I have been involved in amateur telescope making (ATM) for over 20 years. In that time I have built many different telescopes and other instruments. This web page chronicles just a few of them. ATM is a great and very rewarding hobby. You can build a better telescope than you can buy. After you build your first telescope you'll never buy another mass-produced scope. You'll be hooked for life. It's really not as complicated as some people think. It's easier than brain surgery and learning how to speak Spanish and people still do those things every day! Click on the photos for more information on the various projects.
Since I've been casting my own telescope mirror blanks for several years now. I finally decided it was time to
build a machine to help me grind the edges of the blanks true and round. This is my home-built edge grinding machine for grinding down my
home-cast mirror blanks.
This is a 12.5 inch diameter, 1.5 inch thick, light-weight honeycomb-back telescope mirror blank that I made myself. The blank only weighs 10 lbs, 4 oz. I
am very excited about this process. It makes nice looking and very light blanks. Click the photo to see how I did it.
This is a 12.5 inch diameter, 1.5 inch thick, light-weight telescope mirror blank that I made myself. The blank only weighs 11 lbs, 15 oz. This is a
process I call The Waffle-Back Design, because the finished
blank looks like a big waffle. I have pretty much abandoned this design in favor of the honeycomb design above.
I have been experimenting with making telescope mirror blanks by fusing together disks of thin glass in my kiln to make the full thickness blanks. I am having quite a bit of success with this project. Check out how I do it.
Click on the photo for more information on how I do it.
Here is my latest creation, fresh out of the workshop. It's a large and sturdy equatorial platform for the 17.5 inch Dobsonian telescope. It gives me 40 minutes of tracking time. The platform was surprisingly easy to build. It only took a couple of weeks and it works great.
Click on the photo for more information on how it works.
I'm getting interested in astrophotoghaphy again after many years of avoiding it like the plague.
Cheap web cams are making it easy to capture images of brighter objects without a lot of the hassle that
I used to have to go through with film photography. They can't do faint nebulae and galaxies, yet, but they
do a pretty good job on planets. This is a photo of Saturn taken on 03/04/06, using the 16 inch Meade SCT
at the Carol Samuels Observatory, at prime focus (4000mm fl) using a Philips ToUcam. It's a 500 frame
video capture stacked with RegiStax. The seeing was exceptionally fine that night and only minimal
post-processing was needed to bring out the detail in the cloud bands on the planet.
This is the "Cookie Jar" telescope. It is an 8in. f/4.5 Newtonian scope on a ball
mounting. The truss design reduces the weight of the upper section and helps keep the center of
gravity low. The short focal length keeps the eyepiece low to the ground even at zenith, making
the Cookie Jar a very "kid friendly" telescope. The ball mounting allows smooth movement
in azimuth, altitude and rotation.
This is the 17.5in. f/4.5 Dobsonian telescope I built for the St. Petersburg Astronomy Club.
The scope was designed and built to be rugged and easily transportable. It collapses into a cube that
can be moved easily by one person once its wheels are strapped on. One person can setup or breakdown
the scope in about 10 minutes. The scope even maintains reasonable collimation from setup to setup.
This is a 4.25 in. Newtonian reflector with a wooden tube. I designed it to be a matching finder
scope for the 17.5 in. Dob above. I decided that something larger than the little 50 mm refractor
I had been using as a finder would be helpful in hunting down faint objects. But I wanted the new
finder to look like it belonged on the 17.5 in. Dob.
This 8in. f/6 Dobsonian telescope is one of several nearly identical scopes built from the same set of
jigs for some of my friends. Several of my
friends asked me if I could design and build scopes for them that had all the features they
wanted but could not find in the mass-produced scopes. The design goals were to create a scope that
was beautiful but functional, and lightweight yet rugged.
This is a solar camera I built out of an old 70mm refractor and some PVC pipe and an old Pentax K1000
camera. I also made my own solar filter. For a quickly thrown together camera made from improvised
parts it works very well.
Click the blueprint to visit my growing gallery of "paper telescopes." These are
telescope designs that I haven't gotten around to building yet because I lack either the
skills or the time to execute them. Designing them is an interesting intelectual exercise
though, and maybe someday at least some of them will get built.
This is a photo of Mars taken about a week and a half past the closest opposition in 60,000 years.
The photo was taken with a web cam I modified for astrophotography. The photo shows a wealth of
detail including, Syrtus Major, the Hellas Basin, Hellespontus, Sabaeus Sinus, Meridini Sinus,
and of course the very prominent South Polar Cap. Not bad for a cheap web cam.
Click the photo for more information.
This is an astrographic camera I built many years ago using the lens out of an old Opaque Projector
and a Polaroid oscilloscope camera. It produced instant, large-format astrophotos.
This is a quick and easy binocular stand I whipped together out of found materials and my
photographic tripod. It adjusts so it can be used while sitting or standing. Anyone can easily make
one like it.
A couple of common questions I get asked a lot by people are where can I buy telescope parts (mirrors, mirror cells, focusers, etc.) and what sort of reference works are available on telescope making?
Here are some links to the web sites and contact info for companies selling telescope parts:
Books & Magazines
Here are some good reference books on telescope making and amateur astronomy. These are all books that I personally own or have borrowed from friends or The St. Petersburg Astronomy Club's library.
Here are some useful and interesting links to other sources of information on astronomy and amateur telescope making.
I would be happy to answer as many questions as time permits that other ATMs may have about how these scopes were built. I can be reached by email at: email@example.com
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Copyright © 1998-2013 Michael P. Davis