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Half Way Obs Build.


Perkil8r
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I'm going to build half an Obs. How's that work? Well I can't get her indoors to agree to a full Obs so a compromise has been struck up. I'm building a deck with a removable pier and a warm room / shed. The plan is that there will be a trapdoor in the deck so I can bolt a pier to a concrete block when I want to use it, when not then we have a deck. The shed will sit behind it and be part shed, part warm room. More shed like than warm room, but hey, better than a slap in the face with a wet kipper.

Now I should warn this is going to be a very long drawn out thing as I don't do many things quickly unless I can buy myself a completed solution. I have an idea in my mind and that's what I'm working to. So far I have been filling in the hole where the huge pond used to be before I bought the house. A bit of calculating worked it out at just shy of 11 tons to fill it! I'm about 75% of the way there now, but after that it needs leveling and something doing with the "top end" to bring it up to a suitable level so that the gravel boards of the fence aren't above the level of the ground. There have been a lot of suprising finds in moving the mound of soil from one side back into the hole, so far I have 110 block pavers and about 500kg of rockery stones. A screw driver, pencil and a box of screws.

Might take a couple of snaps later, off now to go shovel some dirt about. Like I say, don't expect this to be a quick build, it certainly won't be!

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Had to stop, I think my back is about to snap lol. Change of plan, or possible change of plan anyway. The shed / warm room may go on the opposite side of the garden. Reason being that the shed won't be seen from the street on the opposite side of the garden, whereas it would if it were behind the deck. The deck can't move since I've been standing in various spots around the garden to figure the best combination of shielding from the 1 killer streetlight that ruins my dark adapted vision and getting as far from as many buildings etc to give the best vistas. There is still 1 streetlight but that's a bit lower down and doesn't shine straight at me, so that one should be not too bad. Oh to live where my Aunt lives, on a farm in the borders 2 miles from the nearest town on top of a hill with no streetlights and vistas almost to zero elevation, the nearest city is Edinburgh about 70 miles away, and virtually 360 deg views. Mind you, wouldn't actually want to "live" there as such, too bleak for me lol.

Anyhoo, back to the build in hand, I intend to use as many recyled materials as possible, not that I am an eco nut, just I'm tight fisted and want to do it on the cheap. I have power down there via a proper shielded and waterproofed cable and outdoor socket, it should be quite easy from that point of view, it's the sheer amount of groundworks that need doing that will keep this one a slow one. The house was a reposession just over 2 years ago and was left in quite a bad way, the garden even worse. Working from home and 7 days a week from March to Nov doesn't help either, although I do have a lot of time to do a bit here and there. Gardening is not my bag at all, nor is it the SWMBO's either, so we're both outside of our comfort zones here.

There's not likely to be any trunking between the shed and the pier due to the oier being a removable one, but I don't see it being too much of a problem, I'll figure a way around it somehow. Just need to make up my mind for sure which place to put the shed then I can get a bit more done. It doesn't help that the garden slopes from the far end down towards the house, and also from side to side. A lot of digging to follow yet I am sure.

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Can't you set the up permanently and build a cover over it topped off with a bird-bath or a sundial?? Save a lot of preparation time when you want to view??

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Can't you set the up permanently and build a cover over it topped off with a bird-bath or a sundial?? Save a lot of preparation time when you want to view??

Made me chuckle, got visions of the mobile phone towers disguised as trees lol.

Not a bad idea though, but I don't think I'll get away with that one, especially being in the middle of the deck / open air observatory. Unless I can incorporate an umberella holder for the table ;) It'd be the only polar aligned umberella in the UK I'll bet.

Having discussed the shed with SWMBO before she went to work just now, we have kind of decided the shed is going on the other side of the garden. This does mean it won't be quite as conveniently placed, but it's better than nothing I guess. Just need to figure what to do with the garden beyond the deck now though. Must say though, my back is now letting me know all about what I've been doing :blink:

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A couple of phone pics just to give a rough idea of what I'm dealing with.

Facing NNW. This is where the shed will be going, it's from here I have been moving the earth to fill the hole left by the old pond which was 8ft x 8ft x 4 ft deep! * shows where the mark is on the gravel boards where the earth came up to in places. It doesn't look that much in the pic, but believe me it is! The earth in that area is now around 8" lower than in the pic. The area shown by the lines is just over 8 feet x 8 feet.

This is where the pond was. I was going to put the shed here, but after a bit of thought it will be going to the right. I was standing about where the pier will be going, although I was slightly closer to the fence. Trying to decide what to do with that bit of ground at the minute.

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Guest black eyed hexy

Hi mike , I,can,t understand you not wanting a permanent place for your gear, after all an eight inch scope is not exactly insignificant . you appear to have lots of space in the garden as well.

I was very limited on possible sites in my very full garden but ended up building a dome on top of the old decking with a very bright pub opposite just to get under permanent cover, for this I used next door neighbours old fence . Ok a dome is not an easy project but you would manage a roll off shed I,,m sure.

It,s really nice to have your own little den where everything is left set up and sheltered

Buy a second hand shed just for you eh! then alter it to suit your needs===long term planning. kind regards Dan

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To be honest I don't see this house as a long term residence. As such I don't want to get too far involved with an obs anyway. Besides, SWMBO won't go for it, even though it's my house lol. I'd rather do something for now which can be used as a deck, that way when we move on I don't have to do anything much to remove it and leave it as a deck. When I do move on I'm not selling up anyway, but going to rent it out. We've almost finished getting her house ready to rent out, so finish that, get mine ready and we can buy somewhere more permanent to live with better skies hopefully. Then maybe I will get to build an obsy ;) For now though I want to build something good enough but easy enough to remove. And all on a shoestring for now.

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Just my two p's worth, I've got an 8 x 8 deck as an observing platform and it is lethal after a frost so some kind of anti slip surface would prevent telescope embarrassment.

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A valid point but I'll figure that out when I get that far. At the minute the decking is a long way off yet lol. Maybe underfloor heating would be a nice idea, not very practical, but nice non the less. Might get an hour in this afternoon. The area for the shed is almost ready for putting a base down so would like to get that finished if I get time today. Trying to decide on a design for the shed at the minute, a pitched roof might look nice and provide more storage space in the eaves, but a sloping roof would be easier and cheaper. I need to do some scale sketches and see which interupts the sky the least from where the pier will be. Also have to take into consideration the current observing position so that it doesn't interupt the sky from that position in the meantime. I think the shed is going to be 8ft x 8ft mainly so that single sheets of ply can be used without needing to cut them too much, and also to fill the space. It should give me enough storage for shed type things but leave enough room for an area for the laptop etc.

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Not quite in the spirit of what I had planned, but still within a realistic limit I am now watching 2 second hand sheds on fleabay, it's still recycling, just not a self build from scraps. If I can't get one at a reasonable price I'm going to make one out of huge pallets. I spied some 8ft x 4ft pallets next door to one of my suppliers, I asked and I can have a van full for £10! They have 4 x 8ft long pieces of 4 x 2, that'll do nicely for the structure, the slats will do Ok for the floor and internal roof so could be onto a winner with that. I figure on needing 12 of them, I'll manage that in 2 trips = £20 not bad! But if I can get a second hand shed it will speed up the build and probably look a lot tidier!

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  • 3 months later...

Just realised how long ago I said the base area was almost ready! I've been chipping away at the digging on and off for months. Another half hour today and I am now 75% the way there for the base to go down. Nowhere near ready for a shed never mind the deck on the opposite side! This is going to be a bigger job than I had hoped for. Looks like the gravel area is going to be used for another winter for the scope then.

I must try and get the base done soon so I can get the shed up before winter. At least then I will be able to safely store the scopes outside at a temperature closer to ambient rather than inside the house. I'm planning on a heater in there for use as a warm room, and dual lighting, one red and one white. That way I can have white lighting for practical stuff, and red for astro, since it will be a shed and warm room. I have some slabs lined up from a relative for free, so a bit of leveling then slabs will be the base. Then sit the wooden floor on top to provide a bit of insulation from the cold under foot in the winter, as well as give spike the hedgehog somewhere else to live.

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Blimey Mike, you still digging!!! I can say from experience that the decking build is pretty quick and easy as is the shed building, as you say the earthworks are time consuming to say the least!! Crack on mate, after all this is supposed to be the Summer and before you know it Orion will soon be viewable again !! ;)

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Guest Fluke

I wish I had a bigger garden as I'd love a small observatory.

No chance with houses on these modern estates though with postage stamp gardens :(

Good luck with the build, and like Ron says you'd better crack on if you want to be ready for Autumn lol

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I'm determined to get the ground ready for the base this week. Having to go easy on the old back though, it's not coping so well. Then I need to go collect the slabs ready so I can get the sand / cement etc. Never tried anything like this before.... could be interesting lol. As for the deck, I agree that will probably be quite quick to install, the pier needs some more thought though. Wht to do? Get one made that takes the EQ5 head, get one to take an HEQ5 or EQ6, or one that can have an interchangable top to suit the EQ5 for now and have the option to upgrade later..... Difficult to know what to do..... will start a new thread for that me thinks.

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Hi Mike,

first time I've seen this thread, as you've only just started posting in it again.

I love to see these projects coming together. It will be a lot of hard work, but well worth it in the end. You will learn a lot in the process and get great satisfaction out of it despite the back ache. I read your post about compromising and keeping SWMBO happy. I remember similar conversations with my wife when planning my obsy. My orders were that it had to look good and blend in with the surroundings. Hence the green dome to blend in with the trees and the planters on the outside of the walls.

Your removable pier and warm room/equipment store is going to be a great advantage, especially for cool down times and speedy alignment.

I look forward to seeing your progress.

Cheers,

Pete.

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Been looking at sheds online, looks like I will end up going this route since it's bassically the most convienient way of doing it, and quite cheap. Found a place called Waltons that do 8x6ft sheds for £189 delivered! I'm looking at a better quality one though at £249 delivered, tongue and groove boards and rot free guarantee for 10 years, that sounds good to me. Will clad the walls inside with some insulation between to try and help. Should also help with strength a bit too as I'm not expecting too much for £249.

Is a window a must, or an added bonus I wonder? I'll be in the warm room whilst imaging during winter, so will see what is visible through the scope anyway, and can always pop my head out of the door to look from time to time, But I guess windows would help see stuff in there in daylight without the need for lighting... hmmm more thought needed.

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8 x 6 is the minimum size. You will eventually fill it with all sorts of stuff as will as your scopes and it will likely get cramped. You will want a desk or shelf for a laptop etc and comfy chair cos you will spend a bit of time in there. I think a window for your shed is an advantage, but needs some curtains/blinds. Some would say a window is a security risk, but they will really have to break the door down to get much out, so think about security, locks and even a burglar alarm. You can talk to your home insurers re extra cover for scopes in sheds, mine charged just a very small amount extra per year for up to £7500 worth of damage/theft from the obsy. You are obviously planning power to the shed, and in my experience should consider having several low wattage red bulbs on a dimmer switch and white lights seperately switched.

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That's the main part of the base dug out now, and boy does my back keep reminding me! Now I just need to level it a bit more accurate ready to lay some edging to contain the sand/cement to bed the slabs down onto. Going for slabs edged with block pavers. Found a brilliant looking shed on www.ilikesheds.com which is only £220 just under, delivered! I will be improving it by adding a better floor resting on Joists to allow an air gap to help the floor stay a bit warmer, and also by lining the inside with ply, the gap filled with insulation (most likely polystyrene)

Today I had chance to see a pier up close and see how heavy they are! I am begining to think a removable pier is going to be tricky. I have a couple of ideas though, but I need to think them through more before I post here with details of the ideas, since they are only very early thoughts at the minute and need a lot more thought before I could even begin to explain them. The exact spot for the pier though is now decided, jsut the height and method that needs a lot more thought.

What sort of depth would be suitable for the "foundation" for the pier, and what sort of footprint would be ideal? I'm thinking 24 inches deep by the same square? That should be enough concrete to stop it moving surely? It will be suporting the st80, sw 200p, and maybe one day oneday something in the order of a 12" Musky.... well I can dream.

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Here's some of my thoughts on your queries fwiw.

Regarding the pier height. The whole point of your project is to make the hobby more convenient, comfortable and quick to set up. When you set up your scope on a tripod, you will adjust the tripod to the most convenient height for you to observe from, maybe you like to observe from a chair or standing up. Obviously the eyepiece end moves about depending on type of scope and mount, so just try and find the average most comfortable height for you, cos you'll be stuck with it after it's built. Measure the height from the ground to the tripod top, this should be your preferred pier height. Remember to add on a few inches for the floor of your decking because the pier will be fixed to concrete below that. If you design it too high you might need steps, not convenient or comfortable and it won't be a five minute job to hacksaw it down to size. If you design it too low, you might get a crick in your neck or a bad back, and you might have to get a pier extension at extra cost. Well worth working out your most convenient height before having it built so you are completely happy with it. If you're only doing imaging then pier height is less critical, but I'm sure you will want to spend some time at the eyepiece.

Concrete size. Well, bigger is better, and you are only going to do it once and it needs to stay exactly in the same position for many years. A 24" cube of concrete sounds pretty good unless you have poor quality, soft ground. If so go for wider and deeper, just like you would for house foundations. I like braces as well as a belt :) so mine was a cubic metre, but I was conveniently able to use left over readymix from my house extension foundations. Some would advise widening the concrete at the bottom for better stability. The pier itself will probably weigh a lot more than your scopes and mount, but one day you might want to use it for something far bigger, so don't skimp on the concrete.

Hope this helps.

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The garden has really good topsoil perfect for gardening to a depth of about a foot, below that it is clay. Being on the side of a hill helps with drainage, so no part of the garden gets too wet either, so the pier foundation should be quite sound I think. I might go for 3 ft deep by 2 ft square having just talked myself deeper lol.

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  • 1 month later...

Finally made a decision on the shed base... I'm going with a concrete base. I'm planning on putting cables in for power and also for the mount etc. The power (240v) is no problem, but what will I need in the way of cables for the mount etc? Would a phone cable be good enough? I can put plugs on at a later date etc. I also intend running a couple of lengths of USB cable aswell just incase, I am sure one will be needed at least, but figure it's as easy to run 2 as 1 now rather than try afterwards. Does this sound at all realistic?

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