QRP - is operating on low power - usually under 5W. When I first got interested in amateur radio, everyone that I knew built part or all of their equipment. Of course this was 40 - 50 years ago. Almost everyone's first rig was home built - tube type CW Transmitters. But I'm here to tell you, there are people out there today, doing the same thing.
I got interested in QRP when I got my license in Hong Kong. I didn't have very much room and didn't want to take my big rig overseas. I started looking around for something in the QRP field and discovered something I liked about ham radio - building your own equipment. There are lots of QRP transcievers to build. If you never built a radio - now is the time!!! There is nothing like building your own rig, putting it on the air, and making that first contact.
RockMite 20M - 1/2 watt Transciever
RockMite 20M Front
RockMite 20M Back
I purchased a RockMite 20 kit from Small Wonder Labs. This is a complete transceiver for $ 27 (currently $ 29), it is a 1/2 W transceiver with built-in keyer. There are over 600 of these out there operating. The RockMite comes in several different bands. Some have built two on separate bands and put them in the same case. One of the things that QRPers do is experiment. There are lots of modifications you can do to the RockMite, including increasing the power. I added a better keyer chip from Jackson Harbor (RMK). You can change out the output transistor for higher output, or add an active filter on the audio. There is quite a bit of information on the Internet about modifications and help, if you have problems. There is a Yahoo discussion goup that will give you help and help with modifications. If you want to modify it, probably soneone has already done it and can assist you in the group. This also makes a good second rig or one that you can take on vacation etc. Take this and make you a Buddistick and you are on the air!
Small Wonder Labs has several different QRP transcievers. Want to get on PSK31? They have a PSK31 trasceiver kit also - all you need is to build the kit, add a computer and antenna and you are on PSK31.
The QRPers also have lots of other gadgets to build etc. Most of these are inexpensive and fun to build. One of these is the Tenna Dipper. The kit sells for $ 25, from the 4 Square QRP club. Alot of these kits are made by QRP clubs to help us out and also raise some money for their club. The Tenna Dipper is an SWR measureing device which indicates when your antenna has a SWR less than ~ 2:1 and it will reads out the frequency in CW. It also contains a low power signal device that you can use to tune your antenna tuner. The picture below is the kit as it arrive (except for the Altoids tin). The Altoids container is a favorite of QRPers to build QRP projects in (very inexpensive and you get to eat the mints!!!).
Tenna Dipper Kit