Switching to analog...AND building a pre-amp?

I've been building a system for the last few years. It's comprised of entry-level, solid-state components.

I have Paradigm mini-monitor speakers powered by a Sonographe (by Conrad Johnson)SA250 amp, and a Sonographe (by Conrad Johnson) SC25 fet preamp. My NAD 521-BEE hasn't read discs for two years, so I've been using my iPod. Not ideal, I know.

I'm in between living situations for the next 14 months and don't have space to setup this equipment. One thought I had is that I could begin the switch to analog by dumping some of this equipment to finance a tube pre-amp and/or phono pre-amp.

It came to my attention that I could get excellent sound, save money, and learn lots about tubes if I built my own pre-amp. I'm not technically adept (and have never used a soldering iron) but I'd love the challenge and have the time.

Decaware, Bottlehead, and Transcendent all offer kits for about $500.

Does anyone know anything about these? Difficulty? Performance?

The build option is attractive to me especially because I'm so used to solid state equipment and have gotten away with knowing very little technically about audio equipment except what sounds good (to me, at least).

I wonder in general if, given my budget (under $1000) I'm better off building a tube pre-amp or looking for one new or used. I'd like to hold onto the CJ SA250 because I think it will serve my system for now. It's unlikely I'll trade up to significantly better or pricier speakers, though the Paradigms clearly lag behind everything else I've

Any suggestions? Again, I won't be using or needing a system for more than a year.

For now I just want to start the transition to better, analog equipment. On that thought, any good, budget turntables around I should keep an eye out for?

I have Sonograph SG-3 turntable also by conrad-johnson they come up on audiogon from time to time and regularly sell from 300-500.
Check out audio note, they make amp kits and may well make some for pre-amp as well. Art Dudley, in Listener made one of their amp kits and showed that it was not to difficult, even if you had never used a soldering iron. So go ahead, have some fun, and enjoy, thats what this is for.
The Bottlehead stuff is great and very well supported. If you take your time and are methodical building their kits will be fun and educational. Take the plunge.
There was a time when Dyna Kits (which later became Dynaco) had the SOA equipment. I built several units. Work slowly, double checking the instructions as you go, and you will do fine.
I can't praise Bottlehead kits enough. Not only are they educational and fun to build, they sound fantastic!
Thanks, guys!

I'm excited for the switch, and glad to hear such good things about Bottlehead.
Would you suggest building/buying an amp or pre-amp first?

I've heard that, at least initially, a shift to tubes will be more noticeable in the pre-amp.