Yesterday I found an ad on Facebook Marketplace for a "Meade telescope 10" Starfinder" for a whopping $20. However, I could tell by the picture that it wasn't a 10" Meade Starfinder EQ, but a Meade 826. No pictures of the mirror, the scope looked dirty, and the counterweight shaft was covered in rust, but it was 30 minutes away and it was $20, so why not? And after contacting the seller, off I went.
I was in a hurry, I had to be back for a 4th of July BBQ. So, I didn't do a full inspection or talk too long with the seller. He had it set up in his driveway, and I took a quick peak of the mirror. It was covered in dust and what I feared was fungus. If it was more expensive I would have haggled the price, but for $20 I didn't care, it was worth the price of admission. I also tried moving the RA and DEC axis and they moved, not the ideal smoothness, but not seized, so another good sign. The seller also said the motor hums but he never had it set up enough to tell if it worked or not. Turns out he never looked through it. He had owned it for a few years, but it just sat in his pole barn. No eyepieces to speak of, but he did hand me an envelope with the original instructions and sales receipt in it, cool.
I love solid tube OTAs that fit across the back seat of a car. They are just so easy to transport. Unfortunately I didn't have time to even unload the scope when I got home as I went straight to the BBQ. The whole time my mind was thinking about the mirror and what kind of shape it was in. When I did get home I took a little time to do an inspection and clean the tube.
I removed everything from the tube. Thankfully, every nut and bolt moved and I was able to disassemble without using WD-40 or Liquid Wrench. First was the primary mirror. Unfortunately, my fears were realized as I believe what covered it was many blotches of fungus. Not positive on this, what do you think? It sat for the last few years in a pole barn and while it did have a shower cap to keep heavy dust off, moisture still got to it. Hoping that the mirror acquired the fungus recently, but I don't know for sure. Secondary mirror was next and thankfully zero signs of fungus. What I did find was that the secondary holder cracking in multiple places and was dried out. It is plastic and does not appear to have aged well. Thankfully it still held the mirror. The 6x30 finderscope wasn't as lucky, it has a giant clam covering at least a third of the objective. I had planned to remove it anyways, truth be told I am not a fan of straight thru finders, but it is sad that this little objective has gathered it last starlight. I found shattered glass inside the finder tube. The 6x30 finder EP did manage to make it though. The 1.25" focuser is what you would expect considering everything else. A few scratches, very dirty, and the grease is like glue, but the solid metal build means it can be easily restored. I then turned my attention to the tube. Thankfully no dents or holes in it. I hoped that a good buffing of the tube would take care of it, but the paint is chipping away all over the tube so it will be need to be stripped and repainted. Removing the end rings was simple, they are just press fit. I did find "47.7" written under the front end tube and I assumed it was the tube length that is until I decided to measure the tube and it is 50" on the dot. I then assumed 47.7" was the focal length. I did a quick clean, damp sponge with a touch of soap. Lots of stains that would not come out, but I plan to strip and repaint the tube anyways so that's okay.
I decided to leave the mirrors alone for the day and tackle them the next day. So while running errand today I picked up a few gallons of distilled water. I use the O.W.L. method for cleaning mirrors https://www.youtube....h?v=9Y8xFnXFVGQ except I don't use tap water and only use distilled. It took a long time and I took it slow, ever so slightly moving my finger tips and flushing the mirror every so often. Thankfully the fungus came off with just the distilled water, a drop of free & clear dish soap, and my fingers. I did add a step of lightly cleaning the mirror with a 1:1 mixture of distilled water and 90% isopropyl alcohol after cleaning off the mirror. This was to kill whatever could be left of the fungus. I then followed that with more soapy water to clean off the alcohol. If it was a lens I would give it a Sun bath, but I don't want to lay a parabolic mirror in the Sun. Overall, the coatings are in good shape for being 41 years old (date on the sales receipt). The center marker did leave a residue that would not come off and I didn't want to mess with it more. Especially because I plan to have it recoated sometime in the next few years anyways. The secondary mirror cleaned up nicely too. Unfortunately the base of the secondary holder, which is cast metal, is also cracking. I do not want to reassemble this scope for the secondary to just drop on the primary. I will probably just purchase a whole new spider, maybe a nice curved one. When the mirrors were drying I noticed 48.0" etched inside the side of the primary. That is the only markings I see on it. Not sure what the 47.7" on the tube means then? I will measure the focal length John Dobson style soon and see what I find.
I haven't touched the mount yet. The legs and pier were very dirty and little rusty, but not too bad. I would tackle that next, but my wife, toddler, and I are moving before the end of the Summer and I don't have the time to do a full restore now.
I plan to pick up this restore project after our move. I am thinking of making a Dob mount for the OTA so it can go back and forth from EQ to Alt-Az. I may even add a 2" crayford focuser and a curved spider. But for now, I am content with clean mirrors and tube. Overall, hard to beat for $20!