Dreaming of a Cave Astrola

Restoring the 8″ Cave Astrola has me again looking at these classic telescopes. Reading the history of Tomas Cave and Cave Optical. Looking at the old advertisements and remembering things long thought forgotten. I may never have owned one before, but the Astrolas still had an impact upon me years ago.

My Astrola is now operational, with final assembly and collimation completed a week ago. So far I have used it for several evening sessions of observing from the driveway. The result is several pages of notes in the observing log, wandering through nebulae, clusters, and binary stars in Orion, Canis Major, and Puppis.

Cave Optical Advertisement 1970
Cave Optical Advertisement 1970, from Phil Harrington
When I was just starting my journey in astronomy the Cave Optical advertisement in each month’s Sky and Telescope was something to inspire dreams in a young teenager. In many ways those dreams have never been forgotten.

Not being able to afford one of those beautiful telescopes I was inspired to build my own. Over the decades I have very much enjoyed nights under the stars with ever better telescopes at my disposal.

Restoring an Astrola in in some ways disappointing. The telescope was not up to modern standards. The focuser was crude, the fit and finish was poor, the mount is less stable than I would like. In the process I fixed many of the issues, a new 2″ Crayford focuser, cleaning up the parts properly, more care in reassembling the telescope. The result is clearly better that when the telescope was new.

Restored Cave Astrola 8" f/6
A restored Cave Astrola 8″ f/6 Lightweight Deluxe
In other ways the Astrola does fulfill the old dreams. The mirror has proven to be decent, providing pleasing views.

The mount is very easy to use, slewing easily, the rotating rings putting the eyepiece at a comfortable angle without trouble. The f/6 is also short enough I can actually sit and view targets below 60° elevation with my gas lift drummer’s stool observing chair.

I will probably use this telescope for a while, it is perfect for driveway observing sessions. The wheeled mount easy to roll out from the corner of the garage, set up for viewing in mere moments. In the end I really have too many telescopes, including ‘scopes more capable. I will eventually need to find the Astrola a good home.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on Mauna Kea, Hawai'i.

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