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Project by Tom Clark posted 02-22-2010 05:13 AM 4279 views 12 times favorited 26 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Thirty years ago the only way to get a good large telescope was to build it yourself. Unfortunately, I built nearly 40 telescopes before the shop ever had a tablesaw. Being a machinist, it was easy to cut everything out on a bandsaw. Today the woodworking has progressed a little, but it is still just a fun hobby for me. Here are a few of the scope projects. The observatory was my first ever construction project. What fun! I drove the building inspector nuts, but eventually it all worked out.

-- Tom

26 comments so far

View damon's profile


31 posts in 4227 days

#1 posted 02-22-2010 05:18 AM

these are fantastic- I’ve always wanted to try one as a project – are there resources you could recommend as to the nature of the design – or even – plans?

-- Damon, Right Angle Construction

View StevenAntonucci's profile


355 posts in 4547 days

#2 posted 02-22-2010 05:19 AM

I love it. How big is the mirror in the big one? I bet you get a lot of light with that!

-- Steven

View davidroberts's profile


1027 posts in 4095 days

#3 posted 02-22-2010 05:39 AM

I saw yor workshop in the initial Dream Shop magizine, and now in a book, IIRC. Isn’t Chiefland home to a pretty large astronomy community? I think I have read your posts at Astromart. I have an old 13.1” Coulter mirror in a red sonotube that one day will reside in a truss mounted dobsonian. At a dark site and good seeing, I’m still amazed at the view though that old girl. Your shop is about as close to a dream shop as I have ever seen in print. I pretty much had to wipe the drool off the pages. Actually if I ever retire, I would like to buy an 18” mirror and build a scope around it. I’m 6’4” so zenith is within reach. Big dreams.

-- Better woodworking through old hand tools.

View Jeison's profile


968 posts in 3717 days

#4 posted 02-22-2010 05:41 AM

that is beyond badass :)

-- - Jei, Rockford IL - When in doubt, spray it with WD-40 and wrap it with duct tape. The details will attend to themselves.

View ratchet's profile


1391 posts in 4396 days

#5 posted 02-22-2010 05:44 AM

Amazing and awesome. I think you will probably know when the earth will end before the rest of us. Did you get to view / record SL9?

View tomakazi's profile


686 posts in 3892 days

#6 posted 02-22-2010 07:53 AM

Great projects, I had no idea you could build one of these.

-- I didn't go to college, I was too busy learning stuff - Ted Nugent

View a1Jim's profile


117909 posts in 4186 days

#7 posted 02-22-2010 08:01 AM

They are all amazing fantastic work.


View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4597 days

#8 posted 02-22-2010 08:36 AM

Very cool!

Do you buy the mirrors of make your own?

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View savannah505's profile


1834 posts in 4195 days

#9 posted 02-22-2010 08:42 AM

Thats very cool, you do some fine work.

-- Dan Wiggins

View PineMan's profile


71 posts in 4203 days

#10 posted 02-22-2010 09:04 AM


-- I never started a project I couldn't screw up.

View toyguy's profile


1711 posts in 4446 days

#11 posted 02-22-2010 01:14 PM

Like the rest of the Jocks here… I am in awe of this project. I also never even thought about building something like this. It really perks the curiosity. No I am not a star gazer, but after seeing this project, maybe?

-- Brian, Ontario Canada,

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4431 days

#12 posted 02-22-2010 02:19 PM

Wow, this is a really cool project. And the observatory is a wonderful addition to house your scope as well.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Tom Clark's profile

Tom Clark

88 posts in 3630 days

#13 posted 02-22-2010 02:50 PM

damon: Scope plans? I wrote a book (The Modern Dobsonian) on building telescopes. (and another on building shop cabinets.) See my web site

StevenAntonucci: The big scope in the observatory is a 42”. The smaller one in the driveway was a 36”.

davidroberts: I live right in the middle of the Chiefland astronomy community. Google Chiefland Observers. Also see my scope making book and Tectron Telescopes on my web site. Scope building is a great hobby – and we get to play with our woodworking tools too!

GarageWoodworks: A Dob mount is the easiest thing in the world to track by hand. The bearings are made with Formica and Teflon and move very easily.

ratchet: We watched SL9 with a 30” from our driveway in Sarasota. Fantastic! If it had hit the Earth we would no longer be hereā€¦

GaryK: I made one mirror just to see what it was like. The rest are left to the pros.

toyguy: Google starfest, nyaa. It’s Ontario’s largest star party. Go some time. Lots of people will let you look thru their telescopes. You will find another whole new world out there. It happens every night right over your head.

-- Tom

View CaptainSkully's profile


1612 posts in 4167 days

#14 posted 02-22-2010 04:40 PM

That is so cool! I just watched a documentary about how an astronomer from Lick Observatory helped prove Einstein right with telescopes just like that. The sun’s gravity warped space just enough to slightly move the apparent location of known stars near the corona during a full solar eclipse.

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View John Harris's profile

John Harris

59 posts in 3653 days

#15 posted 02-22-2010 05:32 PM

Wow. I took a group of 8th graders camping in West Virginia last year. On top of one of the mountains they had a hand-built observatory like the one you built. As the kids were amazed looking through the telescope, I was significantly more amazed at the craftmanship that went into it.

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