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DIY-ATM Meeting Reports

Meetings are held every 4th Wednesday of the month, with the exception due to conflict with a Holiday or another meeting.  Please check the ASEM Calendar (near the bottom of the front page of the ASEM website).

2014 February 26th Meeting

We had no completed projects or modifications shown at this meeting (and yes no photos, sorry), but we did discuss some very interesting ideas, needs, and travel tips (read on).

Steve presented the idea of building a sun projector for the park, to use for those early visitors who want to look at something when the sun is still up.  Such a device would be stored in the observatory, and brought out by a club volunteer/staffer for use before sunset.  Another goal is to initiate a "group" build project by interested members of the DIY-ATM SIG.  Steve discussed several types of designs that can be seen off the internet, including a few manufactured models, and of those presented he made a recommendation for building a folded refractor design that he found on ClearSkyObserver, that offered several benefits of portability, ease of use, and protection.   Everyone that attended the meeting agreed to the recommendation and to begin more detail/design discussions and to beat the drum on finding parts.   Steve had an objective lens to donate and John Duchek offered a first surface mirror (thank you guys!)  Please see Steve's post on the DIY-ATM Yahoo forum for more details.

A couple of questions also came up on:
  • Dew heaters, especially for a Paracorr.  First recommendations to this need was to check out DewBusters and ScopeStuff, in addition to consider making a custom solution.  Several recounted success stories of homemade solutions that have worked very well too.
  • Solar filter material for an existing dob or reflector. Recommendations were to check out ThousandOaksOptical solar filter webpage that has a lot of information and size selections for both sheet stock and manufactured scope filters.  It was also recommend to look into Astro-Solar film made by Baader-Planetarium, which is available at Astro-Physics.  Grant noted that this film worked extremely well for high-magnification viewing or photography, versus that from ThousandOaks, which seemed to produce "soft" results in viewing. Also, if there is interest in a custom solution for mounting solar film material on a SkyWatcher dob, be sure to contact Steve, since he has already cooked up an adaptation using a extra cover plate that he found for his dob.
Finally, somewhere in the discussions of observing and scope use, the thought of clear skies and warmer temperatures (compared to what we have living with) of New Mexico came up from John Duchek and Bill Sheehy, and everyone wanted to know more of their travel and living experiences there.  Yes, it sounded wonderful, despite the creepy critters that one must put up with.  But, Ahhh, what a dream we all had, at the moment, of being out there with our scopes under clear dark skies, comfortable temperatures, and low humidity.  It was a nice warm thought, considering the cold and clouds we are seeing this winter in St. Louis.

- Tom Richards


2014 January 29th Meeting

It just continues to amaze me that our regulars keep finding ways to save dollars while cooking up some neat gear that works great!  During this meeting we had some focus on Bino mounts, homemade scopes, another way to cool down your SCT, to name a few topics, including an update visit by John Duchek of his DIY success stories with electronics and scope/sheds at his New Mexico home.

PicasaWeb Slideshow

Carl Turek, has been busy again during the cold winter nights.  This time he showed off several items:

  • A homemade SCT tube/mirror cooler made with PVC piping and fittings.  With his “engin”uity in full speed, he made a scope cooler with fan that looks like something you would buy, even with angled drilled air flow holes in the primary airflow 3/4 inch tube.  This includes finding and fitting a baffled adapter, with a (muffin) fan that allows for forced air to exit the tube.  He wanted this to quick cool and dry out his C8 SCT, and with foam (spacer) added he can also use it on his 127mm MAK.  If you ever seen the SCT PVC cooler at the park for the clubs C14, then ask Carl to show his version to you.  Very interesting.
  • Carl also showed off a resurrected finder by integrating a 60mm lens for $6 off Surplus-Shed onto a older finder tube and adding a with an unused RA and 1 1/4 EP, and voila, and very light and functional finder scope.   Both RA and EP he already had on hand: so, remember, don't through your old gear away before talking to Carl, as to what he would to do with it!
  • And his third version of a Bino Mount that was made to be smaller just for him and his big 80mm binoculars.  Again, none goes to waste here (see the photos).  Using throw away surveyor stakes, he cooked an open frame design, added a pipe pedestal adapter between the frame and old surveyor tripod, that allows for AZ turning on pipe threads, and then he fabricated up a typical saddle mount for the Binos and bar bell for counter weight.   Amazing work there Carl.

Steve Boerner,

  • Brought his bino mount in to show what addition rotational axis can do for improving the use of the Binocular mount.  The point here is that multiple movements in rotation really assists with location of objects by moving the binocular, and not forcing you to move, or your chair, when wanting to see another object off the initial center of view.  A good point in one's design and fabrication of a bino mount.
  • Steve also showed off a non-DIY “thingee”, since he is not that great with thread and needles these days (neither of which am I).  What he got as a wanted gift was a Dark Sky Apparel over-size hoodie for those faint fuzzies during a fight with the moon or lights.   Yes, that Steve in there somewhere.
  • Steve also cooked up a short 9X scope from an old Canon 135 lens that he mated to a homemade EP adapter, using a metal lens cap (which works better than plastic) and JB weld. Has used this mounting in the past for a video cam.  Again, similar lesson learned: don't through out your old photography gear too.

Finally, John Duchek gave us visit with several items to show and discuss. Thanks for coming John:

  • Progress and success with his new DobHut shack: check his member webpage out for photos here.  The supplier/installer/owner for “DobHut” was really challenged here with this being the largest hut built yet (12 ft long).  This required additional counterbalance, and fixes to the ventilation and mating points that didn't pass the “New Mexico Weather” standard (as in blowing snow and rain).  But, end the end, it looks great and operates well (again, check the photos).  They say it all.  By the way, the supplier so impressed with the view, he started talking about moving somewhere close.
  • John has really been working hard on his version a light (Transparency) meter with an Arduino controller.  Since his skies are beautifully dark down there, thin clouds or water vapor sneak in without being noticed visually, and thus the need for the meter, especially when doing Astrophotography.  His version includes a 90 degree cone IR temp sensor, an ambient temp sensor, both interfaced and monitored with Arduino, that computes the delta, with interface to a two line display and USB port and 9V battery power source.  The USB doubles as his PC interface for logging.  Discussion covered the use of a nano bd vs the uno bd.  End result version now has the controller and display in one box mounted in his “electronic/computer shed” and the sensors mounted on the roof of the shed.  Again, photos on his webpages will tell the story more.  This is great tool he has wanted for a long time due to the unique conditions there.  Great job.
  • At my request, John also showed photos of his latest strut version of a modest size Newtonians, 6 and 8 inch versions.  To use his reflectors for AP work he has wanted to eliminate the heat currents of the tube and help the mirror to cool down quicker.  Thus, he replaced the tube with pipe struts, keeping the ends of the tube for mirror and focuser mounting.  With the strut design, one can slide the focuser/secondary out or in to achieve both visual and Astrophotography use of the scope Newtonian.  Very cool.  Watch for recent AP images he has takened and processed with this scope soon on his webpage within the club website (be sure to check his list of sub-pages: link at the bottom).

So, again another interesting and educational filled DIY meeting.  7 in all were in attendance, including a visit by Bill Biermann.  Thanks for coming Bill.

- Tom Richards


Our apologizes for not reporting on the meetings in the latter half of 2013.  If time permits we will try to back track and gather up some the notes or photos from the meetings then.  Yes, this SIG group never stops dreaming, thinking and cooking up gear to improve the view of the stars.  -TR


2013 3/27, 4/24, 5/29 Meetings

submitted by Tom Richards, SIG Coordinator

With the coming of Spring, for most, new Astronomy Gear DIY projects tend to slow down, especially with "Astronomy Spring Fever"! and the moderation in temperatures.  But for a few, ideas, building and drawing upon previous accomplishments, and finding energy and time to work on those ideas (because the weather here in St. Louis can be so contrary to observing, as is the case with this year, so far) allow for some real creative and impressive work.  Here are the Highlights from the past three meetings:

At our March 27th meeting

Attendance was a bit short, and we only talk briefly on gear cases, in particular eyepiece cases.  Those who brought them, showed how to tweak or use a purchased tool box in a creative way:  Carl showed the use of a low-cost stackable mobile tool box (with wheels on the base box, that allows easy movement, storage of small items in the top box, and larger items in the bottom box.  These boxes can be found at most hardware and department stores.  Carl even uses plastic totes for keeping items sorted wherever possible, which always helps when you are in the dark.  Others showed Pelican boxes for storing one to several items, to which I just recently moved to from a standard 16 inch toolbox, since my eyepieces are getting larger and keeping them padded has become a priority for me now.  However, I didn't toss that old tool box out, since I now use it for storing my power supplies in the tray and a power strip in the bottom, for my Celestron CGEM equatorial mount.

Carl's all in one, low-cost, mobile Toolbox
Carl's Gear Box
Carl's top box with tray and nested boxes.

At our April 24th meeting:

Carl Tureck is still on a roll with the showing off of adapting a new Sky Commander to his Meade (yep, out go the setting circles and in come the electronics, to aid in finding objects - sometimes you just need all the help you can get to find those fuzzies in the skies around a big city).  Nice job.

Carl's Meade Dob with a Sky Commander and Encoders

 Encoder and plug in jack.

John Beaury wanted a rechargeable battery for his 8 inch dob mirror fan.  So, instead of buying some expensive battery and charger combination he looked at his rechargeable drill and said hmmm!  So, with a Harbor Freight tool battery and charger cradle, and a little bit of electronics to get the voltage down to 12V from 19V, voila!  Check it out.

John's Rechargable Battery and mounted Charger.
 DC Voltage adapter box

Jim Curry reviewed a design he has been working on (in 3D, no less!) of his upcoming (serious) work to build a 4in refractor with a Jaegers lens and Astro-Physics 3.7 in focuser.  Wow!  3d software by Alibre was really impressive (shown via our room's computer projector).  We can't wait to see this when completed, and the tools to build it with.  Sorry no photos to post, but if you are thinking of a decent 3D software package, this software looked very impressive (for a personal edition).

At our May 29th meeting: 

Carl is still rolling along!  and this time towards Astro-Photography.  Along with picking up a new stock (Canon) DSLR for family use, Carl started thinking about how to use that camera effectively.  So, building on his success with mods made to his Meade and a recently purchased Costco Celestron 102 mm, he went shopping for some older, but good quality equatorial mounts and found on CraigsList a Celestron Super Polaris (basic non-motorized) mount (and newt) and wait till you see what he did.  Wow!  Now this basic (all metal) mount is motorized!  with all metal gearing and encoders and slow motion controls! and interface to his new Sky Commander, AND a wood side-by-side mounting plate and saddle that supports a guide scope and camera (on a ball mount).  Brackets for the motors, encoders, gears and knobs were all custom.  He used Orion Skyview motors and got the gearing to work perfectly with the mount (at 144 teeth). Guiding is manual at this stage, with an old salvaged Meade ETX as a polar scope.  Talk about finding ways to save money and get better quality.  Just amazing work there Carl!

 Carls "soup'd up" Super Polaris
 Carl's home built side-by-side adapter mounting plate
 Added Motors, Gears and Knobs

2013 February 27th Meeting

submitted by Carl Turek, with editing by Tom Richards, SIG Coordinator

Bill Sheehy started first with showing off some structural improvements he made to his dob/step chair.
  • He replaced his support wings with some cross bracing to remove the trip hazard the wings presented.
  • He also added self locking wheels. These wheels lock when weight is applied to the chair.
  • Also added was a red reading light that you can see in the photo.
Nice job Bill!

Next, Carl Turek described the basic construction of resistance dew heaters and how basic they are - just consisting of a power source and resistors. This included discussion:
  • Of various methods of construction, mainly the use of carbon resistors vs nichrome wire
  • The feasibility of a group of members building heaters together to save some cost.
  • What is needed to to replace current dew control system on the C14. The current heater is just a small segment of a heater that applies heat to a localized spot on the OTA. We ran the calcs to determine the amount and gauge of nichrome wire to construct a new heater for the C14.
If you are interested in being a part of the group to build a heater strip or even a controller, please get in contact with Carl via the ASEM_DIY-ATM_SIG forum on Yahoo (noted on the DIY-ATM front page).

Grant Martin then presented more ideas how Arduino controllers can benefit astronomy-based applications.
  • This was a follow up to his discussion and demonstration of Arduino controllers at the May 30th 2012 meeting, below.
  • These inexpensive controllers can be used to control dew heaters, drive motors, GPS etc., and they are easy to program with a PC and software readily available (for free) on the internet. 
This is a tool that is definitely worth checking out.

Thank you Grant!

Thanks to all who made to the meeting and especially those who shared their ideas and success stories!  The next meeting is March 27th.

2013 January 23rd Meeting

submitted by Tom Richards, SIG Coordinator (my apologies for not posting reports of the previous 2 meetings, for September and November of 2013 - will try to catch up on that)

Besides the great ideas, creative construction, learning of sources for cool stuff that can be had at great price, saving your wallet, we had a lot of electronic gizmoz's this time around for scopes, focusers and batteries, with a touch of astronomy nostalgia thrown in (read on):

PicasaWeb Slideshow

Carl Tureck first showed off:

His "souping up" of a $200 department store Celestron Nexstar 102GT Alt/Az scope. Modifications included:

  • Replacement of the tripod, with a beefy “retired” surveyor's tripod, that he picked up for free.
  • Upgrading the focuser with a ScopeStuff 2 inch dual speed.
  • Adding a home-built electric focuser drive from a low-cost servo kit.
  • Use a “sorabafan”, that is available in small sheets, as vibration pads. The sheet size is enough for two tripods.
  • Home-built tripod bracket for Nexstar Handset.

Now this scope and mount has become his favorite grab'n'go scope that includes a GoTo drive !  Nice work again Carl!

In addition, he figured out how to use those free narrow beam LEDs, that were available in the November's meeting, and wired them to a waist clipped battery pack to create a comfortable hands-free “red-light”. Carl what will you think up next? Just too cool!

Ed White brought in his (and, oh yeah, Amy's) 10 inch dob that has been modified with a low-cost, home-built version of a wireless “sky commander” control, that is a lot cooler. This included a low cost 12V/5V battery power supply for encoders and interface, RC hobby connector adapters, Dave Eks Digital Encoders and bluetooth kit that interfaced to SkySafari running on a (low cost) Nook Color tablet. The Nook was “Androidized” by “rooting” it (you can do this with the older versions) and now its an Android tablet running SkySafari. In addition, Ed found another low-cost bluetooth adapter for the Nook off Amazon.
And way to make/package a low-cost battery charger, with a very low-cost DC power board off Ebay (check with Ed on this, if interested).

Ed and Amy really like the end result of this work by Ed. For dob owners interested in making something like a Sky Commander, this is really worth checking out. Well done Ed!

Grant also showed off his knack for making very interesting technical tools, that all could benefit from. This time he cooked up a way to test batteries under load for current and voltage characterization, at the same time, with the use of two low-cost Harbor Freight multimeters (just in case there is a problem). Thats the engineer there.  He even showed a time-lapse video of a real test of data collection and plotting. Really interesting. Watch Grant's personal page for more (upcoming) details.

And now that Steve has himself a big (Skywatcher) dob that is a GoTo scope, he has been working on a low cost adaptation for video astrophotography in both piggyback and thru focuser adaptations. Steve is an avid fan of video imaging, and for personal study and public star party support, working this interface out was just simply the right thing to do. So for piggyback wide-field imaging, Steve has prototyped up an interface to a Canon lens and a bracket to carry and attach both to his collapsible dob. In addition, he has also adapted the camera to a flip-mirror/diagonal for high magnification use, and with his type of dob he was able to easily over-come the common camera focus depth issue by simply adjusting the position of his scopes diagonal/focuser ring. Steve you did it again. Way to go! See Steve's personal page on video imaging and for more (upcoming) information and photos.

Finally, and while not really related to DIY projects, Jim Curry gave us something to think about with showing off his recent (great find/buy) of a 2009 Great Sky Atlas chart book by Piotr Bych, which just went out of print. For most of us, this was a nostalgic trip, since the age attending this meeting all started the study of heavens with charts (not with computers). So, we were blown away with the number of 17x24 maps (296 of them), their detail and the fine print showing stars up to mag 12 and more galaxies and DSO's than one would want to count, all on the shiny black-on-white double side pages. Of course, most immediately were scratching our heads how to red-light adapt such a collection of charts, but with being on fine glossy paper that is double-sided, we all had to sigh, and accept reality, this this chart is definitely not for night vision, but as a great desk reference for daytime study, that is for sure. See this link ( http://www.greatskyatlas.com/ ) for more information. Congrats Jim on finding one of these gems!

Finally, just a footnote here: we are meeting every 4th Wednesday of the Month now.  So, for those creative home builders, keep those ideas and projects coming!  Thanks to all that participate.

2012 July 25th Meeting

submitted by Tom Richards, SIG Coordinator

Lots more great ideas and home-built craftsmanship was shown again at this past DIY-ATM meeting:

2012 July 25 DIY-ATM SIG Meeting Highlights

Carl Turek showed his new Alt/Az pipe mount with setting rings and meter, and adapter for cradling a an older metal tube refractor on an existing tripod.  Interesting key features included:
  • A home made circular setting ring fitted to an Azimuth axis (pipe) with a thin wire pointer that was held to the pipe with a magnetic.  The setting ring disc was just made from a circle cut from 3/32 plastic sheet.  The incremental “ring” was developed on a PC, printed onto paper, cut to match the disk, laminated by an office supply store, and glued to the plastic disc with spray adhesive.
  • Again, using his magnetic angle meter on the refractor, as he had shown previously on his Meade Light-Bridge, Carl could now find objects by use of Alt/Az values from catalog data and calculations.
  • In addition, he showed an adaption that he added to the design by changing out the vertical Alt pipe to a longer pipe and with a binocular mount adapter, he could also use the same Alt/Az mount and tripod as a binocular mount as well.

Also, Carl showed a mini version of a “Cats Perch” chair design.  Carl had recently built and shown a larger typical type chair, but to reduce both weight and mass, he decided to try again with something a bit smaller.  The result was an interesting smaller, simple, yet sturdy design, utilizing heavy-duty book shelf wall strips (2 of them) for holding the seat, that had the shelf clip hooks attached to its underside.  Besides providing an acceptable minimum and secure seat, the bookshelf strips offered suitable vertical adjustment as well.  Another example of using what you got laying around.

Grant Martin gave a slide presentation of his own desiccant packaging for protection of his scopes, eyepieces, and camera from mildew for several years now.  From self testing and analysis he has found that Silica gel (beads) are the best for this purpose, which can be purchased in packets, but Grant has found it to be more affordable if they are purchased in 5 lb bulk amounts (for about $20 to $25, depending upon the type: plain, or blue (that indicates saturation), or mixed), from various sources online and craft stores.  Bulk amounts then allow the user to develop custom type packets for greater moisture absorption for astronomy gear, such as in a bag shape for cylindrical placement in a focuser of a refractor, or large flat packs for an eyepiece case.  Packets can be made from weave material such as fine screening to weave cloth, that is not affected by moisture, with any common sense means to seal the packet.  When saturated, the beads can be dried out or “regenerated”, for re-use, by oven baking at 250 for 3 hrs. in an aluminum pie-pan, and when cooked, Grant also recommended to immediately store the beads in a canning jars to keep the beads from immediate absorption (the cooling effect also creates a pressure variance and helps to seal the jar.  Grant also noted when using bags for a refractor, they should be placed within the focuser end of the scope, and the focuser cap be modified with a breathing hole to allow any change in temperature to create a change in air pressure and thus air flow into the scope and around or pass the beads.  Very interesting and helpful “tool” in protecting your gear.

Bill Sheehy showed his version of a Starmaster Dobsonian chair, that he built using wood pieces from other home projects in the past.  Craftsmanship looked very good, and included an attachable foot reset.  In addition, Bill explained that because he built the chair a bit deeper, and thus wider, than the design was a bit wiggly, but that this was solved by adding a “flying buttress” piece of wood to each outward leg, that included an adjustable foot, for improved ground contact and stability.

Steve Boerner looked for input on:

  • Removal of existing eyepieces from a donated Binoviewer.  Apparently, the eyepieces are firmly threaded into the viewer, and removal was a concern.  Different eyepieces are needed to better suit use of the Binoviewer with the club's SCT 14.
  • Modification to his low-cost Apogee refractor to accommodate a 2 inch focuser, diagonal, and eyepieces, for improving both visual and video use of his refractor.

Several suggestions were made for items.

Marv Stewart also sought input on an Aluminum horizontal sundial (or garden sundial) , that was started several years ago and in need of completion.  The design is based upon those found in a book by Albert Waugh.  Marv was seeking referrals for help in completing the etching, cutting, and welding or attaching an aluminum gnomon that was made by his father.  Several referrals to metal working services and other members who could help was given, including contact to the St. Louis Sundial Society, of which learning about this organization was news to many.

John Beaury also brought in:

  • An equatorial bow sundial to show and to seek thought on the purpose of additional scales within the sundial, and for suggestions as to who the manufacturer (no name or label could be found on the sundial). Construction was an unusual yellow anodized aluminum, something found in the air craft industry.
  • His homemade sun filter and frame that was constructed in the early Spring using Baader film mounted in a square frame box, that included knobs and fittings for secure attachment to a his scopes.  The frame also included a gap for airflow and tube cooling ventilation.  Very nice work.

In addition,

  • Bill Jones looked for input for repair to his Coulter (blue) dob Alt bearings, that have an Aluminum strips around the compass bearing surfaces.  Apparently, the (teflon?) bearing tabs have worn to the point of having uneven surfaces and there has been scarring of one of the Aluminum strips, resulting in stiffness and a (not good) “squeaky” sound.  Several methods of repair were suggested from fine sanding to replacement of the pads.
  • And Tom Richards briefly presented:
    • Pricing and parts information recently received from the Table Mountain Star Party organizers.  This was more food for thought on the idea of ASEM and the DIY-ATM SIG sponsoring a telescope making class.
    • A recent find on the internet of a low-cost ultra-light Dobsonian design, by Alan Scott of the TASS astronomy club in Albuquerque, NM., for those thinking (like Tom) with the thought of making a Dobsonian scope or converting their old heavy Coulters to something a bit lighter.  This ultralight design appeared to be very straight forward and, other the mirrors, and focuser, was made from basic hardware store materials, including the mirror cell, resulting in a substantial savings in cost.  The website was informative with good descriptions, photographs, and calculations tools and design and construction comments.

Once again, a great thanks is owed to all who attended and shared their project ideas and end results.  This meeting sure demonstrated that this Special Interest Group is a venue where one can give and receive valuable DIY and ATM ideas, material, and reference information.  If you are interested in attending the next meeting, it will be held on September 26, at 7PM in the ASEM club meeting room, at the Weldon Interpretive Center.

2012 May 30th Meeting

submitted by Tom Richards, SIG Coordinator
Again, more great ideas and home-builts craftsmanship was shown at this past DIY-ATM meeting. From my notes and impressions we heard from:
  • Grant Martin reporting on:
    • The mirror coating services by Nova Systems, both in testing (included in the service), quality and cost.  Definitely a service provider to make note of.
    • The use of Radio Shack's Arduino controller board kit with power management applications he needed for battery charging and red-lighting control:
      • With the Arduino, he now can both monitor and control charging and load on the battery.
      • For lighting control, he was able to achieve increased dimming control over a POT he had used previously.  And, with the interface of an motion sensor, he could also have the added feature of automated control of the light (OFF if he is not near the chart table and ON when he arrives at the chart table).
      • Programming was very easy, software is free, and there is a ton of resources on the internet to assist in development and for additional parts.
  • John Duchek:
    • A presentation on his filter measurement service, through the use of a spectral meter, and recent findings he made when comparing filters from Lumicon vs Baader UHC and OIII.  The Baader UHC was noted not to be as good as the Lumicons, but the Baader OIII was indeed better.  John has really been doing some interesting test and analysis with light and color filters.  See examples in his web page section on the use of color filters for moon studies/images and test results on other filters.
    • Showed the modifications he has made to his home-made 6 inch reflector to improve Astro-Photography imaging results.  In particular, to deal with thermal stabilization of both tube and mirror, and improved focusing:
      • He replaced most of the sonotube with aluminum bracing/spars, to open the scope up.
      • Suspended a battery operated fan behind the mirror with elastic straps, , in lieu of physical mounting of the fan, to eliminate vibrations from the fan and motor for continuous use during imaging sessions.
      • Added a $75 Orion Accu-Focus motor with remote control pad, to his existing focuser, to gain fine, vibration free, control during focus adjustments.
  • Bill Sheehy discussed and asked for input with the design challenges he has in making a modification to the base box of his Starmaster dob for relocation of the Azimuth drive control clutch handle.  Lots of good suggestions were made.
  • Carl Turek showed off his home-made short binocular mount, and re-use and interface to an old “handy-me-down-and-around” tripod.
  • Steve showed a Cullman folding (flat) tripod that he found on E-Bay.  Made to travel at a very affordable price.
Thanks to all who shared their project ideas and end results.  Sorry there were no photos this time.

2012 March 28th Meeting

submitted by Tom Richards, SIG Coordinator
The project ideas and completions just kept on coming at this meeting, with presentations from:
  • Steve's Boerner and his inventive solar filter and a DUCT tape solution to mounting for the upcoming 2012 Solar viewing events.
  • Marv Stewart's great work on his new CATS perch chair. Nice Marv. Marv Stewarts home-made "Cats Perch" chair
  • Carl Turek's cost saving tips on using Bobs Knobs for Collimating Screws on his Celestron SCT.
    Using Bob's Knobs for SCT Collimation knobs
  • Gary Liming's and his cool home-built CNC machine, that is covered on his website page here.  Gary has used this fantastic tool to fabricate and engrave, such as his Oerry, shown in the February meeting, below, and the putting the club logo on wood, on the Members Link page.
  • Chuck Simms and myself with a presentation of improvement needs and plan for the Sheds and Scopes at Broemmelsiek Park.
Again, a big thanks to all who shared their project ideas and success stories.

2012 February 28th Meeting

submitted by Tom Richards, SIG Coordinator
More interesting home-builts and craftsmanship was shown at this past DIY-ATM meeting.  My notes and impressions:
  • Steve Boerner discussed and showed the changes he made to his Berry Mount that could be used to re-mount department refractor telescopes. An idea that the club could use for a public workshop, if interest was found to support it. Steve also showed his home-built "Downward Looking" binocular mount, that uses a "first surface" mirror.  Pretty handy for observing those over-the-head objects with binoculars.
  • Carl Turek displayed his wood crafted "cats perch" chair (that is his version of a design he found off Stellafane) and a home-built back-lit wood chart box, that used an array of LEDs behind a red piece of acrylic that provided sufficient back lighting to a 8 1/2 x 11 paper copy of a star chart. Carl noted that the red acrylic s available in scrap sizes at ACI Plastics, downtown St. Louis.
  • Gary Liming showed his wood crafted "Orrery", his approach to the historical versions of orrery's and a slide show as to the fabrication and assembly. The benefit of a home-built CNC machine really is demonstrated with this creation. Again, see his Oerry website section for details and photos.
  • Marv Stewart showed his version of a Az-Setting Ring modification to his 8 inch Meade LightBridge, that was made after seeing Carl Turek's design in a previous meeting. We do get inspired and motivate from seeing other's projects.
  • Eddie showed off a simple solar finder: mounting a short rod to a flat base plate that could be mounted to a scope or camera base, and offering a safe way to follow the sun by following the rod's shadow.
Thanks to all who shared their project ideas and end results.

2012 January 25th Meeting

submitted by Tom Richards, SIG Coordinator
Again, for those who missed it, we saw some very interesting craftsmanship on display at this past DIY-ATM meeting.  Here is a run down from my notes and impressions:

DIY-ATM SIG Meeting on January 25, 2012

  • Carl Turek gave an excellent presentation of the modifications he made to his 12 inch Meade LightBridge dobsonian, in particular the addition of an AZ axis setting ring (mounted on the base plat) and a slow-motion hand-control for the Alt axis.  This involved some amazing metal-work and ingenuity of using parts on hand, and if not, making something into something else for the part that is needed.  Great job.  Carl also noted the use of a magnetic Digital Angle Gauge (Inclinometer), that was found at Harbor Freight) in conjunction with his Az axis setting circle and Palm-Pilot program (that is similar on other older "pads" he still has) to find an object by its Alt/Az coordinates.  See the pictures, below.  Carl also pointed out other Meade LightBridge attachment and collimation screw issues, and his approach in improvements there, as well as how to use a barlow with a laser collimator to improve a reflectors final collimation adjustments.  Lots to see and discuss here.
  • Steve Boerner showed his "fix-a-scope" wood mount that is aimed add improving the Alt/Az mount interface for low-cost refractors or small reflectors to. The mount is simple to build, with few wood pieces to cut, common household parts, and clamps or holds the scope by light side "squeeze" pressure.  Again, see the pictures, below.
  • Grant Martin show his automatic red-light for the inside lid of his large eyepiece box.  The red-lights are $14 automotive (12V) led strips (2 in a package, found at Autozone) and he added a low-cost mercury switch in t he battery circuit.  A very simple and affective approach to night-vision lighting needs.  He also showed a few low cost (< $2 ?) LED lights that can be bought a discount and party stores for guarding one's scope or tripod legs at a public star-party.  Great ideas.
  • Tom Richards looking for input on an interesting idea found on CloudyNights, of a DSLR power switch box for remote DC power, either from a DC battery pack or an AC power brick, that he is giving thought to build along with a purchase of an AC power brick for his Canon 60D.
All in attendance chatted more on the feasibility of a scope building workshop for beginners, of which the club is giving consideration in sponsoring along with the DIY-ATM SIG's support.  Please keep thinking on this.  Steve's "fix-a scope" maybe of interest in this regards too.

By the way, its the first quarter of the year, so we will meet every month during this quarter now, before it gets a bit warmer, and building stuff slides to second place after observing.  The next meeting is on Wednesday, February 29, 2012.

2011 November 25th Meeting

submitted by Tom Richards, SIG Coordinator
A BIG thanks to those who presented:
  • Grant Martin and Eddie Agha on home made Power Packs.  The "have power will travel" guys.
    • Grant gave a very interesting presentation on construction and tips, including a very interesting idea of charging his 12v battery during the daytime with a solar cell mounted to his GEM that the battery is powering.  You got to see his video of this and his write-up.  Now this is cool!
    • Eddie showed of his recently built power-pack as well (see his webpage for photos and BOM).
  • Gary Liming and his beauty of a CNC crafted binocular mount.  You have to see this on his Binocular Mount webpage.
  • Grant on the visit to the Colter-Menke observatory with Jerry Kelley, Thane Bopp, and Bill Sheehy.
  • Input/chat from Jerry Kelly, Doug Kniffen, and Steve Boerner on various topics was interesting as well.

2011 September 28th Meeting

submitted by Tom Richards, SIG Coordinator
  • Jim Roe gave a presentation on the latest release of Google SketchUp (a free 3D CAD-like concept design program).  Considering the cost of a purchase 3D entry level CAD package, this is worth looking at before buying anything.
  • Thane Bopp on his home-built "single stalk" (traveling) dobs, a 10 inch and 17 inch.  Talk about a packaging job.  Nice work there Thane!  And thank you for putting a few more miles on those dobs (you would be surprised to know how far "have scope can travel", especially on that 10 inch.  LOL  Thanks for bringing them in Thane.
  • Grant Martin gave a review of other single stalk dobs and variants.  Lots of ideas out there.

2011 July 27th Meeting

submitted by Tom Richards, SIG Coordinator
Our meeting in July of 2011 was very busy with lots of show'n'tell of re-building, fixing, and use of old Coulter telescopes, including show'n'tell of a homemade Binocular (parallel) mount.  Check out the write-up and photos (below).  A special thanks to all who participated, especially to those who hauled their big Coulter dobs (during a very hot summer evening - whew) into the back meeting room at the Weldon Springs Interpretive Center (and no one could top what Wayne Clark brought in - you have to see the pictures to believe it!) AND to those who gave presentations on their DIY projects, modifications (to) and rebuilds (of) their Coulter dobs:
  • Steve Boerner on his recent DIY binocular (parallelogram) mount that supports his heavy 80mm bino's.  Nice work there Steve.
  • John Beaury for presentation/demo of his Coulter "Odyssey 8" (inch), that included an interesting change to the mirror mount for better adjustments, air flow and fan (built-into the mirror mount), power/battery inverter, and collapsing leg stand for the rocker box.
  • Mark Jones for presentation/demo of his 13 inch traveling (scope) dob design and a slide show on his (nearly completed and improved) 17 inch version of the same. Wayne Clark on his truly homemade MONSTER 17 inch dob (or shall we say coffin or walk-in closet there Wayne?), with quick removable mirror box, homemade 3 inch focuser slide/tube and 80mm (?) finder scope.  Amazing work.  Thanks for bringing that to the meeting Wayne.
  • Thanks also to Bill Jones for bringing in his recently acquired, and in great condition, blue-box Coulter Odyssey I (13 inch) that gave an interesting comparison to my unmodified (thats need modifying) "red-tube" Odyssey 13 inch.

    The DIY-ATM SIG Meeting on July 27, 2011

After the presentations we had time for a detail look-see and Q&As, and, since the skies, for a change, followed the forecast of "mostly clear", we continued the fun at 9 PM by hauling our dobs over to Broemmelsiek Park for a few hours of some visual observing fun and performance comparison.  Don Ficken showed off his (in good working condition) Odyssey 13 inch there.

This combined meeting/event turned out to be a very informative and beneficial experience.  I know I certainly enjoyed it.  Thanks again for all the Coulter owners for joining the DIY-ATM meeting and sharing your work; you are certainly welcomed to return to the DIY-ATM group meetings, where building/modifying/improving scopes and gear is what we are all about.  Don and I both feel that we ought to make the "Coulter/Dob Round-Up" an annual event for sure.

Our apologizes for missing any photos or links.  Please let me know of any and I will amend the reports.  Thank you.  Tom Richards, SIG Coordinator