Saturday, April 3, 2004

Sorry I've Been So Quiet Today

Remember the "wax on, wax off" sequence out of The Karate Kid? I only did one car, not 38 (or however many it was)--my Corvette--but then again, I'm not a kid. The car looks great, but am I sore! (An aerobic exercise by the time I was done, covered in sweat.)

Then I started the rebuild of my reflector. I originally was just going to weigh all the major components, but by the time I was part way through removing the rotating tube ring assembly from the tube, I decided that I was going to reinstall it.

Just to explain: this is a really neat assembly of stainless steel and aluminum that provides a way to rotate the telescope tube in place--often useful because of how a German equatorial mount design sometimes moves the eyepiece into odd and inconvenient locations. Unfortunately, this neat assembly weighs ten pounds--turning the reflector into a 31 pound behemoth. That's just too heavy for the mount that it is on now, and a bit too heavy for the Losmandy GM-8 mount. Replacing the rotating tube assembly with something designed to attach to the Losmandy dovetail knocks it down to 25 pounds--light enough that the Losmandy should be very happy with it.

Removing the rotating ring assembly, however, turned out to be quite a process. The rings attach to the telescope tube with what seems like an excessive number of 3/8" hex head screws that go through the tube, and attach to nuts on the inside. Somehow, I managed to get all these nuts onto the screws 10 years ago--but either my arms have gotten a couple inches shorter, or the fiberglass has grown a couple of inches in the meantime. There were uses I was making of tools that would make your junior high shop teacher either shake his head, or start lecturing you. At one point, I was using a torque wrench to hold the nuts in place while trying to unscrew with the other hand. Most of these were just unpleasant and slow, because the screws and nuts were not stainless steel, and were well rusted. (Why anyone would include non-stainless fasteners for use on a telescope just makes me shake my head.)

Fortunately, one of the many friendly strangers walking by in front of the house while I was doing this offered to help, and had the magically longer arm to deal with the last three screws that were beyond my reach.

Tomorrow's mission after church: patch the holes with epoxy; repaint the interior of the tube in flat black; sand the exterior's many battle scars from car collisions; then repaint the patches in bright white; wash the mirror again; reassemble.

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