FrequentlyAsked Questions

1. I'd like to build the StationPro (I or II). How much experience do I need before I take the plunge?

Although the StationPro is not a "beginner project," it is easy to build because printed circuit boards, pre-punched enclosures, and a comprehensive fully-illustrated step-by-step assembly manual is supplied with every kit. All the circuit boards either plug together, or connect with short ribbon cables. This means that the only point-to-point wiring is for the front panel connectors and for the transceiver cables that connect to the transceiver pods. Solder pads on the printed circuit boards make the point-to-point wiring easy and straightforward. However, you will need to recognize basic electronic components (e.g., electrolytic capacitors, resistors, diodes, integrated circuits, etc.), and you should know how to solder small components onto circuit boards.

2. Where can I find more information about the StationPro?

This website accompanies an article in the August 2010 issue of QST, and the accompanying QST-Online website. The article contains an abbreviated technical discussion and a summary of the StationPro's features. In addition, you can download a complete list of specifications, circuit diagrams, parts and suppliers lists, and detailed assembly instructions from this website by clicking on "Download Files" on the banner. You can also join a StationPro user group at which is a good place to find out construction hints, parts sources, ask questions, and post your comments.

3. Can I buy a complete parts kit for the StationPro?

It is very easy to order parts for the StationPro. First, you can buy "semi-kits" from W8ZR that consist of bare printed circuit boards, a few specialty parts, and silkscreened and pre-punched enclosures, so the hard work has been done for you. Second, you can buy all the remaining parts with "one-click shopping" from Mouser Electronics, my recommended supplier. Just clink on the link to the Mouser SP-I order form or SP-II order form and you will be taken to a pre-filled out shopping cart on the Mouser secure website.

4. I am from Japan (or England, Germany, Brazil, etc.), Can non-USA hams purchase a StationPro Kit?

International buyers are welcome to buy a StationPro "semi-kit" from W8ZR. Just click on the "Add to Shopping Cart" button on the Order Parts page and the flat-rate international shipping charge will be automatically added to your order at checkout. Also, international buyers shouldn't hesitate to purchase parts from Mouser Electronics, one of the largest electronics distributors in the U.S. Mouser happily accepts international orders and ships to overseas addresses.

5. If I build a StationPro I, can I later upgrade to a StationPro II?

Yes, the StationPro I was designed to be easily upgradable. Both the SP-I and SP-II use the same main printed circuit and rear panel circuit boards, rear panels, and both controller and RF relay enclosures. To upgrade, one merely has to replace the front panel circuit board assembly and add a microcontroller circuit board.

6. How much will it cost me to build the StationPro I and II?

If you buy all the components new, including the circuit boards and custom enclosures, the SP-I will cost approximately $400US. The SP-II will cost about $600US.

7. How long will it take to build the StationPro?

Well, from start to finish it took me about two years! But I estimate it will only take you about 7-10 hours to wire the circuit boards and assemble everything together for an SP-1, and 14-16 hours for an SP-II. Most buliders have thoroughly enjoyed assembling their StationPro.

8. Can I buy a StationPro already wired and tested?

I wrote the article in QST to encourage hams to develop their homebrewing skills, so I've no plans to sell completed StationPros. If you really want to buy a completed unit, I am sure other hams can help you out. Try posting a request with the StationPro User Group.

9. Can the StationPro be used with transceivers and amplifiers that have QSK (full break-in) capability, like the Omni VII and the Alpha 87A?

Yes. Amplifiers and transceivers designed for full break-in typically have a Key In and Key Out jack on the amplifier, which mates to similar jacks on the transceiver. One simply uses the AUX 1 and AUX 2 jacks on the StationPro to route these lines to the QSK-equipped amplifier. If the operator has more than one QSK amplifier, then the AUX 3 and AUX 4 lines can be used for the second one. Non-QSK ampliers connect to the RLY OUT jacks on the StationPro.

10. What tools and test instruments do I need to build the StationPro?

No special tools are required. The most important tool you'll need is a good small-tipped soldering iron and some small-diameter (e.g. 1/32 inch) resin core solder. Your project will sink or swim on the basis of your soldered connections, so investing in a quality soldering iron is definitely worthwhile. I recommend a variable temperature soldering iron.

In addition, you'll need small needle-nose pliers, a small flush-cut wire-cutter, tweezers, magnifying glass, Phillips screwdrivers, and a sharp knife or single-edged razor blade. Good lighting is also important. For the StationPro II, you'll also need a personal computer with a serial port, so that you can upload the firmware to the SP-II's microcontroller. No computer programming experience is required and the SP-II's Operating and Assembly Manual gives full instructions.

11. Any advice about what kind of hookup wire I should use?

You will need several feet of hookup wire to jumper the terminals on the front panel microphone, headphone, and key jacks to circuit board pads. I recommend a good quality, stranded hookup wire, no larger than 22AWG. It would be best to use wire whose insulation doesn't melt and pull back, when soldering, and several colors of wire will make it easier to keep track of which wire goes where. In wiring my own StationPros, I used stranded 22AWG teflon-insulated wire, which pops up regularly at hamfests and on eBay. Other builders have used lengths of multicolored ribbon cable, peeling off the conductors as needed.

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