Breaking in my new-to-me Elecraft K2 and CW Morse SP4 paddles during a POTA activation

Radio addiction is a real thing.

We addicts often justify purchases knowing that, in the world of amateur radio, we can always sell gear we’ve purchased without losing too much money each time.

At least, in theory!

In November, last year, I was in touch with a friend who I recently purchased my second KX1 from; turns out, he had an Elecraft K2 he was willing to part with, as well. This is a radio he built (thus, the workmanship is top-shelf) and had updated over the years to be fully loaded the way I would want it myself: all firmware upgrades, all important upgrades for CW and SSB operation, and an internal ATU.

His was also a 10 watt (QRP) version of the K2; Elecraft owners call these “K2/10s.”

My first K2/10 next to the TEN-TEC Argonaut VI I was Beta testing at the time.

I owned a K2/10 between about 2008 and 2016. I sold the K2/10 to purchase another radio. The week after selling my K2/10, a local ham offered me an insane deal on a used K2/100 (a version with a 100W amp) from a club estate sale. No one in our local club wanted it and he really wanted to unload it. I purchased it and for a good three years it was my only 100 watt radio.

My K2/100

Then, in 2019, I sold the K2/100 for $800 and purchased an Elecraft KXPA100 amplifier with ATU for $800 to pair with my KX2 and KX3.

Using my KXPA100 during Field Day in 2020.

I’ve never regretted that decision because I do love the KXPA100 amplifier, although I seldom use it (so much so, I’ve even considered selling it). To date, it is the only device I own that outputs 100 watts.

I did miss the K2. It’s a fantastic radio to take outdoors and has superb receiver chops for the most demanding, RF-dense conditions.

When my buddy offered up his K2, I couldn’t resist. I made myself a goal, though: I had to sell enough stuff to fund the purchase. My friend was good with this. Even though I could have paid him immediately, I asked if he could wait for payment and shipping until I had gathered the funds from sales. I needed that dangling carrot because, frankly, I dislike selling things; I’d rather give away or donate stuff, but I did need to raise funds for this purchase.

I listed a number of shortwave portables that were in excess to my needs and also some radio accessories I hadn’t used in ages. I still have much more to sell, but once I hit the K2/10 price point, I paid my friend and he shipped the K2!

I received the K2 (along with thorough documentation) the evening before going on an overnight trip to visit and help my parents. I took it out of the box, but didn’t have time to do much more than power it up because I was so busy. I’d planned to set it up in the shack, re-familiarize myself with the K2 controls and menus, then configure it for field work after returning from my trip.

The K2 wasn’t the only new-to-me thing to arrive that week…

CW Morse SP4 N0SA Paddles

On the afternoon of Thursday, November 18, 2022, I returned home and discovered a little package from CW Morse.

They sent me their new SP4 precision paddles which were designed by Larry (N0SA). As I mentioned in a previous post about these paddles, I was so pleased that CW Morse teamed up with Larry to produce these.

In full disclosure, CW Morse is both a sponsor and affiliate with I’m proud they support the site as I’ve been a fan of their work since long before they were a sponsor. They sent these SP4 paddles to me free of charge for a frank evaluation.

After removing the paddles from the box back at the QTH, I made a slight adjustment to tighten up the default action. Basically, I made them feel like my N0SA SOTA paddles.

A Serendipitous Activation

One of the reasons I rushed home that Thursday was because I needed to take my daughters to a writer’s workshop in Asheville. All along, I thought that the workshop would be in the Asheville library downtown and that I would simply park, then hang out in library reading while they attended. A few minutes before leaving the QTH, I learned that they were instead meeting at a library only a couple of miles from the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

This meant I had the better part of 90 minutes to do a POTA activation! This was cause for a happy dance.

I had just taken my radio gear out of the car and thought about tossing it right back in, but then it struck me that I could not only test the new SP4 paddles, but also my new-to-me K2/10! This was going to be fun.

Blue Ridge Parkway (K-3378 NC)

The PackTenna 9:1 UNUN Random Wire antenna (photo from a previous activation)

I arrived on site and deployed my PackTenna 9:1 UNUN Random Wire antenna. I also attached a 17′ counterpoise that Joshua (KO4AWH)  at Tufteln had given me. I chose a random wire antenna so that I could test the K2’s internal ATU option.

Next, I set up the K2 and plugged in the SP4 paddles. I powered the K2 with a Bioenno 3Ah battery and also used my Ham Radio Workbench DC distribution panel (links to all of this gear below).

As I mention in the video, I was a little nervous about hopping on the air with the K2 I had not yet configured to my liking. It had been a few years since I had last used a K2 and I really should have taken a good hour to re-familiarize myself with the menus, keyer settings, filter settings, and audio settings.  Still, it was also fun to simply throw caution to the wind and adjust as I activated.


Note: All Amazon, CW Morse, and eBay links are affiliate links that support the at no cost to you.

On The Air

I hopped on the air and started calling CQ POTA. I noticed pretty quickly that the K2 audio sounded a bit sharp and the sidetone was a wee bit low. I thought about adjusting these, but hunters started calling me.

Within ten minutes, I’d logged the ten contacts needed for a valid park activation.

I had planned to move down to the 40 meter band eventually, but 30 meters was so productive, I never had the opportunity.

All in all, I worked 40 stations in 46 minutes! What a brilliant run!


Here’s what this activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map (click to enlarge).

Activation Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation.  As with all of my videos, I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air activation time. In addition, I have monetization turned off on YouTube, although that doesn’t stop them from inserting ads before and after my videos.

Note that Patreon supporters can watch and even download this video 100% ad-free through Vimeo on my Patreon page:

Click here to view on YouTube.

AA4K Video: Check out Jamie’s side of the contact

Many thanks to Jamie (AA4K) who shares a video showing his side of our contact during this activation.  Jamie notes:

Your map shows me at my home qth, but I was actually down in the FL panhandle at K-3664. I made a short video of me trying to break your pile-up using the trudx. I think its interesting to see what it sounds like from the other side.

Thank you so much for sharing this, Jamie. It’s so rare that I hear myself on the other side of the contact!

That was fun!

This POTA outing gave me an opportunity to acquaint myself, once again, with the venerable Elecraft K2. Sure, I need to tweak the filter settings a bit, raise the sidetone, and configure it the way I like it, but this radio is a keeper. Now to think up a good name for her…

The SP4 paddles were amazing–not at all surprising as all of N0SA’s paddles are simply top-shelf. I can recommend them without hesitation.

Also, I’m not sure if I’ve ever had such a productive time on 30 meters. What fun!

Thank you

Thank you for joining me on another POTA activation!

I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation videos as much as I enjoyed creating them.

Of course, I’d also like to send a special thanks to those of you who have been supporting the site and channel through Patreon and the Coffee Fund. While certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support.

As I mentioned before, the Patreon platform connected to Vimeo make it possible for me to share videos that are not only 100% ad-free, but also downloadable for offline viewing. The Vimeo account also serves as a third backup for my video files.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me! I hope you have a chance to play radio this week!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

9 thoughts on “Breaking in my new-to-me Elecraft K2 and CW Morse SP4 paddles during a POTA activation”

  1. I know the feeling! I now have a KX1, KX2, and a KX3. What more could I ask for? Hmm… maybe a K1 and a K2!

    I’m also into boat anchors, so this could turn into a real problem. I’m picking up a Johnson Viking 1 this morning. And maybe a receiver…

  2. I received a set of those paddles from my XYL for Christmas – I have paired them with the TR-45L which I have been using on my bench/shack for the last several weeks. After adjusting the spacing and magnetic “spring” to my liking, I really like them. I added a self-adhesive rubber film to the bottom of it, so a simple light finger pressure on the top of the paddles keeps them put on my desk when keying. Nice report, and congrats on the “new” rig…

  3. I had a 10W Rev A with no mods that I sold in 2020 and regretted it very much. It was a great ham radio, but it needed all of the factory mods and I did not have time to do them which would have brought it up to its current configuration. It was great for POTA, but too large for SOTA, LOL. I will never forget that radio!

  4. Hey Thomas,
    Your map shows me at my home qth, but I was actually down in the FL panhandle at K-3664. I made a short video of me trying to break your pile-up using the trudx. I think its interesting to see what it sounds like from the other side.
    73 – Jamie AA4K

    1. Of course! Jamie, thank you so much for the reminder. I had a note to add this in the post, but still it slipped my mind! 🙂

      I’ve just added it.

      Thanks so much, it was great hearing what my signal sounded like on the other end!


  5. Thomas, do you think there’s any way for me to buy N0SA SP4 paddles? At i can only see a US shipment… Do you think they may expand the options in the future?

  6. Dear Thomas,

    I am sending my big congratulation for your re-owning K2! It is an excellent performer and my K2 is all time keeper here. I am sure you will be really happy and you will enjoy it a lot.

    Regarding the pitch frequency I am recommending to not change it and match your preferences to it. Lower pitch allows you to better recognize close-in signals and it is easier to listen to on these lower audio frequencies.

    My best regards,
    73 – Petr, OK1RP

    1. Thank you, Petr!

      I think I will keep the pitch frequency where it is. I’ve gotten used to it here in the shack, too!

      Thank you, OM!

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