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Making Your Own Telescope (Dover Books on Astronomy) [Paperback]

Allyn J. Thompson

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Book Description

6 Feb 2003 Dover Books on Astronomy
Complete, detailed instructions and numerous diagrams for constructing a do-it-yourself telescope. No complicated mathematics are involved, and no prior knowledge of optics or astronomy is needed to follow the text's step-by-step directions. Contents cover, among other topics, materials and equipment; tube parts and alignment; eyepieces, and related problems; setting circles; and optical principles. 6 plates. 100 figures.

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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
59 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still possibly the best book for the novice mirror maker 27 Mar 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
In making this review, I'm amazed on the date I'm writing it to be the first one, this book has been in print for over half a century and I can't believe I'm the only one who ever found it useful. The author Allyn Thompson, was a postmaster by profession, who led a group of a group of amateur telescope makers at the old Hayden planetarium in the 1940's to the time of his death in the mid 1950's. The book itself is an outgrowth of a series of articles he wrote immediately after the second world war which appeared in Sky and Telescope magazine. Though the size and focal length of the telescope he describes building (a 6-inch f8 reflector) is small by the amateur standards of the last 20 years, it is still probably the best size for a novice wishing to grind and polish the primary mirror themselves to start with. And it is in his step by step discriptions for making the primary mirror of a Newtonian reflector that this book excels. He tells you in a simple straight forward way the theory and history of the telescope, materials needed to grind and polish your own primary mirror, how to do it, how to test it (his discription of the Focault tester and using masks with it are in my opinion the still the clearest written for the beginner). He does not attempt to scare you away with horror stories of all the terrible things that can happen to you, turned down edge, dog biscuit ect, a flaw you find in the old "ATM" books I and II edited by Albert Ingalls. Thompson identifies possible problems, but then guides you through them with straight forward techniques. His "button laps" were a wonderful inovation for small mirror making and molds were widely available when this writer polished his first mirrors 30 years ago. Unfortunately nobody I know of today sells the molds commercially, but Thompson shows you how to make them yourself if you want to try it. As far as the mechanical construction of the telescope, the book is dated. Not many people today would use babbitt filled pipe fittings to make a mount, not since the easily built and more stable Dobson mount became the standard about 20 years ago for home builts (for a good book on that see Richard Berry's "Build Your Own Telescope"). But John Dobson was just starting to build scopes about the time Thompson died so he can't be blamed for never having seen one, he was on the other side of the country. All in all this book has held up well for something written 50 years ago. I wish I'd had a copy of it when I built my first scope. I didn't discover it till after I'd made my second mirror and I believe things would have gone a lot smoother had I read this first instead of using the old ATM books. It's too bad Allen Thompson isn't with us today to have updated the mechanical stuff, but as a mentor for your first mirror, you can't beat this book!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Decades later this is still the best start for amateur telescope making: 11 Feb 2011
By invisible - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A previous reviewer mentioned the most serious problem with this classic book, its outdated information. I would agree, but not sufficiently to reduce my rating to four stars. Amazon does not have a 4.875 star rating so I rounded up to five. A bright reader, good with their hands, could use this book as their sole reference to build a telescope using tools, raw materials and hardware scrounged from the city dump. Not easy, but do-able.

There are three types of information in any book written by an artist: history of how their art developed in space and time, their perspectives on the artistic process, and a discussion of their tools and materials.

Taking the history first, Thompson reveals a great deal of otherwise difficult to find knowledge about the development of telescopes in general and amateur telescopes in specific. Why do we make reflecting rather than refracting scopes? Why do we make glass mirrors instead of metal ones? Why don't some of the classical telescope designs work for the amateur? The introduction is very good and he takes the time to give a fairly complete story.

Likewise, Thompson's discussion of his process is very good. He simplifies and explains the decisions one makes in producing a telescope and more importantly, the decisions one makes in setting up the tooling to make the telescope. He gives sufficient detail so that one can actually walk through his process and see why and how the parts fit together. Reading this book may be the closest the reader will come to building a telescope without actually doing so.

Now the relatively weak area: Suppose we found a book on novel writing by a mid 20th century writer. We'd naturally realize the technology has changed and read and enjoy their perspectives on what brand of manual typewriter ribbon is best and the way to insert a carbon paper between pages. So it is with this book.

It was written before the invention of the LED so his Foucault tester uses a light bulb and pinhole, and his math is used for a fixed-source device. So what? The principles apply, and if you happen to not be able to afford the extra dollars to build a Stellafane style Foucault device his design will work. It was written before Zip codes and most of the suppliers have disappeared. So what? It takes just a few minutes to run an online search to find others. The specific names and sizes of grit available on the market may have changed. So what? Pitch is now available pre-measured. So what? Thompson's writing style is interesting and readable. It is my strongly held contention that his presentation of even this outdated information is interesting and provides the reader a free perspective about what has changed in the world, not all for the good.

Of course one does not want to just use a single reference unless they must. Here are a few more good ones:

Amateur Telescope Making : Books 1, 2, and 3, Complete in 3 Volumes

Understanding Foucault

How to Make a Telescope
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sentimental Favorite 4 Aug 2008
By Fred Rayworth - Published on Amazon.com
This was my bible back in 1966 when I made my first mirror, an 8". At that time, there were a lot of things I just couldn't grasp as a sophomore in high school. However, with the help of a friend with lots of experience, I got over the rough parts and made a pretty decent mirror. I can't comment on the latest edition as I don't know how much was updated from that tried and true technology from so long ago. All I know is that the version published in the 60's was relevant and accurate.

This is the book from which I learned at least one new vocabulary word, "tyro." I had to look it up. The rest of the language was well explained including all the optical terms that are a regular part of my language today.

If nothing else, this is a solid book to start out telescope making. It should be used in conjunction with other books on the subject to give you a more rounded view on making your first mirror. However, it stands on its own as a mirror-makers bible. It may not have the depth of math the Texereau book or a few of the others does, but it gets the job done. Worked for me. Highly recommended.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Make your own telescope 22 Sep 2011
By Edward Foster - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book arrived in very good condition and very promptly, as has every purchase I have made from Amazon. I love it. It is like the nation is a used paperback store right next door. I am saving a bunch of money and finding obscure and hard to find books easily and affordably. Thanks Amazon! As for the book, it has excellent detail on the art of grinding mirrors at home and testing them, and includes chapters on the other mechanical aspects of telescope building, such as equatorial mount construction, mirror mounts, tubes, etc. An excellant course for someone considering building their first telescope.
4.0 out of 5 stars Good resource-check if download is working. 8 Nov 2013
By T. Crawford - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
I have a hard copy of this and this is the rating I would give this book. As for the kindle download, I hope the Amazon team reviews this. The download did not work and the team refunded my money and told me they would suspend the kindle book till it was fixed. I am not sure if they have done this. To my knowledge, they have not. What happens is you can proceed for a few pages and it freezes or just goes blank. Please take care to check if they have fixed it. Now... for the actual book, it is a great work for the amateur telescope maker that wishes to visit old ideas that still work great today. In fact, there is a point where I believe ATM's argue about different strokes used (shapes of strokes used) that effect the desired end result they want to achieve. These are uaually in the figuring stages when different zones of the wavefront need to be corrected. I happen to like the simple and straight forward philosophy Allyn Thompson prescribes. In particularly, he believes one can achieve a deeper center or edge correction by simply changing the applitude of a "w" stroke. The building of a telescope and the resources used are seriously outdated. But, the basic ideas of grinding your own mirror still work and may be superior in some ways. So, while some parts of this work I have just not read, other parts are very good . If you choose to read it, I hope you find answers within to help you. I do firmly believe though, each of us must find our own way- our own path and understanding of " how to get there". Once you do, you will know how to get there again and you will be able to share your own opinions, just as I am doing right now.
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