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Windy Knoll Observatory - My Build Thread


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I love the ROR, "Rip Off Roof!" Man, that will get you viewin' the stars super fast  :grin:

Kim

Kim glad you like it, it's a new design I'm trying out. Lightweight, easy to remove & install although I'm a little concerned about its long term durability. Hope to upgrade to a more conventional design sometime soon but not sure exactly when that will happen... :)

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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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Took off a couple hours early Wed & today to finish the last few pieces of siding which didn’t get put up last weekend because I ran out of time. Each panel was primed (2 coats) on the back side as well as all edges to protect against moisture. All corners will get trim boards but not until after the roof is complete. In the meantime, all joints have been sealed with heavy duty exterior caulking & it took just over 3 gals of good quality paint to cover the finished side since T1-11 soaks up paint like a sponge. I’m confident the siding is now well protected from the elements so will start working on the ROR supporting framework tomorrow, if it doesn’t rain.

Still a little early to say I’m coming down the home stretch but think I’m beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel...  :bino2:

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Hi Scorpius,

That is definitely starting to look good. I will be interested to see the finished item.

I especially like the guard dog, really fierce looking!

Derek

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Yes, this time of year the weather can be challenging.  Looking forward to the ROR stage.  Keep those pictures coming.  I sure do like your project.  Your plan seems like a well built, functional observatory built at a reasonable cost.  This is what I hope to achieve next spring.

Thanks for the updates and good luck on the rest of the build.

Tim

P.S. Thanks for your reply to my message, by the way.  I hope to stay in touch.  

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Hi Scorpius,

That is definitely starting to look good. I will be interested to see the finished item.

I especially like the guard dog, really fierce looking!

Derek

Hi Derek & thanks - plan to start on the ROR supporting framework this weekend and looks there's like no rain in the forecast for the next several days!  :hello2:  I think this will be the most challenging part for me especially since assistance is hard to come by at the moment. Once I get the framework in place, the plan is to pre-fab the roof trusses - in the evenings after work - then ask my son & son-in-law to help set them in place over the long Thanksgiving weekend. That's the plan anyway but remains to be seen if I can meet that goal in terms of weather & other non-observatory related responsibilities.

Yeah - ole Wally (the guard dog) is outwardly a friendly little guy who's small stature & good nature belies the ferocious beast which lies within. Seriously though - he was attacked by coyotes when he was young but managed to escape & was rescued by a neighboring farmer who saw my wife's lost & found ad in the local paper. We didn't witness the attack but I had a boxer at the time - who truly was ferocious - & we've always believed it was "Baby" who distracted the coyotes long enough for our little buddy to make his escape. When we took him to the vet after his return, he found canine bite wounds on his back & said they were definitely inflicted by a coyote. Baby got sick & had to be put down a few years later :sad: but if dogs could talk - I'm sure Wally would confirm that he owes his life to his old friend Baby... :smiley:

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Hi Scorpious,

I really like the boarding that you have put on the side.  That must have taken some painting!! (Willow green is definitely the colour of choice for the discerning observatory builder :grin:  )

Wow - Just looked at your roll off wheels.  They look incredibly solid and well built.  I'm sure that they will be able take whatever weight that you put on top of them.

In the coming week I'm hoping to build the door on my obsy and finally get a  sealed structure.  I hope that you have more luck with the weather to get your roof on.

Best regards

John

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  • 4 years later...

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 ready to get back into the hobby and finally finish my observatory.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Yes it's to the point now I can finally start setting things up inside.

As far as tie down provisions - for now I'm using ratchet-type cargo straps in each corner hooked on one end to I-bolts secured to the roof frame and strapped on the other end to horizontal braces fastened between wall studs. I plan to come up with something less time consuming at some point but for now it's definitely not going anywhere once strapped down.

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I made some self engaging pins to lock my roof.

Hope its clear enough how they work

I only use the wingbolts when its stormy , usually the locking pin is all I need to drop in place to stop the track moving, which means the pins cannot disengage.

 

Has been storm tested over last winter and seems to be up to the job.

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

There are no mains within a half mile so this observatory is totally off the grid. Finished installing the solar array and now I need to run the cables which will be routed underground in PVC conduit .

Three 200-watt panels will charge a 200-amp hour battery and most everything inside will operate on 110 volts supplied by a 3000-watt pure sine wave inverter. The subpanel is also a transfer switch which has a built-in 30-amp generator plug. So, if the battery gets low my portable generator will keep the power on while a 110-volt battery charger tops off the main battery. Won't be long until I finally have lights and those will be LED rope lights in both white and red controlled by separate switches.

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On 06/07/2015 at 05:12, Scorpius said:

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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Did not realise that a pier needed Solid Booster Rockets ! 🤣

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1 hour ago, Physopto said:

It is a really nice job you are doing there. I wish I could do the same some time in the future. 😃

Thank you sir! Sometimes it seems like it will never be finished but once the electrical system is operational it will be nearly complete.

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What good work done here! I’m now inspired to build my own little star shack. If for no other reason than to avoid polar/stellar alignment each and every time I want to use my new eq goto. The ROR set on the ridged rails is so smart. I wonder if a modified garage door opening mechanism could be used to move the roof. Here in Arkansas rain storms can pop up in a matter of minutes, and having a push button powered retraction system seems to make sense.

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33 minutes ago, theropod said:

What good work done here! I’m now inspired to build my own little star shack. If for no other reason than to avoid polar/stellar alignment each and every time I want to use my new eq goto. The ROR set on the ridged rails is so smart. I wonder if a modified garage door opening mechanism could be used to move the roof. Here in Arkansas rain storms can pop up in a matter of minutes, and having a push button powered retraction system seems to make sense.

Thank You! Avoiding the continuous setting up and taking down was my main motivation too but a DIY observatory can get out of control if you're not careful. I've spent way more time and money than I ever planned so glad it's almost done. As far as the garage door opener, it probably depends on the weight of the roof. Mine is likely too heavy for a standard opener and it would use up too much battery power anyway. Therefore I've come up with a low-tech solution - a hook on a pole with several strategically located eye bolts to grab onto :)

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On 01/12/2020 at 00:55, Scorpius said:

Equals my 158 lb (71 kg) cold weather power supply 😮

Do give it a little bit of ventilation - you don't want hydrogen build-up in your battery box! For really cold weather resistance, a little low-power heater in a reasonably shielded box will go a long way and won't pull much power.

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33 minutes ago, discardedastro said:

Do give it a little bit of ventilation - you don't want hydrogen build-up in your battery box! For really cold weather resistance, a little low-power heater in a reasonably shielded box will go a long way and won't pull much power.

Great advice & I had thought about both those issues. The battery actually states on the side do not charge in a gas-tight container so I'm wondering if just loosening the cooler drain plug or even completely removing it would provide enough ventilation? What type of low-power heater woud you suggest & by "shielded box" do you mean insulated?

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1 hour ago, Scorpius said:

Great advice & I had thought about both those issues. The battery actually states on the side do not charge in a gas-tight container so I'm wondering if just loosening the cooler drain plug or even completely removing it would provide enough ventilation? What type of low-power heater woud you suggest & by "shielded box" do you mean insulated?

Street cabinets - which are normally ventilated with plenty of airflow, and cooled by fans in summer - quite often have a 10 or even 50W heater in the bottom of battery areas (we normally have circa 150-390Ah in 4-8 12V batteries, so quite a large area) to keep things warm enough. You don't need much because you can basically dump the heat very directly into the battery and they tend to have good specific heat capacity and retain well. Spare dew heater strap on low would probably be more than enough - best to try it out with a temperature logger and see what it does first though, you may find you don't need it depending on climate.

A pretty small gap would be all you need for ventilation, but you'll want something high up in the box for obvious reasons 🙂 a 10mm drill through the top would probably be enough, and something corresponding on the diagonal opposite corner near the bottom.

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On 27/08/2015 at 03:48, Scorpius said:

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.

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And I thought I'd gone over the top with my pilar mounting, lol. Nothing like future proofing the pilar, that was my thoughts too, lol.

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Still need to create openings for the cables so I can close the cooler and also install a couple more circuits but the observatory is now running on its own power instead of a generator.

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Drilled holes for the cables then sealed the gaps with caulk so the cooler can close. Also, built an overhanging roof to protect the electronics from dew. Had planned to locate the electronic gear in the control pod but was afraid there wouldn’t be enough space left for a desk, laptop and me!

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