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50th Anniversary Questar - A Special Restoration Project

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#1 Optics Patent

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Posted 26 November 2018 - 06:24 PM

The 50th Anniversary Questars come up for sale rarely, maybe every couple years at most.  When they have in the past, they command a $5000-6000 price this collector just can't handle (I don't think I've paid more than $2000 for a 3.5 after adjustments for package extras).  But...

Exactly a week ago almost to the hour I'm giving my toddler his evening bath, and happen to glance at my silenced phone (discouraged during family time).  By luck of amazing timing, I spot the first 50th listed on Ebay in the several recent years I've been following.  It's a BUY-IT-NOW listed 15 minutes earlier for $2500 (or opening bid of $1800) - too good to be true? - so I race to look at the description for some fatal flaw like broken or missing optics.  The few photos they have are OK, with some weirdness to the knobs.  Zero feedback seller.  So I go for it knowing Ebay has buyer protection.

I lose sleep that night expecting a phony "sorry it's been sold and not available" or "please send payment by Western Union."  Instead I awake to a nice message answering some questions from what turns out to be the astronomy teacher at a respected private school within 50 miles of the Questar factory.  This was a donation from an alumnus, was used by students, and was now being sold to raise money for a more permanent college-level observatory for the students to conduct research.

 

The scope arrived today (four long days after USPS said it would arrive) and I'm delighted.  It appears to be in perfect condition except as noted below.  Paint, barrel, dew shield, badges are all pristine. The original bright-rimmed lens cap is perfect.

 

But it's basically a bare scope, so the great price might be a little closer to market price than it seems at first glance - you can add up up the full cost of replacement parts including solar filter and case as well as a factory service and it might well add $2000+ to the cost. 

 

It's a fun new project, most of which requires simply sourcing parts, plus lots of the usual clean, lube, and drive service:

  • I already have the proper case, that I fortuitously bought on Ebay last year (the new leather one with the combination locks).
  • I have more than one full aperture solar filter on hand to make part of the kit.
  • I need to source all three threaded tabletop tripod legs (~$200)
  • I need a Powerguide II control paddle.  I hope Questar has one of these lying around from upgrades to PGIII.  (~$100 if they have it?).  The alternative is to upgrade to PGIII (not a real interest for me) or downgrade to PG1 (my favorite, I have a donor on hand) or AC (unlikely).
  • No documentation or certification - unlikely Questar stores these for reprinting but I'll ask.
  • The 24mm "QUESTAR 50TH BRANDON" was happily included, as was a regular Questar 32mm Brandon.  It would be nice to find a 50th 16mm sometime - but that search might go on for decades!
  • The Declination and brake knobs seem to have significant corrosion spots that I doubt will clean up.  Some of the other knobs may have minor such spots.  I may order factory replacements, or just resurface them as I have on other restorations.  ($50-100 depending on how many I replace, if any)
  • At least the Declination drive needs a service, unless an adjustment will resolve - it rarely does.  And when one drive is gone the other isn't far behind so should be done.  It steers, but slips when braked.  When in doubt, do the drives.
  • Declination knob is loose, and brake doesn't grip well - may need new washers.
  • The base is good - no dings, but could use a good polishing.  I'd like to give this a mirror finish, so a full take-down with wet sanding will go along with drive service. It's would probably be fine with just polish - we'll see.
  • The drive base plate has quite a bit of 1/4-20 rash, but that's part of its history inspiring young minds and not important.
  • Control box needs lubrication of moving parts, the finder prism action is a little sticky.

With a scope in this good condition and value, I'm glad to have plenty of experience with the familiar servicing needs, but there might be a touch of butterflies more than usual.

 

And one idea that I'd like opinions on the craziness of: If I'm talking down the arms for drive service, I'm sorely tempted to polish the edges like I prefer from the "they don't make 'em like they used to" years - as I did on my very first mount restoration.  Some might be appalled at making it non-stock, but I'm very tempted to enhance it in a way that makes my #59 special.  The fact that it's not a pristine kit makes it easier to contemplate. I'm trying to think of a car restoration analogy, and I suppose it's like deciding whether to restore to original condition, or to enhance to Concours condition.  Opinions are welcome from waytogo.gif  to bawling.gif.

 

Here it is on arrival today with my chief tester:

 

IMG 0477
 
And yes, I consider myself a lucky man for this, and for many other reasons to be thankful in this season of thanksgiving.


 


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#2 Billydee

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Posted 26 November 2018 - 09:24 PM

Ben,

 

You done good.  You deserve this Christmas present for everything you have done for your fellow Questar junkies.  The cleanup process should be an added reward, you really enjoy that part.

 

Bill


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#3 Optics Patent

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Posted 27 November 2018 - 08:39 AM

The scope checked out nicely under thin overcast and festive light pollution.  Mars and Vega were revealed as nicely as any Questar 3.5 view.
 

IMG 0482


I'm considering documenting the standard service process (control box lube, drive service) on this, and weighing doing it as a series of videos vs. photos and text.  Would that be of interest?

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#4 Toddeo

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Posted 27 November 2018 - 09:22 AM

Ben, I think a video or videos would be great!



#5 spereira

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Posted 27 November 2018 - 11:52 AM

Good for you, Ben!  Congratulations!

 

Yes, simply photos would be great, but video(s) would be terrific.  I love to see your documentation of your effort, any way you want to share it.

 

smp


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#6 RalphMeisterTigerMan

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Posted 28 November 2018 - 11:02 AM

Both the child in the photo and the Questar are beautiful. Wow, I am seriously envious. I know that this should go without saying...but, under no circumstances place the child and the Questar in the playpen at the same time without supervision!

LOL! LOL! LOL!

But seriously, you are indeed fortunate. (You lucky dog you)

 

Clear Skies and good luck.

RalphMeisterTigerMan


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#7 Steve C.

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Posted 28 November 2018 - 12:02 PM

 

 

Here it is on arrival today with my chief tester:

 

 
 

Great picture!

 

I've been toying with the idea of getting an action figure of some kind, dressing it up as an astronomer, and posing it with my Q. :)


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#8 Pragmatist

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Posted 28 November 2018 - 04:42 PM

Wow very nice. Yes a video would be amazing.


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#9 JHollJr

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Posted 28 November 2018 - 05:17 PM

 

The scope checked out nicely under thin overcast and festive light pollution.  Mars and Vega were revealed as nicely as any Questar 3.5 view.
 



I'm considering documenting the standard service process (control box lube, drive service) on this, and weighing doing it as a series of videos vs. photos and text.  Would that be of interest?

 

I’m never going to take any part of my Questar apart, but I follow all of your posts and find them incredibly interesting.


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#10 Optics Patent

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Posted 28 November 2018 - 07:09 PM

I’m never going to take any part of my Questar apart, but I follow all of your posts and find them incredibly interesting.

I entirely understand.  When I owned one Questar from 1980-2016, I never did ANYthing to it.  Still haven't touched it, believe it or not.

My second Questar opened the floodgates!

 

I should note that I recorded about two hours of video today showing:

  1. Dismantle control box, remove and relube Barlow.
  2. Remove, clean and relube finder prism.
  3. Remove barrel and ring from mount.
  4. Full takedown of base and arms, including stripping base for refinishing. Including revealing one Questar assembly error that to their credit the factory is sending a part to correct.

I'd guess two hours might edit to 1.5 but not 1.0.  Probably break into useful chapters.  Watch me partially install the prism slider rod and then realize I need to put the prism on first!

 

Good news is that factory has a new PGII controller for me, a nice set of used legs, and will send a few items for the scope including specially drilled case hold-down discs to accommodate the PGII thickness.  50th owners can confirm that the included full solar filter didn't include any special bag or sleeve, and just goes in the door pouch.  How lucky are we that this venerable company is still in business, and offers new parts just for the asking (and reasonable payment)?

 

Inside word in general (ya gotta read my threads for the good stuff!) is a new case design and supplier for 3.5 scopes, with more capacity.  Possible premium fine wood case option as well - a fine idea!  Unlikely to see Pelican type cases as I wrongly predicted - aftermarket will need to address potential demand for that.  If a "delete case" option is offered I predict an aftermarket for Q5 Pelican type cases, and perhaps for other models.

 

When chatting with the factory today, they marveled at the bargain I got until I reminded them that replacement costs (and potential uncertainties) for filter, case, legs, needed drive service and controller put the sale price back in market price range.  I do think that an auction without buy it now might well have fetched $1000+ more, but you never know!

 

And returning to the "I've never taken one apart" comment above, I did have an "oh gosh!" moment when I realized that I had just dismantled the most valuable scope I've ever acquired not just without a worry, but while holding a camera in one hand and trying to explain things out loud to keep things interesting.  There was a moment some time time a while ago that I thought maybe if I didn't share how realistic and enjoyable it is to service Questar telescopes I'd have terrific competition for the ideal ones.  Since then, I've done enough projects that I don't need to "earn" $500 or more on a restoration that can take a few weekends.  And I know that only a very few will be inspired enough by the lessons I pass on from those I've learned from to bid, buy, and tear open a gem (or stray), but they'll probably end up being my best friends for years to come (and that might mean you, dear reader!)

 

To be continued...


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#11 JMKarian

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Posted 28 November 2018 - 07:53 PM

Ben,

The 50th’s full solar filter was wrapped in white lens-paper like paper, and placed in its respective door pouch

 

John



#12 Billydee

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Posted 28 November 2018 - 09:06 PM

Ben,

 

I've got an idea about the storage of full solar filter in the door pouch.  Chivas Regal was once packed in a blue velvet pouch and I saw one on eBay for $34 (no bottle or alcohol), bet that would work with a little modification.  You might get one with the bottle and alcohol and then use the pouch.

 

Merry Christmas,

 

Bill 



#13 Toddeo

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Posted 28 November 2018 - 09:11 PM

For a velvet pouch- go on Ebay, look for an auction for the Silver Chinese Zodiac Coins. My Father bought some-awhile ago. They were 3.5" in dia. and each one was stored in a blue velvet pouch.


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#14 Optics Patent

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Posted 30 November 2018 - 09:43 AM

Ben,

The 50th’s full solar filter was wrapped in white lens-paper like paper, and placed in its respective door pouch

 

John

John, if you still have the "paper" I'm interested in dimensions (or an estimate).

 

IMG 0595

(This is what everyone's new Anniversary model looks like the day after it was delivered, right?)


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#15 Toddeo

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Posted 30 November 2018 - 10:22 AM

Ben, it looks like it was just delivered by UPS!lol.gif


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#16 Loren Gibson

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Posted 30 November 2018 - 11:16 AM

John, if you still have the "paper" I'm interested in dimensions (or an estimate).

 

 

(This is what everyone's new Anniversary model looks like the day after it was delivered, right?)

 

This may not be the best answer to your question, but the tissue paper that my full aperture solar filter came wrapped in gradually became tattered through usage, and I replaced it with Kimwipes 11.8" by 11.8", and it folded and stowed much like the original tissue paper. My recollection is that the original tissue paper size was likely a bit smaller than the replacement Kimwipes, but I never measured or directly compared the two prior to disposing of the original paper.

 

Loren


Edited by Loren Gibson, 30 November 2018 - 11:17 AM.

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#17 davidmcgo

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Posted 30 November 2018 - 04:16 PM

John, if you still have the "paper" I'm interested in dimensions (or an estimate).

 

 

(This is what everyone's new Anniversary model looks like the day after it was delivered, right?)

No, but my 1965 Celestron 10 was completely apart the day after I got it ;-)

 

Dave


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#18 Billydee

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Posted 30 November 2018 - 05:19 PM

Ben,

 

Did you take it apart or did you leave it to your son (you are going to have to teach him one day)??

 

Bill



#19 Les Aperture

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Posted 01 December 2018 - 07:02 PM

Ben,

 

I've got an idea about the storage of full solar filter in the door pouch.  Chivas Regal was once packed in a blue velvet pouch and I saw one on eBay for $34 (no bottle or alcohol), bet that would work with a little modification.  You might get one with the bottle and alcohol and then use the pouch.

 

Merry Christmas,

 

Bill 

Same with "Crown Royal".

Buy one, enjoy. Don't sew til sober...


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#20 Optics Patent

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Posted 06 December 2018 - 05:05 PM

Progress report:

Parts received from factory, including legs and the PG2 paddle and cord. 
Base polished beautifully, as did arms (the first Q50 with polished arms).  Reassembly proceeding.

Documenting the whole service process on video.  Stay tuned.


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#21 Optics Patent

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Posted 08 December 2018 - 12:11 PM

Here's what it looks like all reassembled: 
IMG 0776
The case is from an earlier purchase that originally housed a 50th.  Legs were purchase "used" (but perfect on the exposed portions) from Questar, as was a new Powerguide 2 controller and cord.  Solar filter was on hand.
 
IMG 0777
The base polished like a mirror, and the arms look just right even if a departure from the factory look of the 50th.
 
IMG 0778

The barrel skin has a nice little surprise hidden underneath.
 
As the forthcoming videos will describe, the declination brake screw had damaged threads, and my attempted thread repair left it too loose so I am awaiting a replacement screw.

 


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#22 Billydee

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Posted 08 December 2018 - 01:08 PM

Ben, really nice and it has that touch of class.  Note: very good investment especially with the current stock market.

 

Bill



#23 Rpsqueezer

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Posted 08 December 2018 - 01:11 PM

Wow Ben,

 

The “finished” project looks absolutely spectacular - brand new looking! Quite a catch. Now just leave those brass knobs in the drawer - this scope looks too beautiful as it is. Early Christmas present.

 

Ross


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#24 Erik Bakker

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Posted 08 December 2018 - 01:29 PM

Beautiful scope!



#25 Loren Gibson

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Posted 08 December 2018 - 02:51 PM

Again, wow!

 

Loren




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