Getting a Mirror Re-Coated

The classic Cave Astrola telescope has become my roll-out, quick observing session ‘scope, often found in my driveway. I have also used it a few times at darker sites when I expect the weather to be damp or dewy as a Newtonian is more protected.

The restored 8" f/6 Cave Astrola under a dark sky at Kaʻohe
The restored 8″ f/6 Cave Astrola under a dark sky at Kaʻohe

While the restoration job was finished some time ago, I never got around to re-coating the optics. Meanwhile the telescope has seen good service on many occasions as I enjoyed this fun-to-use instrument.

The optics did need some attention… The primary mirror from the Astrola appeared to have not been re-coated since it was made in 1978. Thus the aluminum coating was over 40 years old. While the coating looked bad, it was still serviceable, producing reasonable images.

Still, the loss of light due to the old aluminum coating was probably reducing the effectiveness of this 8″ telescope to something more like a 6″ telescope. I had meant to get it re-coated some time ago, but we know how these things work.

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The ScopeStuff 2″ Crayford Focuser

When shopping for a focuser you face a lot of choices. From the cheap eBay Chinese options to the top-of-the-line Moonlights and Feather Touch. I once again perused these options when buying a new focuser for the Cave Astrola.

ScopeStuff 2" Crayford Focuser
The ScopeStuff 2″ Crayford Focuser mounted to the 8″ Cave Astrola
It has been a while since I looked at what was out there. So I spent some time shopping and wandering website re-educating myself on what the options were.

I considered the cheapest end of the market, a few options found on eBay, and again at the top-of-the-line, machined works of art that cost as much as some telescopes. This time I was limiting the budget for restoring the Astrola, not wanting to spend much more than a hundred on the focuser to keep the cost of the whole effort down.

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Restoring the Cave Astrola

I do enjoy a nice project I can work on, get my hands dirty, and use my skills. A classic telescope in need of restoration? Just the thing.

Restored Cave Astrola 8" f/6
A restored Cave Astrola 8″ f/6 Lightweight Deluxe

This telescope was literally rescued from the trash. Matt, the owner of the excellent Mountain Road Cycles in Waimea found the telescope at the transfer station.

Matt put a message into the folks at the observatory, who represent more than a few of his customers. The info was quickly forwarded to me, as everyone here knows I build and restore telescopes for fun.

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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.

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The 8″ f/6 Cave Astrola Lightweight Deluxe

Yes, Andrew’s Home for Wayward Telescopes has a new resident, an 8″ f/6 1978 vintage Cave Astrola.

8" Cave Astrola
The 8″ Cave Astrola as it arrived

This telescope was literally rescued from the dump. Matt, the owner of the excellent Mountain Road Cycles in Waimea found the telescope at the transfer station.

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Hodgepodge: The Mishmash Mount

I have previously published a description of Hodgepodge, the mish-mash mount I used for the solar eclipse. While I wrote about the mount, and posted some photos, I did not really cover the construction. Now for some details…

Hodgepodge and the Eclipse
Hodgepodge set up at Grant’s Spring to photograph a total solar eclipse

A few months back I rebuilt the drive unit of an old Celestron mount, installing a drive corrector into the base unit in the process. I have used this sidereal drive for time lapse, but it can also be used to mount a telescope again. Better yet, with a few minutes reconfiguration, it can do either.

With the solar eclipse looming on the calendar I realized I needed a tracking mount to allow photography. Tracking would allow me to keep the Sun and Moon in the field without wasting precious seconds framing the image during the eclipse. It would also enable longer exposures without motion blurring the image.

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