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Any suggestions for buying and assembling an Ash Dome?

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#1 EdM2

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 01:54 AM

I will be purchasing a 14'6" REB Ash Dome in the next few days.  The dome will be supported by a base ring that is 38 inches high and has a 3'x3' entrance door.

 

Has anyone been through the process of buying and/or assembling an Ash dome before and could provide some pointers/suggestions in terms of purchasing the dome and assembling the dome at the construction site?

 

I plan to have an Ash supervisor on site during the construction of the dome on my property.  I am not yet clear what kind or number of laborers or equipment I will need on site or what skills the laborers will need to possess.

 

Any feedback you could provide would be greatly appreciated.


Edited by EdM2, 21 January 2021 - 03:14 AM.


#2 outofdark

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 08:31 AM

Do they supply you with an assembly manual?



#3 cmaier

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 11:01 AM

Observatory Solutions can do it...smile.gif  Seriously, plz. post pics as I'd love to upgrade to that dome in the near future...



#4 eastwd

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 11:25 AM

Ed, you’re going to need a minimum of four people doing the actual assembly work on the dome portion to achieve any kind of efficiency. Assembly of my 14.5’ Ash Dome was completed this fall. Two local carpenters built the custom lower dome wall with assistance from me. Dave Miller of Observatory Solutions joined the three of us for assembly of the wooden, circular dome base rings that Ash supplies, and I hired an additional two local carpenters to assemble the dome. Dave was working hard the entire time, not just observing. So we effectively had six people assembling the dome itself, and no one was ever without work to do. The wall supporting your dome is not nearly as tall as mine, though, so your work will be much closer to the ground. I think you could get by fine with the dome assembly portion with four people working hard, and with at least two of them climbing and working atop ladders and scaffolding. Your workers are going to need a couple of sections of scaffolding, which is rentable at most big box hardware stores.

Yes, there is an instruction manual from Ash, and it’s far superior to the one Technical Innovation ships with the PD-15. Still, I think you are very wise to arrange for someone from Ash to come and supervise the build. My own experience with having Dave Miller with Observatory Solutions oversee my build was excellent, and I was glad I didn’t attempt assembly without expert help. I built the PD-15 I used to have by myself with the help of two others, but this is a different animal entirely. More labor intensive to assemble due to its weight, but a joy to use.

Larry
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#5 EdM2

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 01:47 PM

Do they supply you with an assembly manual?

Yes, they do supply one and I intend to read it carefully before the build date.

 

 

 



#6 EdM2

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 01:59 PM

Ed, you’re going to need a minimum of four people doing the actual assembly work on the dome portion to achieve any kind of efficiency. Assembly of my 14.5’ Ash Dome was completed this fall. Two local carpenters built the custom lower dome wall with assistance from me. Dave Miller of Observatory Solutions joined the three of us for assembly of the wooden, circular dome base rings that Ash supplies, and I hired an additional two local carpenters to assemble the dome. Dave was working hard the entire time, not just observing. So we effectively had six people assembling the dome itself, and no one was ever without work to do. The wall supporting your dome is not nearly as tall as mine, though, so your work will be much closer to the ground. I think you could get by fine with the dome assembly portion with four people working hard, and with at least two of them climbing and working atop ladders and scaffolding. Your workers are going to need a couple of sections of scaffolding, which is rentable at most big box hardware stores.

Yes, there is an instruction manual from Ash, and it’s far superior to the one Technical Innovation ships with the PD-15. Still, I think you are very wise to arrange for someone from Ash to come and supervise the build. My own experience with having Dave Miller with Observatory Solutions oversee my build was excellent, and I was glad I didn’t attempt assembly without expert help. I built the PD-15 I used to have by myself with the help of two others, but this is a different animal entirely. More labor intensive to assemble due to its weight, but a joy to use.

Larry

Thanks Larry, That is a big help.  I just talked to Riley at Ash Dome.  He said that the Ash supervisor will actually engage in the work as well as supervise the other workers.  Riley suggested I supply three carpenters for five 8 hour days to work with their supervisor.  That will be four people total.  Considering that my dome will be much closer to the ground than yours this should be sufficient.  Riley did say I would need two levels of scaffolding as you mentioned and he will send the specs for that.

 

Based on the height of the telescope we decided to use 48" walls instead of 38".  This will allow people easier entrance to the observatory.

 

Riley is sending me a tool list so I will know what to ask the carpenters to bring with them when the arrive to do the work.

 

I am sending Ash the down payment for the dome this morning and the installation should take place in 3 to 4 months.  So far this is going smoothly.



#7 EdM2

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 04:06 PM

Observatory Solutions can do it...smile.gif  Seriously, plz. post pics as I'd love to upgrade to that dome in the near future...

Sure, the build date will not be for three or four months but I will definitely post pictures and descriptions of the process.  I hope this thread will be of assistance to anyone else thinking of buying an Ash dome.


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#8 drprovi57

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Posted 21 January 2021 - 08:42 PM

I designed and constructed a 12.5ft Ash dome observatory about 2 years ago.  Like others on this thread, I contracted out the construction of the wood structure ( 2 level, second story) building and an attached warm room.  Even though your structure is much lower to the ground - you need to make sure the wood supporting structure is built very strong - I believe the 14.5 Ash dome comes in around over 2500 lbs fully assembled- when it starts to rotate is will place a lot of momentum into structure.  Regarding assembling the Ash dome, I was able to fully assemble the Ash dome with the help of my brother and my “strong” 28 year old son - not my brother and I are a healthy 60+ age at the time.  Having an additional person, for a total of 4 would have made the assembly easier.  I was able to fully assemble the entire dome and shutter system in three days of 10 hours days (with lots of breaks).  Installing the top shutter is heavy - so have 4 people will help a lot.  The Ash dome assembly instructions are excellent - if you have moderate DIY skills you will have no issues - Ash dome reassembles the their domes at the factory to ensure all comes together with an excellent fit - they provide a video of your dome show full dome rotation and shutter opening/closing.  Getting the base ring level and circular is essential and critical - the dome panels will then go in place with little effort.  Ash makes a great engineered dome - built like a tank and operates flawlessly for decades.  They are expensive, but made in the USA and they “just work”.  Since Ash domes operate with AC motors you should work with Riley at Ash on your automation system.  I decided to go with Astrometric Systems fo dome automation - again, expensive - but works flawlessly and is almost “turn Key” installation with great support.  

 

Hope this helps and feel free to PM if you have any other questions - you will enjoy the Ash dome for a life time

 

jason

 

IMG_0838.jpeg

 


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#9 EdM2

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Posted 23 January 2021 - 05:44 PM

I designed and constructed a 12.5ft Ash dome observatory about 2 years ago.  Like others on this thread, I contracted out the construction of the wood structure ( 2 level, second story) building and an attached warm room.  Even though your structure is much lower to the ground - you need to make sure the wood supporting structure is built very strong - I believe the 14.5 Ash dome comes in around over 2500 lbs fully assembled- when it starts to rotate is will place a lot of momentum into structure.  Regarding assembling the Ash dome, I was able to fully assemble the Ash dome with the help of my brother and my “strong” 28 year old son - not my brother and I are a healthy 60+ age at the time.  Having an additional person, for a total of 4 would have made the assembly easier.  I was able to fully assemble the entire dome and shutter system in three days of 10 hours days (with lots of breaks).  Installing the top shutter is heavy - so have 4 people will help a lot.  The Ash dome assembly instructions are excellent - if you have moderate DIY skills you will have no issues - Ash dome reassembles the their domes at the factory to ensure all comes together with an excellent fit - they provide a video of your dome show full dome rotation and shutter opening/closing.  Getting the base ring level and circular is essential and critical - the dome panels will then go in place with little effort.  Ash makes a great engineered dome - built like a tank and operates flawlessly for decades.  They are expensive, but made in the USA and they “just work”.  Since Ash domes operate with AC motors you should work with Riley at Ash on your automation system.  I decided to go with Astrometric Systems fo dome automation - again, expensive - but works flawlessly and is almost “turn Key” installation with great support.  

 

Hope this helps and feel free to PM if you have any other questions - you will enjoy the Ash dome for a life time

 

jason

 

attachicon.gifIMG_0838.jpeg

Thanks Jason.  You have a beautiful observatory.  I am looking to contract three carpenters that are experts at home framing and I will have the Ash supervisor (who will also do work) here to run the operation.  I will help out when needed, such as installing the shutters.  I know of an Ash dome that was built in the mid-1960s that is still running flawlessly today.  They are excellent products.



#10 Christopher Erickson

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Posted 26 January 2021 - 11:54 PM

Ash makes a great product. The toughest and most reliable dome available. I have built a number of them and rebuilt some more.

 

Assembly and installation can be done with just two people and without a crane, when required. Getting the upper shutter up and into place is the hardest part.

 

However I am not impressed with their use of glazers compound to seal up various weather points and would suggest things like RTV and/or adhesive, rubber-backed, aluminum roof repair wrap instead.


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#11 eastwd

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Posted 27 January 2021 - 09:12 AM

Ash makes a great product. The toughest and most reliable dome available. I have built a number of them and rebuilt some more.

 

* * *

 

However I am not impressed with their use of glazers compound to seal up various weather points and would suggest things like RTV and/or adhesive, rubber-backed, aluminum roof repair wrap instead.

Chris, I appreciate this comment and would like to hear more of your thoughts on this. My Ash Dome is still basically brand new, and in accordance with the assembly instructions, the glazing compound was used to seal the seams where the dome shutter frame meets the curved dome panels. I only have one very small leak to track down and seal where the shutter frame meets one of the curved dome sections. It’s about 17 feet above the floor of my observatory in an area where the glazing compound (which for people who aren’t familiar with it has a consistency somewhat similar to Silly Putty) is used as waterproofing. One thing I’ve noticed is the glazing compound dulls/tarnishes the painted surfaces and can even remove the paint down to the underlying steel if you let it get in the wrong place and then try to wipe it off later. I’m doing some paint touch up where this is happened.

 

Any additional comments you can provide about what I can expect from the glazing compound going forward over time would be appreciated. For instance, in your experience, once it’s applied to an area and no leaks are seen, is it likely to remain waterproof for years to come? Or have you seen it begin to lose its waterproofing effectiveness over time? Also, for anyone who chooses to substitute another product in its place, do you have a specific brand you’ve successfully used or any additional details of what you would recommend as a substitute?  Thanks in advance.

 

Larry


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#12 drprovi57

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Posted 27 January 2021 - 03:31 PM

Chris, I appreciate this comment and would like to hear more of your thoughts on this. My Ash Dome is still basically brand new, and in accordance with the assembly instructions, the glazing compound was used to seal the seams where the dome shutter frame meets the curved dome panels. I only have one very small leak to track down and seal where the shutter frame meets one of the curved dome sections. It’s about 17 feet above the floor of my observatory in an area where the glazing compound (which for people who aren’t familiar with it has a consistency somewhat similar to Silly Putty) is used as waterproofing. One thing I’ve noticed is the glazing compound dulls/tarnishes the painted surfaces and can even remove the paint down to the underlying steel if you let it get in the wrong place and then try to wipe it off later. I’m doing some paint touch up where this is happened.

 

Any additional comments you can provide about what I can expect from the glazing compound going forward over time would be appreciated. For instance, in your experience, once it’s applied to an area and no leaks are seen, is it likely to remain waterproof for years to come? Or have you seen it begin to lose its waterproofing effectiveness over time? Also, for anyone who chooses to substitute another product in its place, do you have a specific brand you’ve successfully used or any additional details of what you would recommend as a substitute?  Thanks in advance.

 

Larry

Larry,  My experience (based on my almost 3 year old 12.5ft Ash dome) is the glazing compound works very well and has not leaked anywhere.  I perform an annual inspection and the glazing compound looks almost new where I applied.  Getting the glazing compound properly applied does seem like an "art form" - took me several days of careful application to get just right.   Ash dome support helped a lot - they do not recommend any other product except the supplied glazing compound - not sure why.. but it works

 

Best

Jason


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#13 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 27 January 2021 - 09:41 PM

Observatory Solutions can do it...smile.gif  Seriously, plz. post pics as I'd love to upgrade to that dome in the near future...

Somehow, I do not think there is any way the OP will be using the above mentioned party.



#14 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 27 January 2021 - 09:46 PM

<snip>

Any additional comments you can provide about what I can expect from the glazing compound going forward over time would be appreciated. For instance, in your experience, once it’s applied to an area and no leaks are seen, is it likely to remain waterproof for years to come? Or have you seen it begin to lose its waterproofing effectiveness over time? Also, for anyone who chooses to substitute another product in its place, do you have a specific brand you’ve successfully used or any additional details of what you would recommend as a substitute?  Thanks in advance.

 

Larry

I have had excellent results sealing leaks around the door of my observatory with a product called "Lexel Clear-Paintable-Solvent-Caulk".  It works like silicone, but is paintable.  Seems permanent also.


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#15 akulapanam

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Posted 29 January 2021 - 02:08 AM

Somehow, I do not think there is any way the OP will be using the above mentioned party.

But they are really the prime assembler of those things, actually the only one that I have seen.  Going to be interesting to see if this works out better than the PD15 for the OP.



#16 vrotondi

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Posted 29 January 2021 - 09:28 AM

Hello All:
I have been reading this discussion of the build of the PD15 by Observatory Solutions. I have to chime in here and defend Dave. He is a great installer. He has installed 6 or seven domes for us at high profile locations such as West Point and UC Berkeley as a couple of examples. He could only do so much with the product that is chosen by his clients. If the OP had chosen a Ash dome from the beginning, we wouldn't be having this conversation. 

 

 

VR

Pier-Tech Inc


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#17 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 29 January 2021 - 10:16 AM

Yes, if the owner had done enough research, he wouldn't have gone the route he did, most likely.


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#18 Christopher Erickson

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Posted 30 January 2021 - 01:53 PM

Chris, I appreciate this comment and would like to hear more of your thoughts on this. My Ash Dome is still basically brand new, and in accordance with the assembly instructions, the glazing compound was used to seal the seams where the dome shutter frame meets the curved dome panels. I only have one very small leak to track down and seal where the shutter frame meets one of the curved dome sections. It’s about 17 feet above the floor of my observatory in an area where the glazing compound (which for people who aren’t familiar with it has a consistency somewhat similar to Silly Putty) is used as waterproofing. One thing I’ve noticed is the glazing compound dulls/tarnishes the painted surfaces and can even remove the paint down to the underlying steel if you let it get in the wrong place and then try to wipe it off later. I’m doing some paint touch up where this is happened.

 

Any additional comments you can provide about what I can expect from the glazing compound going forward over time would be appreciated. For instance, in your experience, once it’s applied to an area and no leaks are seen, is it likely to remain waterproof for years to come? Or have you seen it begin to lose its waterproofing effectiveness over time? Also, for anyone who chooses to substitute another product in its place, do you have a specific brand you’ve successfully used or any additional details of what you would recommend as a substitute?  Thanks in advance.

 

Larry

 

I am not fond of the glazers compound solution at all. Glazers compound never sets up and isn't very sticky. With the right combination of weather conditions, it can literally unstick itself and fall out of wherever it is located. Especially if the metal surfaces it is attached to weren't degreased first.

 

Prepping the metal surfaces is important. Most galvanized metal surfaces have a thin oil layer on the surface from the manufacturing process that needs to be removed for good adhesion with whatever you are trying to stick to it.

 

Personally I prefer prepping the metal surface and using a 20-25 year silicon glue for narrow seams and a good-quality, wide, roofer's tape for larger gaps. It has a bright aluminum side and a sticky side, and a black or white rubber layer in between. Available at most hardware stores.


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#19 EdM2

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Posted 01 February 2021 - 02:16 PM

But they are really the prime assembler of those things, actually the only one that I have seen.  Going to be interesting to see if this works out better than the PD15 for the OP.

Ash Dome will provide their own expert to assemble the dome and supervise others that help in the project.  The cost for this expert is attractive.  I feel more comfortable with a representative from Ash Dome installing an Ash Dome.


Edited by EdM2, 02 February 2021 - 12:13 AM.

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#20 EdM2

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Posted 01 February 2021 - 11:41 PM

Hello All:
I have been reading this discussion of the build of the PD15 by Observatory Solutions. I have to chime in here and defend Dave. He is a great installer. He has installed 6 or seven domes for us at high profile locations such as West Point and UC Berkeley as a couple of examples. He could only do so much with the product that is chosen by his clients. If the OP had chosen a Ash dome from the beginning, we wouldn't be having this conversation. 

 

 

VR

Pier-Tech Inc

Vitorotondi, Before deciding on the Ash Dome I looked long and hard at Pier-Tech domes, prompted by the private note you sent to me asking me to look at them and telling me your domes are better than Ash Dome.  Perhaps you are upset that I did not buy a Pier-Tech dome but after much research I found the Pier-Tech domes to be less than desirable for many reasons.  Ash Dome was definitely the better choice.


Edited by EdM2, 02 February 2021 - 01:21 AM.


#21 akulapanam

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Posted 01 February 2021 - 11:51 PM

Before deciding on the Ash Dome I looked long and hard at Pier-Tech domes. I found them less than desirable. Ash Dome was definitely the better choice.


Eh I don’t think he was plugging his product here, I think he was just saying Dave does a good job with installs.
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#22 EdM2

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Posted 01 February 2021 - 11:53 PM

Yes, if the owner had done enough research, he wouldn't have gone the route he did, most likely.

John, I can understand your point of view and I am sure that it seems that not enough pre-purchase experience was done.  But I would like to point out the research that I did do:  I talked to New Mexico Skies which owns many PD15s.  They recommended them.  I talked to other owners of PD15s and they told me what they did to prevent possible problems with them.  I drove to Orlando to see the PD15 in production and I talked to Jerry, the owner of Technical Innovations.  He explained how to avoid many problems that can occur with the PD15.  I examined a PD15 in production and Jerry explained how each system is designed. 

 

I asked other experts as well, including one that installs all commercial domes around the world on a routine basis.  He recommended the PD15 as well.

 

Perhaps what you are referring to as "not enough research" involves the posts about the PD15 on CN.  I did read as many posts as I could find on that subject.  However the problem with relying solely on that approach is that it is far more likely that a reader will post problems with their PD15 than they are to post successful experiences.  So relying solely on CN posts creates a selection process that can be expected to be skewed in one direction as opposed to the other.  I did not consider that (alone) to be a scientifically sound approach.  I balanced all sources of information together.

 

Please also keep in mind that I am not saying that a properly built PD15 is or is not a good product.  That is not my purpose on this thread.


Edited by EdM2, 02 February 2021 - 11:28 PM.

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#23 EdM2

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Posted 01 February 2021 - 11:55 PM

Eh I don’t think he was plugging his product here, I think he was just saying Dave does a good job with installs.

Yes, I understand that is his opinion.



#24 austin.grant

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Posted 02 February 2021 - 12:09 AM

Interesting to hear that CN isn’t a reliable source of advice in a thread where the same poster is asking for advice. What a time to be alive 😬

I’m kidding of course. Good luck with the new dome!

#25 EdM2

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Posted 02 February 2021 - 12:26 AM

Do they supply you with an assembly manual?

Yes, Ash does provide an assembly manual which I hear is quite good.  But considering the complexity of the project I decided to hire an Ash Dome assembler/supervisor along with two or three carpenters experienced in framing houses.  I feel more confident that the project will be successful this way.


Edited by EdM2, 02 February 2021 - 12:36 AM.



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