Meade Tripod Shelf Do-It-Yourself Design

by Ed Stewart <>

        Photo--Front View of ShelfFinding the Bolt

Any Meade LX200 scope owner who operates it in the (alt)itude/(az)muth or AltAz position can tell you how frustrating it is trying to put the base onto the tripod's mounting bolt while supporting the scope's weight. My solution uses "register pins" to accurately align the components.

My shelf for an 8" scope is 12" x 20" x 9mm (7 plys) thick, but it can be a little larger or as small as 9" in diameter, if you don't want the shelf space. After deciding on the overall size, cut this from high-density plywood, such as Baltic Birch, for superior results. Clip off the corners to save your thighs from collisions in the dark! Drill a 5/8" hole in the center. Note: to avoid ragged holes in plywood when using large drill bits, first drill a small pilot hole all the way through, and then drill halfway through with the big bit from each side. Set the shelf on the tripod head and center the 1/2" bolt in its hole. From the bottom side, trace the tripod's head accurately with a sharp pencil.

Before proceeding, drill any eyepiece or other accessory holes while the shelf is still flat. Note: double check that the scope's fork arms will clear that big 2" eyepiece! With that done, mark off three points 120° apart around the circle and at each mark, drill almost through the shelf a 1/2" hole that just touches the circle. Glue 1" X 1/2" dowels (register pins) into these holes. Put the shelf onto the tripod to check that these pins accurately position the shelf.

Next, carefully install the telescope onto its tripod bolt, aligning it square to the shelf and tighten the bolt. Carefully trace the scope's base onto the shelf's top side. Around the base's back semicircle, mark off three points 60° apart and install 1/2" dowels into these holes as before. Almost finished! You might want to glue some lengths of 1/4" dowels along the top edge to hang the hand paddle from and some 3/4" square pine strips around the bottom edges to prevent any warping. I also made a little cradle to hold the paddle. Again, be creative. Complete with a good sanding before applying several coats of varnish or paint.

Longer Bolt Needed?

Whether or not you'll need a longer bolt or threaded rod depends on how thick the material is that you use to make the main shelf out of and how far your current bolt threads up into the scope base. You should have at least 3 full threads or turns going into the base for a secure grip of the scope to the tripod head.

On mine, there were 3 threads to start with so I changed out the rod for one about 0.5" longer. It's a standard 0.5" diameter X 13 threads/inch all-thread that is commonly available at home improvement centers. There are 2 problems to deal with in doing this:

1) the hand knob on the end of the factory rod is glued on with Locktite and is very hard to break loose. Remove the rod by slipping off the C-clip on the end that is in the tripod head and the rod assembly will drop out. Grip the rod in a vise and apply heat to the rod were it enters the knob with a propane touch to soften the Locktite. Use a large pair of pliers to turn the knob (first, remove the acorn nut on the other end of the rod next to the knob).

When you put the knob on the new rod either reglue it on or allow a little extra length for a lock nut to be on top of the knob as the acorn nut will not be sufficient to hold the knob when tightening the scope to the tripod-- learned that one the hard way! Lastly, use a V-shaped file to clean-up the top thread so that it easily threads into the scope base without chewing up the aluminium threads in the base. Suggest putting a small amount of heavy grease on the base's threads to reduce galling (dissimilar metals in mating screw threads can cause the softer metal to adhere to the harder metal resulting in shearing off of the softer metal and even bonding of the two threads).

2) the C-clip won't have a groove in the new rod to retain the rod assembly to the tripod head. Many owners have reported that the C-clip has gotten mangled, and they have removed it and just let the rod assembly be a loose item. If you want to have it on the new rod, you can try to cut a new groove with a hacksaw or, even better, cut the groove with a metal lathe.

Don't be alarmed by all of this, knowing in advance what the issues are should allow you to perform this operation with little difficult (I hope!).

Putting It To Use      Top Button

Set the shelf onto the tripod head; and realizing that it's sitting there loose, carefully bring the LX200 over the shelf. Let it lightly make contact with the shelf and slide the scope's base back against the register pins as you relax the full weight onto the shelf/tripod head. The mounting bolt should be perfectly aligned-no more frustration! I found it even easier to position after I went over the base's outline, drawn earlier, with a bold, black marker to make the target position more visible.

Shelf layoutTop View of Meade Tripod Shelf
Note: bolt hole for attaching scope base to
tripod is not centered front to back!

It differs from the drawings in that it has a keypad holder on the right instead of more eyepiece holes; however, it turns out that this holder is only usable about one-third the time because of the position of the eyepiece for many objects make it unreachable. A later revision was the addition of wooden strips (flatten dowels) around the perimeter for the hook on the keypad to hang onto when the holder is out of reach.



Meade Shelf--Top View


Tripod Shelf Back View


Tripod Shelf--Side View

For some other ideas based on this design, take a look at Kip Peterson's accessory shelf:

Peterson Table

eyepiece end of Peterson shelf   Peterson shelf overview

 Peterson shelf underside
Underside to show bracing

 Peterson shelf with wedge and ST-4   Peterson shelf with wedge and ST-4, view2
With wedge and ST-4 control box

AstroDesigns  Top Button