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Barker's Bluff Observatory Begins

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#1 JHGIII

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 09:58 AM

So... my wife thought I needed a hobby to decompress after work. She and some family and friends bought me an 8 inch Dob for Christmas about three years ago. This is how it started. Be careful what you ask for.

After moving full time to our weekend lake place and selling the "City House", I have the luxury of dark (rural Alabama) skies. The problem is I have an hour commute so, while viewing opportunities and quality increased, available time decreased. Add to that the purchase of a C11 and a Losmandy G11 mount and the need/desire for an observatory became clear (at least to me).

I showed my wife pictures of modest roll-off-roof observatories that I thought would tuck neatly away in the back acreage and to my surprise the idea was nixed. Not in the way one would think, but rather in a "I don't want another little shed in the yard" kind of way. We already have a shed for tools and a separate 12x24 storage building that came with the property. The move to full-time residence resulted in this one being converted into climate controlled storage.

I turns out, that to get a dedicated observatory the plan had to go big. The project got approval when the area under the roll-off gantry became useful deck space and a covered porch was added to balance the other end. The other "compromise" I needed to make was to place an outdoor fireplace adjacent to the covered porch.

The plan was sketched out on graph paper about twenty times before a final plan was developed. Thanks to all of you who have published your experience with planning and construction. I have lurked these forums for almost a year while planning and have benefited greatly from everyone's experience, wisdom and design.

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#2 JHGIII

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 10:10 AM

The 12x16 observatory will be designed with two piers. One of these will be "banked" below the floor to be exhumed at a later date. The primary pier will attache just below floor level to a Linak lifting column. The north wall is seven feet high and the south is 5 feet high. In order to make the deck under the gantry useful, the observatory floor is two feet higher than the gantry deck, resulting in a 7 foot south rail and a 9 ft high north rail.

I am having the construction done by a local deck building company "Brad's Bodacious Decks". They build decks and stairways on cliff faces around the lake, love a challenge and are excellent problem solvers. Brad and Jeremiah immediately grasped the implications of an isolated pier (they build fire pits in decks) and the roll-off roof. As Brad says "It's just a thousand square foot deck with a shed on top whose roof rolls off attached to a sunken living room". And then he smiles

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#3 JHGIII

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 10:11 AM

The site looking South

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#4 JHGIII

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 10:13 AM

Looking East
Those pine trees are Goners

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#5 CharlesW

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 10:21 AM

You are very fortunate, my friend. I wish you all the best in this. And I am green with envy.

#6 JHGIII

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 10:27 AM

Batter boards. Hooray!

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#7 JHGIII

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 10:36 AM

Wood arrives.
My crew likes to go big. "When in doubt, Beef it out" is their motto.
All uprights are 6x6 pressure treated.
Angle iron track will rest on horizontal 6x6 strapped with 2x10 (we do get tornadoes here and severe thunderstorms).

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#8 JHGIII

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 10:38 AM

So here we are at a week.
Looks like the Bird's Nest from the Beijing Olympics.
Jeremiah like braces :grin:

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#9 JHGIII

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 10:40 AM

At two weeks in, I have the best Gallows on the lake.
These holes will be framed and downsized to admit Linak 2 column.

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#10 JHGIII

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 10:54 AM

Holes for piers are 3x3x3 then hit rock and 3x3x4. Still with 18 inch culvert serving as Sonotube we were worried about moment arm of that much vertical concrete, so we elected to tie the two deadmen together with a rebar reinforced bridge. I'm sure this part gets mixed reviews with concerns about transmitted vibration, but I elected to take the risk.

I am exclusively visual at this point. The second pier is in case I go up in aperture, or perchance explore AP. I'd like to have the ability to share this space with friends, so a second pier for visual may be all I ever need.

Honestly, I think the mass of concrete in both deadmen, both culvert tubes and the insulating effect of the ground will probably damp vibrations. I guess only time will tell.

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#11 JHGIII

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 10:56 AM

Thanks Charles. My wife is exceedingly cool about this project.
BTW, since I'll soon have a home suitable for one, how has the C14 HD served you?

#12 JHGIII

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 11:27 AM

Commercial Break :)
(Unless moderators say it is a no no)

#13 JHGIII

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 11:29 AM

OOPs

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#14 JHGIII

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 11:55 AM

Today in about 4 hours.
Working while standing on the ground, in a section that is not scope related, they move fast.

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#15 FOUNTAIN1

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 06:03 PM

Very nice! I'm looking forward to more pictures when you take them. When it's done you'll be enjoying your hobby like it was all new again. Have fun!

#16 Starman27

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Posted 01 June 2014 - 06:43 PM

+1

#17 JHGIII

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 06:34 AM

Got home from work last night to see that the "Dob Deck" is well underway. This was an add- on idea, so not on the original sketch. It will be an 8 ft by 8 ft deck projecting off the South side. It has bench seats on three sides and will have a built in table/Dob stand in the center. When I just want to poke around with the Dob, this is about ten feet from where it is stored. Or it can serve as a nice place to sit and converse while waiting for it to get dark.
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#18 JHGIII

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 06:50 AM

Sorry, could not load image from phone

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#19 hm insulators

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 12:18 PM

This is going up quickly! :jump:

I was wondering if the observatory could use another name; "Barker's Bluff" sounds like a game on "The Price is Right." :)

#20 Midnight Dan

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 12:56 PM

LOVE that dob deck idea! :bow: Makes a great place to hang out with friends at an informal star party with a few beers or a bottle of wine. Can't wait to see this whole thing when it's done.

-Dan

#21 JHGIII

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 03:59 PM

Thanks Dan. I see you are a man who shares my passion for helping others to enjoy the sky. I hope the Dob deck will be the kick-off for many such events. Oh but wait, there's more... the room to the far right (enclosed on three sides) will have a full bar and a live video stream from a Mallincam to a flat screen mounted on the wall. The way some of my friends like their cocktails, it is probably best to put a wall between the party and the scopes. I think of it a "neighborhood outreach". This way I can still hang with my friends and not miss the stars if it is a night of casual observing. If it's just me in the yard with the scope, the crowd drifts away after about two or three objects, especially if it is cold. I think that if I can show an entire group what the scope is aimed at and then discuss what it is they are seeing, that will be more likely to hold everyone's interest compared with standing in a line at the eyepiece.

When not stargazing, the TV will probably feature SEC football out by the fire. 'Course that never involves drinks :question:

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#22 JHGIII

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 04:06 PM

Ha. Barker's Bluff is the name of our property here at the lake. My wife is a Veterinarian, so our home is the Land of Misfit Toys for dogs no one else could/would keep. All are special needs projects or found by the side of the road. Our Treeing Walker Coon Hound was one of the inspirations for the name. The lake is Alabama Power project that was made in the early 60's. When they flooded the valley, some areas of the lake are up on high rock bluffs overlooking the water. Gorgeous this time of year.

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#23 JHGIII

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 04:48 PM

So, on a more serious note:
I see that the "Best of Observatories" links appears to have died. I found a number of these helpful and outright plagiarized freely. If copying is flattery, I'd like to at least give credit where due.
1. http://www.taconicob.../page0/6/6.html I am totally stealing this idea for tracks and casters. I found a local company that builds floating docks (lake is 200 ft deep in places). They have a full machine shop and should be able to CAD CAM this and manufacture a sweet rolling frame. They can even do full 32 ft angle iron so there are no bumps to offset in my track.
2. http://princetonastr...ry-dream-to-... This is the image that sold my wife on the idea of a structure that could be aesthetically pleasing. Thanks Rex Parker.
3. http://darkhorseobse...9&CategoryID=56 Two 18 inch piers in one observatory? Yep
4. http://mysite.verizo...d81b/index.html From Ash Observatory, ideas re pier, conduit, dimensions
5. http://www.alpineast...vatory/roof.htm Rocky Plains is another great example of boxed wheels and solid track
6. http://www.jimstar11...bservatory.html From Meadow View I stole dimensions, two piers, lifting column...
7. http://homepage.isom...onstruction.htm Steel pier coupling to allow fine leveling adjustments... wish I'd copied the price tag, but then I can't do much of this construction stuff by myself

And of all, the biggest inspiration was http://www.cloudynig...wflat.php/Cat/1 The MAD Observatory by Bob Yoesle is the inspiration for so many items you will see in BBO. I printed the entire thread for my contractors to read and it has served many times as a problem solving blueprint. Ideas like the system to keep the roof captive throughout the entire track, huge support timbers, Linak lifting columns, wall height.

I know there are at least 20 more of you whose thoughtful suggestions and real-life experience have helped so much in the planning and early phases of execution. Thanks in advance. CN is a great community.

John

#24 Midnight Dan

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 06:22 PM

Oh but wait, there's more... the room to the far right (enclosed on three sides) will have a full bar and a live video stream from a Mallincam to a flat screen mounted on the wall. The way some of my friends like their cocktails, it is probably best to put a wall between the party and the scopes. ...

When not stargazing, the TV will probably feature SEC football out by the fire. 'Course that never involves drinks :question:


The only thing that's missing is the stage for the live music and dancing girls! :lol:

-Dan

#25 JHGIII

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Posted 03 June 2014 - 07:27 PM

Ahhh but my wife is a competitive ballroom dancer. Finally a hobby as expensive as astronomy :)






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