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Old 15-12-2014, 11:09 PM
Mokusatsu (Australia)
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A parallelogram binocular mount made from scrap

I just thought I'd share something I've knocked together in the last few weekends.

I decided to build a parallelogram mount for my 10x50 binoculars which was capable of taking a much bigger pair of bins which I'm planning on getting. Binoculars are great, but they're exhausting to use when you've got to hold them up, and it's hard to appreciate fine details when the image is shaky.

My goals were:
  • It had to be cheap, preferably using only materials which I already had in my scrap pile in my shed!
  • It had to be large enough for me to observe the zenith while standing up straight, while also able to get low enough to use while reclining on a sunlounge.
  • It had to be flexibly designed so I could put different things on the head mount, like different pairs of binoculars or even my iPad, or combinations of the same
  • It had to be strong enough not to be completely useless in a light breeze and not shake too much when repositioned.
  • It had to be able to break down or fold up into a smallish space for transport if I took it to dark skies.
  • Apart from my neighbour's drill press which made precise 90 degree hole drilling possible, otherwise I had only the most basic of tools. All sawing was done with a hand operated miter saw, by far the fanciest tool I own!
  • ... and I reiterate, my budget was tiny, it had to cost almost nothing!

The only items I had to buy were a few M10 nuts and bolts. The timber is recycled scraps including some of it being retrieved from junk piles at curbside junk collection days (some of you might recognise the tripod leg timber as Ikea bed slats!). I happened to already have a bunch of hinges lying around, the counterweight is from a broken old gym set, that balancing weight at the binocular end is off an old Ikea architect lamp threaded with a couple of heavy nuts and bolts. The bearing for the binocular's azimuth is a simple nut, bolt and washers, the others have a pair of compact disks as bearings. The main mount azimuth bearing is capped with a plastic lid from a fish oil jar.

Total cost was a few tens of dollars on the stainless steel M10 bolts and nylon washers, but if I didn't have all that other scrap I'd have had to spend as much again to buy hinges.

I used it last night for the first time and am thrilled with the way it performs. It's sturdy, moves smoothly and is well balanced, the multiple degrees of freedom make it convenient to point the binoculars at anything I like and if I remove a few nuts it can break down into a collapsible tripod and a few lengths of wood.

Total build time was a few weekends, much of which I spent doing trigonometry rather than actual building because I needed to work out dimensions properly so I wouldn't waste any wood!

Having proven the concept, I might consider replacing some of the ugly stained pine which has been in my shed for years with nicer timber when I feel like it, but for now my next step is just to give it a good sanding then maybe give it a protective coat of varnish or something.

I'm aware that it looks a bit crude and some of the material choices are perhaps questionable. I had to design it to work with what timber I had and it would most likely have come out looking quite different if I'd designed it and then gone and bought what I wanted. Still, ugly as it is it's highly functional and I'm happy enough with this MK1 design. MK2 will be a thing of beauty!

A couple of lessons learned which might help anyone else wanting to make one of these with limited tools and carpentry skill:
  • Do not attempt to drill the bolt holes without a drill press. If they're not exact it won't work well at all. A few degrees off and you get a mess. This is the only area requiring good workmanship, as various other features attest!
  • I should have erred on the side of making the binocular end too heavy while making the thing balance. With hindsight it would be quite easy to make a little additional weight, just drill a hole in some jarrah and stick it on the counterweight end! This won't be an issue when I use a bigger set of bins!

Have fun making one!
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Last edited by Mokusatsu; 16-12-2014 at 02:35 AM. Reason: Typos
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Old 16-12-2014, 06:56 AM
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Allan_L (Allan)
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Well Done !

I'd like to see the detailed plans (and components list) in the project section.
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Old 16-12-2014, 10:01 PM
Mokusatsu (Australia)
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Here are more details of the tripod and binocular head.

The tripod was made from:
  • two small triangles (minus corners) made out of jarrah. They're easy enough to do with a miter saw, everything's a 60 degree cut.
  • four slats of wood, one cut into thirds.
  • nine hinges.
  • Noticing that it was pretty much just the right size, I cut gaps in a lid off a fish oil capsules jar so it would fit over the tripod head, then two compact disks and the waxy paper from the jar lid, and drilled holes through them. It works quite well as a poor man's teflon.

The tripod was fiddly, but I'm quite happy with how it turned out. It folds up nicely and when deployed the spreaders keep it all nice and stable. I could probably stand on it and it would hold me.

The binocular head was simple enough. Just a few pieces of a narrow bit of wood, with the offcuts from those triangles glued on with PVA to make a nice 90 degree brace. (The bigger braces at the base of the fork are also offcuts from the triangles, I hadn't planned to make them that way but only realised I could use them while looking over my pile of offcuts when I was almost done). I drilled a 16mm hole in the wood to hold the binoculars with a spade bit and cut down into it, then tidied it up a bit with a file. Then after sitting the binoculars I worked out where to drill the 3mm hole to hold the binocular's mounting screw through the front piece of wood.

The binoculars can be moved around quite smoothly and easily with the handle that sticks out forward, moving altitude and azimuth simultaneously. I also found it makes quite a nice sight for the binoculars, looking down the length of that piece of wood I can point it at things and get them in the field of view every time. I'm thinking of putting a couple of little picture loop things along there to look through, but they might not work so well in practice because it's too dark to see them properly and I can't focus on stars at infinity and the loops at the same time!

Aesthetically it might look a little nicer if I were to round off or at least cut the corners off the top of the forks, but I realised as I was putting it together that leaving them squared off like that is very useful because it means I can stand it on the ground upside down and this is often an easier way to get the mount onto the tripod and do up the screws than trying to do it right way up.

The forks had to be widened because I needed access to the nut for tightening. That's why the main lengths of the parallelogram are reinforced like that in the middle. It's more about making room for the nut than reinforcing the pivot, but if it offers reinforcement too that's a bonus.

Total parts for this, excluding the wood:
  • 6 75mm M10 bolts - 1ea for the 4 pivots at each corner of the parallelogram (plus 4 M10 nylon washers each), the fork azimuth pivot (plus two M10 nylon washers) and the binocular altitude pivot
  • 2 125mm M10 bolts for the central two parallelogram pivots (plus 4 M10 nylon washers each)
  • 1 145mm M10 bolt for the first azimuth pivot at the binocular end (plus two metal and two nylon M10 washers)
  • 1 30mm M8 bolt for the binoculars' own azimuth (now equipped with a wingnut to facilitate quicker removal of the binoculars)
  • Nine hinges for the collapsible tripod
  • Various wood screws.
  • Four compact disks, used in pairs at the fork azimuth pivot and the binocular altitude pivot, plus the lid of a fish oil capsule jar.

The cantilevered beam at the binocular end was only screwed onto one of the vertical sides of the parallelogram. Being jarrah, and using five wood screws, I'm confident that it will hold. It's certainly stronger than the pine beams.

The tripod was a bit fiddly but worked out pretty nicely in the end. If the screws were a little flatter in the hinges it would fold up even more compactly, I'll get onto that when I feel like it.
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Last edited by Mokusatsu; 16-12-2014 at 10:42 PM. Reason: Added parts list
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Old 16-12-2014, 11:02 PM
Mokusatsu (Australia)
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And here is detail of the plate for holding the counterweights. It only required two screws to hold it in place because all of the force is vertical, and since the plate overhangs its supports there is a pivot, so the screws had to be close in to hold that end of the plate DOWN.

Additional screws to hold down the plate are neither required, nor desirable. When pulling the parallelogram apart and putting it together, it's useful to be able to spread the beams apart slightly to make it easier to position the washers. If I'd put in more screws as I'd originally planned to this degree of freedom would have been lost and reassembly would be much harder.

The dowel is from the end of an old broom, I drilled the plate half way through with a spade bit and then drilled up into the dowel from below and fastened it with a wood screw.
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Old 18-01-2015, 01:14 PM
Mokusatsu (Australia)
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I am currently working on a major modification of this mount. Though I was very happy with it as a binocular mount, I've decided to mount an 80mm refractor on it as well as the binoculars, with a parallel bar linking the two so they track one another. This requires significant beefing up of the mount, making forks suitable for holding the weight, more creative balance management etc. I've also incorporated a couple of mods which make dismantling and setting up easier.

I'll post photos when I'm finished. Today I'm drilling all the holes and I'll put the bits together over the next few evenings.
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Old 08-07-2015, 03:56 PM
Mokusatsu (Australia)
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I have continued to work on this. I made a video to show how it moves (sorry for the shaky footage!)

It has been substantially upgraded and is now a smooth and quite stable and easy to use mount.

My next set of changes will significantly lighten the telescope end and feature a new type of mounting for holding the scope and binoculars. I will also be drilling a lot of holes in it to further lighten that end, because every kg I shave off the telescope end translates to about 1.5 kg I can save in counterweighting.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02QDfB_MBGE
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Old 08-07-2015, 04:41 PM
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multiweb (Marc)
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That's really good. I've been thinking of making one myself for my binos. They're quite heavy. Any reason you've used wood? I was thinking of doing the articulation out of aluminium angles.
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Old 08-07-2015, 04:51 PM
gts055 (Mark)
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Thats a beauty. Looks like a wood meccano set. I really like how you have three axis articulation right where the binocular and telescope is mounted. Great work, Mark
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Old 08-07-2015, 05:00 PM
Mokusatsu (Australia)
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I used wood because that's all I had!

The scope end is much heavier than it should be and next year, after I graduate and start making good money I'll be in a position to purchase tools and more exotic materials.

A much lighter fork is definitely a good idea, but I have a non-fork mechanism in mind for the next upgrade, more like an isostatic mount. I can make this much lighter with less cantilevered weight and therefore less counterweighting!

Travis
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Old 06-08-2015, 09:19 PM
Mokusatsu (Australia)
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Another mod

I just made another minor mod. Although it's solidly built and about as shake-free as the materials and physics permit, it is rather top heavy. It was worryingly easy to tip over.

I believe I've now rectified that. I made these clamps out of bolts and t-nuts which allow me to attach heavy weights to the legs of the tripod. Together these weigh about 20kg and ought to make it a lot less likely to tip if a gust hits it.

Round headed bolts would have been better because they have the square profile that stops them spinning, but I only had hex bolts lying around. They worked ok for the knobs. The attachment to the legs is accomplished via t-nuts.

I don't use the weights at home as it's fine for my back yard, but next time I take it into the field and there is a breeze I'll feel a lot better about walking away from it with these anchors attached.
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Last edited by Mokusatsu; 06-08-2015 at 09:33 PM.
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