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Hi guys and girls,

I would like your thoughts on my grand design for my observatory as Kevin McCloud is busy and I am looking for that little gem of advice which may help me navigate around or avoid a common or not so common problem already addressed by the informed users of SL. I have a (second) shed measuring 2.5m x 3.0m and this is to be my observatory with great views 340° of the night sky (tree hiding NNW so not an issue). I live in the country 10 miles away from the nearest town so light pollution isn't an issue although I'm not in a dark skies site I have looked at the website below and found my area is in a reasonably good area for darkness. So to not ruin the aesthetics of part of our garden I have been looking for alternatives to the rolling roof option. I have a flat roof at a slight angle to accommodate rain and have decided the best option is to cut the roof in half and open it up like a book with both halves folding on hinges to 170° being supported on chain with a rope pulls to pull them back in and dampeners to stop them slamming down. There will be a fixed pier and suitable wiring for plug sockets, red wall light and a consumer box. A desk along one wall and storage space. What are your thoughts?

I will post pictures when i begin! http://www.avex-asso.org/dossiers/wordpress/?page_id=127&lang=en_GB#

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Those of us old enough to remember Benny Hill might find this amusing - I did but then again small things and small minds....... This at real life speed with the weather we are having - clear - r

It can be done ...... https://www.flickr.com/photos/113316085@N05/albums/72157663274320360    

Same here.  I too like trying unconventional ideas and also some of these fail but it's this sort of attitude that leads to advances in science and engineering   Good luck with your second build

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The problem with "split" roofs is getting the join to be watertight - hence most folk use the sliding whole roof solution.  That's not to say it can't be done - just that it can be tricky to get it to work properly.  There are designs for fully sliding roofs where the support structure can fold away leaving a simple "shed" in the garden.

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The 1st incarnation of my observatory was a counterweighted hinged roof in 2 parts. Apex sealing was easy. I found it restrictive in windy conditions but also quite useful because I could have one side down and the other open depending on where I was observing. I kept it like that for a few years then converted to roll off, less scarey

 

mk1-open.jpg

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I knew there was some out of the box ideas out there! Skipper Billy your photos are great and an inspiration to alternative ideas. The mechanics and finish are excellent. I like the solidity of your pillar. Could I ask how much the pier cost for a rough idea and what size thread/bolts you used?

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12 hours ago, philj said:

The 1st incarnation of my observatory was a counterweighted hinged roof in 2 parts. Apex sealing was easy. I found it restrictive in windy conditions but also quite useful because I could have one side down and the other open depending on where I was observing. I kept it like that for a few years then converted to roll off, less scarey

 

mk1-open.jpg

This is exactly what I am looking to achieve except on a flat roof and not pitched. Luckily I can have one part of the roof bigger than the other as it will rest completely on another shed at a slight angle and the other will hang in situ similar to yours at a greater angle. Water proofing will be achieved with a bespoke 12" overlap on one edge so the rain will roll down over the join which will be over protected with weather proof plastic and roof felt. Two questions Philj....Could you tell me exactly what hinges you used as a start point for my researxh please. Also, how did you protect the roof edges where the hinges are exposed to the weather?

Great job!

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4 hours ago, Adaaam75 said:

I knew there was some out of the box ideas out there! Skipper Billy your photos are great and an inspiration to alternative ideas. The mechanics and finish are excellent. I like the solidity of your pillar. Could I ask how much the pier cost for a rough idea and what size thread/bolts you used?

Thank You !!!

The pier is made from a length of thick walled high pressure steam pipe off a submarine - the pipe and the 2 flanges were scrap and cost nothing. (they came complete with the x-ray and certificate to prove the weld was good and that there were no inclusions - no wonder subs cost so much to build and maintain!!!)

The top plate is a piece of 8mm steel - cost zero but the plasma cutting (to get a disc out a square off-cut) was £8

The bolts that make up the rat box are 8 x M14 x 100mm - the studs at the bottom are 8 x M14 x 500mm set into chemical anchor (epoxy) in holes drilled into the concrete slab - all galvanised inc the nuts and washers - about £30 for the lot.

Happy to take better photos - closeups etc if you need any more info.

I see you are in Essex - there must be loads of marine salvage places where you can get steam pipe and flanges - probably for free and its good recycling !!!

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9 hours ago, Skipper Billy said:

Thank You !!!

The pier is made from a length of thick walled high pressure steam pipe off a submarine - the pipe and the 2 flanges were scrap and cost nothing. (they came complete with the x-ray and certificate to prove the weld was good and that there were no inclusions - no wonder subs cost so much to build and maintain!!!)

The top plate is a piece of 8mm steel - cost zero but the plasma cutting (to get a disc out a square off-cut) was £8

The bolts that make up the rat box are 8 x M14 x 100mm - the studs at the bottom are 8 x M14 x 500mm set into chemical anchor (epoxy) in holes drilled into the concrete slab - all galvanised inc the nuts and washers - about £30 for the lot.

Happy to take better photos - closeups etc if you need any more info.

I see you are in Essex - there must be loads of marine salvage places where you can get steam pipe and flanges - probably for free and its good recycling !!!

That is invaluable information. I had settled on a concrete pier as I had already written off a steel pier due to cost of commissioning the build at a metal workers. I really didn't think the cost would be that reasonable and am now going to actively look around for a salvage place for a suitable piece. Could I ask you to take a picture of the top part of the pier where the mount is attached so I can see how the parts are cut and fit together? I have trawled the Internet for examples but this is frequently overlooked. Also, how did you determine the height of the pier when fixing it? Did you do a dry fit? Obviously you want to be able to comfortably look through the scope for visual observing? (although looking through your pictures on Flickr it's clear you are adept at imaging too!).

Edited by Adaaam75
Grammar!
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Here you go - images attached - hope that helps - if you need more photos or info just shout.

The heads of the levelling bolts are just welded to the bottom of the top disc - using the flange as a template to get them in the right place - then tack welded.

The silver disc is a proprietary item from Altair Astro - http://www.altairastro.com/pier-adapter-skywatcher-celestron-ioptron-multi-mount.html

You can see from the photos that its bolted through the top plate.

I designed the pier to be a comfortable working height then designed the shed around it - just big enough to be able to close the roof when the scope is in a custom park position.

Its purely a remotely controlled imaging rig - I don't do visual (actually not true - I have a 300mm dob but its dragged out each time to a concrete pad) if I was using this for visual I would have made the shed a little bigger and cast the concrete in two separate parts to give isolation between the pier and the area that is walked on.

Having said that I do walk on the concrete pad when drift aligning and just for a lark I jumped up and down whilst guiding and nothing showed up on the PHD graph - but it is 2 tonnes of concrete !!!

Hope this helps - I am sure it isn't the perfect solution but it works very well for me.

 

IMG_0558.JPG

IMG_0559.JPG

IMG_0560.JPG

IMG_0562.JPG

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13 hours ago, Skipper Billy said:

Here you go - images attached - hope that helps - if you need more photos or info just shout.

The heads of the levelling bolts are just welded to the bottom of the top disc - using the flange as a template to get them in the right place - then tack welded.

The silver disc is a proprietary item from Altair Astro - http://www.altairastro.com/pier-adapter-skywatcher-celestron-ioptron-multi-mount.html

You can see from the photos that its bolted through the top plate.

I designed the pier to be a comfortable working height then designed the shed around it - just big enough to be able to close the roof when the scope is in a custom park position.

Its purely a remotely controlled imaging rig - I don't do visual (actually not true - I have a 300mm dob but its dragged out each time to a concrete pad) if I was using this for visual I would have made the shed a little bigger and cast the concrete in two separate parts to give isolation between the pier and the area that is walked on.

Having said that I do walk on the concrete pad when drift aligning and just for a lark I jumped up and down whilst guiding and nothing showed up on the PHD graph - but it is 2 tonnes of concrete !!!

Hope this helps - I am sure it isn't the perfect solution but it works very well for me.

 

IMG_0558.JPG

IMG_0559.JPG

IMG_0560.JPG

IMG_0562.JPG

Brilliant. I've saved the pictures and they will be my reference when I install my pier. I'm considering either the Celestron AVX or the EQ6 mount. I noticed in the description for the plate from Astro it doesn't include the AVX in the compatible mounts for the plate so some enquiries to be made there. But there is no rush for that yet. I'm also following

as a reference. Thanks for all your help, I will also create a thread when I start in the hope I can assist someone in the future as you have.

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On ‎13‎/‎07‎/‎2016 at 09:13, Adaaam75 said:

Two questions Philj....Could you tell me exactly what hinges you used as a start point for my researxh please. Also, how did you protect the roof edges where the hinges are exposed to the weather?

3 big stailnless steel door hinges both sides. The roof leaves were made lightweight with the FG cladding to keep the counterweight size down but the 3 hinges were right for the job.

As you can see from the close up below the hinges were off set from the wall by a bit of 2x2. This gave a good overlap plus the overlap of the cladding did OK. I also ran some draught excluder seal down the join to stop any rain or spider ingress

 

hinge.jpg

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Phil that one picture has resolved a issue I've been tackling for a while now! I see how you compensated for the roof folding back on itself on the hinges and still been able to protect it from the weather. I have included a picture of the edge of my roof against the wall of the shed to show the conversion needed but your photo has given me an idea of having the roof extend 6 inches over the edge to protect the exposed joints and gaps. Is the gap between the two lengths of wood created by the hinges an issue or did you sink them into the wood to create a seal?

A friend suggested a weather proof length of rubber between the two lengths to compensate for the gap created by the hinges. I will have the rubber anyway from protecting the split in the roof. How did you ensure the join at the top in the pitched roof remain water tight?

My plan is to remove the facia length of wood, remove the entire roof, cut it for the split, reinforce it once cut and then fix back onto the top of the reinforced walls with the hinges.

20160716_094401.jpg

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Yep the step needs to be there to clear the roof overhang on the wall. Just be aware that the roof felt weighs a lot and if your intending hinging the roof then it will need a lot of counterweighting. I got round that with the lightweight GRP panels.

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On ‎16‎/‎07‎/‎2016 at 10:49, Adaaam75 said:

Phil that one picture has resolved a issue I've been tackling for a while now! I see how you compensated for the roof folding back on itself on the hinges and still been able to protect it from the weather. I have included a picture of the edge of my roof against the wall of the shed to show the conversion needed but your photo has given me an idea of having the roof extend 6 inches over the edge to protect the exposed joints and gaps. Is the gap between the two lengths of wood created by the hinges an issue or did you sink them into the wood to create a seal?

A friend suggested a weather proof length of rubber between the two lengths to compensate for the gap created by the hinges. I will have the rubber anyway from protecting the split in the roof. How did you ensure the join at the top in the pitched roof remain water tight?

My plan is to remove the facia length of wood, remove the entire roof, cut it for the split, reinforce it once cut and then fix back onto the top of the reinforced walls with the hinges.

20160716_094401.jpg

I rebated the hinges as you would with a door this reduced the gap but on the inside I just but draft excluder to seal it when closed.

I don't have a shot of the top but I got a piece of garden shed guttering, turned it upside down and fixed it to the north flap with an overhang so when the roof was closed it lay over the south side and acted as a rain seal. Draft excluder strip acted as a gap filler/spider excluder at the apex. This did mean that the north roof had to be opened first but that was no bother.

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On 07/17/2016 at 16:24, philj said:

Yep the step needs to be there to clear the roof overhang on the wall. Just be aware that the roof felt weighs a lot and if your intending hinging the roof then it will need a lot of counterweighting. I got round that with the lightweight GRP panels.

When you say counter weight I have in my head weights attached to rope on pulleys that lower as the roof opens but then closing it would mean lifting the roof and the counter weight? Because the roof will need lifting when opening g and closing, how would I utilise counter weights correctly?

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TBH I think you're making things unnecessarily complicated and difficult for yourself.  I looked into a split, opening roof much like yours when I was designing my observatory, (amongst many others) but came to the conclusion that a roll off roof was the simplest and easiest to implement.

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I agree Gina, that's why my obs is now roll off. But when I built my obs the space for the roll off wasn't there, that took a few years of negotiations and a new greenhouse for wifey :icon_biggrin:

Also beware of high winds when opening and closing something like this. I remember a couple of very scarey occasions when I thought I and the obs were going to end up blown away.

The counterweight system was a thing to behold :icon_biggrin:I was quite proud of it but never thought to take any images of it .

Basically I had pulleys on the apex on the east end and another pulley at the top corners of the east wall. A CW rope ran from the east top of each roof leaf, over the apex pulley and corner pulley, the counterweight was below the corner pulley. The weights didn't take over till the leaf was past the vertical. So all you needed was a stick to push the leaf up to vertical then the weight would take over and you could lower the leaf to fully open safely. I fitted safety ropes at the other end just in case of CW failure to stop the leaf dropping. A necessity on the north leaf as this would have crushed wifeys greenhouse.

 

As you are intending lifting the roof in one this would require some large weights.

 

 

Edited by philj
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Actually I just found this, the only record. This was when I was making the east end pulley system. The weights aren't fixed properly yet. The end result had the rope vertical in the corner with 3 weights on it fixed to a spindle. The same was done on the other side. I had guides for the rope to ensure it didn't drop out of the pulley.

This shows the north leaf closed and the south open, I was setting up the pulley heights I think. The end result worked quite well but a roll off is much easier and safer.

 

 

12.JPG

Edited by philj
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Very interesting Phil :)  I looked at all sorts of complicated designs but in the end simple wins.  I've had ideas for automating the opening and closing of my roof and controlling the fold down flap/window on the eastern end at the same time.  But I decided tying in the flap with the roll off roof was unnecessary and now I have pretty much concluded that automation is going too far and means too much to go wrong.  It's bad enough with unattended imaging equipment and I think if I added cloud and rain sensing and motorised roof etc. etc. I would never get any imaging done and would be spending all my time fault-finding!!

In the past I've simply only left the equipment running unattended all night if there was little chance of rain.  I changed the rollers and track for heavy duty rolling gate stuff and now I can open and close the roof with my little finger.  Does mean it needs locking to stop it closing when it's windy though :D  Another reason for shelving the automation project is that I had far too many projects on the go and not enough time.  I might make up the cloud sensor or at least the rain part of it and provide an alarm indoors.

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That's great Phil I will orchestrate a similar design to assist with the balancing of the weight of the roof so hopefully when it opens it will feel reasonably light (if only I could balance it as well as my scope!). My roof is 2.5m wide x 3m long so when split I each leaf will be roughly 1.25m wide. With suitable counter weights and appropriately fixed pully system this should make my life easier when opening and closing. I am 6'2" so my height will help! I did originally consider and would much prefer a roll off roof, however the aesthetics of our garden would be comprised beyond acceptable even in my book by the south runner and post .

I had drawn up rolling roof designs involving the entire post and runner section of the south side being detachable but to then store it and constantly move it around would create extra work taking away the simplicity and convenience ethos of an observatory and also the constant putting up also do taking down of that runner would over time no doubt weaken it. I even considered having the south runner on hinges so it would be a reinforced triangle shape and swing closed against the front of the observatory blocking the doors when not in use but decided it wouldn't be strong enough when open to support the roof properly.

SO......trust me Gina I have considered every option over time and scoured the internet for ideas eventually coming to the conclusion that a split roof is the most practical and least intrusive in our garden. 

I hear your reservations at over complicsting it Gina and i take your advice on board however at the end of the day I'm confident i can build the design and once the observatory is up and running it will be a simple process of unlocking the 2 leaves, opening them and cracking on with the observing! I'm hoping the complex part will be designing the pully system (recommended and made much easier thanks to Phil) and once built will be easy and hassle free.

Over complicating it for me would be considering having cloud sensors fitted lol!!! You must be addicted to imaging, I hadn't heard of that set up before but it's a great idea for long imaging sessions!

I will post an image of my shed later so you can visualise the rationale for my spilt roof decision.

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Fair enough - whatever works best for you :)  I have plenty of room so built a warm room as well as a scope room, with the roof rolling off over the warm room.  I shall be very interested in seeing how your built progresses.  I'm always interested in seeing other designs :)

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22 hours ago, Gina said:

Fair enough - whatever works best for you :)  I have plenty of room so built a warm room as well as a scope room, with the roof rolling off over the warm room.  I shall be very interested in seeing how your built progresses.  I'm always interested in seeing other designs :)

Once I am ready to begin I'll take some before, during and after shots! Should starting within the next couple of months with a little but of luck!

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  • 9 months later...

Okay. Here are pictures of my FAILED flip top obs. I thought it would be cost effective and save on the eyesore of wooden runners which are standard with a rolling roof design, I wanted to protect the aesthetics of our garden as best I could. Unfortunately, although the design plans were spot on and I was able to convert the shed, re felt and water proof it, the issue came when opening the roof itself. Needless to say I was somewhat optimistic with the standard 12mm t&g timber roof of  a 2.5m X 3m shed roof!

Don't get me wrong, i am able to lift the two 100kg+ halves of the roof (at the moment!) however the two issues are, once they go past 90 degrees and start to drop with gravity and how strong I will be when i'm 50!

I have considered a pully system to take the tension on both opening and closing the roof halves but as Gina has already mentioned, it's getting more and more complicated and defeating the object of easy and simplicity. Do you know what, I’ve given in and gone back to the drawing board. I've accepted a rolling roof is really the only way forwards and although I'd like to conserve space, I can only concur with every rolling roof fan and feel it is the better option for me personally. But the reason I chose the flip top design initially was partly down to the desire to be different and find alternative ideas, as you have.

I am proud to have given it a go and prove it can work but the weight of the original roof caused the issues and I was unwilling to compromise with other roof materials as I wanted to keep the shed looking like, well, a shed!

I will add to this topic when I create my new rolling roof obs, I have all the materials and only have 2 small projects to do first for my wife…

1)      Replace 25m squared decking area consisting of rotting boards and rusty broken screws

2)      Install 8 fence panels and posts in the front garden

This is all between full time employment! Well I am determined to finish the obs by July so will no doubt be updating this thread again at some point.

Flip Lid 1.jpg

Flip Lid 3.jpg

Flip Lid 4.jpg

Flip Lid 6.jpg

Flip Lid 9.jpg

Flip Lid 10.jpg

Flip Lid 13.jpg

Flip Lid 16.jpg

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