The business end of QRP

1townecrierYears ago, a posting to QRP-L announced an upcoming kit that was gonna kick ass and take names on 20-meter CW.

Its virtues were extolled far and wide. Terms like “bullet-proof front-end” were tossed around. It was a soon-to-be-legend. It was gonna be the subject of a Ken Burns documentary (just kidding). It was going to launch a new line of QRP kits and the company producing them.

It was the Norcal 20.

It was a dud.

Nothing wrong with it being a dud, mind you – that ain’t the point here.

But what was wrong was the horn-blowing pronouncement by Doug Hendricks KI6DS, singing the praises of a rig that wasn’t. Claiming performance characteristics that weren’t.

In an exchange of emails with Doug at the time, after the flaws of the radio became readily apparent, he told me he was merely repeating the claims and expectations of the kit’s designer.

In other words, he was taking the claims of someone else and vocalizing them as if they were his own. Credibility erodes.

I’ve regarded Doug with a healthy amount of skepticism ever since and it is with an equal dose of disappointment that I learn that the Fort Tuthill 80’s subsequent versions will be offered for sale through him.

If you’re interested in an unbiased opinion of two Norcal 20’s, scroll down to the end of this review and read the conclusion. While doing so, recall (if you were around then) the numerous praises with which this kit was…..”effusively”…..announced.

Was Doug lying? I have no way of knowing. What I do know is that he made claims that, given the outcome, he had no way of knowing – yet he made them anyway.

What motivated him to take on the Town Crier role for someone else’s design? My opinion is to help launch Red Hot Radio (go ahead – click on it), the soon-to-be-defunct company selling the re-named Norcal 20.

Let’s call it “wishful thinking, projected.

To be fair, the bar is set pretty high among QRP kit vendors. Pre-Norcal 20 kits from Norcal, Wilderness Radio, Emtech, Oak Hills Research, Elecraft, Small Wonder Labs…all have excellent reputations, and deservedly so.

They sell good quality kits and they back ‘em up.

No excuses; no excuses needed.

I hope future customers of the Fort Tuthill kits, the PRF3’s, et al, will be as well-respected by QRPKits as they are by other kit vendors. When you willingly take money in exchange for a good or service, those from whom you take it are entitled to your best integrity.



  1 comment for “The business end of QRP

  1. December 24, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Well, regarding the BitX20 kit and documentation, the errata list is unbelievably long – or it s h o u l d be.

    Why the hell is someone knowingly ignoring blatant, terrible errors and discrepancies and then won’t send out missing parts costing pennies?!?

    Anyone wanting to get cured from the kit buildign bug, buy Hendricks’ BitX20 kit and go ahead, build it with what you got. Good luck – you will need it as well as incredible intuition and superb de-soldering skills.


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