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Swayze optical problems and refiguring

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#1 hecton

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 10:11 AM

I was wondering if anyone out there has used Swayze Optical for refiguring a mirror.

I have a 16 inch f/4.5 mirror which was due for recoat.  It was an old Meade mirror, from a telescope I acquired on Cloudy Nights classified.  The mirror was about 1/4 wave accurate.  It had a large 6 inch diameter raised zone in the middle and a somewhat turned edge.  It was due for a recoat, and I thought if I was going to get it recoated, I might as well look into refiguring.  I figured that a professional optician would be able to bang it out pretty quickly because raised zones are pretty easy to fix and the telescope has an undersized diagonal (not my choice, I purchased the scope secondhand), so the slightly turned edge wouldn't have that big of an effect on image quality.  I envisioned a few swipes with a small lap in the middle and away we go to the coater.

An internet search came up with half a dozen sources which offered refiguring services.  Since I live in San Francisco, my first choice was Optic Wave Laboratories in the Sacramento area because it's within driving distance, and that would save me the time and expense of packing and shipping.  However, after four emails with no response, I decided to look elsewhere.

I contacted Steven Swayze in Portland, Oregon and he said he would be happy to look at my mirror.  The email communication was prompt before, and I emphasize before, I sent him the mirror.  That was back in May of 2018.
Unfortunately, this has turned into a bit of a disaster.  After many “I’ll try to get the mirror back by” promises, the communication has gotten worse and worse, and now I’m just trying to get my mirror back, in whatever condition.  I’ve repeatedly asked for a fixed date when the mirror would be ready, only to get radio silence, and recently asked him flat out just to return my mirror only to receive “I’ll be back in touch” response.  Fourteen months later, I finally got fed up and asked for my mirror, in whatever condition, but I haven’t heard back.

Has anyone ever used this guy?  Am I out a mirror?  If I knew I would be out of the observing game for a year, I obviously never would have sent him the mirror.  I’m thinking of contacting paypal to see if I could get my money back for the refiguring (I paid him in July 2018), but I am still out a mirror.

Any advice people could give me would be much appreciated.  There’s not much left for me to do except file a claim in small claims court in Portland, not that I would expect to actually see anything from such a claim.  What a bummer.

Thanks!
Hector Gonzalez



#2 hecton

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 10:23 AM

Just tried filing a claim with paypal and it was denied because it was past the 180 day deadline.  This just gets better and better.



#3 TOMDEY

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 10:30 AM

Hi, Hector; Yikes!

 

Well, I've had great experience with Cary at OWL for both refiguring and coating and he also certifies the wavefront right there. It went fast and smoothly. He just takes the mirror and does it and there it is --- done!

 

PS: Pushing glass is an art, especially on biggish fastish mirrors. He did a 16-in F/4.5 for me... came out perfect as can be. Just my gentle consul here... don't tell the optician that the work will be a few swipes that he can bang out with next to no effort! He's the guy who will be doing the actual work, and sweating bullets to get it right! Anyway, my recommendation would be to try to get the mirror back and take it over to OWL!    Tom


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#4 Ian Robinson

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 10:31 AM

I'd put the dispute in through PayPal , and escalate it right away , that'll likely grab his attention as he wont want a big powerful company like PayPal pursuing him to recover the money.

He might ignore an individual customer or fog one off , but this wont work PayPal.

Well, your PayPal is linked to your credit card, try the card provider if PayPal wont cooperate , I'd call them and explain this all to the claims person on the phone.

Here's hoping the mirror didn't fall off the bench and get broken or become otherwise unrepairable , or been "lost" .

I'm guessing if the mirror is unuseable you should hit him up a brand-new replacement mirror. Judge Judy might be your best option.

Edited by Ian Robinson, 12 June 2019 - 10:33 AM.

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#5 Jack Day

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 10:50 AM

Hello,

 

I have, and I know several others, who have had mirrors refigured by Steve.  All of the mirrors (to the best of my knowledge) turned out quite good. The average turn around time, well not so much.  Sadly, like many "one man shops" promised turn around is longer than estimated.  Mine took almost two years, it was a 17.5" Coulter and the glass put up a good fight!

 

I doubt the mirror has suffered any major calamity, likely it is taking longer than expexted, and there are possibly other mirrors also in the que that are in the same situation.

 

Good luck, and I hope everything resolves ok.  Would be curious to hear more about more experiences with OWL.  

 

And if I could I would tell Steve to give better estimates of realistic turn around, and to do better answering his email!

 

Cheers & Clear skies!


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#6 perfessor

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 10:52 AM

It's a sad story, and not at all the first we've heard about Swayze.  Gather up every piece of correspondence, Paypal receipts, shipping info etc, and have a lawyer write a strongly worded letter spelling out the statutes on mail fraud / theft.  It may cost you a couple hundred dollars, but I don't think you'll be getting your mirror back otherwise.

 

Good luck,


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#7 MKV

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 11:30 AM

Here's a link to a 2017 post regarding an issue similar to yours. Do read in particular the last post made by the moderator regarding venting grievances on CN. 

 

https://www.cloudyni...-swayze-mirror/

 

My piece of advice to everyone is:  do a thorough research before committing your mirror and making an advanced payment to anyone. 

 

Regards,

Mladen


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#8 Stephen Kennedy

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 04:25 PM

I live in the Sacramento area and had OWL evaluate my mirror and recoat it.  Cary told me the figure of the mirror was excellent and did not to be re-figured but that it did need a new coating which he did superbly.  Cary can sometimes be difficult to get in touch with.  I have found a phone call is more likely to reach him than an email.  Cary has a great deal of integrity and gets work done on a timely basis, particularly if you live close enough to OWL to personally deliver it and pick it up.

 

I would try to get your mirror back from Swazey, be persistent in making contact with OWL and have Cary re-figure your mirror, which he will only do if he thinks he can make it significantly better, and have it recoated at OWL which does an excellent job at a very reasonable price.  


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#9 hecton

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 06:11 PM

First off, thank you to everyone for your responses, and to TOMDEY and Stephen Kennedy for the OWL reference.  Cloudy Nights is the best!  At this point, I'm just hoping to get my mirror back so I can send it to someone else.  But if it's really going to take two years as Jack Day suggests, I might need to buy another mirror.  One year is a deal breaker for me, I don't know what two is.

 

Thank you Mladen for the link to the earlier Swayze article.  I thought that I did as much research as I could, and was surprised at how little information there was on this topic.  In retrospect, I think I got burned using a keyword search "refiguring", and that was a mistake.  But the link answers my question about what went on here.  Basically the most unprofessional service imaginable.

 

Lesson learned.  I wish I could turn back the clock and just had the mirror recoated.  I got greedy.  I got into this hobby when I made my first mirror in high school.  I got it to 1/14 wave and I thought I could get it just a little better, and I blew it.  Drove me crazy trying to get back to that point, but I just couldn't.

 

I'll post a follow up on this regardless of how it turns out.

 

Thanks again!

Hector


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#10 TOMDEY

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Posted 12 June 2019 - 09:53 PM

First off, thank you to everyone for your responses, and to TOMDEY and Stephen Kennedy for the OWL reference.  Cloudy Nights is the best!  At this point, I'm just hoping to get my mirror back so I can send it to someone else.  But if it's really going to take two years as Jack Day suggests, I might need to buy another mirror.  One year is a deal breaker for me, I don't know what two is.

 

Thank you Mladen for the link to the earlier Swayze article.  I thought that I did as much research as I could, and was surprised at how little information there was on this topic.  In retrospect, I think I got burned using a keyword search "refiguring", and that was a mistake.  But the link answers my question about what went on here.  Basically the most unprofessional service imaginable.

 

Lesson learned.  I wish I could turn back the clock and just had the mirror recoated.  I got greedy.  I got into this hobby when I made my first mirror in high school.  I got it to 1/14 wave and I thought I could get it just a little better, and I blew it.  Drove me crazy trying to get back to that point, but I just couldn't.

 

I'll post a follow up on this regardless of how it turns out.

 

Thanks again!

Hector

Cary refigured and coated mine in just a few weeks... That was a few years ago... I assume it all depends on what else is in the queue etc. It actually astounds me that such good service is available. I've done many mirrors myself, including the enhanced coatings, and know how much effort is involved. We are very very lucky that a few skilled guys can do that for us. Just imaging trying to do that yourself?!    Tom


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#11 MKV

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Posted 13 June 2019 - 12:21 AM

I got into this hobby when I made my first mirror in high school.  I got it to 1/14 wave and I thought I could get it just a little better, and I blew it.  Drove me crazy trying to get back to that point, but I just couldn't.

Hector, it's good to strive for "perfection" as long as it is not a distinction without a difference. Eventually such efforts reach the point of diminishing returns, like "empty magnifcation," when one pushes a telescope beyond its physical ability to resolve more detail. 

 

Assuming that your results were real, and that your telescope did indeed deliver an optical path difference no larger than 1/14 wave peak-to-valley on the wavefront (ptvw),  it's safe to say that your efforts to improve on that were indeed analogous to empty magnification, because anything better than 1/14 wave being delivered to the eye would not  be discernible.

 

In fact, anything better that 1/10 wave ptvw will look the same as 1/16 wave to most people under normal observing conditions. The reason is because atmospheric and other image-degrading  factors overtake any errors stemming from the optics. 

 

Mladen


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#12 hakann

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Posted 13 June 2019 - 01:29 PM

I live in Sweden but my choice was Carl Zambuto for many resons, but I did visit Swayze shop personally aswell in my reaseach.

After read of several case I'm glad I did my trip and listen to advise, etc here at CN.



#13 careysub

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Posted 13 June 2019 - 01:45 PM

I was wondering if anyone out there has used Swayze Optical for refiguring a mirror.

Steven did an excellent job in 2011/2012 with a 13.1" Coulter F/4.4 mirror.

 

It took two months.

 

AFAIK everyone who has had Steven refigure a mirror has been pleased with the result.


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#14 Volvonium

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Posted 13 June 2019 - 01:51 PM

I'm sorry you're having this experience.  Over-promising of project completion dates seems to be a tragically common occurrence when it comes to well regarded "maestros" that run one or two man hobbyist oriented operations on thin margins.  I've seen this across so, so many hobbies.  In the automotive hobby, there are countless old timer expert tuners and builders who can put out an excellent product, but can't deliver anything on time if their life depended on it.  They have a true passion for what they do and unimaginable expertise that came from decades of experience, but they tend to become overextended and continuously blow deadlines, triggering a cycle of empty promises and customer avoidance. There's often a time management issue as well as an issue of hubris, with certain personalities being unable to just admit "I overbooked myself and I'm not equipped to take any more customers; it will realistically take me at least XX months before i can even get to you."...yet they take the new customer's money, since it buys time to finish the way-over-deadline backlog. 

 

Excellent skills, good intentions, but poor business management/razor thin margins creates a cycle of disappointment that unfortunately results in a lot of these experts eventually burning out, losing passion for the hobby, and dropping out of offering any kinds of services altogether.  I wish it didn't happen as often as it does, but it definitely seems to be a "thing".

 

If I ever get a mirror recoated and refigured to an excellent spec, It'll likely be a halo mirror that I'm using for life, spending extra money to use a commercial lab that operates on accountability and OTD (on time delivery).  I think the optics labs that cater to commercial and military-- you can't go wrong, except for how much harder it would hit the pocketbook.  I hope you can get your mirror back, at the minimum.  To get a refund, it would likely take some type of civil action.


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#15 hakann

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Posted Yesterday, 07:40 PM

In my believs, if one can’t handle the business one can’t handle the performance either.
Just my 2 cents.

#16 WyattDavis

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Posted Yesterday, 07:44 PM

Steven did an excellent job in 2011/2012 with a 13.1" Coulter F/4.4 mirror.

 

It took two months.

 

AFAIK everyone who has had Steven refigure a mirror has been pleased with the result.

That was my experience. Steve did a great job for me.



#17 Jon Isaacs

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Posted Yesterday, 07:57 PM

In my believs, if one can’t handle the business one can’t handle the performance either.
Just my 2 cents.

 

That has not been my experience. You want the best, be prepared to wait, you're not alone. In this case, Steve Swayze is well known and Danny knows him as a teacher in the mirror making workshop back east.  

 

I have to wonder if Steve has medical or personal issues. Very often optics is not someone's real job.  I hope he's OK.

 

One of my life time dreams was to have s mirror made by a certain person. When I discovered that he would refigure mirrors, I asked him if he would be willing to refigure one of mine. I told him, I did care how long it took, I didn't care how much it cost, I just wanted him to do it and I wanted him to have fun doing it..

 

It's done now. I don't remember how long it took or how much it cost but it is a very good mirror.

 

Jon


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#18 hakann

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Posted Today, 02:20 AM

Jon,
That might be the case but it ain’t call a business then.
And if optics has not own issues - the customer will get them and that is not fair.
Doing what you did at both direction is ok as no timeframe, no price limit.
But fair is simply to say that.
-How hard can it be ?

#19 Jon Isaacs

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Posted Today, 03:13 AM

Jon,
That might be the case but it ain’t call a business then.
And if optics has not own issues - the customer will get them and that is not fair.
Doing what you did at both direction is ok as no timeframe, no price limit.
But fair is simply to say that.
-How hard can it be ?

In the US, we call that a side business.  

 

This is not a hypothetical situation, it's something real.  Steve Swayze is someone who has been a member of the amateur astronomy community for a long time.    Best to stick to this particular situation.  He might be ill.  I hope he is OK.

 

Jon


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#20 Stephen Kennedy

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Posted Today, 04:55 AM

I'm sorry you're having this experience.  Over-promising of project completion dates seems to be a tragically common occurrence when it comes to well regarded "maestros" that run one or two man hobbyist oriented operations on thin margins.  I've seen this across so, so many hobbies.  In the automotive hobby, there are countless old timer expert tuners and builders who can put out an excellent product, but can't deliver anything on time if their life depended on it.  They have a true passion for what they do and unimaginable expertise that came from decades of experience, but they tend to become overextended and continuously blow deadlines, triggering a cycle of empty promises and customer avoidance. There's often a time management issue as well as an issue of hubris, with certain personalities being unable to just admit "I overbooked myself and I'm not equipped to take any more customers; it will realistically take me at least XX months before i can even get to you."...yet they take the new customer's money, since it buys time to finish the way-over-deadline backlog. 

 

Excellent skills, good intentions, but poor business management/razor thin margins creates a cycle of disappointment that unfortunately results in a lot of these experts eventually burning out, losing passion for the hobby, and dropping out of offering any kinds of services altogether.  I wish it didn't happen as often as it does, but it definitely seems to be a "thing".

 

If I ever get a mirror recoated and refigured to an excellent spec, It'll likely be a halo mirror that I'm using for life, spending extra money to use a commercial lab that operates on accountability and OTD (on time delivery).  I think the optics labs that cater to commercial and military-- you can't go wrong, except for how much harder it would hit the pocketbook.  I hope you can get your mirror back, at the minimum.  To get a refund, it would likely take some type of civil action.

You make a very good point about "thin margins"  I have been making mirrors purely as a hobby and can definitely say that it is something that is very unpredictable and you do not really know how long it is going to take to get it right,  I will spend months on a mirror.  It may appear that people like Carl Zambuto, Mike Lockwood and Steve Kennedy (no relation) charge a lot for a mirror but the amount of time they have to put into it probably means that their hourly wage rates are pretty low.  I realize their operations involve some automation and their skill levels are much greater than mine but they also make very large mirrors, 20" to 30" with very low focal ratios, F/3 or F/4, which are projects that I, and most other ATMs would never even attempt.  

 

When they make a new mirror for someone the costs to get started are very high.  I do not think they make their own blanks and even a Pyrex blank in the 25" range will cost at least $1,000.  Abrassives, pitch and polishing agents are not terribly expensive when you are making an 8" mirror but a 24" mirror is going to have 8 times as much surface area and will need at least 8 times as much of these supplies and that adds up to a fairly large amount of money,

 

In the case of refiguring a mirror, the optician does not have to buy a blank but is faced with a lot of unknowns and will probably not have clear idea of how long it is going to take him to do the job until work is well underway,  Furthermore, figuring mirrors is very unpredictable.  The experience that Hector described earlier about getting to 1/14 wave, trying to make it even better but instead made it worse and was never able to get back to 1/14 is not the least bit uncommon,  It seems like it is a lot easier to make a mirror worse than it is to make it better,

 

I do not think that any of these mirror makers are getting rich, it is more likely that they are constantly in a mad dash to just get enough cash flowing in to keep the power on.  

 

Nevertheless, as difficult as it might be, mirror makers like Steve Swazey have to realize that if they give an estimated delivery date and want to be regarded as true professionals, they are going to have to whatever it takes to at least come close to the completion date that they originally communicated to the customer ,   


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#21 GShaffer

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Posted Today, 11:33 AM

Lets be careful here folks.....from the TOS:

 

f. This is not the place to air grievances with vendors. Please do not attempt to use us as leverage. Take it up with the vendor off of this site.

 

If you personally have a bad experience it is fine to ask for advice on dealing with the issue (as in the OP's case). Offering advice is ok as well when its asked for. Topics such as this one do however have a tendency to turn into "vendor bashing" with people reporting things they have heard rather than experienced which is not ok. Reporting a *personal* experience with whatever company is being discussed is fine as long as it is just the facts without any hysterics or hyperbole.

 

 

 

 


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