Amateur radio is an experimenter's electronic garden, and communication is its fruit. Homemade radio, or home brew as ham radio enthusiasts call it, started with Marconi and his wireless and all the inventors who ushered in the radio era. You can start from scratch and build your own radio station from the antenna(e) to your transmitter and receiver or transceiver. Kits are available commercially in a wide range of complexities and costs. You save money using your own time and labour, and you learn what each component does to receive and send messages.
Build It From Scratch
Even if you are not an electronic engineer, you can start a home brew amateur radio project from schematics and parts lists in American Radio Relay League publications or websites like DXZone.com. You may want to start with simple kits like those for a standing wave ratio meter to gain confidence and experience before you tackle a full transceiver. If you are a purist, you will want to not only build your station, but customise it according to the bands you will work, modes of transmission, antenna arrays and other needs. You must learn where to find parts and/or how to make them--a great challenge in itself. You can salvage many components from obsolete equipment or even military surplus. Fellow hams love to help. So get the word out and watch how quickly you cross items off your parts list. With home brew, it is your creation and your experience in building that will provide many hours of idea exchanges with hams and other knowledgeable persons.
Kits Save Time and Money
With kits, you can avoid all the parts gathering and still gain a good working knowledge of your ham radio through the assembly process. First, you want to research the kit itself. Is it the best quality for the money? Make a comparison, and then talk to a few independent experts. See if the kit has received any reviews in QST magazine, for example, and note its strengths and weaknesses. See if you can download the kit's manual online to determine if you can build the kit, understand it and repair it. Also see if lab equipment is required and verify the quality of the components and PC boards included with the kit. Check out the customer service available both online and directly by telephone, and finally, find out whether a guarantee is included on all components. A kit has an advantage over home brew in that you have some fallback with its manufacturer.