Wednesday, November 18, 2015

MTR Build Begins

I was fortunate enough to win the Mountain Topper lottery and was one of the lucky 98 who got to purchase a 5 band MTR from Steve Weber, KD1JV when he released them a few months ago. It's been a while, and I've made no progress, but last night I finally sat down and started melting some solder.

MTR5B #024, ready to be built

The thing is pretty intimidating. I've only some very light experience soldering SMD components, basically soldering the diodes on my Ergodox keyboard PCBs last week. The MTR5B components are even tinier:

So very, very tiny.

It turns out that soldering these tiny things aren't actually as difficult as they look on the surface. One of the reasons it took me so long to actually get started on this was because I wanted to make sure I had the right equipment to do so. I'm glad I did. I was using radio shack and weller non-regulated irons previously, and the hakko fx888d that I purchased is SO much better, both in actual use and with the fact that the iron tip is quite small. The other useful things I have are very fine point tweezers and a lit magnifier.

For the ICs, you basically lay a thin line of solder paste on the pads on the board and melt it. It's pretty magic, the solder paste melts and then just wicks onto the pads, leaving the solder mask clean but for some flux residue that wipes off. You then carefully hold the IC on and heat up the pads until everything melts and sticks. I've had to touch it up with a few dots of paste afterwards. Once the leads are all soldered down, you place some solder wick on the leads and suck up any bridges.

After about 2 hours, I have most of the ICs on the board. It looks kind of messy, but under magnification I can't see any bridges. The only component I'm worried about is the clock, it was a little finicky to get on and it took me a few tries. Hopefully I didn't cook anything.

It's getting there...

With any luck, I'll have it completed soon and I'll be able to give it a shot on the air. My morse abilities are very poor, but I'm learning. I also can't wait to get this thing to the top of a mountain and use it where it belongs.