The Telescope Caddy: Part 1

Now that I have a specialized notebook for my astronomical observing, the next thing to tackle is a way to keep tools and accessories organized while at the telescope.

The most important accessories are the telescope’s eyepieces, which are interchangeable like the lenses on a high-end camera.  Like camera lenses, each offers different magnification, zoom and field of view.  And they’re a pain to keep organized in pitch darkness; each one is about the size of a hand grenade and can cost several hundred dollars. The last thing you want is for one to fall on the ground and hit cement or dirt.

The Telescope

There’s several types of telescopes; my preferred type is called a “Dobsonian” after its creator, John Dobson. It somewhat resembles a cannon on a pedestal. Compared to other types of telescopes, it is drop-dead simple to use and the optics are powerful enough to show even faint galaxies. Fully assembled, it is taller than I am; it breaks down and nests for easy transport to and from an observing site.

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The bottom of the telescope houses a 15-inch diameter, 2-inch thick glass mirror.  The weight of the mirror makes the base of the telescope quite stable, so much so that it could easily support a caddy to hold a few eyepieces.

This closeup photo of the telescope’s base (partially assembled) shows where the caddy would hang.  It would hang on the white side piece, underneath the circular green bearing.

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Concept

Here’s a concept sketch I did showing the idea I had in mind:

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Basically, what we’re looking at is something like a back-of-the-door hanging organizer, with large pockets to hold the eyepieces.  The blue represents the caddy, yellow outlines represent cargo pockets. The top of the caddy would have two fabric caps, or “lips”, that hang over the top edge of the telescope’s base (black outline in the background).

But after looking at the scope carefully, I’m not sure how well a hanging lip will work. They would need to have adequate clearance to ensure the fabric does not get caught in the telescope’s movement bearings, and the lip would be enclosed only on one side.  These two closeup pics show the places where the lip would hang:

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I am thinking I may want to attach the caddy to the side of the telescope using Vel– I mean, hook-and-loop tape.

Materials

A while back, I purchased a yard or so of black oilcloth on sale from Fabric Outlet specifically for this project. Oilcloth is ideal for the caddy; it is strong and is resistant to dew and other nighttime moisture. Also, oilcloth edges do not fray, so they don’t need to be finished. But I am thinking I might want to finish the edges anyway with bias tape so the finished product looks nice.

Today, I laid out the oilcloth in the sun to get out the creases it acquired while sitting in storage.

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I also picked up some Coats & Clark “Extra Strong” nylon upholstery thread at Fabric Outlet last week.  I will be using a denim needle on the sewing machine, along with a Teflon foot to ensure the fabric glides along.

Resources

I found these tips for sewing with oilcloth at the Sew, Mama, Sew website.

And I also found two great articles for sewing cargo-style patch pockets in Threads magazine.  I purchased their DVD archive of past issues and find it to be a valuable resource:

  • Patricia Moyes, “Load up on Cargo Pockets”. Threads, issue 86 (Dec/Jan 2000), page 66. This article has detailed instructions for sewing cargo pockets, including variations with pleats and a bellows pocket which expands outward to provide more room.
  • Barbara Emodi, “Smooth Sewing on High-Tech Outerwear Fabrics”. Threads, issue 64 (May 1996), page 36.  Page 38 has a sidebar entitled “Easy Bellows Pocket” which does appear simpler than the bellows pocket in the Moyes article.

Next time, we will create the pattern and make some sample cargo pockets. Stay tuned.

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