View Full Version here: : An observatory is born....

07-08-2007, 06:51 AM
Well, in its embryonic stage anyway.... The pier is poured for my roll off roof obs, to begin further construction on the weekend. I won't post drawings yet, as it is still an evolving project, the only thing for sure is the floor area and the fact it is a roll off.... the wall height will be determined after the floor is down and the scope is on the pier, and the exact nature of the roof is being sorted out still...
This pier is chunky - I don't think I could make it move/wobble if I tried to.....

07-08-2007, 07:51 AM
Great stuff Lee. What are the holes in the side, near the top -are they threaded for part of a cable management system or something?

Really must do one of these myself and ditch the danged tripod.... :doh:


07-08-2007, 08:02 AM
:thumbsup: On'Ya Lee

I love my "ROR" Obs
The walls shelter from the prevailing North / West winds whilst allowing full access to the Sky
The retracted roof also cuts out the southerly winds as its flush with the south wall when open.
Net effect the southerly wind arcs aver the whole Obs. :2thumbs:

07-08-2007, 08:10 AM
Looking good...!!!


07-08-2007, 11:02 AM
We set a few 25mm long link nuts into the concrete, basically to add the option to easily attach things to the pier without having to drill it later. Will also mount the Gemini control box there (if cables long enough).

I just drilled 8mm holes in the formwork, and had the nut on the inside, held there by an 8mm bolt, long enough to fill the thread up and go through the 19mm formwork timber. Greased the thread first, and plugged the end of the nut with grease to stop it filling with concrete. Then filled her up....
Worked well I think.

Should hold an EP tray etc etc....

07-08-2007, 11:17 AM
That's a hell of a beefy Pier, Lee!!!

Nothing but an eathquake is gonna move that baby :thumbsup:

Looks like a nice tidy job too.
Don't forget to paint it black so you keep banging into it in the dark :lol:

07-08-2007, 11:38 AM
Looks good :thumbsup:

07-08-2007, 09:40 PM
Nice one Lee.
Build 2 more and you have the Pillars of Creation !!!:lol:

Did you inscribe your name on the slab for nostalgia?

07-08-2007, 10:55 PM
Congrats Lee, it's looking good.

Reminds me of the monolith from "2001" :D


08-08-2007, 05:52 AM
Thanks guys - have the timber for the floor joists now... build floor frame then set into concrete on the weekend....
Must go and water the pier now! See if it will grow some more, maybe it will sprout a Tak out of the top if I water it enough! :D

11-08-2007, 09:13 PM
Next step done - floor frame built. Tomorrow we attach post brackets, then prop the frame up over its 6 footings, level her up, then concrete in.

12-08-2007, 06:28 PM
Floor concreted.... After making sure it was square, we lowered it down around the pier, where the 7 footings had been dug, propped it up level - a car jack comes in handy here for fine adjustment, then filled the footings with concrete.
Took a bit of planning - but by far the easiest way for me, a non-carpenter, to get a floor very square and level across 7 footings on sloping ground....

12-08-2007, 10:48 PM
It's looking great Lee. The pictures are tops, you can really see it starting to come together now.


13-08-2007, 10:09 AM
Lee :thumbsup:
Great start floor looks sturdy
Whats the size going to be though 9' x 9' ?

Hell I had 85km wind gusts :windy: Thurs. Friday nite.
The Obs stood firm
lost the greenhouse though
blew over 2 fences and landed 200mts away. :doh:

13-08-2007, 12:04 PM
awesome!! that pier is the brick SHouse!! Looking forward to seeing more Lee

13-08-2007, 05:36 PM
The floor area is 2.4x2.1m (8x7') - would have went longer, but ran out of room along the fence.... of course with a roll off adding a foot means you need two feet extra room.....

h0ughy - it was almost a pile of mud when the formwork cracked.....

18-08-2007, 06:28 PM
Floor frame completed now - had to box in around the pier, and floor fitted around pier also. Can't do any more for 2 weeks now, so won't screw it down yet though.

18-08-2007, 11:25 PM
I see it has the seal of approval from the site supervisors as well. :lol:

20-08-2007, 01:31 PM
Congrats Lee.

As a non-building type myself, I think the sun deck for the dogs is just about done. What about the rest of the kennel?:lol:

Seriously, it looks real good and as a non-builder type, I would say better than a professional. Why? I am glad you asked. You won't be able the see the floor frame work once the floor is secured, and yet you have made the effort to make everything neat and tidy, unlike the builders efforts on my last house, anything not visible was untidy and I sometimes wonder as to the stability of the structure whenever the wind picks up.

Not you though. Again, well done, a top effort and keep up the good work (and posting your efforts on Ice In Space). :thumbsup:

I only hope that I can do at least half as good a job as you when I build my house for my not yet purchased telescope.

I love this thread and look forward to seeing your baby take shape in the future.

20-08-2007, 03:09 PM
Very well made Lee...
I don`t think it will ever blow away!
Very similar to what I have done with mine so far except I used 4x2 treated pine for the floor at 300 centres to keep the floor lower as I didn`t design the pier for a observatory! I`m going with the ROR setup and I am up to doing the supports for the roof when its pushed off!! but the rain has put a stop to that at the moment!!!
Look forwards to your progress and posts!!
cheers.. :thumbsup:

20-08-2007, 03:41 PM
Lee, I wish you a lot of clear skies for watching the stars from your observing place !

20-08-2007, 04:18 PM
Thanks everyone for your compliments so far!
You aren't wrong though about some tradies now though.... my father is a master builder back in Queensland, and is where I get my advice from. If he were down here, I'd be helping him build it... He is old school, and takes pride in the smaller details - sadly lacking in many today though. I could tell you heaps of stories..... I have the advantage of 1. unlimited free advice and 2. having spent my childhood (and lots of adulthood also) watching how its supposed to be done.

The obs will be built just like a house, and given its small size, will be a safer place in a cyclone than in the house I'm sure :windy: .... The post supports are designed for tropical areas for wind.... over-engineering is my motto.

I spotted a nice forgotten stack of CCA treated MGP-15 rated (F8 - high strength) pine at Bunnings yesterday, and its all nice and straight (shock!) - off to grab it now! :whistle:

Gary - where are the pics??? :D

20-08-2007, 08:06 PM
85 metres of timber later! I'm ready to build me some wall frames! Not a bad haul for my little 4*6 trailer!

20-08-2007, 08:14 PM
Aha so it was you that made it rain.......:lol:;) looking forward for the result - hope you are keeping a tally on the expenses


20-08-2007, 08:24 PM
Expenses..... don't want to know! Rain - wait until its finished, then we'll get another monsoon weekend like in June.... :eyepop:

21-08-2007, 11:56 AM
Havn`t taken many pics of its construction only one a month ago. Just taken another one today. Had a good 200mm of rain dumped on it the last 2 days!! had much fun keeping the tarp up in all the rain and wind..:windy: to protect the plywood floor.
Hopefully get a roof on in the next month...

Glad bunnings had straight stuff for you...up here it all looks dog-legged..:P

21-08-2007, 01:23 PM
Sorry to interrupt your thread Lee.

Gary could you tell me the product you have used for the walls and if it is in sheet form, it looks good. :thumbsup:


21-08-2007, 01:24 PM
Looks nice Gary - so does your location! I bet its dark too...... What size obs are you constructing?
I've used 19mm ext ply for my floor, have cut it to shape, primed/sealed - going to topcoat it before I put it out to protect somewhat from rain. Will still cover it if it rains.
I have some time off next week, should get my walls and rails, and maybe roof done then.... fingers crossed!

Bunnings' timber can be a bit ordinary, so can anyones really ..... I leave the doglegs for the less discerning punters though! ;) You really need to handpick each piece....

21-08-2007, 05:44 PM
Hi David, Thanks :thumbsup: i think it`s was called Panel clad, a James Hardie product. Comes as 2400 x 1200 x 6mm sheets similar to fibro but with the timber panel look to it!

Thanks Lee, yes I have fairly dark skies at home which I do enjoy!!
Made the obs 2.4m x 3m with 1.5m high walls to give me a good view of the sky. I wish I used a nice ply like you did as I only used 12mm normal ply. Even with the 300mm centres it is not strong enough as you can feel it flex as you walk around on it. Have to lay down another layer of it to get a nice firm floor. Would have been better off paying the extra and go with that construction ply like you..oh well a lesson learn`t..:P

21-08-2007, 06:30 PM
Thanks Gary

We are trying to put some ideas together for an observatory, hopefully to be started later in the year.


21-08-2007, 07:05 PM
Gary - I suppose there's a reason houses use 19mm sheets for flooring! My floor frame has a slight flex in it as yet, I suspect its as you walk on a joist your entire weight is on just one joist, I think it will be much more solid once the ply is screwed/glued down and your weight spreads out.
Anyway - its an observatory, not a dance floor..... :D

22-08-2007, 09:16 AM
Hi Lee

I found that I had to put in 2 further supports for the joists (see attachment) to stop that springing in the floor, totally eliminated any movement. With the Dome I had to use compressed fibro sheeting for the floor.


22-08-2007, 04:25 PM
I did think of that, but after everything was concreted - don't relish the idea of digging between the joists, it is very minor springiness and doesn't bother me anyway.....

25-08-2007, 11:35 AM
I've mounted the G-11 on the pier to work out wall/roof heights.... decided on 1750mm high walls. The scope will see everything worth looking at with this height, and with the height of the castors, will give an internal closed roof ceiling height of 1850mm.... no thumped foreheads for us.

The gable roof rafters are going to be fashioned from 190x35 pine, cut with a 5deg pitch - a more expensive, and slightly heavier approach, but easier for me to keep square etc, and will be very sturdy. A layer of 9mm ply over the rafters to dust proof the roof, then corrugated iron over this for protection.

I am going to run castors directly on the wall top plates, with the overlapping roof-sides sheeting stopping lateral movement. The roof will be secured down with bolts through the wall top plate/roof bottom plates, or with turnbuckles.

Just need some sunshine now....

25-08-2007, 05:28 PM
looks like a very solid roof Lee!
Havn`t decided how to make my roof as yet, your idea has given me some more to think about but...:thumbsup:
Look forwards to the next stage!

29-08-2007, 06:47 PM
Some more progress today.... a couple of wall frames and the floor..... piece of 50mm PVC for cables to the pier. Think I'm developing a hernia lifting those wall frames into place!

30-08-2007, 07:51 AM
Lee, that is why builders have apprentices. They just watch, while the humble appy struggles to please the lord and master.

You are still doing a fantastic job. Neat can't be beat! Are you available for contract work in a year or so? Keep up the good work and I hope the rain holds off until you get to the "lock-up" stage. All the best,


30-08-2007, 03:31 PM
This project look like so much fun! I would love to do this.

Well done!


30-08-2007, 05:08 PM
Thanks guys..... It is a very enjoyable/rewarding project - more than I have ever done solo before that's for sure. I would recommend it to anyone. My little 6x4 box trailer doesn't know what's hit it!
Finished the wall framing today.... rails tomorrow.... roof on weekend..... :D

07-09-2007, 07:16 PM
Nearly there! I had a stint off work last week, so got through the wall framing, and erected the rails also. The roof frame has been fabricated, but not sheeted yet.... of course it has rained all week!

Finally got a coat of paint on late this afternoon, of course with the cool conditions it still isn't touch dry (3 hours later!) - Here's hoping it remains clear tonight....

Hopefully will have a functional obs in a week or two.....:prey:

22-09-2007, 07:14 AM
Lookin good Lee. Hows it coming along? you must be close to getting it totally finished!
are you planning on insulating the walls and the roof.
Mine is getting closer to completion as well..just about ready to put the insulation in the roof and put on the corrugated iron. Took my a while to work out the rollers and how to lock down the roof..
cheers Gary

22-09-2007, 07:30 PM
Yep - almost done - I have more pics on my webpage..... Finished the roofing sides and corrugated iron today actually (1 hour ago!) - in the dark! The last roof screws went in under torch-light. No pics yet - too tired now.....
I'm not going to insulate the roof/walls at the moment - will wait and see how it goes once we are operational.

22-09-2007, 10:47 PM
Might suggest you at least put the silver insulation stuff on the roof to stop the drips from condensation in the early morning.

Making good progress.... everyone will want one now.

23-09-2007, 05:53 AM
There is a layer of 9mm ply under the iron - should achieve the same....

23-09-2007, 01:32 PM
Looks good Lee, now all you need is the Dr Who exterior theme and you're ready to blast off.

23-09-2007, 08:18 PM
Looks fantastic Lee. Solid construction and very tidy job, certainly no sloppy work there !!!:thumbsup::thumbsup:

23-09-2007, 08:47 PM
Thanks for all the kind words guys....

Well - all done! :party: Exterior/structure anyway - still need to route wiring, do some interior wall cladding and painting and carpet etc.... Then put the scope in!
Looking forward to set-up times of minutes over hours....

Some learning points -
* exterior ply - still make sure it is fully painted before any wet weather exposure
* don't paint late in the afternoon, especially if rain could be likely (der!)
* be careful how heavy you make a prefabricated part - especially if it needs to be carefully lifted 6 feet in the air!

24-09-2007, 09:02 AM
Looks great Lee, I see the guard pooch is already on patrol.


25-09-2007, 03:48 AM
Looks great Lee. I've GOT to make one in our own back yard now. The only question I have is did you feel that you needed to get permission from either your council, or neighbours, to build it considering that it's so close to a fence and that it is higher than that fence? Sorry if you've mentioned it somewhere earlier in the thread or elsewhere...

I get the feeling that my own council might have a problem with one of these, but then again we've neighbours that have build some pretty large sheds in their back yards without any consultation.. :(


25-09-2007, 06:31 AM
There is no mention of observatories in the Newcastle environmental plan - there is an entry for Sheds/Cubbies/Lawn Lockers etc and Hey, this is a telescope storage shed.... :D

There are criteria set out for developments which are exempt from requiring a permit: for sheds etc
* one per site
* not between dwelling and street, and wholly within the block of course
* 600mm from any boundary
* 1m from any sewer line
* doesn't encroach on watercourse/easements etc
* consent given for tree removal required - what tree! :shrug: ???
* less than 2.4m high and less than 7 sq m area
* etc etc - heritage listing/bushfire stuff

The way I see it - it complies, and doesn't need a permit..... My neighbours have been supportive and interested also - always helps. Would be best to check out your local town planning regs though.

Hope this helps..... :)

addit - I've often thought that perhaps a council would have a problem with the rolling roof - in terms of whether it could become airborne..... For my roof to come off, 5-7 high tensile 10mm bolts need defeating - my house and half the neighbourhood's would be in serious strife prior to this (certainly all the Bunnings sheds!)... and the size/weight ratio of this roof would need cyclone Tracey to lift it I'm sure!

25-09-2007, 07:18 AM
looks great Lee and I must say I need to come over for a visit!! You are right in our LEP there is no listing for an observatory.

25-09-2007, 07:53 AM
Looks great Lee!! Your house would blow away before your obs would.
I think I would stay in it for shelter in a big storm!!
No probs here with council as well as its under 10 sq mtrs and 2.4m high.
I`m very happy as now have the tin on, no more tarps!
Might add another 2 locking bolts for a total of 6-1/2" bolts as they are just plain old mild steel. I think the wall frames would be torn apart before the bolts sheer!!
cheers Gary

25-09-2007, 07:58 AM
Yep - being such a small structure it is very rigid - and built for Darwin really! The only reason I really used high tensile bolts - that's all the fastener place had at the time in M10x200mm, and they were still only $2 each anyway.... I did get a quote for stainless in the same size - $25 per bolt :eyepop:
In a really big storm, we'll be in the obs, strapped to the pier! :D

25-09-2007, 05:22 PM
Any time mate....

26-09-2007, 07:09 AM
Great Job Lee. I am so jealous, it makes me want to go out and buy a block of land just so I can build myself an ob. But "She who must be obeyed";) has said that we are getting a house first. :eyepop:

Hang on! If we build a house I may be able to talk her into designing the house with an ob in it! :whistle:

Enjoy your new "storm shelter" Lee and I hope you have many enjoyable clear skies in it.


14-10-2007, 07:04 PM
Well we are operational.....
Fully painted and fitted out for sea. I'm not a Meade fanboi - the blue colour I picked for the walls should be called "Meade Blue" by Dulux, as it turned out quite a match!

14-10-2007, 07:21 PM
Very Nice lee and it looks very functional, great job :thumbsup:


14-10-2007, 08:15 PM
Lee congratulations on a fine effort.
One thingyou have done (apart from all the other neat things) is to "focus" on decoration. I love the color scheme..no doubt practical ..but you dont see many observatories that pay any attention to a decent color job.

15-10-2007, 07:16 AM
Just Magic Lee. While I thought that you would be pushed for room to move, I see you actually have room for other things too. Well done again and I hope mine (when I get a chance to build it) turns out half as good. Thanks for all the photos and the inspiration.

All the best and clear skies,

15-10-2007, 01:14 PM
Excellent work Lee, it's come up a treat.

A job to be proud of.


15-10-2007, 05:37 PM
It certainly isn't a dancehall! But there is plenty of room for one or two and a scope, had the in-laws in there with us for an impromptu first light Sat night - not made for four!

mick pinner
15-10-2007, 07:08 PM
congrats on a great looking ob Lee.

15-10-2007, 09:10 PM
Looks good mate, I need one of thoughs.

18-10-2007, 06:55 PM
Looks brilliant Lee. Love the blue colour on the inside too - still very dark and a nice touch rather than boring black!

I've got my current big expense (the bino project) and then after that i'll be doing as you have - including the G11.

Cheers - and thanks for sharing


18-10-2007, 07:14 PM
You should be very proud of your efforts Lee.

The observatory looks absolutely great, also like the layout and colour scheme.

Well done. :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

18-10-2007, 07:24 PM
Nice :thumbsup:
Terrific :thumbsup:
Practical :thumbsup:
Tidy :thumbsup:
Well made :thumbsup:
Not too small :thumbsup:
etc etc . . :thumbsup:

Great Job Lee :)

18-10-2007, 09:07 PM
Thanks a lot everyone.....

I'm reminded exactly why I built it right now - sitting in it drift aligning the G-11..... Hopefully the last time for a little while..... never the biggest fan of the set-up (in fact I loathed it!) - the best part is when I've done, I close the roof and will be in bed in 5 minutes! noice!

19-10-2007, 06:04 PM
I've been following this thread from the beginning and I must say that it is a job well done, congratulations Lee.