Finally - I'm FREEEE. Well sort of. Last December I got two HD component sets for under $200. They're used from an industrial robot, and look to be in excellent condition. One set also had a serious crossed roller bearing on the output. I bought another bearing to match for the second axis. It took me 10 months to grind through the design as I picked away here and there when I could. I want to do this project really well including finishes and all, so not to be hurrying. I now have some 40+ sheets of detail drawings and a wee bit of machining to do - no CNC - just a manual lathe and mill. The plan is to run it all with OnStep which I tried briefly in 2017 - those folks have really done impressive things with that platform! I designed in axis release clamps outside of the HD drive trains to mimic having clutches like a typical worm drive might. The whole mess should weigh about 30 pounds (without tripod or counterweights). Should easily carry 50 pounds or more depending on the placement of the load and acceleration rates - more if i use a counterweight. HD's have pretty big periodic error so guiding will be needed for long focal length / duration imaging.
I think I'll super clean the shop before making chips - lots of chips.