now, what will I name my FT-818?
    Thankful that with this radio, I can do CW too, once I get my endorsement.

    1. Oh your FT-818 definitely needs a name! 🙂

      For me? I narrow the search by sticking with actress names from the 1930s and 40s. That’s a favorite era of mine in film and there are so many to choose from.

  6. Check out the Penntek TR-35 kit. It is philosophically similar to the K1 and a fantastic little radio.
    I am a very loyal Elecraft fan wth early models of the K2,KX3 and the K3 withh all the S upgrades and a KPA500/KAT 500 combo.
    Good. Luck. K6ADG

  7. Excellent post and congrats! Funny that you post this now as my KX1 (S/N #21 I believe), just started having low power output too. She is off to Dave Van Wallaghen ,w8fgu for repairs, I’ll be interested to see what the issue turns out to be. Hope we can make a KX1 to KX1, P2P QSO sometime, wouldn’t that be great!

  8. Similar story, I had a KX1, and sold it and kicked myself. I found another at Dayton in 2019… and its a keeper !
    Elecraft gear is great!! I do hope they come out with something new soon ! Great posts Thomas
    73 Mike VE3MKX

  9. Great article as ever and concur with your view on the KX1 – I wouldn’t part with my fully loaded 4 band with ATU model! However, I’ve never been able to get the KXPD1 paddle to work properly – no problem with the radio, must be something about the key.

    Never understood why Elecraft haven’t made a replacement for the KX1, it would be an amazing success. Nearest new option is the TR-35, which is a great radio too, but lacks the ATU and log lamp of the KX-1! Then that’s half the fun of having a QRP stable of radios, you can pick the horse for the course….

    Richard M0RGM

    1. I’m with you 100% on an updated KX1. I’d love to see them produce a KX1.5! 🙂

      Those KX1 paddles? My first KX1 paddles were a little finicky. Both Ruby’s and Ingrid’s paddles, though, work very well.

  10. I have a fully functional KX1 with an unbuilt 30/80 kit. How much should I sell it for? I’d like to start saving for a KX3…

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