I like building my own radio equipment and I’m always on the lookout for an interesting kit to build that would be useful for my station. What caught my eye about the Elecraft W1 SWR/Wattmeter was the fact that it covers 150mW to 140W power levels, making it equally useful for QRP as well as in a typical 100W HF station.
The kit uses through-hole components and is straightforward to build. The provided instructions are very well done and step you through every part of the assembly process. The trickiest part of the build is the SWR bridge binocular toroid, which can be finicky to wind, but if you take your time it is not a problem.
As with all Elecraft gear it is not the cheapest option out there at $130, which doesn’t include a case. I considered trying to retrofit my own case for the meter, but in the end I purchased the W8FGU case. The case is well made and easy to assemble with various options depending on how you want to arrange the meter’s coax connections and circuit board. I opted for the straight BNC coax connector option. This places the coax connections on the back of the case instead of the sides and works much better for cable management in my station. Instead of purchasing the tilt base option for the case I built a simple wooden base with angle brackets bolted to a piece of lexan. The case is attached to the lexan using super heavy duty velcro squares (for easy removal of the meter) which results in a very stable assembly that doesn’t slide or fall over from the weight of the coax cable connections.
The meter is very simple to use and reads both forward power and SWR simultaneously, each on their own LED strip. Three separate LEDs indicate which scale of power the meter is reading, 0-1.4W, 1.4-14W, and 15-140W. The LEDs are bright and make it very easy to read the meter in any lighting condition. The benefit of the bar-graph style of the meter is especially noticeable when using a manual antenna tuner since the dip on the SWR display when you find a match is much more obvious to the eye than with an equivalent cross-needle meter.
The meter can be powered by a 9V battery or an external 12V power source, and the case includes an external power switch. As is typical for Elecraft equipment, the W1 has a lot of additional functionality built in. The meter has a serial port (via a 3.5mm jack) and the various settings (decay, peak hold, etc.) can be adjusted using a serial terminal or with a piece of software from Elecraft that can also display the meter’s readouts on your computer screen. Overall a great kit.