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A Look at the Future of Amateur Telescope Makers

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#1 Augustus

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 12:50 PM

For a long time, I thought I was just perhaps one of the last teenagers involved in telescope making, and might perhaps, one day, be the last person at all. Thankfully, that has begun to finally change! In this article, I'll be talking about what I think has contributed to a sudden uptick in interest in ATM and the astronomy hobby as a whole and also showcase some of my friends who, like me, have embarked on the glorious journey of making their own telescopes.

Click here to view the article


Edited by Augustus, 26 February 2020 - 05:17 PM.

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#2 vtornado

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 01:41 PM

Great Article Augustus.

 

One problem I see with adults is the amount of spare time that we have seems to dwindling.

My Dad, and his "buddies" all worked about 40 minutes away and were strict 40 hr men.

Now the work week has expanded, and comutes are longer.  I would love to grind my own

mirror, but no way do I have the time.  I am waiting for my "golden" years to try my hand at it.

 

Also Asian Cheap Labor and amazing machines has turned the economics of telescope building upside down.

I remember 6 inch reflectors being Hundreds of 1970 Dollars.  That was when a starting job paid $2.50 an hour.

Today, I can get a decent 6  inch mirror for $150.00 and starting wages are $10.00.  This does

not apply just to telescopes.  All sorts of manufactured goods can be had for nearly nothing.

 

Another thing changing in our Millieu is shipping.  Over the past couple of decades shipping is becoming

increasingly expensive but also lightning fast.  When I was a kid a stamp was 5 cents and the norm was wait

weeks for delivery.  Now I can have boxes shipped from the West Coast to my home in 2 days, but at a price.

It now costs more to ship a cheap scope than its price to manufacture.  The last scope I bought was $45+

to ship a refractor from Missouri to Illinois.  Almost blew up the deal.

 

Raw materials use is also changing.  The telescopes and appliances of yore were made of metal and wood.

That has been replaced by chip board and plastic. Cheaper to manufacture and ship.   Low on durability.

Remember when a TV was a piece of furniture in a walnut cabinet?

 

The shipping / raw material changes are making me build more of my own mounts, which I find an

interesting challenge too.  I was able to buy a 12 inch collasible dob tube only for a great price.  The mount

was too heavy, and too big and not valuable enough to ship.


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#3 Astrojensen

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 02:07 PM

It is HIGHLY unlikely, that amateur telescope making will disappear completely. If you do some googling, you'll soon find LOADS of homepages dedicated to it. And there's people out there doing some pretty high-end stuff in addition to the more traditional telescope making. I have a friend, who built his own active optics guider, because his SCT had terrible periodic error and the mount and scope had so much inertia, it couldn't be guided properly the usual way. The commercial units were extremely expensive, so he made his own, on a fraction of the budget. 

 

 

Clear skies!
Thomas, Denmark 


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#4 zakry3323

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 02:25 PM

Since starting off in the hobby only a few years ago, I've been very interested in trying out mirror grinding and building my own scope. There are a few obstacles, like the initial investment of time and money into locating and buying the materials that can't be found in the local hardware, and I'd definitely like to find a mentor to help guide me through the process. Then of course, there's the time and cost of sending off the mirror for coating. Like you said, if I just want a 8" long fl scope, at the end of the day I'm more inclined to spend less time and not a lot more money supporting my small-store retailers (without running the risk of messing up and starting the build over again). 

That being said, I'd still like the learning experience. Is there anything like some kind of kit that supplies you with most materials, including a secondary and spider and grinding materials? 


Edited by zakry3323, 26 February 2020 - 02:26 PM.

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#5 mashirts

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 02:46 PM

Jim of JMI says on his website there is still the possibility of another John Dobson. Who knows what tricks there are to re-revolutionize our hobby.

Any takers out there?


Edited by mashirts, 26 February 2020 - 02:59 PM.

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#6 Simcal

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 03:07 PM

Just wait until every household has a 3-D printer. And every adult has learned how to use it in high school.    There's hope!  waytogo.gif


Edited by Simcal, 26 February 2020 - 07:59 PM.

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#7 geovermont

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 03:42 PM

Augustus, thanks for writing this article. Even first-attempt mirrors can be of very fine quality and significantly out-perform the usual commercial mirrors. I suspect that most users haven't ever looked through a well-made scope and don't know what they are missing. And you're absolutely right about the run-of-the mill chipboard Dobsonian mounts--they really aren't that great. Sure, they're better than the department store disasters we all rag on, but they often fall way short of the potential of the elegant Dobsonian design.

 

Keep on building!


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#8 Augustus

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 04:32 PM

Just wait until even household has a 3-D printer. And every adult has learned how to use it in high school.    There's hope!  waytogo.gif

Aaron has some pretty cool looking parts printed so far. Hopefully he posts them in his thread soon.


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#9 Augustus

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Posted 26 February 2020 - 05:06 PM

Since starting off in the hobby only a few years ago, I've been very interested in trying out mirror grinding and building my own scope. There are a few obstacles, like the initial investment of time and money into locating and buying the materials that can't be found in the local hardware, and I'd definitely like to find a mentor to help guide me through the process. Then of course, there's the time and cost of sending off the mirror for coating. Like you said, if I just want a 8" long fl scope, at the end of the day I'm more inclined to spend less time and not a lot more money supporting my small-store retailers (without running the risk of messing up and starting the build over again). 

That being said, I'd still like the learning experience. Is there anything like some kind of kit that supplies you with most materials, including a secondary and spider and grinding materials? 

I would recommend looking for a spider/secondary used somewhere. Destiny sells new spiders and GSO sells new secondaries but they are kind of expensive.

 

For grinding kits check out Firsthand Discovery, though you could probably obtain a blank used on here for cheaper.


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#10 macleod

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Posted 27 February 2020 - 02:08 AM

Its wonderful to see young people getting into ATM, and astronomy generally.I have followed Logan,s mirror builds since he first posted, and he has been an inspiration to so many younger people . He was an inspiration to me too, and last year I completed a 10in f3.7 mirror, and an 8in f2.65 mirror - with the help of oversight from Danny on C/N ( Pinbout ). I made my only other mirror in 1962, so there was a long gestation before moving into the short f numbers.Provided you build a bit of simple test gear, fast mirrors are a fun ( frustrating ) challenge, and it seems to be the way of modern ATM, " pushing the boundaries". Go for it Guys and Gals , great to see, and best wishes to you all from a "Great Grandad" in NZ. Macleod


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#11 zakry3323

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Posted 28 February 2020 - 05:23 PM

I would recommend looking for a spider/secondary used somewhere. Destiny sells new spiders and GSO sells new secondaries but they are kind of expensive.

 

For grinding kits check out Firsthand Discovery, though you could probably obtain a blank used on here for cheaper.

Thanks Augustus!



#12 highfnum

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Posted 29 February 2020 - 06:56 PM

good to see young blood getting into ATM field

for a while I thought it would fade away with aging space age baby boomers

 

note: economic pressure on grinding your own mirror began once commercial

scopes hit market back in the 60's 

i have ground a few small mirrors and lenses but just for oddball stuff like 

herchelian off axis or extra long focal length lenses that are hard to find 

 

note: there is another aspect to atm'ing  and that is the component build

  example : my D SHG (spectroheligraph) is built from ready made components

such as slits and holographic gratings and then designing and building body around those items

 

good article and good news - hats off to you Zane


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#13 NinePlanets

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Posted 01 March 2020 - 09:41 AM

Excellent! Thank you!

For decades I have assumed the ATM community was dying off with the Boomers. I'm glad to see there is a legacy - and one who can write, too!  ;)


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#14 RichA

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Posted 02 March 2020 - 02:48 AM

In 1970 $75.00 would buy a second-rate Japanese 60mm.  Today, $500.00 (equivalent dollars) will buy a lot, LOT more scope.  But, housing costs a lot more, and the percentage of income going to "services" and electronics is much higher than 1970.  So, if all you buy for your hermit cave is a telescope, things are much better.  On the opposite end, DIY, the stuff needed to grind a 6" mirror probably costs as much as entire six inch scope.  In addition, millenials watch Youtube videos...on how to change a tire and spend 80% of their time on phones and prefer "experiences" to material goods.  I don't see telescope building as a hobby with much of a future, and in-fact, few hobbies attract the attention of anyone under 50.



#15 Augustus

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Posted 02 March 2020 - 09:13 AM

In addition, millenials watch Youtube videos...on how to change a tire and spend 80% of their time on phones and prefer "experiences" to material goods.  I don't see telescope building as a hobby with much of a future, and in-fact, few hobbies attract the attention of anyone under 50.

Telescope making is an experience and this article is not about millenials. Additionally I think it is a bit broad to paint an entire generation as lazy, ignorant and addicted to devices.


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#16 james7ca

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Posted 02 March 2020 - 09:59 AM

I'm glad to see that there are still young people who are interested in mirror making.

 

One thing to consider, it's virtually impossible to find mirrors that have specific focal lengths or f-ratios in the consumer market.  Most everything is made in a few "standard" sizes. So, about the only way you're going to find an f/8 four inch Newtonian primary is if you grind one yourself. [I know, Vixen and a few other manufacturers use to make 4-inch Newtonians at f/8, but those are getting increasingly hard to find on the used market).

 

Why f/8 and four inches in diameter? Well, that just happens to be the focal length that is needed to frame the entire disk of the moon on a sensor like Sony's IMX183. It's also the correct f-ratio to deliver an essentially coma free field over that same sensor and as the numbers predict at f/8 and with the IMX183 sensor you are pretty close to the critical sampling for that sensor's pixel size (perhaps when given a little help with a drizzle integration and a red filter).

 

Thus, the "perfect" small scope to do good quality, full disk lunar imaging in a single frame.

 

To the OP, keep up the good work.


Edited by james7ca, 02 March 2020 - 10:16 AM.

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#17 Marty0750

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Posted 03 March 2020 - 12:24 AM

After a 60mm refractor, the next biggest scope I first had the chance to view through was the one I built in 1974! A 6 inch f/8. I ground and polished the mirror and made a turn-on-thread equatorial pipe mount for it. It still is the biggest scope I have and I still use it.

 

Having made your own scope you are the manufacturer and the service technician and warranty. If some part wears out or is damaged it goes back to the factory - your workshop and is fixed for free. Upgrades, addons and modifications are free too, often made from materials lying around the workshop. No packaging and posting costs nor weeks waiting time other than your own schedule.


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#18 nato

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Posted 03 March 2020 - 12:20 PM

Excellent,while I do not think amateur telescope making will completely die out it is good to see some young ATM's out there. With the Virus in China I have a feeling production of telescopes from China is going to decline for awhile. Nate Goodman (Nato).
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#19 Augustus

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Posted 03 March 2020 - 12:26 PM

Excellent,while I do not think amateur telescope making will completely die out it is good to see some young ATM's out there. With the Virus in China I have a feeling production of telescopes from China is going to decline for awhile. Nate Goodman (Nato).


Don’t forget the possible tariffs. Very good point!

#20 msmithmitsky

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Posted 03 March 2020 - 06:25 PM

Thanks for the inspiring article.  I much enjoyed the upbeat tone. 


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#21 demorcef

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Posted 04 March 2020 - 08:59 PM

Zane,

 

Outstanding article! It warms my heart to hear about you guys and gals making telescopes by hand. I have always thought it was amazing that someone could grind a mirror by hand and make it work with optical precision. Someday I will try it myself!

 

-David Easley


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#22 clintmk89

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Posted 05 March 2020 - 09:38 PM

Interesting read and well written, glad the hobby has some young go-getters that’ll move it forward one day!
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#23 Cometman

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Posted 15 March 2020 - 12:32 PM

Listen to the latest episode of the Observers Notebook with Zane Landers!

 

https://soundcloud.c...th-zane-landers


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#24 Jeff B1

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Posted 15 March 2020 - 04:18 PM

Enjoyed your article, Zane, and hearing of someone your age being into ATM’ing is rare indeed.

 

While I was in my 30’s when making my first telescope it was not the first I had used; in fact the very first Mars view I had, besides looking up at it while lying in my front yard, was in the 40” Yerkes Clarke back n 1948.  It’s a is long story, but when I was eight my father took me to Kenosha, Wisconsin with him to a lithographers school so my mother could take a break from us kids when he was away during WWII.   After that I peered off and on in telescopes now and then until in 1973 when my wife bought me a 60mm Tasco to see comet Kohoutek. Then Mars interest took over and a chance meeting with Don Parker and Chick Capen, both well known Mars observers. Parker had been making telescopes since 1956, so we fit in right away. 

 

My first ATM was small reflector kit from Jaegers Optical.  My next project was a 12.5” f/30 Classical Cassegrain!  That was in the mid-1970’s and was only the first among many.  Also, I have been with ALPO since then as well.  My ATM’ing and observing are over now due to lack of interest and age.  But, it is interesting to read about it all.  Thanks for the article.


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#25 spudnik

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Posted 16 March 2020 - 12:45 AM

Very inspiring article for all.

Thank you Zane.


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