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During the Great Recession

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#1 ed_turco


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Posted 28 November 2012 - 09:18 AM

This is on topic despite the title.

I find so much here that I don't get. I see folks making their HUGE telescopes, buying unbelievable eyepieces, and APOs too.

I know I never made the kind of money to afford making such equipment. I guess most of you have better jobs than I ever had. My last job paid $22K and I felt filthy rich.
I most humbly state that in my days of trials of some employment, I managed to pay off my house and have no debt.

As a retiree, I mighty glad that I did these things because retirement brings some great trials, including old age and illness.

I am trying to say is that I see a lot of excess unless you are making piles of money, I'll bet a lot of times, credit cards are in use.

Please be careful. Have fun, but please don't forget what I have said. I am not judging anyone at all and if I seem wrong, please remember:

Humble Pie doesn't taste so bad at all. :bow:

#2 kfrederick



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Posted 28 November 2012 - 09:35 AM

Hi ED There is new info all the time and new ideas . This group of 1000s is smarter than any one . I like your work and know you know how to make a sweet telescope . I would like to hear how you do knife edge readings and cool other tips .

#3 Mirzam



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Posted 28 November 2012 - 10:08 AM

There are things that money can't buy--besides health and happiness. Money cannot buy experience. Oh sure, you can sign up to go on a cruise or something. What I mean is the experience of making things yourself and having the mindset to do so.

I worry that not very many younger folks seem to have this mindset today.

Speaking of ATM's and frugality, what better example than John Dobson? No credit card dependency there.


#4 ed_turco


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Posted 28 November 2012 - 10:29 AM



#5 Crayfordjon


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Posted 28 November 2012 - 10:40 AM

Hi Ed. I am in the same leaky boat as you. No debts no credit card, those two go together, coversely credit cards and heavy dept are bedfellows. I pay up front with cash, do you remember that green crinkly stuff you used to hand over for goods bought, I mean how retro can you get! I built huge scopes, but I did it by making everything myself, nowdays it seems most ATM's buy lots of expensive bits off the purveyors and bolt them together, no wonder they cannot afford to make big scopes themselves. As Mirzam says frugility is the game, John Dobson slings his scopes together from old tea chests, I did the same, knocking them up from bed irons old saucepans, and junk culled from scrapyards and rubbish tips, grear fun, a can of paint can then hide all that and you can have a real pro looking instrument. Optics, I used old ships porthole glasses just the job, I have even ground them with sand. Nah you can make big scopes if you are canny, no sweat. :D :D

#6 killdabuddha



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Posted 28 November 2012 - 10:55 AM

Hear, hear! Even tho we didn't make everything--leavin to others those things that they can do better--we did make most, and used only household items. Dobson was a very real inspiration, as was Clyde Tombaugh and all the others who ATM. Sum1 once told me that there's no virtue in poverty, but I disagree...there's virtue in everything, and it's up to us to find it/provide it.


If you haven't seen Waste Land, you should.

#7 Starman1


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Posted 28 November 2012 - 11:15 AM

Ed's comments are dear to my heart. For most of my life, I and my friends assumed that, unlike earlier generations, we would never be able to afford to retire. Now, most of my cash outlay is merely maintenance. That can be expensive, too, but it isn't on the same scale as acquiring everything new for the first time.

Even having the money to buy whatever you want doesn't mean you have to do so.
My modest house and small cars are paid for, we pay off our credit cards each month, and my wife and I have a very comfortable income (the new proposed tax laws would affect us).
Yet, I have a couple scopes that do not represent the most expensive scopes, and only a half dozen eyepieces.
They are all I need to observe the skies--probably for the rest of my life.
What I need, and cannot buy, is more time to observe, and more clear skies to observe in. Equipment is nice, but what is it for if not to observe with?

I have always tinkered with scopes, and built a 6" OTA from scratch in the '80s and even built a pair of binoculars in the early '90s.
I have always valued those whose mechanical skills in the use of tools have led them to home-made instruments. A friend of mine built a 5" f/5 refractor from a surplus lens and scrap parts he bought at junkyards and flea markets. It was a fine scope, and I envied him in his ability to machine and fit everything together.

And, at night, the rough look is invisible. What counts is what you see through the eyepiece.

Mostly, though, it is about being happy with what you have. That's an important aspect of life often found missing among the "acquirers". Those whose more modest means have led them to be content with lower-priced equipment are lucky today because there is so much good stuff available for cheap. I know people with over $200K of equipment and other people who observe with less than $1K of equipment.
I leave it to your imagination who I find still observing at 3 am.

#8 JasonBurry


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Posted 28 November 2012 - 11:48 AM

Indeed, a sentiment dear to my heart as well. Today, $500 can see a person with a quality telescope, a handful of wonderful, if unassuming eyepieces, and the major pieces of paraphenalia he may need to observe the night sky for a lifetime.

If the equipment bought for that $500 were rated (on optical quality, perhaps, or image quality) on a scale of 1-10, it may well achieve an 8 or a 9. To achieve the extra 1 or 2 points would likely cost $5000. An example of deminishing returns.

Outstanding observations are made daily by folk with very modest equipment. A practiced observer with modest equipment will out-observe an underexperienced observer no matter what equipment that fellow purchases.

And that experienced observer will be at the eyepiece on many a night when the equipment collector is working his second job, trying to keep the jackals at bay.


#9 glennnnnnn


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Posted 28 November 2012 - 12:20 PM

I think this is an important topic!!
John Dobson has been a great inspiration to me, but so are others who show what can be done if you persist to find a way to do it.
I don't think that anything has changed: that there were always those who made their own devices and those who just purchased what was available. (Not everyone has the ability or the dedication or the interest to be a craftsman/technoid.)
If something is inexpensive enough the incentive is higher to buy and install, but if its not available or too expensive the challenge is there if you wish to accept it.
Normally I count myself among those who would rather build than waste precious resources. It probably helps to be less financially able. Then you get your start by realizing that you don't have to buy what you can make!

#10 rboe



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Posted 28 November 2012 - 01:20 PM

Back in the recession we didn't have businesses that built what we wanted. If we wanted it bad enough we built it. Today you have choices. Choices that simply were not available back then.

Many of us have standards; something has to look good enough, or have features that we can't easily build into our projects where a commercial concern with CNC machining CAN do. Not saying it's bad or good; it's just the way it is. :shrug:

Be thankful for the choices we have today. They may not last.

Finally; back then, looking at the sky was more cutting edge science wise. Today, 99% of us are just tourists.

#11 magic612



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Posted 28 November 2012 - 01:21 PM

Mostly, though, it is about being happy with what you have.

Indeed! I agree with this, Don. Although it's fun to look through those monster scopes, and expensive apo refractors, etc., - and certainly there is nothing wrong with others having what they want to own, if that's what sets their hearts aflutter. But to the main point: I haven't spent much on my scopes, despite owning a LOT of them over the last 4 to 6 years. Sometimes the search is fun too - and can teach a lot, as it did for me.

After I made some more money in my 30's, I used a little saved money to look at different telescopes. First I started with bigger and better refractors. Then I got over my fear of collimating reflectors, and picked up some of them. Mind you, except for my 8" SCT which was bought new way-back-when (since sold), all of these were purchased used - sometimes for very little, and a few were even GIVEN to me. And after trying some different things and deciding I didn't like something anymore, I could sell it for what I paid for it. Some I also gave away, after I had fixed them up. I 'rented' a lot of equipment basically for free - scopes, mounts, eyepieces, filters - you name it.

Nowadays, I've finally 'settled' on the scopes that I really am happy using: A 6" f/5 reflector (purchased with money from selling other items), a 10" Dob (found for $100 used on craigslist), an old Tasco 10-TE 76mm refractor (FREE) and a "found on craiglist" 127mm f/4.4 refractor lens, for which I am (still in the process of) making a wood tube, and my latest project, a 6" f/10.9 mirror bought for $50 that is presently residing in two taped-together concrete pier tubes ($10) to serve as a "temporary holder" for the mirror until I save some money to get a somewhat more permanent aluminum tube. I made the curved spider for that last one out of brass stock. Not including solder and flat black paint I already had, I think it cost me about $5 to make.

Part of the joy I get out of this hobby is making things for my telescopes. I have made at least seven tripods and/or piers for my telescopes, rarely finding "stock" ones either acceptable or affordable, and will be building an 8th here this winter. And by the way, I may be younger than many of you too - I'm in my early 40's - so there's hope, given those of us still scrounging / making / being happy with lower-cost options out there.

#12 Sean Cunneen

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 02:18 PM

When I see projects here, most look like once in a lifetime type builds. There might be a couple of folks who build routinely, but I think the numbers may deceive. For myself, my big purchases happen when I can afford them, sometimes things happen that frees up funds and sometimes I think it'll be yeas before I buy a new eyepiece. Take now for example, we are remodeling a bathroom and spending vastly more on that project in one month than I have accumulated in astronomy equipment over the last 15 years!

#13 magic612



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Posted 28 November 2012 - 02:28 PM

And Sean, that 15 foot high bathroom looks fantastic. Of course, it's the hole in the floor that provides such an illusion....

#14 Tom and Beth

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 03:11 PM

Hello Ed,

My Parents were Depression babies, and taught "us siblings" to work and save if we wanted something. We were also taught to live within our means and to RARELY carry debt (A mortgage was acceptable). To be rich meant that you had money left over after the bills were paid and food laid in.

Now that retirement is here, there's time to enjoy hobbies. Everything is paid for and still there's the time and resources to help those in the neighborhood. We may not have the "newest and the bestest", but that doesn't mean an Ethos or two hasn't made it's way into the EP box.

I'm thankful for a wife who tolerates this Mistress, "astronomy".

#15 Jeff Morgan

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 03:26 PM

So much to think on. I agree with your most important point, as the years go by the toys matter less and they certainly don't define you.

While the "old timers" (Depression and WWII generation) may not have had the kind of disposable income we have today, they did have an enormous advantage in Work Ethic over todays Entitlement Culture. And they certainly knew what real hardship was all about.

Excess is a little more a point of opinion I guess. I would speculate that what really held the old timers back from the large scopes of today was just timing - they were wedded to massive machined metal equatorial mounts, as well as full-thickness glass. The idea of a wood alt/az mount was inconceivable even as recently as 40 years ago.

John Dobson was just born 50 years too late for them. Imagine if he had been a contemporary of Russell Porter ...

#16 Mark Harry

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 03:43 PM

My 2 cents worth, -NO ONE- has the money to blow on extravagant stuff, regardless what it is.

-IF- in particular, you are saving enough for retirement as you are -SUPPOSED- to be doing every payday. I see a tendency with the last couple generations of squeezing every last penny of equity out of their houses with 2nd and 3rd mortgages--- perish the thought. I hope they can afford to retire someday.
I was always hammered with sayings like "better than where there's none," etc.
I knew I'd never be able to afford the optical toy I wanted that would surpass anything else or really tax the capability of my eyes (20/10 in my better years) so I had to learn how to -MAKE- what I wanted and to do a lot of research on my own.
Let's put it this way--- The house, though not a 6 bedroom/5 bath monster, is paid for, has a constant running source of potable water, and can have an electric bill less than $25 a month. And I'm not saddled with payments to support a couple 4-5 figure scopes in the stable, or a ton of expensive eyepieces, etc.
I think in the end, this is the smart way.....Call me crazy if you want. If I won the lottery, I wouldn't change one bit- too old to do that, seen too much.

#17 Mark Harry

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 03:46 PM

Ed, Don, & John:

-PLUS 1!-

#18 Pinbout


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Posted 28 November 2012 - 04:36 PM

I'm thankful for a wife who tolerates this Mistress, "astronomy".

:applause: :praying: :waytogo:

#19 Chucky


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Posted 28 November 2012 - 04:45 PM

<< What I need, and cannot buy, is more time to observe, and more clear skies to observe in. >>

Don, 100% agree from my perspective. I have enough 'stuff'...really, really do. Anymore I value observing in dark skies with my astro buddies, dining at the nearby greasy spoon, and shooting the breeze with others with similar interest.

Well known ATM'er Ron Ravneberg was a personal friend of mine and fellow club member here in Columbus. Even way before he passed away, Ron used to say 'I collect people'....and 'I collect memories'. Yes, equipment is certainly nice, but there is so much more. I think about Ron often.

#20 Achernar



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Posted 28 November 2012 - 07:24 PM

The point is well taken, but I made two of my three telescopes. I only borrowed money to pay for the primary mirror of the 15-inch, and when I look at what people spend on jet skis, ATV's, hunting trips, cars and so forth, $4,000 to build my own 15-inch truss-tube isn't bad. I got a welding machine out of the deal that has already paid for itself keeping my grills going and making other things of use to me. Indeed, I will probably make money with it doing small welding jobs for folks. I will likely use my telescppes as long as my health allows me to enjoy astronomy and over many years what I spent on astronomy is a pittance already. And yes, I have no credit cards and little debt.


#21 bremms



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Posted 28 November 2012 - 07:36 PM

Been thinking some of the same things I read here. I was out a couple of weeks ago using a Vietnam era Nagleresque military eyepiece. For $28.00 it was VERY good Not quite as good as a 31mm Nagler or WF but not THAT far off. It's less than a 10th the cost. Bought a used C11 for the price of one expensive eyepiece. I did get a "new" used Vixen OTArecently and Want to sell it, My 4" F15 Jaegers lens scope is a tiny bit better and cost less than $200 to put together. Used a few Naglers in the past, never did that much for me. They are nice, but I'd rather put the money into the scope. I like putting together good stuff on the cheap. Building my own, repurposing junk. A few years ago I was grabbing some nice metal pieces a neighbor put on the curb. She says "I want to recycle those".. OK.. I'm going to build things with them. She says "They need to be recycled". I look at her.. and say I'm going to turn them into something.. It's better than recycling.. The granola says.. "Whatever.. take them" She was about 20 years old and didn't really seem to understand about reusing an object and actually building something. Should have told her I was going to make an Art piece with the metal. I did with one piece anyway.

Sorry had to rant.

#22 tim53


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Posted 28 November 2012 - 08:13 PM

I'm working on settling on what I hope to use during my retirement. The house will be paid for, but it's a big house (Victorian on national register), so I'll be needing to be prepared for high water and cooling bills in summer and heating bills in winter. Some of that will be offset by not having kids at home by then.

My dad was a teenager during the depression. His family moved from Oklahoma to CA in the mid 30s. I just saw Ken Burns' "The Dust Bowl" on PBS last week. Now I understand that the recession we've been experiencing is nothing like what he lived through.

I grew up dreaming about the old-school telescopes of the 60s and 70s. Now, I find I can afford some of them, and have bought several. "Big" back then was 12.5", and is still currently my largest aperture.

I've taken a couple mirror making classes, and would like to make my own meter-class instrument for my retirement observatory. I don't know how realistic that is, though. But I do think that I could be happy with something much smaller, maybe even one of my 12.5"ers.

I don't really like altazimuth scopes still, though I do like wood, and I do like making my own stuff:

Posted Image

I prefer Porter over Dobson, though. And the next Springfield I build will have my own optics in it (the mirror in that one is from Optical Craftsmen, 1972).

Probably, though, if I ever do get to build a meter scope, I'll have to consider a Dobson mount if I'm going to expect to be able to lug it around msyelf (though if I build an observatory, maybe I can use a hoist to put a massive GEM together and leave it there, letting my kin dispose of it when I shove daisies). ;)


#23 cheapersleeper



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Posted 28 November 2012 - 08:26 PM

I am with Ed. My current income is pretty good for my region but being a divorced Dad who will likely henceforth be single, my money is better spent on my Son and making myself financially secure. I am cheap BY CHOICE and hope to get better at building the things I want to observe with.


#24 Glen A W

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 10:10 PM

Wow, what great posts! I am glad to see this addressed. I have been pretty sick of what astronomy has been "sort-of" turned into. I have purchased a few expensive items myself but the difference compared to good-quality items of reasonable price was slim.

Sky & Telescope magazine in particular seems ridiculous to me, with their non-stop coverage of the "Hottest Item of the Past Month." They have fallen so far.

How many times have I known people refer to "big people in astronomy" and then found they meant folks who run amateur equipment companies...

Then there are clubs with observatories worth six figures, but which they never really use.

I try to stay focused on where it's at - up there. I find a lot that is disconcerting about hobby astronomy today but it's just a reflection of our society and the fact that this interest has many wealthy and upper-middle class people involved. There have been times when I was well-off enough that I fell into these things as well, so I am not really directing anything nasty toward these folks. However, I do feel the whole scene has gone the wrong way since the 1980's.

But this is true of many things and many hobbies. For a lot of folks, their hobby is buying, and the psychology of why they buy what they do runs very deep and is probably a little sick, too.


#25 mikey cee

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 10:28 PM

Hi Ed.....It's nice to see that you decided to stay on board around here. I think your perspective is dead on and therefore your contributions are not only entertaining but very pertinent to some of the younger ones coming on board. I too have had an income level that some would blow coffee up their noses over. But so far I'm having the last laugh....along with my bride of some 30 years.....we got married late. You've heard of the old cliche' "it's not what you make that counts...but what you keep". That applies to more than just money and things I might ad. Another very simple principle that I've always believed in is "that just because you have the means to buy any and everything you want doesn't mean that you can afford it". For those that don't understand or believe in this basic premise you're in for a real rude awakening ....hopefully sooner than later! :smirk: Mike

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