Epsilon Telescopes Modular Pier System
User Review Ray Byrne 7-8-2006
As usual I would like to state that I have
no affiliation with this company whatsoever
A bit of history
I've taken the route of having a general
purpose GEM for use with whatever telescope OTA I may own as this gives me the
flexibility to have scopes for various uses and I've also been striving to find
the best combination for my interests which are Lunar, Planetary, white-light
and Ha Solar observing and imaging. My current telescopes are a Celestron C9.25
for Lunar and Planetary use, a Meade ARS Refractor (with various upgrades) and
a Coronado SolarMax40 Ha scope, which rides piggy-back on the AR5 for Solar
work. My GEM of choice is a Skywatcher EQ6/Orion Atlas
Why a pier
The weather in the UK is notorious for
being changeable and lugging-out a tripod and equatorial head with its
counterweights, then polar aligning can take quite a bit of time, and then
breaking it all down again in the early hours of the morning becomes a drudge especially
if the skies look "iffy" which is a lot of the time here. To get good results
in planetary imaging one does have to be dedicated though, so the answer is
some type of permanent installation to easy the pain and help with the
willingness to go out on those marginal nights. I'm planning on moving house in
the near future and don't want to go the whole-hog and build some kind of
observatory so a semi-permanent facility was what I was after.
I had the idea "in embryo" for some kind of
pier but one that I could remove easily when I move house, and also one that
would be weatherproof. I like my gear to look cool as well, as I'm sure we all
do, so appearance and top quality was also a factor. The plan was to deck the
rear part of my rather small backyard and have a concrete base that a pier
could be attached to (to prevent theft) but not a pier that would be concreted
into the ground.
My good buddy Mick Hyde has built a
permanent observatory for his C9.25 and concreted a mild steel tube into the
ground but needed an interface to this and his CG5 mount. He had trawled the
web for a supplier in the UK that could supply what he needed and ordered a
pier head from Epsilon. When it arrived it was a well thought-out CNC
engineered piece of equipment and looked the "the business" I was impressed.
Mick has worked as an engineer, knows good value for money, and researches
things before buying them so I trusted his choice.
I visited www.epsilon-telescopes.co.uk to
find out what else they had to offer.
Epsilon Modular Pier System
Epsilon, in my mind have thought through
what an amateur astronomer may want now, but also may want in the future, so
they offer their standard Mark II pier with a flexible way of adapting it to
suit changes in scopes, installations and accessories. The basic Mark II pier
consists of the pier tube itself .375" (9.525mm) wall thickness aluminium tube
in a gloss black powered coat with three cast aluminium legs that have an M12
threaded hole at the end for the optional levelling feet. The legs are attached
with 6 stainless steel machine bolts (Allen wrench supplied). For a permanent
installation M12 studding can be supplied at extra cost. This core item costs £189.99.
To attach a particular mounting system to
the pier, Epsilon offer pier heads to suit most popular mounts and telescopes.
There are also eyepiece holders of various designs and other widgets that an
astronomer may need.
What I ordered
When I initially visited the Epsilon site
there wasn't a pier head for the EQ6 on offer so I emailed and asked what could
be done. Rob Januszewski the proprietor, said that if I could supply him some
photos with a steel rule in them and possibly some drawings he could custom
build a pier top to suit, with a lead time of around three weeks. I subscribe
to the Yahoo EQ6 group and found some excellent engineering drawings and for
good measure also sent some pix. Epsilon had a batch of these pier head
adaptors made so I haven't had to pay any extra for a custom job - the cost
So I ordered my MK II pier, Pier Head for
the EQ6, Levelling Feet, 16" Pier Extension, Combination Eyepiece Shelf and
Shelf Retaining Clamp Ring. This order wasn't an inexpensive purchase at around
£550 inc. delivery. But was it worth the money? …
The Pier and all the parts arrived as
promised (48 hour delivery) actually despatched on a Wednesday afternoon and
arrived first thing Friday morning. There were two packages one containing the
basic MKII Pier, and another containing everything else. The Pier itself was
very well packaged with several layers of corrugated cardboard and bubble wrap
and there wasn't any damage to anything.
The "everything else" package had smaller boxes within, that were
labelled as to what they were and each had a plastic bag with the relevant
fasteners and the correct tool to fit them. Although it would be self evident
to some how to assemble everything, there were no instructions for anything.
Inspection and Assembly
When you see a tube of around 3/8" wall
thickness that is 4.5" in diameter in total it does seem pleasingly thick so I
was very happy with this. The quality of the finish was flawless also. I first
up-ended the pier and stood it on my wooden kitchen floor to attach the legs.
Each leg has three holes that are counter-bored to accept the stainless steel
machine screws. This was a bit tricky as lining-up the holes in the legs with
the holes in the pier needed to be spot-on. I made the mistake of threading the
first fastener all the way in and couldn't get the second fasteners in properly
as it seemed to be going in at an angle. This occurred on all three legs and
with the rest of the assembly. I think the tolerances are tight and everything
should be loosely assembled then tightened-up afterward. To make sure of a
smooth assembly I used WD40 on all the screws and threaded holes and didn't
Once the pier itself was complete I
attached the levelling feet. These needed to be disassembled to remove the head
and toggle bar, then reassembled afterward. The levelling feet have small
screws and a plate attaching them to the ball joint affair, which one could
disassemble to fit them to the legs, I chose the togglebar option because I was
supplied with an Allen wrench that fitted the screw at the top of the togglebar
It was pretty easy to figure out how the
circular Combination Eyepiece Shelf (CES) was fitted I thought by first
attaching the retaining ring to the desired position tightening up it's screw
and then sliding the CES down the pier and attaching it to the retaining ring
with the machine screws supplied. You can't fit this after the head is attached
BTW. The CES is a really lovely piece of engineering although black anodised so
it looks slightly different. The retaining ring had three felt pads stuck to
the retaining ring and because of the tight fit these started to tear off and
leave white glue on the pier tube for an otherwise pristine bit of equipment
this was a slight let-down.
A nice feature
The Pier head should be attached to
whatever mounting head you use first then slotted into the top of the pier.
There is a slot in the pier about 1.5" down that enables you to tighten the
mount up (once polar aligned or whatever) with the aid of a "tommy-bar"
(supplied) which fits into a capstan-like nut that is attached to the relevant
bolt for your particular mount. This feature is very well thought out and easy
to use - I like this a lot.
Well as solid as a rock and so much easier
to level than a tripod. You don't have to worry about tripping over a tripod
leg and it looks superb. My observing has now taken on a new impetus as all I
need to do is attach which ever scope I intend using, switch on the power and
I'm up and away.
On a level with Losmandy quality-wise,
Very flexible options
The capstan/tommybar way of adjusting in
azimuth and tightening
So easy to level
Can adjust the height for a refractor
(high) or SCT (standard) with pier extension
Can take it with me when I move
Looks really smart
Weatherproof within reason
The little pads on the pier retaining ring
Was it worth the money?
Yes it was!