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Windy Knoll Observatory - My Build Thread


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Worked all weekend and got the legs and baseplate welded to the bottom of the pier. Also cut a hole near the bottom to route cables down through and then out into an enclosed area beneath the floor. This is where I’ll install 110V power for the mount and anything else that needs it. The below floor area will be accessed through a trap door in the obsy floor. This way there will be no cables to trip over since the only wires/cables will exit through the owl’s nest before connecting to the mount, cameras, etc. The conduit from the warm room will terminate inside the pier at about the same level as the bottom hole so I can either route wires into the below floor compartment for connection to USB hubs, etc. or I can continue them on up through the pier and out the owl’s nest.

It needs to be this tall (about 8 ft) because the floor of the roll off roof obsy is going to be about 30 inches off the ground. I’m doing this to get the scope a little higher - which should help me see lower on the horizon - and also should put it high enough to see over the roof of the warm room which will be constructed at grade level. Plan to use a standard height door between obsy & warm room - which will swing into the warm room eliminating any height issue if it were to swing into the obsy. The door will open to a short flight of stairs (about 4) in order to make the transition in floor level. The pier height will be 36 inches above the obsy floor.

Said I wouldn’t start a build thread until the pier was set in concrete but after working like a dog all weekend to finish the fabrication, I decided to go ahead and go for it. Knowing me - I’m sure progress will be slow however, progress will be made little by little and I’ll post updates to this thread as I go...

You may see some logging equipment in the background but that’s a story for another day. Just suffice it to say – I’ve got some friends who are helping me expand my horizons...  :grin:

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Thought I'd try and resurrect this thread and post a couple pics of the ROR.  You may be wondering why it's been 5 yrs. and that's a long story. Let's just say that life got in the way but now I'm rea

Thanks Jim, I really enjoy posting updates because it helps keep me motivated knowing folks are interested in Windy Knoll’s progress. Things are moving along nicely. In the evenings last week - the tw

Darn it! I probably should have added a couple more tons of concrete and a few more miles of rebar but oh well - maybe it will hold up for a little while...

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  • 3 weeks later...

Well, decided to go ahead and sand it down to bare metal - then gave it 3 coats of primer to protect it from the weather until the obsy is under roof. Next is to trench in the conduit to the warm room then try to figure out how I’m going to get this beast of a pier in the hole. :eek:  After that I’ll build some forms to extend the pier plug about 12 inches above the ground. And then finally it will be time to pour some concrete so I can get this obsy build underway...  :grin:  

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Looks lik a solid job- I don't envy the guy who eventually has to remove it!

Doubt it will ever need to be removed since the obsy and four season gazebo in the pics will be/are located on a 160+ acre farm belonging to my wife’s parents. My hope is to spark some interest in astronomy with my grandkids so it will continue to be used by future generations. Every time I see her - the oldest keeps asking - Paw Paw, when can I see that planet with the rings and I keep telling her it won’t be long now. Of course she could still observe Saturn with the scope on a tripod but she’s still a little young to stay up that late.

Anyway, if someone ever does try to remove the pier, they better have a truck load of dynamite at their disposal because once I build something - it’s usually there to stay. My in-laws have told me this little plot of ground is mine to do with what I choose so the gazebo is my man cave although we use it for family get togethers as well. Having it close by the obsy will be nice when a hot cup of coffee in the middle of the night would taste mighty fine or a nice comfortable bed really fits the bill after a long night of astronomical adventures. There’s a bunk in there, a wood stove, a cook stove, a kitchen sink, a TV, solar powered LED lighting and various other comforts of home. This is not where my house is located - although that’s only a half mile down the main highway – which is roughly the same distance my remote site is from the same road. Only difference - you won’t see any vehicles back there (other than my old Toyota pick-up) and the only pedestrians to worry about are the deer, turkey and other wildlife. There’s no way I’d go to this much trouble if my obsy had to be built at home since there’s too much LP from neighbor’s street lights and cars going by at all hours of the night casting headlights into dark adapted eyes.

Anyway, although progress has been slow – I’ll just keep plugging along until Windy Knoll Observatory transitions from a dream into a reality… :)

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Anyway, although progress has been slow – I’ll just keep plugging along until Windy Knoll Observatory transitions from a dream into a reality… :)

Keep plugging away at it- mine took the best part of two summers to complete.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Still a ways off but looking for some ideas on a track & roller system for my roll-off roof obsy. Any info and pics of successful designs would be much appreciated as I’m trying to plan ahead so I’ll have all the parts needed once it’s time to construct the roof.

Got the conduit installed this weekend and the pier has finally been set in the hole. Then I leveled it up and installed the mount temporarily to make sure it’s aligned with the NCP. Then last evening, I hand mixed 10 – 80 lb. bags of concrete and poured 6” in the bottom of the hole to stabilize everything in the event it gets bumped during the main pour. I’ll build the above grade forms this weekend and then the truck will arrive on Monday afternoon to pour the remaining 1.5 yards of concrete.  :smiley:

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Hi Scorpius,

F H Brundle seem to be the place to go here in the UK (www.fhbrundle.co.uk). Most people use the rollers/wheels designed for use with a rolling gate. The raised 'V' groove track seems to be the most popular and maintenance free. I am not sure where you would gets these in the States though, but there must be similar suppliers. Good luck with the build, it will be worth it in the end.

Jim

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What about lightning protection? Not so much from a direct strike but from an indirect strike nearby. After I read this article by Dr. Clay Sherrod of Arkansas Sky Observatory this has been a nagging concern and since I plan to pour the pier plug on Monday – I need to decide if I’ll embed grounding (earth) connections into the concrete plug as descibed in the article.

http://www.arksky.org/surge.htm

Has anyone here ever had any electronic circuitry (mount, cameras, etc) damaged by power surges associated with indirect lightning strikes traveling up through a steel pier or via the rebar in a concrete pier?

Thanks in advance for any guidance...

Paul

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Well Friends - today the pier was finally poured !!!  :grin:  Seems like it took forever from the first day when I found the 3/8” wall - 8” dia. steel pipe at the local junkyard. Then came some fabrication and the welding of extensions since it was all that I could find but was too short for my purposes. Next there was a lot of sanding and 3 coats of primer before it was placed in a 3 x 3 x 3 ft hole. Then plenty of rebar was added and the above grade forms were finished yesterday. Finally the concrete truck arrived today and Windy Knoll’s pier is set once and for all. It may be overkill to some but to me it’s the heart of my future observatory and should remain rock steady both now and in the future regardless of the type of equipment placed upon it.

Next on the agenda is Phase II – Observatory Construction...

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Removed the forms today and the pour looks good. I used to apply a thin coat of motor oil to the inside of forms to provide a smooth finished surface and prevent the forms from adhering to the concrete. However, my wife mentioned she had read somewhere you can use cooking spray instead. So tried it and it worked great as you can tell by how nice and smooth the sides turned out.

So the pier is set and I need to finalize the building design. It will definitely be standard post and beam construction and the bottom of the floor joists will be about 2 inches above the concrete to isolate the pier from the floor system. Finished floor of the obsy will be about 30 inches above the ground and I'm seriously considering adding a bump-out (Pod) for quick access to the scope during alignment and for other maintenance-type tasks. I do plan to have a warm room but just in case that doesn't happen until next spring, the pod will have a shelf for the laptop and a conduit routed under the floor to the bottom hole in the pier. The pod will be recessed in the obsy wall and covered with a simple, sloping, non-moveable roof to prevent me and the laptop from being covered with dew until the warm room is done.

But for now, the next task is to set some posts which means more scratching around in the dirt. Fortunately, my father in-law has a tractor with an auger which will simplify that process and save some wear and tear on my back...  :smiley:

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Looks smooth.... but maybe a bit too flimsy!!  :grin

Darn it! I probably should have added a couple more tons of concrete and a few more miles of rebar but oh well - maybe it will hold up for a little while... :)

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Hi Scorpius,

F H Brundle seem to be the place to go here in the UK (www.fhbrundle.co.uk). Most people use the rollers/wheels designed for use with a rolling gate. The raised 'V' groove track seems to be the most popular and maintenance free. I am not sure where you would gets these in the States though, but there must be similar suppliers. Good luck with the build, it will be worth it in the end.

Jim

Hi Jim - Thanks for the response and the link. Looks like this is one of those areas of obsy construction where there's no set way to do it or a specific parts kit designed for the purpose. I need to do some more research on this but it sounds like V-groove rollers running on an inverted V track work well opposed to a recessed channel with flat rollers since debris can build up in the channel causing problems with smooth operation of the roof. Maybe some long pieces of 90 degree angle iron with the corner turned up could be used as tracks if you could find the right size V-groove rollers to fit. But then there's the problem of how to attach the angle iron to the beam without obstucting the corner which forms the track and there'd be nothing with this type design to hold down the roof since it would just be riding on top of the track.

Oh well - at least I've got some time to think it over since I haven't even started building the obsy yet but thanks once again for the info.. :)

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I think that may be the largest/heaviest pier construction ever posted on here...  :cool:

Can't agree more !!

WOW... makes a change to see the traditional cubic meter foundation above ground than below !! :D

One thing for sure, that mount ain't gonna have any stability issues !

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Can't agree more !!

WOW... makes a change to see the traditional cubic meter foundation above ground than below !! :D

One thing for sure, that mount ain't gonna have any stability issues !

Actually, there's a cubic yard below ground & roughly a 1/2 cu. yd. above ground. There were several reasons I formed & poured the above ground portion - mainly because the only suitable pipe I could find for the pier was too short - hence the extension legs I welded to the bottom. Then the legs provided a way to weld on a baseplate for it to stand on. This allowed the pier to be freestanding in the hole prior to placing concrete making it unneccessary to suspend it somehow which I knew would be problematic.

Also, I wanted to get the obsy floor up off the ground & once that was decided, I knew I'd need some concrete above ground if I wanted to encapsulate the upper sections of rebar I had already welded to the pipe.

If it weren't for these factors, I would not have placed any concrete above the ground although I figure it certainly can't hurt... :)

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  • 2 weeks later...

The main observatory floor has been framed but the “pod” has not. I hope to frame the pod floor this weekend so all the sheathing can be installed at once. Plan to use ¾” plywood coated with an epoxy paint containing a slip-resistant, grit-like material and that will be the finished floor surface. Used this in one of my storage sheds & it creates a nice weather resistant surface that holds up well.

The observatory is 12 ft. square on the outside which translates to about 11 ft. 4 in. square on the inside. Been debating how large to make the pod & now I’m thinking of going a little larger than originally planned – probably 6 ft. x 6 ft.  I’ll eventually construct a proper control room but have resigned myself to the fact that won’t happen this year. Therefore, the pod will give me a place to stay somewhat warm this winter & keep the dew (which often turns to frost) off me and the laptop.

Like John who’s building a Fenland Observatory, I’m now in a race against mother nature to get this structure dried-in before ole’ man winter visits the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia once again.

The roof is what concerns me most as I’ve never built a rolling roof before however, I usually do my best work under pressure so guess we’ll see...  :grin:

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Didn’t get as much done this weekend as planned - since it rained on Sat. - but did finish framing the pod floor. It turned out to be 6 ft. wide (outside to outside) with a total depth of 57" - which will give me an inside depth of about 4 ft. 6 in. Couldn't extend it out any further since I need to get a decent slope on the roof and allow as much head room as possible inside.

Also added some blocking between joists to define both ends of the underfloor compartment. Still need to put a bottom in it & then install a conduit from the pod to the underfloor compartment – then I can cover the joists with ¾” plywood and start thinking about building some walls...

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Got this shot as I was gathering up tools - clouds had some nice color just after sunset (taken with my smartphone)

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Hi Scorpius, just wanted to say i'm enjoying seeing the progress and its looking great!

Hi Steve, Thanks for the words of encouragement. There's been a lot going on at work this week so no progress has been made since last update - but hope to hit it hard this weekend and get the flooring put down... :)

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