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An Early 1950s Soligor by Nihon Seiko

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#1 Kasmos

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Posted 31 January 2019 - 02:30 AM

This Soligor came up in the threads a few months ago, but I was out of town so unaware of it. I later came upon it's Craigslist ad after the seller posted it in the CL/Ebay Ad Thread (which is a no-no). That said, I would have seen it since I always check my local area's listings.

Soligor-02.jpg

The problem was, the ad had no photos, instead it had passive links (cut and paste), to two Youtube videos. I was intrigued by the videos and viewed them several times. The telescope was interesting, but it's condition and mount looked a little questionable since the video kind of skimmed by some of it's features. The price was good but it looked like it would be a project and I was really trying to reframe from another purchase, or especially a project. I also told myself, you already have a Unitron 114!

 

It was raining hard all week, so it was not a good time to inspect a telescope. Each day I kept noticing the ad was up and every so often I'd re-view the videos. On Friday I figured if he still had it, it couldn't hurt to go and take a look on Saturday (no rain).

Soligor-01.jpg

At first glance you might think it's an early '50s  Unitron 114, but there are several differences.

Soligor-side03.jpg

Upon inspection, it revealed several problems that were only partly noticeable in the videos, and some that were not. I told the seller I didn't know what I'd find or how much trouble it would be to fix some of it's issues, so I made an offer based on that, and he accepted.

Soligor&Me-4CN.jpg

I have to say, I never thought I'd find an early Unitron or a scope like this, plus so nearby.

Soligor-04.jpg

I'll be posting more to cover some of it's unique features, and also to uncover some of it's issues.

 

Research showed there was another slightly older one (by 14 digits), posted in 2009. Strangely, Nobody ever commented on it?

Here's the link:

https://astromart.co...ount-6321/print

 

That same scope was also on Astromart in 2011:

https://astromart.co...ount-6321/print


Edited by Kasmos, 31 January 2019 - 02:55 AM.

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#2 terraclarke

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Posted 31 January 2019 - 08:26 AM

That’s a wonderful find Chris! I like the looks of that scope. It has a certain character and charm all of its own as apart from the more common N-S Unitrons. I bet it has sharp optics too!
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#3 starman876

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Posted 31 January 2019 - 09:44 AM

except for the focuser it has all the earmarks of an early Unitron.  What does the lens cell look like?



#4 combatdad

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Posted 31 January 2019 - 11:34 AM

Here is the link to a May 1954 advertisement from Sky and Telescope magazine showing all the details of an early Unitron Model 114: https://www.unitronh...s/54_05_24inch/.

 

There are a lot of similarities...including the case.

 

Dave

 

P.S.  Great find...great scope!!


Edited by combatdad, 31 January 2019 - 11:35 AM.

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#5 Kasmos

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Posted 31 January 2019 - 02:22 PM

The box while definitely built by the same cabinet maker, it's longer and the layout is different. 

Soligor-Box.jpg

The box is longer because I believe it has a 1000mm focal length (as noted from the one on Astromart).

Soligor-Box-Open.jpg

The EPs and Dew Shield are up front instead of the back of box.

 

Here's a list of the more obvious differences as compared to an early Unitron 114.

Focal length

Lens Cell

Box

Focuser

Finder Mount

Tripod Legs

There are some less obvious differences that will need to be verified as compared to a Unitron.

 

Soligor-Focuser.jpg

Note the round stalks of the finder's brackets. It also uses different adjusters.

The finder's cell is brass painted black, where as I believe they are chrome on early Unitrons. 

 

 

I need to format more photos, so hang on.


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#6 Kasmos

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Posted 31 January 2019 - 05:32 PM

That’s a wonderful find Chris! I like the looks of that scope. It has a certain character and charm all of its own as apart from the more common N-S Unitrons. I bet it has sharp optics too!

Thanks Terra.

 

It certainly has an old world charm to it. The single side mounted focuser knob and the tripod hardware really ads to that charm. Somewhat similar to the vibe you get from the old brass telescopes or perhaps even an early 20th century Zeiss. IMO, it kind fits into the gap of a true antique and the more modern Japanese telescope of the late 50's. I don't mind the patina, so I'll just get it functioning and cleaned up.

 

The objective doesn't but should have spacers. I'll have to address that plus a few other issues before I can evaluate it.

Some of it's issues are more important to address than others.

 

Here's a list of issues. Most were noticed before purchasing:

 

Objective is missing it's spacers.

Focuser: draw tube stuck, rack action very loose and dry, and knob has been repaired/tampered with.

Finder: Eyepiece stuck in tube, align the way it's mounted on OTA (not just the adjusters), eyepiece has bubbles

Broken Star Diagonal

Chipped prism in Porro Erector, and it's EP holder was cut.

Altitude Slow Motion has a home brewed repair with very limited movement.

 

The good. Nothing is missing and one way or another it's issues can be repaired.


Edited by Kasmos, 31 January 2019 - 08:29 PM.

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#7 Kasmos

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Posted 31 January 2019 - 08:59 PM

Here's a couple more comparing the box to my 1957 Unitron 114.

I believe that the earlier (pre '55), saddle mounted Unitrons used the same box and layout as my '57.

Telescope-Boxes-Stacked.jpg

The photo creates the illusion that they are different, but the boxes are the same height.

 

Soligor-Unitron-114-Boxes.jpg

Note the opposite locations for the eyepieces and dew shield


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#8 Kasmos

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Posted 02 February 2019 - 05:20 PM

Here's some photos of the objective cell.

 

Objective-1.jpg

At a glance everything looks OK. The reflection at the bottom is from one of the cell's screws.

It looks clean for a telescope that has sat for 20 years so I suspect that the seller may have cleaned it.

Especially since I know he was trying to get the scope to function.

I mentioned that the spacers were missing and probably due to someone cleaning it but he didn't say anything.

He did say that the original owner was a older gentleman who worked in aerospace,

so I would think he would have been careful to not disturb them.

 

Objective-2.jpg

The big and heavy outer cell looks like it might be red brass.

It unscrews from the black ring attached to the OTA and has a inner cell that unscrews from it's backside.

 

Objectives-Soligor-Unitron.jpg

A more typical Unitron cell for comparison.

 

Below is a link to a post of a Nihon Seiko Mystery scope that seems to have a similar cell that is a hybrid of the two. 

Unlike mine it appears to have an inner cell more like a typical Unitron. 

 

https://www.cloudyni...eiko/?p=6161348

 

You might want to go back to the first page of his post to see more of his interesting scope.

Note the funny name on the focuser and also post #17 of the cell in with contents of the box. 


Edited by Kasmos, 02 February 2019 - 05:33 PM.

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#9 Kasmos

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Posted 04 February 2019 - 04:23 AM

I forgot these when I posted the others of the box.

Soligor-Lens-Box.jpg

Note the slot for the dew shield.

 

Lens-Dew-Box.jpg

It's sits extremely close to the OTA. I'll have to take another look, but it seems like they are separated only by about 1/16"

 

Eye-Pieces-in-Box.jpg

You don't see many kits that include a 50mm .965" eyepiece.

The solar filter doesn't sit atop one of the EPs, but instead has it's own cutout.

 

Soligor-Box-#3.jpg

Note the #3 for the cabinet maker to keep the lid matched with the bottom.

It's probably not very significant, but I've never noticed a box with such a low number.

I wonder how high a number they went to and how many days passed before starting back to #1?

The highest number on any of my boxes is #195.


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#10 terraclarke

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Posted 04 February 2019 - 08:59 AM

That is so cool Chris!
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#11 Chuck Hards

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Posted 04 February 2019 - 12:20 PM

You don't see many kits that include a 50mm .965" eyepiece.

 

 

I knew I had a couple of them but forgot which scopes they came with.  It finally hit me, they came with my Soligor refractors.  A later style than yours, but it looks like the Soligor people liked having that very low magnification available and kept it with the scope even after the design details changed with the change of maker. 


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#12 terraclarke

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Posted 04 February 2019 - 01:24 PM

I’ve never looked through, never even seen firsthand a 0.965” 50mm ocular. I do have a couple of 40mm 0.965” ‘wide field’ eyepieces, a circle T Celestron Kellner (my favorite), and a 40mm Meade ‘volcano-top’ MA which isn’t bad. I used to have a 0.965” 40mm Jaegers (Japanese import) Huygens that I purchased 50 y.a., but I gave it to my brother. I like the two that I have better. But for me, they are the longest I have any knowledge or experience with. How is the 50mm? I would imagine the field to be pretty restricted even given the low power of 20X. Still, it’s very cool! A rare beast from a rare mothership!


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#13 Kasmos

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Posted 04 February 2019 - 01:24 PM

I knew I had a couple of them but forgot which scopes they came with.  It finally hit me, they came with my Soligor refractors.  A later style than yours, but it looks like the Soligor people liked having that very low magnification available and kept it with the scope even after the design details changed with the change of maker. 

Chuck, Your Soligor might have been one of the ones I noticed. I always download photos of scopes that I think are interesting but the particular photos I have of your scope doesn't include the EPs. Your Soligor's focuser has the magnification powers listed but not it's focal length. Since it gives 20x as the lowest power, that would mean your scope should have a focal length of 1000mm. Is that correct?



#14 Kasmos

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Posted 04 February 2019 - 01:34 PM

 How is the 50mm? I would imagine the field to be pretty restricted even given the low power of 20X. Still, it’s very cool! A rare beast from a rare mothership!

I'm sad to say I haven't yet tested the scope since I still need to work on the objective, the finder, diagonal, and the focuser. I've been working on it's mounts issues and now it's been raining the last few days. That said, I should have tried the 50mm out on one of my other scopes when the weather was better. foreheadslap.gif  


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#15 Kasmos

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Posted 04 February 2019 - 04:55 PM

Finder details and problems.

 

Soligor-Finder.jpg

Note the round stalks of the mounts. Other than the black painted cell,

I believe the finder itself is the same as those on early 114s.

 

Finder-Eyepiece.jpg

The eyepiece was frozen in the tube when this was taken.

A look through it revealed double crosshairs and showed what looked like bubbles

 

Finder-Objective.jpg

Cemented doublet. I forgot to measure it, but if you look very carefully you can see a line

(in the reflection), where the cell stops down it's size.

 

Finder-Mount.jpg

The finders mounts appears to be made from 3 pieces of soldered brass.

 

Finder-Mount-Bot.jpg

The bottom shows how the round section is pinned/set into the base.

 

Finder-Alignment.jpg

As found, there is no way to align the finder to the OTA and it doesn't seem like anything is bent.

The holes for the front and back mounts in the OTA do not line up and since each finder is handmade,

the bases are a bit different. Neither mount appears to have ever been removed adding to the mystery.

I tried reversing them but the paint marks indicate their original positions.

I flopped the rear mount and it helped, but I'm not sure enough to align it plus the finder is very off set in each mount.

I may have to place shims under them, or elongate the holes in their bases to get them aligned.

I kind of hate to do the latter. Especially since the holes are counter sunk for the screws.


Edited by Kasmos, 04 February 2019 - 05:03 PM.

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#16 TOM KIEHL

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Posted 04 February 2019 - 07:04 PM

Would a flop and a rotation help the situation ?



#17 Kasmos

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Posted 04 February 2019 - 07:10 PM

Would a flop and a rotation help the situation ?

I'll have to check again. I think I tried it several ways. I wanted to leave the front one where it was because it's base is bigger and left a mark in the paint, though it would probably be better for it to work than to worry about a mark in a already chipped up telescope.


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#18 Dave Trott

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Posted 04 February 2019 - 11:25 PM

You could also elongate the holes in the tube. If it's not too much they will still be hidden by the bases and have no cosmetic effect.


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#19 Kasmos

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Posted 05 February 2019 - 02:40 AM

You could also elongate the holes in the tube. If it's not too much they will still be hidden by the bases and have no cosmetic effect.

The trouble with doing that is the tube is tapped for the screws and I'd like to keep the originals.

 

Today I was working on the mount and the diagonal so I didn't have time to tinker with the finder, but I'm sure I'll figure something out.


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#20 Chuck Hards

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Posted 05 February 2019 - 10:26 PM

Chuck, Your Soligor might have been one of the ones I noticed. I always download photos of scopes that I think are interesting but the particular photos I have of your scope doesn't include the EPs. Your Soligor's focuser has the magnification powers listed but not it's focal length. Since it gives 20x as the lowest power, that would mean your scope should have a focal length of 1000mm. Is that correct?

Correct, Chris, 1000mm.  Here are a few pics.

 

eyepieces 001.jpg  008.jpg

 

005.jpg  006.jpg

 

003.jpg  002.jpg

 

001.jpg


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#21 Kasmos

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Posted 06 February 2019 - 12:41 AM

Chuck,

 

That's a beauty and nice addition to the mostly unknown story of Soligors. 

Thanks for posting it.

 

 

Side note: 

 

In another thread, there's a guy who has a telescope similar to yours (but probably a 800mm), and labeled SPI. For some reason he claims it's a Nihon Seiko that pre-dates Unitron. He seems to make the connection with Nihon Seiko based on the similarities of the eyepieces and tripod, but also thinks that the eyepieces somehow connects it to Asahi. Amongst other things, my thoughts are that somebody made eyepieces for several brands.

 

Anyway, from what I've gleaned, I believe variations of that style of telescopes are more or less dated to be from the mid to late '50s, with those having the Unitron type tripod legs likely being the earlier ones. The same dating goes for those with the smaller lens cell with slip-on dew shields.

 

For example, my 1959-61 800mm Crescent (Towa) has the same style focuser and mount but with more conventional tripod legs and a larger lens cell.

 

IMHO, all of the Kits with that style of OTA appear to be more heavily influenced by those made by Asahi than what I've seen by Nihon Seiko.


Edited by Kasmos, 06 February 2019 - 12:49 AM.


#22 Chuck Hards

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Posted 06 February 2019 - 08:59 AM

Chris, I don't think it possible to discern a bloodline for Japanese scopes of the period when going by parts & accessories.  I think it likely that most castings, finished parts, eyepieces, etc., came from suppliers independent of the brand itself.  Most or all of the various companies purchased parts from the same places so there is bound to be some resemblence & duplication  between brands.

 

An example would be the Manon/Mayflower/B&L 60x700 scope.  None of those companies had anything to do with each other yet all three produced essentially the exact same model telescope, for many years- and with different maker's marks.  They bought everything from another supplier(s).

 

I'm sure a lot of new classic collectors see such resemblences and think they've noticed something that no-one else has and it MUST mean what they want it to mean.  I think it likely that it's just evidence of a common supply chain, rather than corporate connections.

 

All that said, I do think it possible to tell which makers were using parts from the same suppliers, but that's about it.  The luck of the draw or what was available, not conscious influence.


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#23 Kasmos

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Posted 06 February 2019 - 02:37 PM

I agree for the most part, but do think that the telescopes with focusers like shown below were consciously influenced (on some level), by Asahi telescopes. While very similar they do not share the same casting and have several other subtle differences.

Cresent-Focuser.jpg

What makes it more confusing is that over time some brands switched suppliers. There's some very old Monolux telescopes (and a few others), that appear to be made by the same maker as a Asahi (and who's owners state that), but later models are variations of the example shown above. This can lead some who don't notice the differences to think their scope is also the same as a Asahi.


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#24 Bomber Bob

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Posted 06 February 2019 - 03:43 PM

There's some very old Monolux telescopes (and a few others), that appear to be made by the same maker as a Asahi...

 

Yep.  That all-black Monolux (no model #) 60x800 OTA was one of those.  Excellent star test.  Too bad I didn't have my DPAC rig back then.

 

IIRC, it's the Finders on the non-Asahi Asahi-looking old fracs that are cheaper-made / inferior to the real-Asahi versions...



#25 Kasmos

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Posted 08 February 2019 - 03:02 PM

I was doing some internet searches on Asahi Pentax telescopes and by accident came upon when Chuck first posted his Soligor in the 'CL/Ebay Finds' topic.

 

At the bottom of the post he included some links to the instructions and a couple of large ad sheets that was included with his Soligor.

Soligor Ad Sheet .jpg

image courtesy of Chuck Hards

 

Note the style of the telescope in the ad. It's like mine.

Why this happened is a mystery.

The 2 telescopes pretty much share the same specifications, so maybe they just didn't get around to updating their ad sheet?

 

I've been hoping to find some kind documentation on my scope (an ad or some instructions).

 

Since I'm in SoCal perhaps it was originally purchased directly from the Hollywood location?


Edited by Kasmos, 08 February 2019 - 03:03 PM.

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