Dueling hobbies---Astronomy and woodworking

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Blog entry by RaggedKerf posted 10-10-2012 02:00 PM 1000 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Please click here for this image heavy post.

For those of you who don’t know me, I am an amateur astronomer (besides dabbling in woodworking, writing, art, etc…). I started an astronomy at Wordpress lately to post pictures I’ve been taking through my telescope and other tidbits. I thought of a way yesterday to merge my two biggest hobbies, astronomy and woodworking.

I decided to make a base for my Telrad reflex sight, to fit atop the Texas Yard Cannon. And, to make it that much more fun, I decided to make it out of wood! Below is the post I posted yesterday on my astronomy blog...

If you have a telescope, chances are someone’s recommended using a Telrad reflex sight instead of (or in addition to) a typical finder scope. It looks a little funny—-a blocky kind of thing with a little viewing glass on the back. When you line it up right with the Optical Tube Assembly (OTA) you simply peer through the glass and see a glowing red bulls-eye pattern with concentric circles. Center the star or planet you’re looking for in the bulls-eye and boom—-said object is in the field of view (FOV) of your eyepiece.

That’s how it’s supposed to work. In theory. Many people (myself included!) seem to have a bit of difficulty using the device because it sits fairly flush with the telescope body—-you have to bend over and crane your neck a little to sight along the OTA and see through the Telrad. It’s even worse if you have a finder scope sticking out of the side of the telescope. Like me.

My Yard Cannon has an 8×50 right angle finderscope that sticks up off the OTA about 6 inches. And of course it’s in just the exact spot that I’d like to put the Telrad—-with both attached, not only is the telescope top heavy but it’s almost painful to use either method of finding targets (or both) while observing.
So, I finally had enough of bumping the finderscope while filming the planets and especially when storing the scope. My solution? remove the finderscope all together and install the Telrad on a base that utilizes the base for the finder that is already attached to the OTA. The tricky part? Making a base (of wood) that will either connect to the base or go over it.

I chose to use the base of the RA finder and carve wood to fit it. So I pulled a scrap piece out (from when I built my workbench—-that adventure is on my woodworking blog, which you can read about here) and carved a dovetail into it that would match the base. I used some chisels and a rubber mallet and in about 10 minutes, I had this:

Then I flipped it over and worked the other side:The picture is kinda blurry (sorry, cell phone) but you get the idea—-I created a nice little dovetail notch to fit the RA finder base. I decided to test fit it and it was just a tad bit too thick. Here’s where it’s going:After cleaning up the cuts a bit to remove some excess trimmings and some monkeying with the fit, the carved wood slipped in perfectly and was nice and secure with the set screw. It will make a perfect bed for the base of the Telrad to be attached.

I am thrilled at how well this fit came together!

However, the piece of wood I used was just a little too thin—-the base of the Telrad will partially cover the set screw if I use it in this position. So, I cut me another piece of wood and glued it to the dovetail carved piece. Once that’s been shaped and trimmed to length, I’ll mount the base of the Telrad to this wooden piece and the Telrad will finally (I’ve had it for about 4 years and used it twice because of the awkwardness of working around the RA finder) get some love!

Here’s a closing shot of the Telrad, base and the two pieces of wood just before I glued the wood together.

I’ll admit, it looks kinda wobbly, but nothing is glued together and it’s still in the rough-cut phase. I’ll pretty it up, never you mind…

If you’re interested, here’s my Astronomy Blog.

-- Steve

7 comments so far

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2199 posts in 1978 days

#1 posted 10-10-2012 02:47 PM


You are Texan, an amateur astronomer, and a poster at Cloudy Nights. I HAVE to know you, right?

Excellent blog! And, yes, being able to get a good position for the Telrad can be difficult. It’s especially difficult with some of the bigger dobs that I have the pleasure of using quite regularly. Nice solution there!

Oh, and you could say that astrophotography is something I do as well. :)

-- jay,

View BTimmons's profile


2259 posts in 1305 days

#2 posted 10-10-2012 04:21 PM

Another Texas amateur astronomer chiming in. I haven’t messed with astrophotography at all, too expensive! For the moment I’m content with my totally manual 10 inch Dobson scope.

-- Brian Timmons -

View BTimmons's profile


2259 posts in 1305 days

#3 posted 10-10-2012 04:29 PM

By the way, I’ve had great luck using the dew shield and mirror accessory on my Telrad. You can angle the mirror so that you don’t have to physically put your head behind the sight. I can use my Telrad and move mere inches to my eyepiece without craning my neck. Seriously, it makes things sooooooooooooo much easier!

-- Brian Timmons -

View OggieOglethorpe's profile


927 posts in 930 days

#4 posted 10-10-2012 08:35 PM

Hopefully, you’ll run into HorizontalMike…

You two could probably go for hours… ;^)

View RaggedKerf's profile


407 posts in 940 days

#5 posted 10-15-2012 05:35 PM

Cosmicsniper: WOW yeah, I guess you could say you dabble in astrophotography! I just checked out your site—-very impressive. I have something more to do on these cloudy nights, thanks! Beautiful imagery by the way, simply fantastic.

Alas, I am merely a Texan at heart now. We’ve moved to Wisconsin and so now I should change my tagline from the Texas Yard Cannon Observatory to the Texas Yard Cannon Observatory: Wisconsin Annex. LOL

-- Steve

View RaggedKerf's profile


407 posts in 940 days

#6 posted 10-15-2012 05:43 PM

Brian—-once again we cross paths on the “strange coincidences” meter! I bet the views in your 10” are superb. The 8” is great but aperture rules, as they say. As far as astrophotgraphy goes, you can make it as expensive as you want. Right now I don’t have the time or the money to get too serious, but playing around with cameras I already have and software I already have has proven to be pretty satisfying. It’s fun to push the limits of “primitve astrophotraghy”. I will definitely look into that Telrad accessory you linked—-looks very cool. I have only used the Telrad twice in 2 years but I’m looking forward to getting a lot more time under the stars with it. Thanks for the tip—-I never knew such a thing existed!

As a matter of fact, I’m gathering the materials I need to make a Hiss drive for my dob…it’ll be another project listed here on LJ. Should prove interesting and simple yet complex at the same time. If it works, it should give me at least a minute and maybe more of tracking with the dob so I don’t have to nudge it every three seconds. Plywood, 2×4s, an innertube, bicycle pumps and rubber tubing…what could go wrong?

-- Steve

View RaggedKerf's profile


407 posts in 940 days

#7 posted 10-15-2012 05:46 PM

CessnapilotBarry: No doubt! It’s hard to shut me up when I’m talking about astronomy—-and lately, when I’m talking about woodworking too. In both cases my wife just smiles and rolls her eyes. She knows it’s a lost cause. But at least with woodworking, now that things are starting to get fixed and new items are built, she can appreciate what I’m learning here….

-- Steve

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