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Dan's pier plates - worth the cost?


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I'm trying to make a decision on the type of pier I want to construct for a roll-off roof observatory. After a lot of research, a concrete pier seems the most simple but the thing I'm unsure about is the transition from concrete to mount (Currently the Celestron AVX). Unless you put in a steel pier attached to a concrete "sub-pier" most of the DIY ones seem to be poured concrete and incorporate the "rat trap" design for the transition which must work reasonably well since so many are constructed this way. However, I want the ability to upgrade the mount at some point in the future without worrying if bolts will line up or drilling new holes in the pier and fooling around with industrial strength epoxy. Their mount specific adapter plates seem to fit the bill but my two major concerns: #1- The plates are machined from aluminum rather than steel and #2- There's only 3 mounting bolts for the main base plate as opposed to the typical 4. Of course another concern is price but since it seems the pier is the heart of the observatory, I'd be willing to make the investment if it's a stable solution that would prevent headaches upgrading in the future. I'm looking at building a 12" pier - even though that's probably overkill for the AVX and an 8" SCT - but this is the kit I would need.

http://www.pierplates.com/products_2564.html

Homepage - http://www.pierplates.com/index.html

Anyone ever use this modular design and if so what are your thoughts/recommendations? Are they worth it?

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Worth of 500 dollars?!? 

In my opinion hell no, never, not even close.

I made most of my observatory`s basic structures with almost same amount of money. I have some images of my pier at my blog, there is some building phases also http://frostlandobservatory.galleria.fi/blog/4/Astronomical+Observatory+construction+Part+1:+basic+structures/ Pier is constructed from a scrap metal pipe and old barbell weight, I just removed all rust and painted it, drilled holes for my Eq8 mount. It has been working perfectly for 3 years for now.

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Thanks for the response and yes they do seem cost prohibitive so I'll need to re-think the pier to mount transition. Currently in the planning stages but have scheduled a week off in mid-May to get started with the goal of at least completing the pier sub-base and mounting the pier extension. Thanks to a friend at work - think I've found a good piece of scrap pipe for the pier extension which has a flange with holes all around for bolting it to the concrete sub-base. Have been debating if I would start this year and it looks like I will and just hope I can get it under roof and functional before cold weather sets in so I can use it this winter.

I'm not new to construction - but always seem to over-engineer things - so that will be something I'll need to guard against during this build. The obsy will be on the same site as a four-season gazebo I built over the course of several years and below is a picture of that structure just prior to completion (meaning the steps you see were temporary and have now been replaced). I'm excited to finally get started on a permanent observatory as the constant setting up and taking down of equipment is getting old... :)

post-37916-0-46262000-1430305743_thumb.j

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Worth of 500 dollars?!? 

In my opinion hell no, never, not even close.

I made most of my observatory`s basic structures with almost same amount of money. I have some images of my pier at my blog, there is some building phases also http://frostlandobservatory.galleria.fi/blog/4/Astronomical+Observatory+construction+Part+1:+basic+structures/ Pier is constructed from a scrap metal pipe and old barbell weight, I just removed all rust and painted it, drilled holes for my Eq8 mount. It has been working perfectly for 3 years for now.

Nice observatory and website BTW. Guess a I got a little caught up discussing my future plans and failed to mention that... :)

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How can they ask so much for a pier plate?!?!

I just use the head of the tripod bolted to a blank ali plate with a hole in the middle, seems to work fine and cost about 8 pounds for the ali.

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Hi

I went with a Dan's pier top plate for my 12" concrete pillar  ( http://stargazerslounge.com/topic/234625-mikes-roll-away-shed-observatory/ ).

My reasons were:

1. I have no machining/mechanical skills or experience, no workshop and only basic hand tools.

2. I wanted a system that would allow me to level the top surface - I know it is not necessary in order to achieve polar alignment but since I wanted to achieve a very good alignment I thought it would be helpful if an adjustment in one axis did not impact the other (which it does if the base is not level).

3. I wanted certainty that the my design would work the first time.  Again, as I have no tools, very little knowledge and poor skills I wanted to do all that I could to de-risk the pier construction.  By purchasing a plate and bolt set and following the instructions I was able to complete the pier fist time with no issues.

Yes the plate was expensive, but for the above reasons it was value for money for me.  It might not be for you.

Cheers

Mike

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  • 5 years later...

2015 is now six years past, but astronomy buffs still need telescopes.  So...

Dan's pier plates. Why such a high price? Well, the equipment needed to duplicate the plate itself is quite expensive—a bridgeport type vertical milling machine, CNC to reduce labor costs costs $10,000 to $40,000 US. Dan's plates are manufactured in batches to realize the benefits of computer duplication—that's why the price is only $500 US. Start with an alluminum billet 12" X 12" X 1.5". Mill to a round, chamfered biscuit with flat, parallel faces. (In small lots, the aluminum biscuit costs over $300.) Locate and mill six arcs to allow 15 degree freedom in North pointing. Locate, center, drill, and mill ten holes; tap three. Mill one slot for North pointing adjustment for telescope mount. Anodize aluminum biscuit for corrosion resistance. Purchase stainless steel hardware off the shelf (three 3/4" x18" j-bolts plus 6 half height ss nuts plus six rubber washers plus six ss washers; plus three bronze bushings to allow for possibility that the j-bolts may not be set perfectly vertical and perfectly positioned.

My brother has a personal machine shop with a Bridgeport, but no CNC. He could duplicate the biscuit, but made square rather than round. The total cost would not be much less than purchasing from Dan's. And that's not taking into account ruining a billet.

Or you can consider searching for available surplus parts and scrap billets. Designing the adapter to fit the available scrap material.

Or leveling and polishing the concrete pier top, drilling and tapping the necessary holes and hoping everything fits together perfectly.

I'd think long and hard about the total sunk cost in a backyard observatory. How does a $500 US pier adapter compare. Especially since the Dan's product is certain to be successful (having been used by many amateur astronomers). 
 

Which is more important to enjoying your hobby—a concrete solid, perfectly alined telescope mount or one more Tele Vue eyepiece? 

 

I am very impressed with the professional quality of Dan's pier adapter plate. It matches or exceeds that of my Tele Vue, Meade, and Sony equipment. The materials for my pier and footing plus a 8' by 8' isolated, wooden deck cost much more than the adapter plate.

 

Now if the Winter rains in Georgia would let up.

 

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Ridiculous. Nearly 600 dollars for a chunk of billet aluminium with some holes tapped in it. Compare with the Rowan AZ100 mount, which isn't much more expensive, and see the amount of engineering and design thats gone into that. 

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I own a Primaluce Labs C82 pier. This comes with a detachable adapter plate. While the range of mounts they stock adapters for is fairly small, the plate itself is not that complicated and the company supplies drawings that a local metalworking shop could customise for whatever mount the user needs.

And at €500 for the whole shebang, I reckon it's a pretty good buy. Though shipping one a few thousand miles from Italy might jack up the cost a tad, better look for a local dealer.

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A foolish amateur astronomer and his money are soon parted. :crybaby2:

Brand new, car brake disks for popular models are absolute peanuts.
Mark where you want your holes with a sharpie / magic marker.
Don't have a power drill?
Take your disk brake to a local engineering firm to drill a few holes.
Ten minutes tops! Price of a beer? Probably.
 

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The plate does look like an exquisite piece of engineering and a $500 price tag for small prioduction run seems more than reasonable for the design and work carried out.

However.

To hold an AVX mount, the plate is so over-engineered and the cost to do such a basic task is ridiculous. With a Newt, the ota is likely to hit the plate when getting close to the zenith. I get really close with my 8" pier and CEM70 - within the extra 2" radius for sure...

Just my 20 cents worth...

Gordon.

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