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Telescope Transport Devices

Scope Transporter

by Dave Dixon <ddixona_tlascruces.com>

When I was confronted with the problem of being able to quickly set up my LX50 7 " Maksutov in mid-1997, I examined the commercial "wheely bars" and Ed Stewart's "Sled" article in March, 1997, Astronomy magazine. For my intended application each of these solutions had at least one drawback, in the case of the wheely bars a difficulty in traversing the shallow steps on the sidewalks from my garage to my observing location. Also a limitation on the size of doorway the bars will pass through unless I was willing to modify the tripod. The Stewart Sled also has passage width limitations. I decided to work up an extension of the Sled concept. The use of a hand truck with wide pneumatic wheels, to move the scope around proposed by the Sled seemed an excellent idea. Instead of picking up the scope and tripod by the Sled at the bottom I decided to sandwich a plate between the wedge and tripod and to lift the assembled telescope by the plate, allowing the tripod legs to be retracted to go through a normal door when necessary.

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

Fig. 3

Fig. 4

The transporter is without a doubt more expensive than the sled; if nothing else you will find that the hand truck becomes dedicated to your telescope while the sled offers the option of using it for its original purpose. Also I am not going to provide detailed instructions for making one of these for two reasons:

  • First the hand truck you use determines a significant portion of the design.
  • Second the transporter design is still evolving.

I will give you dimensions when I can and I also over designed some aspects of my transporter so where experience suggests alternatives I will try to mention them.

The design constraints I imposed were that no modification of the tripod or scope were to be necessary.

Materials:
The lifting plates that I use are made of 3/8-inch thick tempered aluminum. I have made two plates, one 12 inches by 18 inches and another 16 inches by 18 inches. Either size works fine but the larger plate has a good deal more room for setting eyepieces and accessories on. If I have occasion to make another lift plate I will build it even larger, something about 22 inches by 16 inches.

Bolt Pattern Drawing shows the hole pattern in the plate.

Hole Pattern

You have to make a longer 0.5 inch 13 tpi draw bolt. The original Meade draw bolt on the three tripods I have worked with was 9.25 inches long, the draw bolts I use are 12.5 inches long and cut from a 36 inch piece of stainless steel all-thread purchased from a local fastener supply house. If you are going to use your scope in ALT-AZ mode then you need to cut the groove in the draw bolt for the C-ring retainer. The groove needs to be relocated to accommodate the thickness of the plate that is going to be sandwiched between the tripod and scope mount. The original Meade draw bolt has the outer edge of the retaining groove 1.40 inches in from the end. The draw bolts I made have the outer edge 1.27 inches in from the edge and the inside (or bottom) edge at 1.87 from the end. For a 3/8 thick plate the end of the draw bolt is nearly flush with the top of the lift plate so you don't bang up the bottom of the scope, but can engage the threads in the LX200 like the Meade original.

In addition you will need six 5/16 by 1-inch flat head cap screws. And two 3/8 by 1-inch socket head cap screws. Also a 0.5-inch nut and several flat washers for the draw bolt. I bought stainless steel bolts, nuts and washers from the same fastener supply house where I got my all-thread.

The lift forks on my hand truck are made from 0.75 inch tempered aluminum 21 inches long and tapering from 4 inches high at the base to 2 inches high at the end. This is one area I think I over designed. Double thickness of 0.75 or 0.825 thin lamina plywood epoxied together would probably be satisfactory. If you don't have the appropriate grade of plywood on hand the aluminum forks cost me about $50 for both the material and cutting at a local machine shop so overkill shouldn't be economically disastrous.

Fig. 5I also over designed the fork to hand truck clamps, I anticipated frequent need to adjust the positions of the forks. In fact I have only needed to change the position twice since the initial assembly. Simple bolts and flat plates with hard wood jaws with a radius cut to match the hand truck uprights would work quite well. Just be sure you avoid crushing the tubing that makes up the hand truck uprights.

In the design pictured the draw bolt is 14 inches out from the uprights of the hand truck. For a 10 inch LX200 this gives 5 inches of clearance between the outside of the telescope mount fork and the hand truck uprights. It also puts the draw bolt 20 inches in front of the axle on the hand truck which gives plenty of leverage to pick up the 10" LX200 and tripod, even a 12" LX200 should be manageable.

In Fig. 2, I pictured collapsing and extending the tripod legs by laying the hand truck completely down on its back. This is probably will only work with an 8-inch scope. The weight and center of mass of a 10" or 12" LX200 would make lifting everything back upright, too much for many people. One of the next modifications I am planing for the transporter is to add swing out legs to the rear of the hand truck that can be used as a rest while I extend or collapse the tripod legs. I have seen heavy-duty hand trucks equipped with legs like this moving safes and massive filing cabinets I just haven't found a source for them. Editor's note: try putting a small eyebolt in the spread limiter casting (that the 3 aluminum struts attach to) and attach a cord or small chain to the eyebolt and run it up the hand truck handle. Release the spreader tension with the hand wheel, rotate the spreader tips so they are between the legs, then tip the scope with the hand truck enough to take the weight off the legs. Now pull up on the cord or chain and the legs should retract sufficiently to clear your doorway.

I have not used the transporter with a wedge mounted scope since I sold my LX50 earlier this year. A wedge mounted scope introduces some additional considerations in where the center of gravity is located with respect to the hand truck and still maintain a manageable configuration. Meade places the azimuth adjuster at a location between two of the tripod legs. With the transporter you will have to orient the wedge 180 degrees from this and build a azimuth adjuster that bolts to the top of the lifting plate. The 14 inches out from the uprights of the hand truck location for the draw bolt should work for the Meade standard wedge for a 10" LX200 or LX50, measure your particular configuration to verify it. If you have a Super Wedge or Milburn Wedge you will have to measure the wedge to determine how close to the hand truck you can locate it. With any wedge mount configuration the center of gravity will be moved away from the hand truck and the effort to lift and tilt the scope and tripod will increase. Since the scope on a wedge is away from the hand truck you should keep the clearance small as possible and still allow some room for using the wedge at different latitude in the future. Measure clearance and determine location for the wedge at the extremes of latitude for the wedge and with any latitude adjusters and scope mounting bolts in place.

Click here for a copy of transporter drawings if you have machine shop access and would like to build your own or have someone construct one for you.

Commercial Version

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