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Building a 24' Dome

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#76 Tom Clark

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 05:10 PM

The whole inside of the observatory will be spray painted flat black. The last dome in Florida was black, and everyone always commented on how inside the dome was the darkest place they had ever been. The only lights are starlight and the dim red indirect lighting around the floor.

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#77 Retsub

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Posted 09 December 2012 - 08:17 PM

Looking at your dome drive wheels, they look like they would be a harder urethane than maybe 80-85A hardness ? Bet not many of your neighbors in NM have a spare wheel from a brush hog to use if you needed one ! Thanks. *BW*

#78 Tom Clark

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Posted 16 December 2012 - 03:04 PM

The old bush hog tire worked just fine for 12 years, and is still working for the new owner. It did slip in one place when you wanted to go counter-clockwise, so that is why this time two wheels were used. No idea how hard the plastic is, but they have a capacity of 750 pounds each, so they seem pretty tough, and they work very well.

Still working even though winter is here. All the outside fiberglassing is finished. Building the shutter doors inside the shop, and will be putting up the steel walls and doing the final painting soon. The shutter will be fiberglassed inside the shop. By the way, most winter days here are in the 60s during the day, and 30 at night. However, the sun makes 60 feel very nice unless the wind happens to be blowing hard - and it does that now and then.

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#79 Mirzam

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Posted 16 December 2012 - 06:06 PM

NOw that's a big shutter! Did you overlap smaller sections of plywood to make the larger arcs?

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#80 Tom Clark

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Posted 17 December 2012 - 09:26 AM

Since plywood only comes in 8' sheets, the curved parts are band sawn and then laminated into the arcs with glue and a nail gun. All the curved parts for this 24' dome were sawn in about four days.

Total cost for the plywood ribs was around $1,000. . Even if you had to purchase a band saw first, the cost of building your own observatory is a tiny fraction of purchasing a commercial dome.

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#81 Escher

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Posted 19 December 2012 - 09:42 AM

Been watching the build - I'm in awe..

I WISH I had more land and could do this one day - the POD is great, but this is AWESOME!

#82 Tom Clark

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 09:56 AM

I fiberglassed the FL dome 12 years ago, and it stood up through hurricanes and lots of rain, so I know this works. However, I'm sure there are many experts who could show you a better way to do this. My goal is simply to build a project that will last; it is not a boat, so the main idea is to build a solid roof, not win beauty contests. If it looks good from a short distance I am happy. Of course you can do it your way.

If you are building the whole project indoors, use epoxy resin, not polyester resin. Polyester stinks to high heaven, but is far cheaper than epoxy. The windows and doors were open when working in the shop.

First paint the project with a heavy coat of resin. Instead of a brush use a plastic squeege made for body work to make the work go much faster.

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#83 Tom Clark

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 10:00 AM

Next. after the resin is dry, cut the 6 ounce fiberglass cloth into manageable sizes, lay out in place, and squeegee the resin right through the cloth. Leave the edges overhang just a bit. They are trimmed with a razor knife after dry.

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#84 Tom Clark

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 10:08 AM

After the resin is applied to the cloth and dried overnight, you can trim the edges, and sand as much as you want. I only sand around the edges to get rid of sharp corners. For bumps and stringers, I just use a scraper to knock off the messes. There were parts of the roof that could could be reached only by mounting our squeegees to a long stick that created more of a mess, but the minor imperfections mostly disappear. Hey guys, it's a roof, not a boat.

On the sides of the doors, the first time I tried too cover them with glass cloth. This time I am just brushing on a couple of coats of resin to the bare wood to permanently seal the wood.

After a couple of days, I apply a couple of coats of latex primer with a roller, then a final coat of color will be applied when the project is nearly finished.

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#85 Tom Clark

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 10:16 AM

Post deleted by Tom Clark

#86 Tom Clark

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 10:19 AM

It looks good to me. I could have spent months doing a better job, but after a while you just want to get it finished. The same process was used on the double doors I made for the dome entrance…

I hope this tread has given you guys the idea of building your own observatory dome. Anything smaller than this one is an easy project. A friend built his 16 footer in far less time than this 24' dome is taking.

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#87 dmdouglass

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 07:23 PM

Tom said:
"I hope this tread has given you guys the idea of building your own observatory dome."...

Yeah.... Call Tom and invite him over !!

Really though Tom.... you are doing an AWSOME job !!
I look forward to seeing this up close and personal some day when we pass through NM on our trips t/f Arizona/Iowa.


Edit-Add: And I sure would like to see/hear the stories on those airplanes hanging down from the ceiling. And MAN !! What a shop !!!

#88 Tom Clark

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Posted 23 December 2012 - 07:28 PM

Tom said:
"I hope this tread has given you guys the idea of building your own observatory dome."...

Yeah.... Call Tom and invite him over !!


Sorry guys, I am taking some time off after this project - a couple of years, probably…

This project is nearing completion. The dome has been painted it's final color, a easy on the eyes tan. The tan really blends in out here, whereas the stark white can be seen for miles and miles.

Today we started putting up the walls. and got about half way finished. After standing back a bit and taking in the view, we really realized that the end to the construction is in sight!

Of course just like we are never finished building a telescope - there is always something to add or tweak - an observatory is the same way. The build seems to go on and on and on.

Looks like the end of this tread is drawing near. The main thing left to do is put the shutter up in place and hook up the gears, so another post or two will be coming one of these days.

As I said a post or two ago, hopefully some of you have caught the dome fever and plan to build your own. I look forward to seeing your threads in the future.

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#89 1965healy

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Posted 23 December 2012 - 09:37 PM

All I can say is WOW!

#90 MikeCMP

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Posted 23 December 2012 - 11:20 PM

How do you get your telescope in the dome? I assume it breaks down into manageable pieces.

Mike

#91 seafury

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Posted 24 December 2012 - 01:06 AM

Hi what is that funny blue stuff up in the sky? over here (UK) we only seem to have various shades of grey. What a wonderful project you have nearly completed


Gordon

#92 Wmacky

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Posted 24 December 2012 - 05:23 AM

Wonderful Tom. Though I'm just completing a ROR observatory, I left the main OB part square as to have the option for a dome in the future. Your methods will come in handy if that happens.

#93 Tom Clark

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Posted 24 December 2012 - 09:28 AM

How do you get your telescope in the dome? I assume it breaks down into manageable pieces.

Mike


Gee, I sure hope so.

The scope has been hogging most of the space in the garage since we moved in March. The dome has double doors sized so the scope parts will fit with an inch to spare. Even the new rolling staircase breaks down into two pieces so it can go into the doors.

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#94 dmdouglass

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Posted 24 December 2012 - 11:32 AM

Hmmmmmmmm........

I see more airplanes in that last picture.
Me thinks we have discovered his "other" hobby.

#95 Jeff Smith

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 06:35 AM

Very impressive and inspiring!
I hope to do the same thing one day.

#96 MikeCMP

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 07:46 AM

Do you have a picture of that scope with someone standing next to it for scale? It looks enormous!

Double doors with an inch to spare... Wow!

Mike

#97 Tom Clark

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 09:38 AM

For size reference on this 42" f/3.9, the finder is a 5" f/9 refractor. The scope has the eyepiece box mounted next to the focuser. Powers used are from 150x with a 30' field-of-view, to 900x. Views are like astrophotos. The primary weighs 220 pounds, and the total scope is estimated at 1600 pounds.

The optics were made by Vaughn Parsons of Intermountain Optics in Salt Lake City, and were the only thing available at the time. The primary is 2.2" thick, and the 7" diagonal is 1.7 thick. (It is 10.5" on the long axis.) The optics are now being refigured by Mike Lockwood and we expect far better performance than before.

The scope is a result of 20 years of my building and selling ever larger home-made Dobs, starting with our 1983 13" Coulter. The 42 was in use at the Chiefland Astronomy Village in NW Florida for the last 10 years. We just moved to New Mexico for darker, more transparent skies, and far less clouds. The New Mexico Astronomy Village has very good seeing as we are on the grasslands at 4800' altitude - not in the mountains where the seeing is usually much more turbulent.

The scope has entertained thousands of observers so far, with many more to come. While the scope is not exactly open to the public, we love the company of astronomers who are kind enough to make arrangements ahead of time for themselves or their group.

Merry Christmas everyone. May all your astronomy dreams come true.

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#98 Tom Clark

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 09:20 AM

How do you get your telescope in the dome? I assume it breaks down into manageable pieces.

Mike


Mike, Now the door opening shows up.

Getting closer to finishing the project. Now it is just hanging the doors ahd shutter and trim pieces, and of course lots of painting.

Notice the cloudy skies. One of the winter storms was passing by on the way north to snow all over everyone. So, now you know that we don't have perfect skies every night.

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#99 seafury

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 09:32 AM

thats not cloud, its a slight mist lol

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#100 Scout92

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Posted 01 January 2013 - 04:03 PM

NICE!!






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