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Observatory Deck with Roll Away Shed

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#1 JMW

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 09:40 PM

After a few months of painful prep I finally have something to show for my effort. I am building a low platform to surround my exciting pier. It will be 12 foot by 17 foot and support a 5.5 x 5.5 foot rollaway shed. I built the concrete pier 2 summers ago. Last spring I added a dedicated 20 amp GFI circuit when I rewired my house. I have been using the site with an outdoor carpet covering a decomposed granite pad. I used an Astrogizmo365 cover to protect my mount and telescope. In February I purchased an AstroPhysics 900GTO mount and wanted a bit more of a secure protective enclosure.

I ordered a shed in February but needed a platform to support it. Time commitments, weather, tree trunk and roots all slowed my project down. Last week I finally finished my concrete footers. Here's a picture holes I dug for the footers:

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#2 JMW

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 09:41 PM

Last week I mixed 40 eighty pound bags of concrete to fill the holes for the deck footings.

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#3 JMW

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 09:45 PM

My open bed trailer is only 5x8 foot and I needed a way to get home 12 foot long lumber and decking. Here is a lumber rack that I built on my trailer to haul home my load. When I went to Lowes they used the forklift and put an entire 40 piece skid of synthetic decking on the lumber rack. I drove home very slow and took corners even slower. Fortunately the rack held up to the load.

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#4 JMW

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 09:51 PM

Today my son and I attached the pier support brackets to the bolts in the concrete footers and added three 4x6x12 foot beams to the piers. I stained all sides of the pressure treated lumber before attaching it to the deck. Once I add the synthetic deck boards I will not have access to stain the wood underneath.

I added the rim joist around the edge of the deck using 4 inch screws to secure the joists to the beams. I then square up the outside of the deck and tightened down the concrete pier bolts. I used joist hangers to attach the internal joists to the beams. I stained all the joist wood before permanently attaching it to the deck.

On Sunday I will install the synthetic deck boards. I will start at the difficult cuts around my pier and work my way to the edges. I used gray stain so the framing will match my deck boards. Next week I will install my roll away shed.

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#5 JMW

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 09:55 PM

I am looking for a good idea on how to fill the gap between my deck boards and my concrete pier. If something falls down the gap I will be out of luck regarding retrieving it. I was thinking about using some black closed cell foam.

#6 Starman27

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 10:19 PM

I used strong dog proof window screening across the framing before the deck floor was built. It allows air through but stops insects and odds and ends from falling through.

#7 Goodchild

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 12:45 PM

I used strong dog proof window screening across the framing before the deck floor was built. It allows air through but stops insects and odds and ends from falling through.



I can testify first hand that this is a very good suggestion. I wish I had thought of that before I built my observatory. BTW, I also built a rollaway shed observatory.

#8 JMW

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 01:55 PM

My concern with the screening is that my deck is in the fallout zone of my neighbors 45-50 pine trees and I think the 1/4 inch manufacture's required spacing between the decks will just become loaded with pine needles over a couple of years. Without the screening I can just blow out the top of my deck periodically with my leaf blower. I have 3 outdoor buildings and insects have not been a problem. I think it is because of the dryness. The giant sequoias also block my western views unfortunately.

I think I will have to accept that I will occasionally lose a few items that are smaller than 1/4 inch.
I am doing the decking layout today. The sun is shinning which is better than yesterdays occasional light rain. It is getting a bit warm. I printed out a 12.25 inch circle template on my wide format printer. I am using template to layout the cut marks for the area around my pier.

I have all the deck boards laid out on the joists. It is quite solid. I went with 2x6 and 4x6 lumber to keep the deck low so my pier height is correct and I don't need railing for the low deck. I will use some of the extra decking boards to create a 6 inch high wide front step.

#9 JMW

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 07:02 PM

I started this morning at 8AM and finished at 4:30PM. I laid out the decking, used a jig saw to cut boards around the pier and started screwing in the boards. 680 screws later I have the top decking complete. My back, wrists and hands are worn out. The pier adapter plate ended up at 41 inches above the deck so I am happy I stayed with a low profile setup.

I still have to trim the edge and build a wide 6 inch high box step. I am going to spend a couple of weeknights assembling the shed and adapting it to work as a roll away. I will do the rest of the finish work after that. I want the shed up so I can take advantage of the new moon for imaging.

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#10 Gastrol

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 07:06 PM

Wow....you did a beautiful job on that deck.

#11 Raginar

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 07:54 AM

Looks good!

#12 JMW

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 10:44 PM

Yesterday I assembled the shed on my deck. Here is a picture of it over the mount. Looks like garden style shed.

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#13 JMW

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 10:49 PM

Today I set up my scope and mount in reference park position 1. I cut out a portion of the floor so it would fit around the pier and allow my chair to sit fully on the deck when seated at the yet to be installed fold down desk for my imaging laptop.

The shed moves easily on the synthetic deck without making any scuff marks. I purchased 6 lockable castor wheels that will be installed later. I also bought some 2x6 and 2x4 wood that will support the wheels and add additional strength all the way from the base to the roof. I will screw fender washers through the outside shed wall into the additional wood supports inside. I will attach the fold down desk to the upright 2x4s. I also purchased some fold flat D rings that will be screwed into the deck trusses to provide lock down points for the shed to keep it from moving in high winds.

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#14 Kenny2004

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 08:54 AM

What kind/brand of shed is it?

#15 JMW

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 10:19 AM

SunCast GS8000 resin shed purchased from Lowes. Home Depot, ACE and other places have it available online. I ordered it online for local store delivery. It took about 3 weeks to arrive. I chose it because of the square shape and decent high and wide openings of the double doors.

#16 zawijava

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 11:10 AM

Today I set up my scope and mount in reference park position 1. I cut out a portion of the floor so it would fit around the pier and allow my chair to sit fully on the deck when seated at the yet to be installed fold down desk for my imaging laptop.


So, the idea is to roll the shed away from the scope and use it as your control room? -Tim

#17 JMW

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 12:21 PM

Yes. My laptop likes a warm space in the winter. I have been using a heating pad. It will be nice to have a little room out of the cold breeze when imaging in the winter. I bought the AP900GTO and thought it deserved a better home than a Astrogizmo 365 scope cover. I like to polar align once and just do a park at shutdown and resume the next night. Saves a lot of time not to tear down the gear each night. Less hassle means more imaging on weeknights when I have to work the next day. I have a decent 6 foot high fence on 3 sides that already slow down the breeze and help with the light blocking. My shed can be positioned to block the back porch light from my one uphill neighbor for the rare times they forget and leave the back light on. The neighbors actually notice when I am out using my scope and tend to not turn on the light when I am enjoying the skies. Not everyone has nice neighbors.

I built the deck large enough so I could get the shed away from the pier in an area that is already blocked star view wise with trees. Someday I may do a permanent building on the deck with a polydome type setup. My wife already likes the deck for non-astronomy daylight uses such as sitting outside and studying.

With the added internal 2x4 bracing and some heavier locking bar across the door opening I think I can make the shed reasonably wind and vandal secure. I already have 8 foot height locked wrought iron gates and an older neighborhood with a lot of retired stay at home eyeballs so I am pretty comfortable with the situation. My front yard has better overall views but it is harder to secure and sheds don't go over well in the front yard.

#18 Kenny2004

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 01:48 PM

Thanks for the model. Ok, so the objective isn't to use the shed to house the scope, but instead to be a control room. Or does it serve a dual purpose, which in that case how does the roof come off?

By the way, with the pier inside the shed, how do you roll the shed then?

#19 JMW

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 02:40 PM

The shed's primary purpose is a secure shelter for when the scope and mount is not in use. It's secondary purpose is as a imaging laptop control room.

Here is how I plan to use it.

1) Unlock and open doors, release corner lockdowns
2) Push shed back to edge of deck away from pier
3) Fold down desk and plug in laptop to USB and power connections.
4) Turn on power strip feeding scope, USB hub, etc...
5) Unpark mount and start imaging.

Total time is about 5 minutes from unlocking to use. About the same time at the end of the session to roll back, secure to deck D-rings and lock up. Carry laptop back to house go to bed.

#20 Starman27

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 02:58 PM

Do you have much wind? How is the shed locked to the deck?

#21 JMW

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Posted 18 April 2012 - 04:04 PM

I live on the down slope foothills of Mt Rose. We have crazy 70-90 mph winds a couple of times a year in our neighborhood when it is a 140 mph at the mountain top. We have 30-50 mph winds often. I have purchased but not yet installed heavy duty stainless D rings that will each have four 4 inch screws driven into the 2x6 trusses. I will start with tie down hooks but am thinking about a pair of 5 foot rods that slide into the rings and can be padlocked. The outside walls will have 3.5 inch screws with fender washers passes through the shed walls to the inside 2x4 wood bracing.

My perimeter fence is about 5 years old and replaced my old 45 year old fence that was knocked down several times from the high winds. My big fear is having high winds after heavy rains. If my neighbors 50 foot Sequoias are blown over they would take out my master bedroom and possibly me with it.

#22 JMW

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Posted 20 April 2012 - 11:32 PM

I took Friday off so I could complete my roll-away observatory shed today and imaging tonight. I added 4 wheels on each side to help rolling. I added a bunch of wood framing to reinforce the shed. I put a pair of SeaSense red/white switchable LED dome lights in the shed. The white light helps with setup and shutdown. The red is used while observing or imaging. I have a 20 amp GFI circuit at the pier. One power strip is at the pier and a 2nd is mounted in the shed to power the laptop and dome lights.

I bought the hardware to anchor the shed but need to put in on Sunday after our club's new moon star party Saturday night. I have the desk supports in place but didn't have time tonight to cut the wood so I am using a foldable plastic table for tonight instead. I have the floor cut and desk set so I can push the shed up to the concrete pier and not hit the mount or scope.

I have a new SBIG STF-8300M pro+ camera to give a test run tonight so I can be productive at when imaging at our dark site Saturday night.

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#23 JMW

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Posted 20 April 2012 - 11:33 PM

Here is a view with the dome lights switched to red. The light isn't actually this bright. I had the camera at 6400 iso to help light up the exposure.

I have the shed located in an area that is already star blocked by trees so I can't image low in that direction anyway.

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#24 Kenny2004

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 07:01 AM

Looks Great Jeff! What a great concept and never would have thought of, which I might consider for myself as well. Thanks for sharing!

How are your views?

#25 Raginar

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 10:08 AM

Looks awesome :) Thanks for the idea about the lights!

Chris


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