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Concrete Block Pier Planted!

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#1 OldManSky

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Posted 25 February 2019 - 10:21 AM

I've only got a small and light setup (CEM25P and short focal length refractor(s) for imaging), but like everyone the routine of hauling the scope out to the yard, polar aligning, and getting everything setup everytime I want to image/observe gets old.  I wanted something simple to make, inexpensive, able to be easily removed later...but that would let me keep the mount (and maybe scopes) setup so I could just pop out, turn things on, and go.

 

I considered a full concrete poured pier (which I've done before), a wood pier, a metal pier...but while searching the 'net I found this:

 

https://stargazerslo...ete-block-pier/

 

That seemed perfect for my needs.  So I gathered the parts, and put it in this weekend.

 

First the plan:  I wanted a minimal footer for ease of removal (but it had to be solid & stable), so I planned on a 12x12x12 base hole.  Into that went 1/2" threaded rod, which would protrude above the ground and pass through the 16x16x2" concrete block base, and into the first 8x8x16" block so I could tighten everything down.  I cut holes in some plate steel to fit over the threaded rods, held in place with nuts, instead of a J-bend in the threaded rods to hold them in place in the concrete.  The ground plan is below:

 

 

I bought 2 8x8x16" blocks (tried to pick the straightest and smoothest two from a huge lot at Home Depot!), a 16x16x2" base, some maple hardwood (for the top), and an iOptron 5.5" pier extension to put the actual mount on.  The pier extension has a 3/4" round "nipple" that protrudes down from the bottom, meant to go into the field tripod, so the maple had to have a 3/4" hold drilled in the center.  Next image is a dry-fit of all the parts -- a sanity check!

 

 

 

 

Attached Thumbnails

  • pier_groundplan.jpg
  • pier_parts_setup.jpg

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#2 OldManSky

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Posted 25 February 2019 - 10:24 AM

(continued from above)

Next I made a drilling template, and drilled the 1/2" holes in the base and blocks using a concrete bit.

 

I put everything together as a "dry-fit," and the holes all lined up (that doesn't always happen, you know!). :)

 

 

Attached Thumbnails

  • pier_drillingsetup.jpg
  • pier_postdrilldryfit.jpg

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#3 OldManSky

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Posted 25 February 2019 - 10:36 AM

(continued, last section!)

 

After digging out the footer hole, I placed the threaded rods with their steel "wings," and poured the footer (2 60-lb bags of Quicrete), placing the base on top and leveling carefully.  That was Saturday about noon.  I left it to cure overnight.

 

Sunday morning I mounted the two blocks on the base:  the bottom block is attached to the base with construction adhesive (a healthy dose), and screwed down onto the two 1/2" threaded rods with rubber and metal washers and lock nuts.  The top block mounts to the bottom block much the same way -- 1/2" bolts, rubber/metal washers on both sides, construction adhesive.  I made sure it was all screwed down tight and level (the base is perfectly level, the top of the upmost block is off just a touch, because the blocks aren't perfectly square.  It's only off by about 2-degrees, and the small tilt is directly N-S (towards the S), so it won't be a problem for alignment.

 

By sundown it had all cured/set, so I put the CEM25P up for a test (last image).

Once it was dark, I pulled off the polar scope caps, and looked through to check my alignment:  using the latitude already set on the mount, and the default center position for the azimuth, Polaris was just off-center in the polar scope.  Alignment success!

 

I've got a bit of work to do on the hardwood top plate (going to seal it, coat it with black waterproof paint, and drill 2 more holes to attach it to the concrete block).  I should get that done this week.

 

I know there will be those that pooh-pooh the concrete block idea instead of a full poured pier, but this thing is solid as a rock.  Knocking it with my foot (which hurt!) while looking through the mounted scope last night showed no vibration at all.  I had my son jump up and down on the ground next to it while I looked through the scope -- nothing.  For the light weight load this will be carrying, it's very much over-engineered.

And it will be easy to remove when the time comes to do that.

 

Finally, I didn't have to mix huge amounts of concrete (2 bags were mixed in a small plastic tub by hand)...and the total cost of materials not counting the iOptron mini-pier (which was $89):  $32.  It would have been less, but I had to buy a $7 1/2" concrete bit!

 

Comments welcome.  Looking forward to putting it to use this weekend.  I've got a telegizmos cover on the way for now, at some point later I might do a swing-off "motel" cover for it...

Thanks for looking.

 

Attached Thumbnails

  • pier_footersetting.jpg
  • pier_mounttest.jpg

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#4 TinySpeck

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Posted 25 February 2019 - 11:09 AM

Very nice, Paul!  Thanks for sharing the details of your successful project.


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#5 descott12

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Posted 25 February 2019 - 11:16 AM

Kinda close to the driveway???



#6 OldManSky

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Posted 25 February 2019 - 11:33 AM

Kinda close to the driveway???

Yep.  Intentionally, though.  Nobody drives in/out during the night, and I set up my table for the laptop on the concrete driveway.  The SUV you see in the pic normally isn't there, it's parked about 20 feet closer to the house (it was only there because I had the two 60-lb sacks of concrete in the back, and that way I didn't have to carry them very far!).

 

Eventually I'll probably lay pavers around the pier area to make a sort of "astro-patio."  

At any rate, this is the best spot on my lot for wide-open views of the sky.  The house (about 30 feet to the left in the last photo) blocks only about 10 deg. of the west sky, and that's where I have my only real light pollution glow, so it's fine. :)


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#7 Tom K

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Posted 26 February 2019 - 10:00 AM

Looks great Paul - you will have to come down the hill and look at my swing off "motel-o-scope" inspired enclosure.     I will say that the weight of my enclosure sits on a very heavy tube steel pier and has lots more concrete in the foundation.   I think that one of the roll away "outhouse" style enclosures may work better with this pier.

 

With only 30 feet to the house you could run a few conduits over for power and data and then be able to image from inside.   I have finally got mine set up so that before sunset I open everything up and use SGP to start things up once the object I am looking to shoot gets high enough in the sky.   Platesolving and autofocus works well - I just monitor from the house periodically to make sure things are going well.  So far so good.

 

This keeps my wife from complaining about being an astronomy widow!

 

Tom



#8 CCD-Freak

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Posted 26 February 2019 - 10:51 AM

Very interesting and it gives me ideas which might work for my backyard.  Great work!

 

Looking forward to seeing pictures with the complete scope setup.

 

 

John

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Edited by CCD-Freak, 26 February 2019 - 10:51 AM.


#9 OldManSky

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Posted 26 February 2019 - 12:03 PM

Looks great Paul - you will have to come down the hill and look at my swing off "motel-o-scope" inspired enclosure.     I will say that the weight of my enclosure sits on a very heavy tube steel pier and has lots more concrete in the foundation.   I think that one of the roll away "outhouse" style enclosures may work better with this pier.

 

With only 30 feet to the house you could run a few conduits over for power and data and then be able to image from inside.   I have finally got mine set up so that before sunset I open everything up and use SGP to start things up once the object I am looking to shoot gets high enough in the sky.   Platesolving and autofocus works well - I just monitor from the house periodically to make sure things are going well.  So far so good.

 

This keeps my wife from complaining about being an astronomy widow!

 

Tom

Thanks, Tom.

I'm currently using an extension cord for power, but plan on running conduit.

The nice thing about being 30 feet from the house is that my wifi repeater is easily accessible.  I set up and start a run, and then use either Remote Desktop or Chrome's plugin, and I can see everything on my iPad in the house.  No need for data cables!

Autofocus is the one thing I don't have.  I have to go out to refocus.  That will change...:)



#10 OldManSky

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Posted 26 February 2019 - 12:05 PM

Very interesting and it gives me ideas which might work for my backyard.  Great work!

 

Looking forward to seeing pictures with the complete scope setup.

 

 

John

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Thanks, John.

I did a setup/test run last night.  I'm pleased with the stability.  I spent about an hour on polar alignment, and locked everything down, before high clouds came in and ended the night.  I hope to be fully set up and running this weekend, and will put up more pics.  Still have to paint/seal the concrete...I'm thinking red :)



#11 Tom K

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Posted 04 March 2019 - 07:52 PM

Paul - the bad weather jinx is now on you for building this pier!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

#12 OldManSky

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 06:03 PM

Paul - the bad weather jinx is now on you for building this pier!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Mea culpa.

Got one night to do about an hour polar aligning.

The mount's been covered ever since. :(



#13 Tom K

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 09:26 PM

Mea culpa.

Got one night to do about an hour polar aligning.

The mount's been covered ever since. frown.gif

Yeah - this is certainly sub-optimal weather this year.   I am now starting to regret putting the Clear Dark Sky chart on my signature because I get reminded by all those white squares over and over again....



#14 *skyguy*

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 09:39 PM

I've had a 14' hollow, concrete block (16"x16"x8" chimney block) pier in my garage-top ROR observatory for the past 18 years. It's cheap and easy to build and rock solid for observing or astrophotography.  I wouldn't hesitate to build another pier using concrete blocks.

 

Good Luck with your pier build ....

 

OrbitJet Observatory:

 

https://www.flickr.c...57644177074161/

 

observatory pier.jpg


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#15 OldManSky

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Posted 15 March 2019 - 01:07 PM

Thought I'd post a quick update.

Once I got everything installed, we (of course) had several weeks of rain and clouds.  As mentioned above, I did about an hour of polar aligning one night, but that was it.

We finally got some good weather (why can't it happen around new moon?), and set up to do some imaging last night.

Got about two hours of subs on the Leo Trio, still processing.

The good news:  with the mount sitting unused and covered for several weeks of cold/rain (ok, for you non-Californians, "cold" is relative...but it was cold here, and we had more than our usual annual rainfall in just the past several weeks!), with a Eva-Dry dehumidifier under the cover, there was no water or condensation on the mount, and everything was in great shape.

I attached my dovetail with OTA/guider/camera, turned the mount on, and it went directly to the first alignment star.

Used my already-done PHD2 calibration for the two hours of imaging.  PHD2 reported a 0.5' PA error.  I can live with that.

It's great to be able to just drop on the OTA and go.  Not having to haul the mount out, adjust the tripod, polar align,etc.

Image below of the setup loaded for bear...

 

Attached Thumbnails

  • piersetupgo2.JPG

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#16 jpbutler

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Posted 15 March 2019 - 01:21 PM

That is a pretty cool idea there.

Glad it all worked out so well.

You have me thinking real hard about doing the same or something similar.

 

By the way I have the rubbermaid version of your laptop enclosure.

 

John


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#17 OldManSky

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Posted 15 March 2019 - 01:52 PM

That is a pretty cool idea there.

Glad it all worked out so well.

You have me thinking real hard about doing the same or something similar.

 

By the way I have the rubbermaid version of your laptop enclosure.

 

John

I hope to upgrade to your high-class version laptop enclosure soon!  The Amazon Prime leftover box is prone to dew...smile.gif

 

Best news about the project is that it's ridiculously solid and stable (I can stomp around on the ground or driveway and have no effect on the scope), it holds polar alignment well, it's safe for the mount to sit outside under a scope cover, and it was seriously cheap.  


Edited by OldManSky, 15 March 2019 - 01:57 PM.

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#18 tomwall

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Posted 15 March 2019 - 02:24 PM

I've done a similar thing with a Meade ETX scope and a Celestron SE/C8 scope. I just stack two blocks on my patio.

(See link below)

 

Another thing to consider would be to use a strong glue between the blocks.

 

https://www.facebook...&type=3

 

Tom,

Tucson


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#19 SteveGR

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Posted 15 March 2019 - 02:26 PM

I hope to upgrade to your high-class version laptop enclosure soon!  The Amazon Prime leftover box is prone to dew...smile.gif

 

Best news about the project is that it's ridiculously solid and stable (I can stomp around on the ground or driveway and have no effect on the scope), it holds polar alignment well, it's safe for the mount to sit outside under a scope cover, and it was seriously cheap.  

That looks really nice.  I need to do something similar, or get fancy and build an actual observatory.  If I did one like yours I would need a deeper base though, in Michigan, we have a pesky frost line.  And I'd want to seal it.

 

I say you should make good on your Rubbermaid dreams at the earliest opportunity.  Or, at least impregnate that cardboard box with resin. smile.gif



#20 OldManSky

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Posted 15 March 2019 - 02:49 PM

I've done a similar thing with a Meade ETX scope and a Celestron SE/C8 scope. I just stack two blocks on my patio.

(See link below)

 

Another thing to consider would be to use a strong glue between the blocks.

 

https://www.facebook...&type=3

 

Tom,

Tucson

Hi Tom, that looks familiar!  Nice.  I did use strong glue (construction adhesive) between the blocks.  As well as the 1/2" bolts.  It's not going anywhere unless I pull out the sledge hammer!


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#21 Mike G.

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Posted 15 March 2019 - 03:21 PM

I want to thank you for this post - I have been thinking of extending and elevating a portion of my wood deck for use with my 12" dob that doesn't really like sharing a deck with people walking around on it.  so I have been considering ways to isolate an area within the flooring without doing a bunch of digging and using a cubic yard of concrete.  the cement blocks on a shallow pad should do the trick!  thanks!


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#22 42itous1

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Posted 13 March 2020 - 02:20 PM

I've only got a small and light setup (CEM25P and short focal length refractor(s) for imaging), but like everyone the routine of hauling the scope out to the yard, polar aligning, and getting everything setup everytime I want to image/observe gets old.  I wanted something simple to make, inexpensive, able to be easily removed later...but that would let me keep the mount (and maybe scopes) setup so I could just pop out, turn things on, and go.

 

I considered a full concrete poured pier (which I've done before), a wood pier, a metal pier...but while searching the 'net I found this:

 

https://stargazerslo...ete-block-pier/

 

That seemed perfect for my needs.  So I gathered the parts, and put it in this weekend.

 

First the plan:  I wanted a minimal footer for ease of removal (but it had to be solid & stable), so I planned on a 12x12x12 base hole.  Into that went 1/2" threaded rod, which would protrude above the ground and pass through the 16x16x2" concrete block base, and into the first 8x8x16" block so I could tighten everything down.  I cut holes in some plate steel to fit over the threaded rods, held in place with nuts, instead of a J-bend in the threaded rods to hold them in place in the concrete.  The ground plan is below:

 

 

I bought 2 8x8x16" blocks (tried to pick the straightest and smoothest two from a huge lot at Home Depot!), a 16x16x2" base, some maple hardwood (for the top), and an iOptron 5.5" pier extension to put the actual mount on.  The pier extension has a 3/4" round "nipple" that protrudes down from the bottom, meant to go into the field tripod, so the maple had to have a 3/4" hold drilled in the center.  Next image is a dry-fit of all the parts -- a sanity check!

Hi Paul,

 

This is a great solution.  Do you think it could hold more than the CEM25?

 

I noticed that when you got the CEM60, you built a concrete pier for it.

 

Do you think the concrete block pier would have still worked well with the CEM60?  I would like to do the same thing with a CGEM, it looks to me that it would be very solid. I would not put more than about a 25lb load on the mount.

 

Regards,

 

Brad


Edited by 42itous1, 13 March 2020 - 02:21 PM.


#23 OldManSky

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Posted 14 March 2020 - 09:06 PM

Hi Paul,

 

This is a great solution.  Do you think it could hold more than the CEM25?

 

I noticed that when you got the CEM60, you built a concrete pier for it.

 

Do you think the concrete block pier would have still worked well with the CEM60?  I would like to do the same thing with a CGEM, it looks to me that it would be very solid. I would not put more than about a 25lb load on the mount.

 

Regards,

 

Brad

Hi Brad,

I actually put the 60 on the "old" pier when I first got it.  It was plenty solid.  The main reason I made the "full" concrete pier was that I had decided to build the roll-off observatory around it, so I figured I might as well go ahead and pour one.

I was looking at the "old" pier (above) today -- it's still there.  Was trying to decide if I was going to knock it down, or leave it in case I wanted to get a lighter mount for visual while the other one was doing photography.  I'm going to leave it for now!

I think it would be fine for what you've got in mind.

 

Paul


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#24 PETER DREW

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Posted 18 March 2020 - 11:48 AM

I pioneered these blockwork piers here in the UK several years ago at the Astronomy Centre.  We dubbed them the Todmorden Pier as this is the location. It has been absorbed into the UK astronomical lexicon.  I have been doing my best to promote them as they are so easy to build and very inexpensive. We have several on site, all free standing, the largest supporting a 8.5" equatorially mounted refractor.  They can be clad to taste if the basic look doesn't appeal.


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#25 OldManSky

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Posted 18 March 2020 - 12:42 PM

I pioneered these blockwork piers here in the UK several years ago at the Astronomy Centre.  We dubbed them the Todmorden Pier as this is the location. It has been absorbed into the UK astronomical lexicon.  I have been doing my best to promote them as they are so easy to build and very inexpensive. We have several on site, all free standing, the largest supporting a 8.5" equatorially mounted refractor.  They can be clad to taste if the basic look doesn't appeal.

Hi Peter,

I saw your posts/images, and copied the setup.  They're quite inexpensive, quite easy to put up, and very very sturdy.  Thanks for the pioneering work!


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