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My new StarStructure/Lockwood 20" dob

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#1 starzonesteve

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Posted 29 October 2018 - 12:25 AM

...the waiting is the hardest part...

 

I guess we are always waiting on something new, but, depending upon how you look at it, I have been waiting for this scope for 18 months, or closer to 18 years. I owned two StarMaster 14.5" F/4.3 scopes, one around 16 years ago, and the other several years later. They were great machines, but selling them reflected the difficulties I was having balancing work, a young family, and my desire to stargaze. I kept an eye on progress in the world of dobs and took notice when faster mirrors started to become available. Several of the things I had learned from my prior forays into the world of big dobs was that 1)Seated and flat footed observing was my strong preference 2)goto and tracking allowed me to focus on observing given my generally limited time 3)Big dobs only make sense under dark skies.

 

By 2017 my toddlers had turned to tweens and teens. Last year I was also fortunate enough to finish up on my home mortgage. Enter the return of a savage case of aperture fever. (Up until that year I was mostly using an Orion 8" dob).

 

The starting point for me was the number 3.3. That was the focal ratio on the Starmaster Super FX which happened to feature a  quartz mirror. I had read a bit and understood the implications of the lower thermal expansion of quartz. The 20" F/3.3, however, really blew my mind. It added up to a zenith eyepiece height of approximately 65", which just so happens to be the exact height of my eyeballs above the ground when I am standing comfortably erect. I contacted Mike Lockwood in the spring of 2017 and sent in a deposit to reserve one of the two quartz 20" F/3.3 blanks he had available at the time. Done.

 

I then turned my attention to the telescope structure.

 

(A word of caution to those reading who are expecting some sort of punchline about how I saw deeper with this scope than any scope I had ever seen through before - it has not seen first light yet - for me, anyway.)

 

I loved my StarMasters but I remember drooling over these all aluminum scopes being built by a guy named Zammit many years ago. The scopes were called StarStructure and they seemed to offer a great combo of precision and sturdiness. They also had a great reputation and I filed them away in the back of my mind under 'dream scope'.

 

That dream scope is sitting at my house currently, waiting for first light.

 

I was thrilled to find StarStructure Telescopes prominently featured on the Lockwood Optics website. Last year I contacted Mike Zammit at StarStructure to discuss the possibility of building my scope. I was pleased to find that Mike was personable, open, and a straight shooter. He gave me great advice about telescope options, and when he didn't have a strong opinion about related matters, such as what ramps are best to buy to load and unload my scope, he was quick to let me know and usually had a helpful suggestion as to what resources I could pursue.

 

As some may know, Mike relocated his home and business earlier this year. As summer approached and Mike's building efforts kicked into high gear, he kept me in the loop with plenty of pictures and build issues as they came up. Mike's building process is absolutely custom all the way. For instance, the secondary for my 20" quartz mirror is a 4.5" cervit. The reason being that Mike Lockwood only had a quartz secondary available in 5" at that particular time. I was happy to go with a smaller secondary obstruction and still have a low thermal expansion material. This particular cervit secondary was on the thick side, which made for a slightly heavier secondary than usual. To compensate for this Mike Zammit, made some minor changes to the secondary cage to bring the total weight of the secondary back into line with what would achieve best balance with eyepieces we discussed that I would likely be using.

 

This is just one of countless times that Mike Z helped me customize my scope so that it would work best for me. Turns out Mike and I live only a few hundred miles from each other. Last month I brought my daughter along with my minivan to go pick the scope up. Mike was extremely gracious and spent tons of time going over the build and function of the scope.

 

One more thing. When I got the scope back to my house I was in a rush to put it away securely as I knew it would be a few weeks until I could get to it. I stupidly and hurriedly tried to negotiate a tight turn in the house by lifting the handles too far up. The mirror box slid a few inches along the rocker box and stretched the spring that engages the goto, rendering it somewhat dysfunctional. After I finished thoroughly excoriating myself I emailed Mike. The next morning we face timed to determine exactly what the problem was and what the fix needed to be. Mike manufactured a new wire (The one in place had become kinked because it now had too much play in it) and since he didn't have any springs on hand, put me to Gary Myers at StellarCat who promptly sent me one. 

 

Turns out the only thing as good as the quality of build at StarStructure is the awesome customer service.

 

Today I had a few hours to do the install and put the scope together to test it out. The goto works like a charm, and once again, as happens every time I come into contact with my scope, I am thrilled by it's clean, solid lines which ooze great workmanship, and by it's tremendous fit and finish.

 

There are a subset of you out there who, without pictures, will swear it never happened. To douse any early flames of conspiracy, I have included a lone pic of my telescope, sans primary optic (which is currently sitting oddly close to where I sleep), and shroud.

 

This photo will have to do for now. The next one I take will hopefully be at the scope's full time home sitting in a BYO dobservatory at my dark sky site.

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Steve

 

thumbnail_IMG_1675.jpg

 

 

 

 


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#2 zacrobmer

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Posted 29 October 2018 - 02:05 AM

Very nice, and man, is that a shorty scope!
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#3 Jim Waters

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Posted 29 October 2018 - 02:15 AM

Real nice scope...  Have a great time enjoying using it.


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#4 TOMDEY

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Posted 29 October 2018 - 03:36 AM

Congratulations, Steve... that's Great!

 

"This photo will have to do for now. The next one I take will hopefully be at the scope's full time home sitting in a BYO dobservatory at my dark sky site."

 

Are you actually installing it in an observatory at your dark site? If that's the case - GOOD! That's what I have here (my home site is country quite dark). Having it installed in an observatory is sure convenient, easy on the scope and easy on the observer.  Tom


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#5 starzonesteve

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Posted 29 October 2018 - 06:02 AM

Very nice, and man, is that a shorty scope!

I'm a shorty kind of a guy. Fits me like a glove.wink.gif



#6 starzonesteve

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Posted 29 October 2018 - 06:13 AM

Congratulations, Steve... that's Great!

 

"This photo will have to do for now. The next one I take will hopefully be at the scope's full time home sitting in a BYO dobservatory at my dark sky site."

 

Are you actually installing it in an observatory at your dark site? If that's the case - GOOD! That's what I have here (my home site is country quite dark). Having it installed in an observatory is sure convenient, easy on the scope and easy on the observer.  Tom

To say I'm installing it might be a bit misleading. It would be more correct to say I am creating a home base for it. After talking with BYO I have decided to do a observatory on a slab. I am hopeful that there will be no thermal issues with a concrete slab that is not exposed to direct sun. For now I will just park my SarStructure there. The walls of the dobservatory will be short, perhaps 4', and leave me an excellent view of the sky when the roof is rolled off. This scope is big and heavy enough to where I would prefer to move it around as little as possible. Of course it is nothing like your 36" beast, so I can consider transporting it as circumstances dictate.

 

I do have a 14" NMT/Lockwood on order that I anticipate using as my transport scope. Much lighter and portable.

 

Life is good!



#7 Allan Wade

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Posted 29 October 2018 - 10:00 AM

Congratulations Steve, I can imagine how thrilled you are after dreaming about this scope for so long. It looks like a beauty. I’m looking forward to your first report from under the stars.


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#8 kfrederick

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Posted 29 October 2018 - 11:35 AM

Why it should take 18 months for a telescope mirror. . Sure you finaly got your mirror but look at the time he had Your money and you had No mirror. .What if something happened to the maker?? Bankruptcy  death etc ?Would you get your money back? If he is back loged why does he need the money now ? I do not know of any other busness that workes this way . 



#9 Mike Lockwood

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Posted 29 October 2018 - 12:23 PM

Please ask the OP to confirm dates before posting things like this.  The answer is:  It did not take 18 months.

 

I received a portion of the deposit in March 2017, and the remainder of the deposit a bit later.  As is clearly stated in my FAQ, I require a 50% deposit to order a primary mirror and get in the queue.

 

The 20.25" f/3.3 quartz mirror was finished in October of 2017.  That's 7 months.

 

Mike Z's move/new shop took longer than he expected (as has my shop addition), and that caused a delay.  Additionally, Steve picked up the scope some time ago, not just the other day.  During that time I also made Steve a 14.7" diameter, 0.8"-thick quartz mirror.

 

It's true that a number of years ago, when Starmaster was still in business, I had an 18 month lead time, briefly, but I hated that, and so did my clients.  I fought very hard to reduce it, and worked a lot of hours.  My shop addition will help me minimize this in the future.  I've also made other changes that will help, but are off-topic here.

 

We now resume the OP's thread.


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#10 FrankG

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Posted 29 October 2018 - 01:05 PM

Have  a 15" Mike built six or seven years ago. It has been through the wars but the GOTOs and tracking remain as precise as the day I picked the scope up at Chiefland (where you can spot a lot of StarStructures). I use it primarily for EAA and it images like a champ.

Seriously considered one of the 20ers" the two Mikes are offering earlier this year but just do not have the budget.

Enjoy!

Frank


Edited by FrankG, 29 October 2018 - 01:06 PM.

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#11 Beesknees

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Posted 29 October 2018 - 01:44 PM

I have had an almost identical scope for the past year... a 20" f3.3 Starstructure with Lockwood quartz optics. In a word it is FANTASTIC!

 

It is both the largest aperture that still allows me to stand flat footed at zenith, and the largest sized scope that I can reasonably fit in my car.

 

You will be blown away when you get it out under dark skies! 

 

John

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#12 CHASLX200

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Posted 29 October 2018 - 06:07 PM

I bet that Lockwood mirror is a killer. One day before i die i am gonna see how good Mike really is if there is something 10" or smaller he made. I have a extra Parks tube that would work fine for a 10" F/5.3 or faster.



#13 starzonesteve

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Posted 29 October 2018 - 06:23 PM

Why it should take 18 months for a telescope mirror. . Sure you finaly got your mirror but look at the time he had Your money and you had No mirror. .What if something happened to the maker?? Bankruptcy  death etc ?Would you get your money back? If he is back loged why does he need the money now ? I do not know of any other busness that workes this way . 

 

 

Please ask the OP to confirm dates before posting things like this.  The answer is:  It did not take 18 months.

 

I received a portion of the deposit in March 2017, and the remainder of the deposit a bit later.  As is clearly stated in my FAQ, I require a 50% deposit to order a primary mirror and get in the queue.

 

The 20.25" f/3.3 quartz mirror was finished in October of 2017.  That's 7 months.

 

Mike Z's move/new shop took longer than he expected (as has my shop addition), and that caused a delay.  Additionally, Steve picked up the scope some time ago, not just the other day.  During that time I also made Steve a 14.7" diameter, 0.8"-thick quartz mirror.

 

It's true that a number of years ago, when Starmaster was still in business, I had an 18 month lead time, briefly, but I hated that, and so did my clients.  I fought very hard to reduce it, and worked a lot of hours.  My shop addition will help me minimize this in the future.  I've also made other changes that will help, but are off-topic here.

 

We now resume the OP's thread.

 

I would like to confirm Mike Lockwood's timeline. I felt, and still feel, that I was treated well by both the optician and builder. Like is full of circumstances and one never knows when the most difficult one will be yours. I was actually happy for my telescope build to stretch out a bit as it helped me catch up to myself, as it were. In the meantime, I would rather do this right than do it fast. There might be other ways to get things done more quickly but that was never my focus.


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#14 starzonesteve

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Posted 29 October 2018 - 06:29 PM

I have had an almost identical scope for the past year... a 20" f3.3 Starstructure with Lockwood quartz optics. In a word it is FANTASTIC!

 

It is both the largest aperture that still allows me to stand flat footed at zenith, and the largest sized scope that I can reasonably fit in my car.

 

You will be blown away when you get it out under dark skies! 

 

John

Man, I love the look of that all black scope, John! Nice, looong ramps as well. Good to hear it is blowing you away. Can't wait to get a dose of that medicine.waytogo.gif



#15 CHASLX200

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Posted 29 October 2018 - 07:25 PM

I would like to confirm Mike Lockwood's timeline. I felt, and still feel, that I was treated well by both the optician and builder. Like is full of circumstances and one never knows when the most difficult one will be yours. I was actually happy for my telescope build to stretch out a bit as it helped me catch up to myself, as it were. In the meantime, I would rather do this right than do it fast. There might be other ways to get things done more quickly but that was never my focus.

At least it was not 2 years like i had to wait. Back in 1988 i had Telescopics build me a 12.5" F/8 Newt.  It took two years and had to get Sky & Tele on their butts to get anything done.

 

Well i just ended up with the mirror and had Parks build a OTA around it.  Telescopics soon closed the doors after i got the mirror so i am sure they were in trouble.



#16 Mike Wiles

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Posted 29 October 2018 - 07:48 PM

I would like to confirm Mike Lockwood's timeline. I felt, and still feel, that I was treated well by both the optician and builder. 

Same here.  Señor Lockwood notified me 91 days after putting down a deposit that my 20" f/3 mirror set was complete.  First light is this weekend in the magnitude 7+ skies of Portal, AZ.  

 

Back on topic.....Steve,  that's a gorgeous scope!  Do you happen to know the dimensions of the rocker box on that beauty?  I was aiming for a low eyepiece height, but also an overall small footprint.  I went all the way down to f/3 in an attempt to eliminate the need for a ladder of any kind.  Sitting atop the 8" tall Osypowski platform, I've an eyepiece height 63.5"  I'm a dyed in the wool starhopper, so no Servocat/Argo Navis for me.  

 

How heavy are the individual pieces?  Is the idea of moving/assembling it without wheel barrow handles a pipe dream?? I'm looking forward to hearing a first light report.  Congratulations!!  It's a beauty!

 

Mike


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#17 Kunama

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Posted 29 October 2018 - 10:01 PM

Nice solid looking scope Steve, I must admit I had plans to copy that design for my recent build of an 18" F3.5... I just couldn't find anyone to roll aluminium rings for the UTA etc so went with Tom Osypowski's Spica Eyes design.  Looking at the Starstructure build quality I would guess that scope will stay in shape for decades to come waytogo.gif


Edited by Kunama, 29 October 2018 - 11:11 PM.

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#18 Dougeo

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Posted 29 October 2018 - 10:31 PM

Congratulations Steve, what an awesome scope! That will bring you years of enjoyment. I can only imagine how happy and excited you are to use it. Clear skies⭐️✨
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#19 IVM

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Posted 29 October 2018 - 10:54 PM

Steve, congratulations. You will see a lot in that telescope, no doubt.

 

...

How heavy are the individual pieces?  Is the idea of moving/assembling it without wheel barrow handles a pipe dream??

...

 

Mike, last thing I want is to pre-empt the OP's response, about which I am also very curious. But in the meantime check out Starstructure's maker's videos on youtube. His videos are of assembly, not transporting. It follows though that the 20-inch is portable by hand, short distances, by a fit individual willing to carry the mirror separately. They are not really designed for doing that for transportation, but getting the mirror in and out seems easier than with an Obsession classic. The problem, from my standpoint as a 20-inch owner (not Starstructure), is that the 25-inch Starstructure mirror box, otherwise very appealing, is alone - empty - too heavy for hand-porting, by the specs provided. To be clear, Starstructure's maker does not suggest any of them are hand-portable in any form, in these apertures. (Also to be clear where I am coming from with such assessments, I do carry my 20-incher's aluminum "mirror box" by hand, with the mirror in.)



#20 starzonesteve

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Posted 29 October 2018 - 10:55 PM

Same here.  Señor Lockwood notified me 91 days after putting down a deposit that my 20" f/3 mirror set was complete.  First light is this weekend in the magnitude 7+ skies of Portal, AZ.  

 

Back on topic.....Steve,  that's a gorgeous scope!  Do you happen to know the dimensions of the rocker box on that beauty?  I was aiming for a low eyepiece height, but also an overall small footprint.  I went all the way down to f/3 in an attempt to eliminate the need for a ladder of any kind.  Sitting atop the 8" tall Osypowski platform, I've an eyepiece height 63.5"  I'm a dyed in the wool starhopper, so no Servocat/Argo Navis for me.  

 

How heavy are the individual pieces?  Is the idea of moving/assembling it without wheel barrow handles a pipe dream?? I'm looking forward to hearing a first light report.  Congratulations!!  It's a beauty!

 

Mike

Hey Mike, Congrats on your new scope. Would love to hear what it can do under a dark, moonless, Arizona night. It absolutely bows me away that you can put a 20" dob on a platform and still look through it flat footed at zenith. I needed a platform for one of my StarMaster 14.5" F/4.3 scopes and that brought the height up just high enough so that I needed a small step stool for the last 20 or so degrees near zenith. We have come a long way in a short period of time.

 

The rocker box is roughly 27" square. This is not a light scope. Two able bodied persons can pick the whole thing up (sans trusses - the UTA bolts to the mirror box for transport. This was one of the improvements Mike Z made on the fly while building my scope and a 22" and 24"er simultaneously.) and place it in the back of a vehicle with a bit of effort. On my own I can handle the rocker but the mirror box is tough for me even without the primary in it. Granted I'm 30 years past my physical prime and wasn't any great shakes even back then, but I would guess the rocker at around 30-40 lbs and the mirror box at 40-50 lbs. Although it has handles it is fairly bulky and not particular ergonomic to lift. After I got a taste of what it takes to move this scope around some I started to become more and more enamored of a solution where it will become semi stationary. Don't get me wrong, with a well thought out routine and some practice transporting the scope it is very doable (I know there are people out there doing so by themselves with bigger scopes), but I just don't see that being the direction for me. At any rate, if I had a regular observing partner then moving and assembly would be more doable. As it stands I usually fly solo, and can't imagine regularly moving/assembling the scope without wheel barrow handles.

 

BTW, good on you for being a star hopper. I think it is some kind of internal flaw that makes me want to identify an object that I want to find and then be able to go to it with certitude. I think it is a much purer way to observe by forcing oneself to make the journey to an object, often not knowing the identity of what you see along the way, or whether or not you are still on the 'right' path.


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#21 areyoukiddingme

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Posted 29 October 2018 - 11:03 PM

Great looking scope, and a real life timer. Congratulations!

 

One of these days . . . 

 

Just curious, how does it come out weight wise?



#22 Allan Wade

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Posted 30 October 2018 - 12:23 AM

Why it should take 18 months for a telescope mirror. . Sure you finaly got your mirror but look at the time he had Your money and you had No mirror. .What if something happened to the maker?? Bankruptcy  death etc ?Would you get your money back? If he is back loged why does he need the money now ? I do not know of any other busness that workes this way . 

You need to be careful when writing posts such as this, when everyone with a modicum of information knows how incorrect you are.

 

I waited 3 years for my SDM dob build. I rank them as a top 3 dob builder in the world, so was perfectly happy to wait for my turn to arrive. Mike Lockwood was ready with my 32" within the first year, and that is a big mirror by world standards. At the premium end of the market, it is the builders who have the long lead times, not the opticians. 

 

Steve, I'm sure you know by know, StarStructure is also in my top 3.


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#23 a__l

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Posted 30 October 2018 - 05:25 AM

Nice solid looking scope Steve, I must admit I had plans to copy that design for my recent build of an 18" F3.5... I just couldn't find anyone to roll aluminium rings for the UTA etc so went with Tom Osypowski's Spica Eyes design.  Looking at the Starstructure build quality I would guess that scope will stay in shape for decades to come waytogo.gif

How the vibration of the eyepiece after stopping the motors? maybe wind? Usually large metal structures vibrate. Is any demper used?
A good demper is wood.


Edited by a__l, 30 October 2018 - 05:39 AM.


#24 starzonesteve

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Posted 30 October 2018 - 06:17 AM

Great looking scope, and a real life timer. Congratulations!

 

One of these days . . . 

 

Just curious, how does it come out weight wise?

Don't have exact weights at this time, but it is a beefy scope. Not light by any means. I could probably lift it a bit more easily if I was on the moon.grin.gif

 

Would love to see the views without atmospheric disturbance... however breathing might become an issue.crazy.gif



#25 starzonesteve

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Posted 30 October 2018 - 06:19 AM

How the vibration of the eyepiece after stopping the motors? maybe wind? Usually large metal structures vibrate. Is any demper used?
A good demper is wood.

That is something I hope to have more info on soon. I have a nice 3.7mm Ethos in hand to test and see just how much vibration plays into the equation at high power. I suspect it will be minimal. I got the option with four boundary layer fans as well to further test this beasts stability and immunity from vibration.




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