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A Big Scope Anyone Can Build & Use

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#1 Augustus


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Posted 29 July 2018 - 11:16 AM

This isn’t a “how to” article – most of you whom are more competent woodworkers than I am could at the very least sand and stain your scope more evenly, let alone improve upon the design.However, if you’re new to telescope making or just looking at this article, I hope it encourages you that building a telescope of this size is within your grasp.

Click here to view the article
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#2 OleCuss



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Posted 29 July 2018 - 02:21 PM

Very worthwhile article.  Very practical which is particularly excellent!

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#3 Udderly Abducted

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Posted 29 July 2018 - 04:36 PM

I really enjoyed your article! Thanks for posting!

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#4 FLT-Astro


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Posted 29 July 2018 - 06:36 PM

Wonderful article. Thanks for the well written ideas, thoughts, and practical advice on how to build a big dob.  Waiting on craigslist to deliver my big mirror so I can begin.

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#5 Ed D

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Posted 30 July 2018 - 08:11 AM

Kudos to you for not only a fine and inspirational article, but also a great scope.  I'm sure John Dobson is smiling.


Ed D

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#6 xrayvizhen



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Posted 30 July 2018 - 08:11 AM

As a similarly unskilled wood worker with the same few tools as you (as described in my article back at the end of 2016) I have very much been enjoying my scope as well as you seem to be enjoying yours. However, I am already developing a case of aperture fever and thinking of moving up from a 12 1/2" to a 16".  I enjoyed your article and like many of your money saving ideas but wish you would have provided a few more close-up photos, especially some of the details of the square truss tubes and how you attach them, both at the top of the UTA and at the bottom and how the entire UTA attaches to the mirror box.


Good job.

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#7 Feidb



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Posted 30 July 2018 - 08:27 AM

I love it! As for my story, my original 16-inch I made for $250 and finished it in 1987. It's an f/6.4 and I found the disc in a junkyard in Spain. At first I could see it was some kind of optical flat. I tried to sell it by writing to every telescope company in the states. I wrote every one of them that advertised in Sky & Telescope and what did I get? Three catalogs! That was it.


So, I decided I wanted a mirror more than hassling with a bunch of no responses, though I'm sure I could've probably bought a much larger finished mirror with what that optical flat might've been worth if it was of any quality. I never found out because I started hogging it out.


It took two years, I got it down to f/6.4, which is where I figured I'd better stop because the blank is 1 1/4-inches thick. I made the rest of the Dob out of junk, literally. It's gone through many iterations over the decades and now sits in my back yard under a tarp, for sale because it's nine feet long and I use a commercial truss scope that's just easier to move around.


However, I really admire that you did a similar thing. Congrats!

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#8 W. T. Riker

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Posted 30 July 2018 - 08:31 AM

Nice article Zane. Well written and informative. Can't wait to see what you build next.

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#9 GoldSpider


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Posted 30 July 2018 - 08:36 AM

I'd be very interested in getting that much aperture for under $2000, and my father has both experience and tools from 30 years of building homes and decks that could help make this happen.  


Some more pictures and maybe some basic measurements would help immensely.  Great job!

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#10 happylimpet



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Posted 30 July 2018 - 08:46 AM

Nice work! And weirdly, you appear to have exactly the same ladder I have!!!!

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#11 Allanbarth1



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Posted 30 July 2018 - 12:20 PM

Great article and awesome scope, Zane. I followed your build from start to finish. What you accomplished in the amount of time is not only impressive but encouraging. Not many amateur  astronomers own a 16in Dob, let alone a truss Dob. Now throw in that you designed the telescope yourself. Cut out and made all of the components with the most basic power and hand tools. Assembled it all on your own and did this all on your garage floor is more than can be said by most. 


Yes, you had a setback. So what, don't so many of us that attempt something ambitious. Or those of us that try something for the first time no matter how many hours researching the project. No matter how many questions we may ask. Things do and will happen. Even to people with years of experience. What's important is you learn from it. Now you know what to do and what not to do. The end result is that you have a great scope. You asked the right people for advise when you needed to and listened to them. You learned a few tricks and tips along the way. What stood out to me was that you didn't get discouraged and change your plan or quit all together. When the naysayers chimed in you just kept on moving forward. 


Now your able to add to your resume that you:

  • Have a DIY sweet 16in ATM Truss Dob
  • Have a 6in ATM build with your own hand ground/figured mirror
  • Have yourself featured in Sky & Telescope Magazine
  • Built a 10in Truss Dob
  • Done all the above on the floor of your garage with very basic hand tools
  • Accomplished all the above BEFORE you have your drivers license

Now I cant speak for others, but I can speak for myself and I say this is all quite an accomplishment for anyone to achieve. 


I sincerely hope amateur astronomers and potential amateurs no matter the experience level or age will see what you have achieved and realize that they can view the wonders of the night sky with a large aperture scope. It doesn't have to cost thousands of dollars. A person who is thinking of going the ATM rout to achieve owning  their dream scope can. All it takes is some basic hand and power tools. Asking a few knowledgeable folks questions. Keeping a can do attitude and a bit of perseverance and you'll achieve the scope you want.


Congratulations on what you have accomplished.


What you have achieved is exactly the boost that this hobby is in need of. Especially with the amount of talent and ideas that is possessed by people under the age of 25. I hope your story inspires people into the ATM world and to look up at night and explore.

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#12 Paul Hyndman

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Posted 30 July 2018 - 09:08 PM

Nice article, Zane... thanks for sharing!

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#13 hamishbarker


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Posted 31 July 2018 - 05:17 AM

great article, well done!


I need to stop doodling designs and get on and build my 22 inch f4.6!

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#14 Augustus


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Posted 31 July 2018 - 09:32 AM

If you'd like to read some more recent observing logs and get a better idea of what I've seen with this thing:









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#15 Defenderslideguitar



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Posted 31 July 2018 - 06:36 PM



First class article. Very impressive  and no doubt you have a very bright future. Perhaps someday we may say :  I knew him when.....


There is hope for the next generations to come. 


I have to agree with everything AllanBarth1 said above. He is spot on.


Build a Dob? Well I have never even looked through one yet but I will.

Keep up the good work. And thanks for continuing to do outreach and encouraging and educating the young folks here in Connecticut.


Good luck and have fun at Stellafane.


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#16 Mabalis


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Posted 31 July 2018 - 10:04 PM

Hello Zane,


That is one very well written article, and a fine piece of telescope building.  I'm not a particularly good craftsman when it comes to building things from scratch, but this article has convinced me that it is worth a shot. John Dobson is surely smiling at your results.


Cheers, - Mike B.

Edited by Mabalis, 31 July 2018 - 10:05 PM.

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#17 djgoody



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Posted 01 August 2018 - 10:33 PM

Excellent stuff!

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#18 steveclark


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Posted 02 August 2018 - 02:48 PM

Thank you Zane for building and writing about this scope.  It is also refreshing to see someone your age interested in not only astronomy, but BYO equipment.  Keep it up!

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Posted 03 August 2018 - 07:10 PM

Nice and thorough... and it WORKS! You remind me of... myself, when I was a teen. Back then, telescopes were tubes, so I got my sister to help me pilfer oil drums from a construction site. A cop cruised slowly by, looked over, smiled... and just kept going. Our logistics included going directly to confession afterward, to repent stealing and engaging a minor in crime.  Tom

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#20 vtornado


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Posted 03 August 2018 - 10:48 PM

Bravo!   I am a professional engineer and am impressed with your approach

to overcoming problems encountered during the build.

I am working on a 12 inch truss dob.


First I am working on a 4.25 inch mini truss to work out bugs on a small scale.



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#21 woodscavenger



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Posted 07 August 2018 - 04:04 PM

The Sidewalk Astronomer himself is likely smiling!!  I watched his video of making a Dob using a tailgate style box and using simple wood shake wedges to hold the secondary mirror in place with friction.  Use what you have.  Get the photons to your retina!!  I wish you lived closer and I would give you access to my hobby shop!


My truss 12" started out as a "prototype" that became permanent.


FYI.  I did a 4 truss setup with traditional round poles.  Found a little to much flex in the system (think rectangle deforming to parrollellogram). I fixed it by using cheap bicycle brake cables from the bike shop. I drilled a small hole in the UTA end of the pole and slid the cable through.  The other end was attached using a simple threaded turnbuckle and attached to the bottom of the parrallel pole at the box side.  I then did the same for the second pole on the same side thus creating an "x" of thin cable.   A little tightening and the "X" locks that rectangle into a very stiff segment with no more flexion.  

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#22 pbunn


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Posted 09 August 2018 - 09:20 AM



Saw you article in Sky and Telescope. Was a really good write up. Congrats!



Pat Bunn

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#23 Arthur NY

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Posted 10 August 2018 - 12:53 PM

Nicely done!

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#24 Paul Laufer

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Posted 10 August 2018 - 01:23 PM

I enjoyed your article. The art of using your skills and imagination to make something out of nothing is divine work. I wish my astronomy club had a couple of young visionary men like you.

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#25 wd8sbb


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Posted 11 August 2018 - 11:41 AM

In your article you mention a book about building truss scopes saying:


"I suspect that one of the most read guides on building truss Dobs (which was co-written by a major vendor, after all)". 


I am wondering which book you are referring to?

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