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Moving Large Dobsonians


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Moving Large Dobsonians

By Thomas Clarke

I recently got an Orion XT12g goto Dobsonian,   This is a great scope, much larger aperture than my old orange-tube C8, and has goto and sidereal tracking as well.  Best of all you can push the XT12g by hand without disturbing the tracking alignment.

My telescopes have to live in the house since the garage doubles as a saw-dusty woodshop.  My wife views these as acceptable scientific objects of art provided they are not too amateur looking homebuilts.    The house is ranch style with a couple of 6 inch step downs to reach the outside yard.  I could pick up the old C8 on its field tripod and carry it outside in one piece, but you would have to be a weightlifter to lift the XT12g in one piece!  The scope could be disassembled and reassembled for observation but I don’t like assembly in the dark.

Fortunately (in this case) the new telescope curse operated and it was cloudy for several days giving me time to figure out how to get the XT12g from its location in the corner of the front entrance foyer to a suitable observing spot.  Because of the steps up into the house commercial units like Wheelie Bars would not work. 

Studying the configuration of the XT12g base and rocker box, I realized that a cradle could be snugged up against the mount by using treaded j-bolts hooked into the lifting handles on the rocker box.  Add a couple of wheels and the resulting assembly could be moved like a hand truck.  Using the time afforded by cloudy nights, I put together the mating hand truck from some s**** hardwood in time for a less-cloudy night and first light!

However, my wooden cradle/hand truck was not really strong enough for the job.  While I did get the XT12g in and out of the house in one piece, it felt like the assembly was on the verge of falling apart.  Something stronger was needed.

After some thought, I realized I was reinventing the hand truck.  So I went to Harbor Freight and got its 600 lb. capacity Bigfoot Hand Truck SKU 97568 with large 13 in wheels the better to get over the steps with.  I then realized that I could attach my creaky wooden cradle to the hand truck with four electrical tubing clamps so that in very short order I had a steel framed hand truck custom fit to the XT12g Dobsonian. 

Figure 1.

Figure 1 shows the hand truck/cradle snugged up to the XT12g ready to move from its display location.

Figure 2.

Figure 2 shows the hand truck next to the scope; the hand truck lives in the garage since it doesn’t care about sawdust.  The XT12g has three feet under its base plate, so the truck shoe needs to be slid under the base between two of the feet.  The wooden frame has a curve that matches the base plate so the scope is stable side-to-side when being rolled.  The vertical wooden rails have curves to match the rocker box when rotated to the matching position.  This is more for aesthetics than a structural requirement.   I’m thinking about lining the curves with felt so as not to scratch the mount.

Figure 3.

Figure 3 shows a close-up of the relation of the wooden frame to the rocker box.  A j-bolt with a wing nut snags the lifting handle on the rocker box and pulls the box tightly to the frame and the truck.   It is not actually a j-bolt as I couldn’t find one long enough at the hardware store.  It is actually a 1/4-20 bolt inserted into the hook-end of a bungee cord.

Figure 4

Figure 4 shows a downward view of the truck/cradle approaching the XT12g for docking.

Figure 5                                              Figure 6

Figures 5 and 6 show how the scope and truck/cradle cane tilted back in differing degrees for transport.

I haven’t included dimensions as these would vary from scope to scope.   But I think the concept would be a useful way to move many large dobsonians without modifying the mount in any way.   Also a better job of the truck/cradle would result if instead of trying to make a wooden hand truck first and then adapting the creaky result to a sturdy steel hand truck, the cradle were designed from the start to mate the scope to the hand truck. 

I do still have my sketches for the wooden parts.  I could scan these and e-mail to anyone wanting to do an XT12 scope cradle.

I live in Oviedo, Florida, and have dabbled in amateur astronomy for 50 years.   I currently have 4 telescopes, 2.4” to 12”, a 4” astronomical binocular, and lots of optical bits and pieces.


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