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Cleaned up an Orange C8

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#1 Creedence

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Posted 09 October 2019 - 08:50 AM

As common as the vintage C8s seem to be, they really don't pop up in my area at all, so when I saw this listed locally I snatched it up. The family I bought it from got it from their neighbors as they cleared out their attic for a move.  They had no idea how to use it so they posted it for sale.  They told me it had spent the last decade or more in their neighbor's attic, but before that it looks like it served as a somewhat serious astrophotography rig.  I did my best to take my time and go over the OTA and mount as well as I could, but it's hard not to feel a little rushed when you're in a stranger's living room.  The OTA had its share of scuff marks, the mount was pretty ugly, but the optics- despite having the usual haze on the corrector looked immaculate.  There was no question, this was a hard working telescope at one point in its life (which, in hindsight, makes me think the optical performance I'd later find with it was no coincidence).  At the time, I hadn't yet learned how to decipher the serial numbers, so when they told me it was a 1971, I accepted that as fact.  I knew that the earlier C8's were more desirable, so that, coupled with the surprisingly nice optics convinced me to buy it.  Everyone here will say I overpaid at $440, but I'm okay paying a premium gived the lack of local availability- especially as I prefer to get hands on with something this old before buying.

 

So as I said, whoever owned this C8 back when it was actively being used spent some time and energy customizing it to their needs.  It sported an unusually heavy camera mount, a second finderscope- apparently taken from a C11 or C14, a telrad base, a threaded hole in the rear of the OTA that I can only guess was used to prevent mirror flop, among a couple other little things.  The modifications were noteworthy for their ingenuity if not for their elegance.  The base and fork arms had been painted a couple times.  As I stripped them away I found a yellow base coat (maybe a primer?), a magnificent 1970's burnt orange/taupe, then the more recent flat brown.  Functionally, the telescope was in reasonable working order though the Dec fine adjustment knob was not functional.  

 

After giving the sellers a little tutorial on the telescope, and recommending some telescopes that would likely be a better, less frustrating fit for their ~8 year old son, I negotiated the purchase price, loaded up and brought my prize home.  First order of business was to get the cobwebs out of the base, and give the whole thing a general wash down to get the decade+ work of attic off of it.  I don't know what it is about old telescopes, but I could smell it across the room for a couple days.  Thankfully, that eventually went away.

 

I debated whether to restore it for a couple weeks.  The modifications didn't help its performance in any way since I wasn't imaging with a film camera, but they were all made during the telescope's original era.  In the end, I decided that I would enjoy it more, and would be more proud of it if it looked a little fresher, so I decided to do some research on my restoration options.  I cleaned the optics (more on those in a moment)- that was simple enough.  They cleaned up beautifully.  Then I took the big finderscope to the hardware store to see what I could do for paint matching.  After 15 minutes of trial and error with no matches close enough for my satisfaction, I was beginning to lose hope.  I thought I'd have to go to the German paint manufacturer mentioned in another restoration thread and dump $300 into a gallon of the Velvetone stuff.  Just for kicks, the paint guy went over to check the spray paint isle.  I was not optimistic at all considering we spent so long on the custom match options without any luck.  I could not believe it, but he produced an almost IDENTICAL match right off the shelf.  For anyone else considering a repaint, take a look at Rustoleum Satin Rustic Orange.  I painted the big finderscope to try it out.  I REALLY did not want to paint the C8 OTA unless I was certain I could do a good job with it.  After letting it dry for a day, I sat it next to the OTA, and under a variety of light conditions, compared the two.  It was astonishingly close.  Rustoleum also has a pretty close match for the base as well that I used, although it's half a shade darker, but I was fine with that (it was the orange on the OTA I really cared about).  I deliberated another couple days afraid I was going to screw up this ~50 year old telescope.  

 

I eventually bit the bullet.  I unbolted the camera mount, removed the OTA, masked everything off and got to work.  Painting the OTA was a slow process.  I held the can very far away as I desperately wanted to avoid a run.  I laid down several of the thinnest coats possible to try to get the smoothest possible application.  It took about 10 coats that way, but in the end, I think the result was worth it.  I then painted the base and fork arms as well as the rear and forward ring of the OTA.  Fortunately, the Dec fine adjustment knob was just a loose set screw.  I put it all back together and the results are below!  I'm really pleased with how it turned out, and I think the restoration was as respectful of the original configuration and paint scheme as possible.

 

 

 

 

So a couple interesting/unique aspects of this particular telescope.  The optics are unlike anything I've ever seen in an SCT, and I think I now know why.  The serial number put the date of manufacture in early 1973 (not '71).  So I have to assume this is a Robert Goss production.  I'm wondering if the original owner knew that, and that's why this particular OTA was chosen for his imaging.  He definitely didn't care about the aesthetics of the telescope- it was apparent this OTA was selected for its optical performance.  

 

The other unique aspect is the data plate- or plates.  This is the last mystery I'm trying to work out, and if anyone can shed any light on this, I'd be eternally grateful.  The base has a data plate with a serial number that puts its date of manufacture in the fourth quarter of 1973.  But the OTA also has a data plate.  The OTA's data plate is second quarter 1973.  DOes anyone have any idea why that might be?  My best guess is that the original base was defective and a new base was ordered.  But the  dataplate on the OTA looks factory original.  There is no sign at all that it was previously removed from an old base and transferred to the OTA.  After scouring the internet, I found another C8 OTA that also had a data plate on it.  Are there any circumstances under which Celestron would have put a data plate directly on an OTA?  Was this originally purchased as an OTA only?  That would make sense if my hunch is correct that this astrophotographer was deliberately seeking an OTA with optimized optics.  Does anyone have any thoughts on that?

 

 

Okay, enough yammering.  Here are the before pics.  Thanks for reading!

 

 

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#2 Creedence

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Posted 09 October 2019 - 08:51 AM

After!:

 

 

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Edited by Creedence, 09 October 2019 - 08:59 AM.

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#3 petert913

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Posted 09 October 2019 - 08:57 AM

OMG !  SO much better.  That's a beauty, now.


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#4 respite

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Posted 09 October 2019 - 09:01 AM

That camera thing is pretty cool looking.


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#5 Chuck Hards

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Posted 09 October 2019 - 09:04 AM

Why did you remove the bigger 40mm C11/C14 finder?  Because without the camera mount it's out of balance?  Looks great!


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#6 Creedence

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Posted 09 October 2019 - 09:06 AM

OMG ! SO much better. That's a beauty, now.


Thank you!! This was a lot of fun, but not being the most technically adept person in the world, it was a leap of faith undertaking the project. I was terrified I’d mess it up. Fortunately it had a happy ending!

#7 RyanSem

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Posted 09 October 2019 - 09:09 AM

You nailed it with the color! What a great story and restoration.

 

Love that old C14 finder too, it's huge!


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#8 Creedence

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Posted 09 October 2019 - 09:10 AM

Respite- I though the same thing. Pretty clever idea. If you look closely though you can see the forward mounting plate is a homemade design, and the rear bracket had some alaigent issues that required several holes to be re-drilled (fortunately in the bracket and not the OTA!).

Chuck, I am still using the big finder as the test bed for future improvements. I’m going to experiment with some fine grain sand paper to see if I can get the same silky feel that the Velvetone has without messing up the look. There’s no question it is the better of the two finder scopes, so I’ll probably swap them out when. I’m done.
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#9 Neptune

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Posted 09 October 2019 - 09:11 AM

My first 'real' scope was a C-8. It killed me to see his one with the extra holes drilled/punched in the orange tube for that crazy adapter thing bolted to it. Nice find though, $440 seems kinda much, but if you like it and use it, it is a sweet find.


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#10 RyanSem

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Posted 09 October 2019 - 09:18 AM

For a sand cast C8 I figured it was a pretty decent price!



#11 Creedence

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Posted 09 October 2019 - 10:34 AM

Yeah I don’t feel terrible about the price, especially if this is a Bob Goss sample. This is the first I’ve ever seen locally, so I figured $440 was fine. The cosmetics were the only real shortcoming.

The holes in the OTA made me cringe when I first realized how he installed that bracket, but the Allen head screws I have on their now don’t really distract from over overall appeal now. I guess that can serve as a reminder of its hardworking past as it enjoys its retirement of casual use.

One important testament to the quality of the restoration, my 4 year old daughter claimed it as “her” telescope now. I hope I can keep her interest over the years and pass it on to her for another lifetime of enjoyment.

Edited by Creedence, 09 October 2019 - 11:53 AM.

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#12 Chuck Hards

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Posted 09 October 2019 - 10:44 AM

One important testament to the quality of the restoration, my 4 year old daughter claimed it as “her” telescope now. I hope I can keep her interest over the years and pass it on to her for another lifetime of enjoyment.

Good luck.  My own daughter never really caught the astronomy bug.  She's 27 now but had her picture in Sky & Telescope when she was only 6, and still liked looking through dad's big telescopes.  I miss those days.


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#13 Geo31

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Posted 09 October 2019 - 11:21 AM

Outstanding.

 

I suspect the "camera mount" may have been a guide scope mount.  Does the front adjust side to side?

 

I would not worry about the modifications by the original owner.  I know a lot of people worry about something not being like factory condition, but I've always looked at well done period mods as being part of the story and make a scope, car, boat, whatever, much more interesting.


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#14 davidc135

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Posted 09 October 2019 - 12:46 PM

Great account. Have you had a chance to test the optics under the stars?  David



#15 Creedence

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Posted 09 October 2019 - 01:06 PM

Outstanding.

 

I suspect the "camera mount" may have been a guide scope mount.  Does the front adjust side to side?

 

I would not worry about the modifications by the original owner.  I know a lot of people worry about something not being like factory condition, but I've always looked at well done period mods as being part of the story and make a scope, car, boat, whatever, much more interesting.

Here are a couple closer shots on the bracket/mount.  This is a part of the telescope's appeal for me.  I would love to know more about its early life and the person who modified it.  Whoever it was knew exactly what they wanted out of this scope.  Some serious time and energy went into making it how it was.  The forward bracket mount was homemade (and lovingly painted flat brown to match the base).  The rear bracket mount received a couple drill holes as he tried to get things to line up.  A little ham-fisted, but it was a sturdy installation, I have to give him that.

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Edited by Creedence, 09 October 2019 - 02:01 PM.


#16 Creedence

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Posted 09 October 2019 - 01:19 PM

Great account. Have you had a chance to test the optics under the stars?  David

 

Thanks!  I have had a couple chances now to get it out and run it through its paces.  It performed so well as a matter of fact that it confirmed a few issues I suspected about my 2 year old 12" Meade, and it got sent back to get the optics realigned.  Stars snap cleanly into focus, beautifully concentric diffraction patterns on both sides of focus, and resolution on Jupiter and Saturn is spectacular.  I'd be happy with this OTA if it had just rolled off of a production line let alone one that had been sitting for the better part of 50 years.  It does have field curvature relative to the Meade ACF, but I accept hat as something that's to be expected.  There is also more mirror flop than the Meade OTA, so I may take a look at the threaded hole the previous owner drilled in the rear cell to see if I can remedy that the way (I'm guessing) he did.  


Edited by Creedence, 09 October 2019 - 02:02 PM.

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#17 Joe Cepleur

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Posted 11 October 2019 - 02:58 PM

I suspect the "camera mount" may have been a guide scope mount.  

That seems likely. If it had been intended to mound a camera, it would have fit a standard (I don't know what it's called…) gizmo that screws onto a camera, for clamping it to a tripod. There are many such gizmos made by many different manufacturers, but I have never seen one that would fit this telescope's clamp. It's awfully large, so perhaps it fits a gizmo meant for a large video or film movie camera of the day, but no one would have mounted such a camera on a telescope. This suggests it is either an ATM design by the former owner, or a commercial video/movie gizmo repurposed for mounting a guide scope. 

 

But, be warned: I'm just guessing!



#18 jwheel

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Posted 12 October 2019 - 09:47 AM

Nice find!




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