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Fecker First Light woooohooooooo

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#1 Jim Rosenstock

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Posted 23 June 2007 - 03:59 PM

Hi gang,

When I last reported here, I had just picked up my 1958 Fecker Celestar 6, after winning it on my first eBay auction ever (I just don't "do" eBay, never have, but for this scope, an exception was made! :jump:)

We met at a gas station in Fredericksburg, halfway between my place and his (DC/Richmond). The scope was all it was advertised to be--complete, intact, and in good shape. The optics had a lot of spots, inside and out; obviously a complete cleaning (and possible recoating) of the optics was in order. Quickly checking out a daytime view of some distant treetops, a washed-out, low-contrast view was obtained, with evidence of miscollimation as well. OK, no real surprise for a scope that turns 50 next year...and I was prepared for a "project" when I bid on this....

Well, here's the work that I've done on the scope so far: nothing!! :grin:

Well, not completely true....I vowed that I would not begin actual restoration work on this near-unique scope until I had thoroughly researched everything I could find out about it. Many, many thanks to Lew Chilton and Ron Ravneberg of this forum, as well as Peter Bealo of the oldscope yahoo group, for their wise advice, background information, and invaluable scans of a Fecker catalog, owner's manual, and historical advertisements. I am approaching a state of being mentally prepared to take on this restoration.

Here's what I now intend to do:

1. Pull and clean the optics. I'm now hopeful that recoating will not be necessary. This Maksutov hybrid scope has an f/5 primary, a 3X meniscus corrector plate with an aluminized secondary center spot on its inner surface, and a tertiary diagonal mirror, mounted on a center stalk that extends a few inches forward of the primary through a central perforation. A 6" f/15 scope at the eyepiece!
The primary mirror is fairly spotty; this is the most likely piece to require re-aluminizing (but we'll see how it cleans up first). I can only view the "back side" of the aluminized center spot on the inside of the corrector plate, but it looks real good on the back side, and since the coating is only a few molecules thick, I'm pretty hopeful it will be good on the inside surface as well. The clear portion of the corrector plate is fairly spotty as well, inside and out. I think it will clean up OK; in any case, I've been advised that trying to redo the corrector's antireflective coating (probably single-layer Mag fluoride) would not be a good idea. The small tertiary diagonal mirror has only a few small spots; I expect it should be fine with a cleaning (though I'll have it recoated if I wind up doing the primary anyway...)

2. Install "reversible baffling". The inside of the tube, though painted black, is pretty smooth & shiny. I'll use Ron Ravneberg's trick of applying adhesive-backed flocking to a mylar sheet, cut to "spring fit" into the inside of the tube. I'll also install a removable baffle around the tertiary diagonal, which has no baffling to prevent unfocused light from reaching it--no wonder my initial daytime views were so washed-out!

3. Reassemble and collimate. A little easier said than done. Newtonian collimation is child's play compared to this complex optic....thankfully, I have good information and advisers to guide me, and these scopes are built so solidly that recollimation is rarely necessary (I suspect that this scope has NEVER been recollimated, as it requires partial disassembly of the optics as a first step...no prob, I'm doing that anyway! ;) )

4. Minor cosmetic work. The blue "speckleware" paint on the mount and fittings is in excellent shape. The few dings to this finish are barely noticeable, and any "touch up" might well be more obvious. The off-white speckleware paint on the tube will need to have a number of small (pea-sized) spots touched up. I have a line on a good matching paint (thanks, Ron!), and a little careful work with a fine-tipped artist's brush should do it. The wooden tripod legs will need the varnish touched up a bit near the feet. The dec slo-motion knob is a replacement, and perhaps I can find a better match.

5. Beyond that--nothing! The motor runs fine, the clutches work smoothly, and the slo-mo controls are fully functional.

Anyway, between weather and my personal schedule, I hadn't really had an opportunity to check this scope out under night skies, until last night, when I hauled it out into my backyard for a look at the first-quarter Moon and Jupiter.

This scope performs quite decently as-is! :jump: :jump: :jump:

Lunar views with a 28mm ortho (80X) were stunning. Views were still pretty good at 140X, but softened considerably at 190X. I think at higher powers, the schmutz on the optics, as well as lack of baffling and likely minor miscollimation kept this scope from performing optimally. Still, I was very pleasantly surprised at how good the views were, without having done anything yet to tweek this scope's performance.

I had also set up my freshly-restored RV-6 Dynascope (`1/20-wave, newly coated mirror) as a comparison. I had to use different eyepieces to get similar views in this much "faster" f/8 scope ;), of course. The Dynascope had slightly contrastier views all around (no surprise) and was noticeably sharper at higher mags (it managed 200X without substantial image breakdown in last night's seeing). But the Fecker was "in the ballpark", quite impressive for an unrestored scope compared with one fully optimized for high-contrast planetary performance.

Next, I brought out the binoviewers. Ron had told me that these scopes were excellent for binoviewing; boy, was he right! With my 24mm eyepieces and a 1.6X corrector, my lowest achievable BV power was 150X, which was stunning.

By then, Jupiter was passing through the notch in the trees to my south, so I binoviewed (and later monoviewed) the Great Gassy One. Very nice views (for this year's fairly low, disappointing apparition, anyway). Again, my RV-6 was a half-step sharper and contrastier...the Dynascope showed the Galilean moons as more obvious discs, f'r'instance, and a faint field star amongst the moons was easily visible in the RV-6, but "in and out" in the Fecker....

All in all, a very pleasing first light. I can hardly wait to see how it performs when everything is "just exactly perfect"...

A couple of other first-light notes:

Vibration-suppression pads are a must. Though the wooden-legged tripod is well-made and sturdy, the mount is quite heavy, and the relatively long fork and tube (for a Mak, anyway) makes for quite a lever-arm. Without the pads, the scope was usable, but vibrations took a couple-three seconds to settle down any time you touched the scope; with the pads in place, vibration was not an issue.

The 3-eyepiece turret looks really cool, but I'm going to have to get used to using it (the turret is quickly removable if one prefers to use the focuser "normally"). While switching powers in a second's time is cool, at times I felt like I was breathing on two eyepieces while looking through the third!

Perhaps the nicest thing about this scope is that, due to the focuser placement so near the intersection of the RA and Dec axes, the eyepiece moves very little as the scope is moved from zenith to horizon. Seated viewing is easy for all parts of the sky.

Thanks again to all who have helped, informed, and encouraged me in this adventure! :bow:

Clear skies,

Jim

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#2 twhite

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Posted 23 June 2007 - 04:41 PM

Jim,

So cool! Keep us posted on the developments.

I gather that was serial #19 -- if I remember right -- how many of those 6" Celestars were made?

#3 Jim Rosenstock

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Posted 23 June 2007 - 05:59 PM

I gather that was serial #19 -- if I remember right -- how many of those 6" Celestars were made?


No, it's #614. Apparently (per Ron R), all known Celestar 6's had serial numbers beginning with 6....from six-zero-something to a highest known number of 639. So, likely fewer than 50 of these were made, apparently only in 1958.

The Celestar 4's (again, per Ron R) were built in '57 and '58; some had serial numbers in the 200s, and others in the 400s, which suggests a total production between 100 and 200 scopes (maximum). Still rare beasts.

Clear skies,

Jim

#4 Glassthrower

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Posted 23 June 2007 - 08:58 PM

Hi Jim,

You want a scan of a vintage Fecker ad?

Regards,

MikeG

#5 Jim Rosenstock

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Posted 24 June 2007 - 12:35 AM

Hi Jim,

You want a scan of a vintage Fecker ad?

Regards,

MikeG


I'm interested in all things Fecker. :grin:

PM sent.


Jim

#6 twhite

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Posted 24 June 2007 - 12:44 AM

I gather that was serial #19 -- if I remember right -- how many of those 6" Celestars were made?


No, it's #614. Apparently (per Ron R), all known Celestar 6's had serial numbers beginning with 6....from six-zero-something to a highest known number of 639. So, likely fewer than 50 of these were made, apparently only in 1958.


Oh - #14, then. I thought I remembered it being 619, and not 614. Well, they're shaped similarly. :D

Tony

#7 Glassthrower

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Posted 24 June 2007 - 12:45 AM

I didn't get a PM Jim. It must have gotten lost in cyberspace somewhere?

Re-send and I will check in the morning.

Regards and clear skies,

MikeG


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