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Center for Amateur Optics and Telescope Making

David Anderson, Director

First telescope picture.jpg

David Anderson, 1964

This is a photo taken in 1964 of me standing next to the first telescope I ever constructed taken outside my house at the corner of Lindale Ave. and Cedar Lane in Drexel Hill, PA, in the western suburbs of Philadelphia.  I was then 13 years old and a year before was in desperate need of a telescope to pursue my interest in astronomy.  I hadn't enough money to buy a telescope, of the aperture I wanted anyway, but I did have sufficient funds to buy a mirror making kit from Edmund Scientific and I had a father who was very willing to help me set up a place in the basement to work.  So, without knowing anything about what the heck I was doing I spent the next year making a 6" diameter mirror.  My only sources of guidance were Jean Texerau's book "How to make a telescope" and the three volume "Amateur Telescope Making" edited by Ingalls.  From speaking with others since then this is not an entirely uncommon story.  My first look through the completed telescope of the star Arcturus (just a reddish point) was wonderful.  I was hooked.  Not only on what I could see with the telescope but with the telescope itself and the whole process of building  it.


Today, the amateur astronomical community has a wide variety of good quality telescopes for purchase that are reasonably affordable.  For the price, the optical quality and mechanical stability of these instruments can be a very good deal.  This is largely due to advances in optics manufacturing and testing and in computer aided design and manufacturing in general.  However, as my own experience shows there has always been a group of people who desire to build their own telescope, or at least the major parts of it, including the optics and the mount.  To help fulfill the ambitions of amateur telescope makers Rayleigh Optical plans to host in its facility the Center for Amateur Optics and Telescope Making.  Here you can come and learn both very basic methods of producing a telescope but can also learn advanced methods in optical fabrication and testing that we have developed over the years.  With guidance, you can produce demonstrably excellent optics of almost any size (up to 1500 mm in diameter) or type. 

Currently, we are in the planning stages for the Center and would welcome feedback about some of the ideas we have been considering which include the following:

Regularly scheduled sessions for beginner telescope makers where we would fabricate a telescope mirror 6-8" in diameter.  Participants would pay for the materials and a small amount for the class.  We could work out arrangements for makers to have access to the shop during non-class time, as well.  

Access to some of the shop's tools and equipment for making the telescope's mechanical parts and mounting.  We could provide training and access to hand and small power tools, a lathe, milling machine, band saw, etc., and space to construct and store ongoing projects.  We would assist in procuring parts and materials.


Access to some of ROC's shop equipment such as grinding/polishing machines and test equipment and training in their use for the fabrication of larger, more challenging optics and mechanics.  Just as we do for novices we could assist the maker through the fabrication process.

 Web-based videos or classes (or both) concerning various more advanced methods of optical fabrication such as:


 Construction of grinding/polishing machines.

 Various optical test methods.

 Methods of supporting optics. 

 Curve generating methods.

 Interferometry including how to build and use different types of interferometers.

 How to characterize an optical surface.

 Basic optical design.

 Null testing.


Let us know if you would be interested in using the Center or have any comments. Please use either the contact page or communicate directly to David Anderson via email:


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