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Spacek Telescope

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#1 Don Alvarez

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 04:00 PM

I appear to have stumbled onto one of these. I have never heard of Spacek until today. I don't have the original EP's and the finderscope doesn't look original to me, and the poor thing looks like it's been kept in a well used barn. Still I was hoping someone might be able to tell me some more about it?

 

spacek.jpg


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#2 John Higbee

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 06:48 PM

Welcome, Don!   You have a pretty "rare bird" there...Spacek Instruments was only in operation for a few years in the late '50s / early '60s, but they had a reputation for very sturdy, high quality telescopes.

 

I'm currently restoring a Spacek 6", f15 refractor - more information at this CN thread in the Classic Telescopes forum:

 

 https://www.cloudyni...ak-for-itself/ 

 

picture 2.jpg

 

Congratulations...please post some pictures when you get the chance!

 

John


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#3 TOM KIEHL

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 08:21 PM

Here's a K 3 Spacek

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#4 TOM KIEHL

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 08:26 PM

By the way , I like your Bill "The Butcher" Cutting avatar waytogo.gif


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#5 bob midiri

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 07:05 AM

I too have an old Spacek 4" OTA with original box, always wondered if they made the optics or got from Edmund

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#6 Don Alvarez

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 09:25 AM

I've attached a couple pics right after it got home from auction. Actually my father picked it up, he's retired and haunts the local auctions looking for stuff he can flip, mostly guitars and audio gear. He stepped out of his comfort zone on this one, but for five dollars he figured what could go wrong. It also came with a  couple vintage Edmund Scientific EP's. Right now its in the process of being cleaned up. Like I said, pretty sure it was stored in a barn, it's incredibly filthy. I was hoping someone might be able to tell me what it might be worth. 

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Edited by Don Alvarez, 18 July 2017 - 09:31 AM.

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#7 deSitter

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 12:02 PM

I looked up the address in Pottstown. Poor Mr. Spacek, he was just the odd man out. There was enough low-end volume telescope business to support Criterion and Edmund but not much more than that. All these companies got started more or less the same way in the post war world. I hope he found other ways to support his family well.

 

Much likely had to do with available infrastructure. Pottstown is not in the boonies but it's not exactly a suburb either (35 mi from Philadelphia). Edmund was on the doorstep of New York and Criterion was in Hartford, which was a manufacturing center in the first half of the 20th century (Pratt and Whitney, Colt, among others).

 

Article in Pottstown Mercury

 

https://www.newspape...spage/42402384/

 

-drl


Edited by deSitter, 18 July 2017 - 12:03 PM.


#8 deSitter

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 12:09 PM

The Mercury is still in business. It should be possible to retrieve that article from 10/24/1967.

 

http://www.pottsmerc.com/

 

-drl


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#9 deSitter

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 12:48 PM

Build your own high-speed flash unit, 1/10,000 sec, 1947 - by Michael S. Spacek in Popular Science...

 

https://books.google...epage&q&f=false

 

-drl


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#10 starman876

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 01:02 PM

looks like there are plenty of people here with Spacek telescopes.   Nice find.



#11 Don Alvarez

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 04:57 PM

Does anyone have a clue what it might be worth?

 

I mean, other than $89.50



#12 starman876

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 09:24 PM

could be worth $89.50smirk.gif


Edited by starman876, 19 July 2017 - 05:36 AM.


#13 apfever

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 08:56 AM

Rule number one is that you will never recapture the time spent refurbishing in terms of value, so don't do it with that in mind. Let's pick a modest earning of $10 to $15 per hour, which would equate to about $100 per day.  IF you spend a day doing a nice refurbish on a scope like this in GOOD shape to start, thus ending up with a very nice preserved unit, then you just munched your time in scope value.

 

A lot of us here do this all the time. I do. I enjoy the work and the satisfaction of the finish is what makes it worthwhile.  I have preserved for posterity something that I find appreciable and that I know others will appreciate as well.



#14 jkmccarthy

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 06:38 AM

I hope no one strongly objects to my rebooting an old thread, but to me it seemed preferable to append my contribution here rather than start a new thread -- and thereby have Spacek-related information on CN more widely scattered than if I add the following here:

 

I grew up in Reading, PA, about a 45min drive from Pottstown.  I first met Mr. Michael Spacek when I was an 8th or 9th grader (probably in 1974 or 1975), after completing (with signficant help from both my father and my maternal grandfather) the grinding and polishing of a 6-inch f/8 parabolic mirror -- a kit from Edmund Scientific -- in my grandfather's basement.  My dad and I were referred to him by someone in my local astronomy club (the Berks County Amateur Astronomical Society, or BCAAS) upon inquiring where we could have the mirror aluminized, which indeed Mr. Spacek was able to accomplish in his shop's evaporating chamber for nominal fee.  (Around the time I graduated high school, I sold that telescope and its home-made, turn-on-threads pipe GEM, having completed a larger 8-inch f/12 reflecting telescope project [1] prompted by coming across that larger primary mirror for sale, already accurately ground, polished to a paraboloid figure, and coated).

 

Fast-forward to the summer of 1980 following my college sophomore year at Penn State University (majoring in astronomy & physics, and -- still an 'ATM' at heart --  keenly interested in optics and astronomical instruments), when I managed to swing my first 'dream job' working as Mr. Spacek's assistant in his one-man basement shop (Spacek Instrument Company) that summer.   As I recall, my hourly pay wasn't much above minimum wage, but I was tremendously grateful for the learning experience.  For quite a number of years prior, Spacek Instruments had a large contract from Spitz, Inc., who manufactured and sold planetarium projectors [2].  Their smaller units created stars via pinholes in a metal sphere, with the pinhole diameters increased for stars having brighter magnitudes.  But this technique brokedown for the brightest stars, since a hole with the necessary diameter to represent faithfully these stars' greater brightnesses would appear as visible 'disk' (i.e., no longer a star-like dot in the sky) to the planetarium audience.  So for the brighter stars, the Spitz Projectors had to employ small lenses to project onto the dome a focused image of the arc-light source inside the projector sphere.  Spacek had the contract to supply Spitz with the necessary lenses:  small in diameter, long in focal length, and -- most critically -- having the optical axis of each lens centered and aligned with the lens O.D. to a high degree of accuracy, such that the bright star images projected by these lenses would appear in the correct locations relative to each constellation's fainter stars (those projected through the projector's pinholes).  Mr. Spacek had developed a proprietary technique for achieving the necessary optical centration accuracy during the machine grinding and polishing of the small lens elements (many at a time), such that during the final quality inspection (when we mounted them one-by-one in a small lens holder tube that was then rotated in V-blocks on the optical bench to check that the image seen on a distant wall of the shop remained stationary, instead of rotating in a circle), very few had to be rejected for failing to meet specification.

 

Hence much of my time that summer was spent tending to the machine grinding and polishing of these small lens elements, and assisting in their quality-control testing.  But often during breaks, Mr. Spacek would discuss and/or show me some side project of his [3] over at the roll-off-roof observatory located next to his house and basement shop.  I recall one such fascination of his that summer was a seismometer he'd recently built based on concepts presented in a particular "The Amateur Scientist" column, which was a monthly feature in Scientific American (ref. September 1975, pg. 182) that he followed with great interest.  Installed on the concrete slab ground-floor of his observatory (away from the house and shop), his home-made seismometer was sensitive enough to detect the vibrations of trucks going by on the road in front of his 2-acre property.

 

* * * *

 

The Mercury is still in business. It should be possible to retrieve that article from 10/24/1967.

 

http://www.pottsmerc.com/

 

-drl

 

I have collected PDFs of this 1967 Pottstown PA local newspaper profile of Michael Spacek, as well as a PDF of the 2017 newsletter reprint on the 40th anniversary since (in 1977) the Lehigh Valley Amateur Astronomical Society (LVAAS) bestowed upon Michael Spacek an honorary lifetime membership in recognition of his contributions to their organization (see pages 13 - 17).   Anyone who might be interested in these articles profiling Mr. Spacek is welcome to download the PDFs from a Google Drive folder I've created here:

 

https://drive.google...-P0?usp=sharing
 

(please private-message me if the folder is not properly configured for anyone to access via the link above, and I'll try to fix it and/or provide links to the individual PDFs ...).

 

From public records on-line, I've learned that Michael S. Spacek passed away on 21-Jan-1991 in Pottstown, PA, at age 76, but my on-line search efforts to locate any newspaper obituary have so far been unsuccessful.  His family residence (incl. his basement optical shop and the roll-off-roof observatory on the property) was listed for rent since at least 2012 and perhaps even earlier, before being listed for sale in late 2015 and sold in summer 2017, again according to public records.

 

Sincerely,

 

      -- Jim

 

* * * *

Footnotes:

[1]  The telescope I built with the 8-inch f/12 primary was a folded-Newtonian, housed initially in a home-made tube consisting of wooden strips bolted inside aluminum hoops, on another pipe-fittings mount (with machined bushings instead of turn-on-threads).  During my freshman year at the Penn State Berks Campus, I built a permanent steel pier and extremely heavy-duty GEM (with 2-inch stainless steel shafts, tapered roller bearings, and a clock drive) in the middle of a clearing surrounded by trees in an undeveloped part of the campus, and the optics were installed inside a Parks fiberglass tube and the OTA was donated to the physics dept.   (That "clearing surrounded by trees in an undeveloped part of the campus" circa 1979 is now an ancillary parking lot ... ) - :

 

[2] Here is a nice set of photos of a vintage Spitz Planetarium Projector, in which you can see the lenses for the brighter stars (along with others that project images of the Milky Way) mounted in the projector's large hollow sphere:  https://agentgallery...arium-projector    Obviously modern-day planetariums are equipped with digital projectors ... the Spitz A4 being decidedly 'old school' ....

 

[3] During the last half of the summer, I asked (and was kindly given) his permission to setup a project of my own on one or two of the grinding and polishing machines in the basement shop that were not in use.  My first project was to use his longest-radius iron grinding tool --- something like 36" --- to grind and polish a 5-inch, 18-inch focal length mirror, that we subsequently figured into a paraboloid for an f/3.5 Rich Field Telescope.  Before heading back to college, I built a small Dobsonian mount for this scope, whose 3-degree field (with a 1980s-vintage Meade 20mm wide-angle eyepiece) I still very much enjoy using to view the Milky Way, comets, etc.   Before my summer job ended, I also completed grinding and polishing the four spherical surfaces of a 6-inch achromatic doublet objective lens (from a just-newly-introduced kit from that era), although sadly I ran out of time that summer before I could setup the doublet for testing and figuring it as an assembly.  My recent participation here on CN ... especially reading the ATM / optics threads ... is, finally ... after 40 years(!!) ... getting me inspired to -- eventually -- actually assemble and test it ....


Edited by jkmccarthy, 31 March 2021 - 02:20 PM.

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#15 starman876

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 08:08 AM

Thank you . Very interesting.



#16 Terra Nova

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 08:50 AM

Thank you for sharing this with us. I found it fascinating. I never realized that Spacek was such a small, home-based operation.


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#17 GreyDay

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 09:48 AM

Great post Jim! reading the history of Michael Spacek really adds to the backstory of the Spacek telescopes themselves.


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#18 ccwemyss

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 11:23 AM

It's great to know where those planetarium projector lenses came from. I always assumed that Spitz made them in house. When I do presentations for my students, I always point them out to my students as I explain how the projector works. 

 

I became painfully aware of them when I discovered an unanticipated failure mode of the Spitz projector at Amherst College. If you run the projector's daily motion at the same time you are changing latitude, the cup holding the arc lamp can jam the fork bearing so that the fork pivots, rather than keeping the cup horizontal. That tips the cup out of the fork so that it falls to the bottom of the ball, scattering small lens assemblies all over the floor in the middle of a show. At which point you bring up the lights and tell everyone to stay put while you scramble around on the floor, scooping them up. Then you call the repair person.

 

Although the Amherst projector predates your time at SpaceK, it's cool to hear about the process of making them.

 

Chip W. 


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#19 jkmccarthy

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 11:51 AM

Thank you for sharing this with us. I found it fascinating. I never realized that Spacek was such a small, home-based operation.

Please note that my interactions with Spacek date from the mid-1970s to the summer of 1980, plus a couple of afternoon social visits spread over the few years that immediately followed.  It was certainly a small home-based operation at the time.  I cannot, however, speak to the size of his operation one or two decades prior, at the height of his business of telescope making for amateur and professional astronomers.   My takeaway from the 1967 Pottstown Mercury newspaper profile is that he lived in the same location (cited in the newspaper as "Sanatoga Hill" [1] ...) as during my association with him.  I think it's extremely likely he subcontracted-out the casting work involved in the production of his telescope mounts, along with the lathe machining of the larger mount components.

 

Also, in my narrative last night I also meant to include mention that --

 

1)  In the advertisement below (copied from your reply #21 [ https://www.cloudyni...self/?p=7889253 ] to John Higbee's post about his 6" f/15 Spacek refractor), the individual standing on the right is Michael Spacek himself, and I believe he told me once that the individual on the left is his eldest son, whom I've never met).   I'd be curious to know the date of publication where you found this!

 

post-209529-0-56333800-1495064352.jpg

 

 

2) By the summer of 1980, there was already Oscar-buzz surrounding actress Sissy Spacek's portrayal of country music legend Loretta Lynn in the film, Coal Miner's Daughter.   Whether that had anything to do with it or not, another of Michael Spacek's ongoing projects that year was research into his family tree.   I clearly remember him telling me one afternoon that summer that, as a result of the research he was doing, he was persuaded that he and actress Sissy Spacek (born Mary Elizabeth Spacek in Quitman, TX, in 1949) were indeed distant relations.   Whether or not this bit of 'trivia' is in fact true, I cannot say ... but the genealogy data readily available to people 40 years ago is dwarfed in comparison to that available on-line today, so perhaps this possible connection warrants further investigation . . . a 'trivia' tidbit though it would remain in any case.  (Sissy Spacek did receive the Academy Award for Best Actress in March 1981 for her performance in "Coal Miner's Daughter" ... her biographical sketch on Wikipedia includes mention of her parents and grandparents, all of whom resided in Texas ...).

 

Regards to all,

 

        -- Jim

 

* * * *

Edit to correct my incorrect initial assumption:

[1]  From real-estate web sites (both zillow and redfin), I just noticed that the home where he lived since at least the mid 1970s [when my dad and I first drove to Pottstown and met him there] is recorded in public records as having been built in 1971, so although it too is in the 'Sanatoga' suburb of Pottstown, it's unlikely where he lived in 1967 when profiled by the Pottstown Mercury newspaper.  My mistake.  The address listed on the Spacek Telescopes advertisement at the start of this thread is likewise not the home/business address I was familiar with for the Spacek Instrument Company from the mid-1970s onward.  Perhaps in ~ 1971 his telescope-making business was in decline and that was when he decided to bring his home and business under one roof ?


Edited by jkmccarthy, 31 March 2021 - 11:50 PM.

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#20 Pete W

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 12:31 PM

Cool history...and if anyone wants to own a piece of Spacek history, there's a scope for sale in Parkton Md:

https://www.facebook...5f-c226611fe64b


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#21 telescope200

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 04:02 PM

Love to see something about Mike Spacek. Never met him but I used to live in the area and kept coming across his work at the LVAAS and here and there. I put together a 4.25" short RFT in an old Spacek labeled tube once. I came across one of his small reflectors at a flea-market a few years back (pictured below), still kicking my self that I didn't buy it. 

 

I used to hear stories about Mike from optical engineer Paul Shenkle (worked for Questar, OTI, Davro). They used to work together on some of the custom contracts Mike would get into. Last thing I head Pauil say about Mike back in the 80s was Mike wanted to retire but he was making too much money fabricating lenses for Spitz. I think he was working on lenses for something like the Spitz Space Voyager systems, a 4 foot in diameter ball that had to project to a 67.5 foot slanted dome. The claim was it projected 10,164 stars (although I thought it had some 6000 stars). At that distance every star needed a lens, pinholes just wouldn't work at 35 feet. Paul said, at $10 a lens, Mike was very happy every time he got an order. 

 

spacek 4 sm.jpg

 

Robert S


Edited by telescope200, 31 March 2021 - 04:03 PM.

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#22 Terra Nova

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 10:53 PM

1)  In the advertisement below (copied from your reply #21 [ https://www.cloudyni...self/?p=7889253 ] to John Higbee's post about his 6" f/15 Spacek refractor), the individual standing on the right is Michael Spacek himself, and I believe he told me once that the individual on the left is his eldest son, whom I've never met).   I'd be curious to know the date of publication where you found this!

 

post-209529-0-56333800-1495064352.jpg

 

 

 

        -- Jim

It’s from Fawcett no. 489 Astronomy for Amateur Observers, (1961), p. 128.

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#23 Terra Nova

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Posted 31 March 2021 - 10:56 PM

Here’s another picture of Mr. Spacek from the same publication (p. 139).

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#24 YourNotSirius

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Posted 16 April 2021 - 08:44 PM

We have Mr. Spacek's personal Newt-Cass here along with the mount. The OTA (see photo) is sitting next to my desk in the video room. It is waiting for the old man to get the restoration started. We bought it a number of years ago. My brother went with the old man down to pick it all up. It was a good thing that he took my brother AND the Explorer! LOL That mount head is H_E_A_V_Y_!!!!! I know because I had to move it over by about one foot last night when I was getting something out of the garage! LOL  I have been told that, unfortunately, the pier was in the front yard of Mr. Spacek's place but, scrappers spotted it and it disappeared one night before it could be moved to a less conspicuous location.

 

Mr. McCarthy, if you have any information about the history of that scope, we would love to know more about it. Photos of it set up would be fantastic. We need one or two of the pier so that we can duplicate it.

 

Also, I like the idea of keeping as much of the Spacek information and such under one forum title. Since such information is a bit sparse and does not appear too often it would make things easier on all of us who are involved or interested.

 

Thanks,

 

Q

 

 

 

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#25 jkmccarthy

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Posted Yesterday, 03:40 PM

We have Mr. Spacek's personal Newt-Cass here along with the mount. The OTA (see photo) is sitting next to my desk in the video room. It is waiting for the old man to get the restoration started. We bought it a number of years ago. My brother went with the old man down to pick it all up. It was a good thing that he took my brother AND the Explorer! LOL That mount head is H_E_A_V_Y_!!!!! I know because I had to move it over by about one foot last night when I was getting something out of the garage! LOL  I have been told that, unfortunately, the pier was in the front yard of Mr. Spacek's place but, scrappers spotted it and it disappeared one night before it could be moved to a less conspicuous location.

 

Mr. McCarthy, if you have any information about the history of that scope, we would love to know more about it. Photos of it set up would be fantastic. We need one or two of the pier so that we can duplicate it.

 

Also, I like the idea of keeping as much of the Spacek information and such under one forum title. Since such information is a bit sparse and does not appear too often it would make things easier on all of us who are involved or interested.

 

Thanks,

 

Q

Here is a photo of that (or a similar?) telescope, which shows the upper part of the pier (with what appears to be a pair of square cap plates on top, each extending out slightly from the square profile underneath it ...) that appeared in the Pottstown, PA, newspaper "The Mercury" on 24-Oct-1967, page 42, as part of an article that profiled / interviewed Pottstown resident Michael Spacek.  This scope is housed in a small dome, and 1967 was a few years before the home was built where he and his family lived when I first met him.  On the property alongside the new home was a roll-off roof observatory.    See the link I posted above to a Google drive folder where I've uploaded the PDFs of this 2-page newspaper article.
 

gallery_363526_16547_447485.jpg

 

- - - - - - - -

 

That same Google drive folder contains a separate PDF of the Lehigh Valley Amateur Astronomical Association (LVAAS) newsletter on the 40th anniversary of Mike Spacek's induction as an honorary lifetime member of the club.   In that article is this Spacek Instrument Company advertisement that includes a photo of a somewhat similar -- but not identical -- telescope (e.g., note the distance from the bottom of the saddle to the mirror cell at the eyepiece end of the scope is longer in the photo below) again housed in a hemispherical dome.  But in this case the mount here is black, and what appears to be an R.A. setting circle can be seen on the bottom of the polar axis.  Here too the pier is square in cross-section, and topped with a pair of cap plates (where again each cap plate appears to extend out slightly from the square profile underneath it):

 

gallery_363526_16547_679082.jpg

 

- - - - - - - -

 

Lastly, that same 2017 LVAAS "40 Years Ago" article contains the photo below taken inside Spacek's roll-off-roof observatory during a visit to the property in Pottstown by the club's archivist, Ms. Sandy Mesics, "a couple of years" prior to 2017.   At that time (circa 2015, probably around the time the property was to be put on the market for sale), what might be the same mount (or one similar) supported an 8-inch folded refractor, one of the two pier-mounted telescopes housed within Spacek's roll-off-roof observatory.   Again, only the very top of the pier is visible, but the square cap plate on the pier does not appear to extend out beyond the sides of the pier itself, but is flush with the sides instead:

 

gallery_363526_16547_482881.jpg

 

- - - - - - - -

 

Beyond what can be seen of the pier in the photos I've included above, you will note also the full-length photo of Mike Spacek and his son standing next to the pier-mounted Spacek 6-inch refractor that Terra first posted to John Higbee's thread on his Spacek 6" refractor, which in post #22 earlier in this thread she identifies as coming from Fawcett no. 489, Astronomy for Amateur Observers, published in 1961.   The general pier design (square in cross-section, tapered slightly from bottom to top) seems to me very similar in all these images, except for the height and whether the sides of the top plate(s) are trimmed flush with the sides of the pier or extend slightly outward.   Anyway, I hope these pictures and notes prove helpful with your project !

 

Please share with us a photo or two of the Spacek mount you acquired with the folded Newtonian OTA (the secondary mirror is a flat, not a convex hyperboloid as in a classical Cassegrain design?), and likewise do share with us your restoration progress once that gets underway.

 

Best wishes,

 

          -- Jim


  • steve t, Terra Nova, John Higbee and 2 others like this


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