Telescope Transport Devices

LX200 Field Transport System

By Alan Jones

Overview of Field Transport System

There's been many posts and articles concerning moving a LX200 around your property. I store my LX200 in the garage, as do many people. I struggled with moving the scope outdoors, either to the driveway or the backyard. The various designs for dollies and hand trucks each had some disadvantages in my opinion. My design attempts to correct each of these. In specific, my design:

  • Will transport a LX200 with a wedge, ScopeSaver or custom table without modification.
  • There is no need to attach anything permanently to the LX200.
  • Enables you to take the scope over grass as well as a hard surface with ease.
  • Eliminate the shaky viewing associated with dollies or Wheelie Bars. You set the scope on its tripod on good ole Mother Earth.
  • Can be constructed with material commonly available at your local home center.
  • The total cost of the project is under $50 and can be constructed in a weekend by anyone with average woodworking skills.
  • Has an integral utility cabinet to transport your battery and accessories at the same time.

The basic design incorporates a Harper hand truck that retails for $39 at your local home improvement center with the initials HD. This hand truck has some important features that make it perfect for this use. The entire hand truck except for the "shovel" at the bottom is fabricated from plastic channel as compared to the typical steel tube design of most hand trucks making it easy to drill and attach to. The hand truck has a 600# load capacity, plenty for our use here. Finally, it has pneumatic tires vs. the hard rubber tires on most hand trucks. This makes for a smooth ride on concrete or your back yard. Try to do that with a dolly!

Image 2

As you can see in photo 2 the design uses a pair of arms that are bolted to the side rails of the hand truck. These arms will slide under a utility (i.e. ScopeSaver) table and provide a lifting surface. In addition, the arms have cleats screwed to their inside surfaces. It's these cleats that will enable the same arms to grab a wedge (it's been tested on both Meade's SuperWedge and Jim Mettler's wedge. I'm sure it will work on the Milburn wedge as well).

Image 3

The arms will hold a considerable amount of weight because they are rabbited around the frame rather than just using the clamping power of the bolts to hold them (photo 3). This is a key design component. It is this property that prevents the arms from sliding on the side rails of the hand truck for no matter how much you tighten the bolts that hold it to the hand truck, the arms will still slide without this mechanical locking.

Rather than rely entirely on the arms for lifting power, I used a piece of 2.25" x 2.25" angle iron at the bottom. This angle iron provides a surface to grab two of the three tripod feet. It is this angle iron that actually holds the bulk of the weight. The arms function as stabilizers in effect, making it easy to grab and lift the scope. Note that in my design, I used steel angle iron. You can substitute aluminum angle iron that is more readily available at your local home center.

Image 4

Finally, there's a utility cabinet that is built to fit the back of the hand truck (photo 4). This cabinet can be designed to meet your own needs by varying the spacing of the shelves. I designed it to hold a Kendrick 17ah battery at the bottom and the Meade 12/18 converter and wiring in the middle. The top shelf is used for various cables, the hand controller, etc. There is a pair of dowels that can be used to wrap the wire from the 12/18 converter around like what you would see on a vacuum cleaner, keeping it neat and organized. Again, you can alter this design to suit your own needs.

The Arms:

  • 2 — Outer Arm 21" X 4.25"
  • 2 — Inner Arm 18" X 4.33"
  • 2 — Large horizontal cleat 13" X 1.25" X 0.75"
  • 2 — Vertical cleat 3" X 1.25" X 0.75"
  • 4 — Small filler strips
  • 6 — 0.5" x 1.5" bolts

The arms are constructed from two pieces of 0.75" plywood, that are laminated together with glue and #8 x 1" screws. The length of the arms is dictated by how close you can get the hand truck to the scope with the angle iron at the bottom. With your scope at viewing height, put a board on the floor going between the two outside legs. With a wedge, this would be the back of the wedge (south side of wedge). Now, with an imaginary line going straight up, you will see that you are a good 12" to 15" from the back of the wedge (photo 4). Add to that the length of the wedge, and you have the length of the arms.

Drawing 1

Begin by cutting the two Outer Arm and Inner Arm pieces (Drawing 1). Laminate the Outer and Inner Arm pieces together by coating the surfaces with wood glue and clamping overnight. Note that the Inner Arm is shorter at the hand truck end. This enables the arm to lock tightly on to the hand truck upright when bolted. The arms can't pivot down when the scope weight is applied which they would if you only had a single piece of wood no matter how much you tighten the bolts.

Drawing 2

In addition, the arms have a built-in stop that prevents the scope from sliding towards the hand truck when you tip it backwards to roll. The arms start with a width of 4.25" at the hand truck. They then drop down to 3" wide about 9" out from the hand truck (Drawing 2). Mark this out on the arms and cut it out with a sabre saw. You can round or angle the bottom of the end opposite the hand truck for looks and to keep from tearing on something.

Image 5

If you don't have a wedge and don't anticipate getting one in the future, you can skip this next step. On the inside of the arms are cleats that enable you to use this same design for a wedge (photo 5 above). The cleats are made from 0.75" plywood. They don't run the entire length of the arm however. If you put the arms under the wedge you will notice that the wedge stops about 3" in from the end of the arm. It is here that a vertical cleat about 4" long is screwed. This keeps the wedge from sliding back when you tilt the hand truck. This same function is served for scopes without wedges by the design of the plywood arms. If you didn't have these features, the scope would crash backwards as you tilted the hand truck back for rolling. Glue and screw these cleats in place after marking their locations on the inside of the arms. Finally, drill some 0.25" holes, 0.75" deep every 3" on the bottom of the arms. These are used to secure the 2 bungee cords that insure the scope won't move from the arms while transporting it.

Now sand everything, rounding the edges while you do. A couple of coats of semi-gloss black paint is all you need to match the color of the hand truck. Bolt the arms to the hand truck uprights with 6 X 0.5" x 1.5" bolts. First cut 4 small pieces of plywood to fit in the plastic I-beam side rails of the hand truck as fillers before bolting together. To determine the exact height from the floor these arms need to be bolted, setup the tripod at your normal viewing height and level the legs. Move the hand truck into position behind the scope keeping in mind it can be no closer than a line drawn between the two back tripod legs. Using some small clamps, clamp the arms in position checking that they seat under the scope properly. Then drill holes through the plywood and the plastic hand truck at the same time. You can test the arms at this point since they will lift the scope's weight with no problem. You will notice however, that due to the top heavy nature of these scopes, it will be quite wobbly. It is for this reason that the angle iron base is required.

The Base:

  • 1 — Angle Iron 2.25" X 2.25" X 40"
  • 2 — 0.5" x 1" bolts
Image 6

With the telescope still in the viewing position you used when determining the height from the floor, measure the width between the two back legs of the tripod (photo 6). Add 4" to that and you have the length of angle iron you will need. Cutting steel angle iron with a hacksaw leaves a lot to be desired and is best to have it cut by a machine shop on a high-speed bandsaw. If you use aluminum, then you won't have any trouble cutting it by hand. It's no big deal if it's longer than what you need other than becoming unwieldy if it's too long. Take a file to the ends and round them. Hitting this once with your toe will teach you the value of rounded corners! If you used iron, you may want to paint it with some flat black paint to cut down on the chance for rust. A thin coat of WD-40 rubbed on with a rag would do the same thing.

Measure the center of the hand truck shovel and the center of the angle iron. Mark them both. Now place the angle iron on the shovel, lining up the marks. Use a pair of small clamps to keep it from moving. Drill two 0.5" holes equal distance from the centerline, through both the shovel and the angle iron. Bolt the angle iron to the shovel with a pair of 0.5" x 1" bolts (photo 5).

The Cabinet:

  • 2 — Sides 24" X 6.5"
  • 1 - Back 24" X 8.25"
  • 3 — Shelves 6" X 7.5"
  • 1 — Large shelf front 2" X 9"
  • 2 — Small shelf front 6" X 9"
  • 2 — 1" dowel
  • 2 — large fender washer
  • 2 — 0.5" x 1.5" bolts
Image 7

Think about what you need to have near your telescope when you transport it outside. In my case my list included the battery, the 12/18 volt converter and wiring, the hand paddle, flashlight and bungee cords (eyepieces, photo accessories and auto guiders are kept in separate cases). In order to keep the number of trips to a minimum and keep everything handy, I designed this cabinet to fit between the hand truck uprights (photo 7). It is open in the back and has some cutouts on the front that enable you to run the wires through the front of the hand truck and on to the scope. It rests on the hand truck's bottom axle and is bolted to the vertical cross members for safety. Finally it has two dowels that function as cord wraps for your power cable. They keep the power cable neat, organized and out of the way.

Start by cutting the sides, back and shelves to size. If you're handy with woodworking you will want to cut some dadoes in the sides to hold the shelves. In addition, you can cut rabbets on the front of the sides to accept the front panel. If you don't know what dadoes are, you can use some #6 x 1.5" screws and glue to hold them securely. Round the top back of the sides with a nice gentle arc to keep clothing, etc. from catching.

Image 8

Mark the location of the shelves on the back by drawing 2 lines 9.5" and 15" up from the bottom. Between these, cutout 2 large holes 5" X 3" (photo 8). These holes enable you to pass cables through from the shelves to the front of the hand truck and on to the scope. Mark their location and drill pilot holes in the corners to fit a sabre saw blade. Then cutout the holes. Sand the edges before assembling. Now, with some clamps, glue and screws you can assemble the pieces together. Add the shelf fronts last. Place the cabinet on the axle of the hand truck.

Image 9

Mark the location of the horizontal cross members directly on the back of the cabinet (photo 8). Remove the cabinet and drill two 1" holes almost through the plywood. I added some dowels to the front of the cart so I could wrap the power cord and keep it neat and out of the way. Cut two pieces of 1" dowel about 3" long. Glue these into the hole, fastening them with a #6 X 1.5" wood screw from the inside of the cabinet into the dowel. Attach a fender washer to the end of the dowel with another wood screw (photo 9). Once again, two coats of semi-gloss black trim paint will match this to the cart.

Place the completed cabinet on the axle of the hand truck. From the front of the hand truck, drill 0.5" holes through the two plastic horizontal hand truck cross members into the cabinet. Bolt the cabinet to the hand truck using two 0.5" x 1.5" bolts with washers. Finger tight is fine since you might want to remove this cabinet from time to time. It will sit on the ground next to the scope or just keep the hand truck 10' away as a portable power center.

So there you have it. This design accomplishes all of my goals of being able to move the telescope: minimizing vibrations while you roll it down the driveway, work with a table or wedge without modification and provide storage for the battery and other telescope necessities. If you decide to build this, drop me an e-mail at ajones(AT) . I'd love to hear about what you might have done differently with this design. Even better, send me some pictures. You might want to make it out of something better than plywood, like oak. I considered an eyepiece shelf in lieu of the top shelf. You might want to consider some latching lids or different shelf configurations to adapt to your equipment better. And of course, there's nothing saying that this will only work with a LX200. This design can be adapted to virtually any scope that rests on a tripod.

Good Luck and Clear Skies. Alan Jones, Atlanta, GA


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