Flintstone Stargazing

January 15, 2008

Telescope projects

Filed under: astronomy, Equipment — Tags: — Ed @ 9:38 pm

It’s pretty hazy tonight as well as very cold so I think I’ll be staying in. While that means no astrophotography, I thought I might do a post on some telescope-related projects that I’ve been working on.

My Telescope Box

When I bought my telescope on eBay in December, the guy who sold it to me bought a plastic container from Wal-Mart to ship it in. It was really quite a good idea. I actually liked that idea so much that I went out and bought a Stanley Mobile Work Chest from Home Depot a couple weeks ago with the intention of making a cradle for the optical tube assembly (OTA) and telescope related stuff. While I was hoping to be able to fit the mount in (when broken down), that wasn’t a crucial part of my plan. The work chest has wheels and a pull-out handle which makes moving it around really easy. It is also very sturdy, which was very important to me since I wanted to make sure my telescope would be protected when I put it away in my garage. With 6 kids, it seemed likely to me that at some point my boys would be found standing on this container and I wanted to make sure that wouldn’t result in disaster. The work chest was perfect – the lid is strong enough that I can stand on it with nary a bend in the lid. It is VERY strong.

The Telescope Box Fully Loaded

The work chest came with a deep tote tray that fits into the top of the box and works perfectly for holding cables, the power supply, the Autostar handbox and other stuff for the telescope. When the handle is extended, it can also hold this tote tray out of the way and at an accessable height. It’s a very clever design. Kudos to Stanley on this thing – they did a great job designing it.

To build the OTA cradle, I started by cutting out a piece of 1/4″ plywood so that it would fit snugly in the bottom of the chest. That would be my base. I then cut four pieces of 1/2″ plywood into a sort of “U” shape to act as the cradle and nailed them to together, adding corner triangles for strength and stiffness. I made one end lower than the other to handle the spotter scope and focuser on the front end of the tube. Once this was assembled, I nailed it to the base and added pieces of pipe insulation to the top to create a soft base on which to rest the scope. I then added a few small dividers to the base to keep stuff from rolling around and then placed the whole thing into the tool chest. Here’s what it looks like:

The telescope cradle and dividers
Top down view

The back end of the cradle
The back cradle

The OTA in its cradle

On the top of the OTA, you can see a board that I’ve attached. This has a couple functions. First, it works pretty well as a handle. It makes moving this thing around quite a bit easier. Second, at the front of the board is a screw that I can use to attach a camera for long exposure, wide-field astrophtography. I can’t wait to take some wide-field shots of Orion. Also, there are a few other holes in the board. These allow me to mount my old tube from my Tasco telescope. I want to complete my Messier hunt with the old scope (as well as the new one) and by attaching it to the top of my new telescope, it can benefit from the new mount. Since I have two DSI cameras now, I can also take photos of the same objects with both cameras simultaneously. I haven’t had an opportunity to do that yet since I’ve been spending most of my time figuring out how to use the new scope and get the most out of it, but eventually I’ll start doing comparative posts.

Another benefit of allowing my old scope to be attached to my new one is that I have a solar filter for my old scope, but not one for my new scope. The other day while doing some work on the gears of my mount, I hooked both scopes up and had a look at the sun.

My Tasco on My Meade
My old Tasco mounted on my new Meade

Well, that’s pretty much it. I’m very pleased with the setup and while I wasn’t able to build out the work chest to hold the mount in addition to the OTA, I expect it’ll make it a lot easier to move my scope stuff around and even more importantly, it will keep my telescope safe while it’s in my garage. The only big thing left to do on it is to add a strap that will allow me to secure the telescope to the cradle for transport.



  1. Six Kids! Bless You! I have two and find that a handful. How do you find the time to get outside. That is a nice bit of carpentry. You have given me some ideas for my own telescope and accessories.

    Comment by Phil — January 16, 2008 @ 2:43 pm

  2. They’re wonderful kids and I have an amazing (and patient) wife. My oldest 2 are two years apart and then two years later we had twins so we went from 2-4 so quick that a couple more didn’t seem like it would be that big of a change. So now we have 6 boys (11, 9, 7, 7, 2, 9mo). They actually love coming out to look through the scope if I’m viewing early and seeing the Sun, Moon, nebulas or whatever. We have a really good time. Plus, with my new green pointing laser, I’m like Luke Skywalker with a mile high lightsaber. They think that’s really cool.

    Comment by Ed — January 16, 2008 @ 4:41 pm

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