I built my main telescope, a 14" f5.2 Newtonian reflector, 30 years ago based around a primary mirror I bought from Rob Miller of 'Astro Systems' in Luton. The scope is mounted on a heavyweight mount made from cast alloy built by LAS member Ken Lyon and bolted to a permanent concrete pier. I added a 12" worm and wheel drive system and built the mirror cell and spider out of aluminium. The tube was rolled by a local engineering company for me. The system remained much the same and was used for manually guided photography up to 1996 when I bought my first CCD camera. I converted both axes to stepper motor drives in 2000. The motors are controlled with Mel Bartel's excellent drive software and electronics design. Since then I have added autoguiding and a homemade filter wheel.
A William Optics 72FD is mounted parallel to the 14" for guiding and also for use as a wide field imaging scope when the 14" becomes the guidescope! The 72FD has a focal length of around 432mm at f6 and is currently used with a 2X Barlow and a DMK21AU04 for guiding at 864mm focal length via PHD. I find I can reach about mag 7-8 with the DMK. I have about 1 degree of adjustment in both guidescope axes so I can always find a suitable guide star.
The telescope is housed in a run off shed which I built myself from scratch rather than try to modify a garden shed. I used the same shiplap timber that the garden shed has to keep the appearance good. The shed rolls out on 4 wheels that were originally from a lawnmower and just one side runs in a piece of aluminium track. I originally had no track at all but the shed didn't always want to go back where it came from after observing! The shed has withstood some of the worst gales we have ever had in January 2007. I just took the precaution of roping the shed to the pillar the night before.
The cables run from the CCD, webcam, drive motors and secondary heater on the telescope to a junction box and powered USB hub on the pillar. From there they run about 5 metres under ground in a 2.5" plastic pipe (sealed from water) to the garden shed. In the garden shed the respective cables connect to the Mel Bartels electronics box and 486 laptop that runs 'scope drive' software and a separate desktop computer that controls guiding and imaging.
I decided to build my own manual filter wheel partly because of cost and partly because I had historically acquired quite a few 2" filters which I wanted to use in the wheel. I cut out 4 disks from 16-gauge aluminium, two for each side of the wheel and two for each wheel - I wanted a double filter wheel. The whole thing was held together with a plywood ring cut out of two layers of plywood glued together. I spent some time very carefully marking out and cutting the holes for the filters because I knew it was critical everything would line up when assembled. I machined two brass knobs which were used to turn each filter disk. The threaded rings to attach the camera and drawtube came originally from a Celestron off-axis guider and were adapted to fit the wheel.
The most common method of aligning the filters is to use a small spring loaded ball bearing against a cut-out in the rim of the wheel. I tried this but wasn't completely satisfied with the smoothness of operation so I devised a novel method instead. The rim carries a tiny marker with a printed character on e.g. R for red, B for blue etc. The letter lines up with a tiny hole in the supporting rim and is illuminated with an LED operated with a microswitch. The image shows this much better than I can describe it! After two years of use I can say it has worked extremely well. The filter wheel has now been motorised - details to come.
I built my own lightweight light box for taking flat fields - an essential part of correctly calibrating my CCD images and well worth the effort to do. This page gives all the details how I went about the construction.