Observatory Conversion

Following major surgery at the end of 2023 I found it a struggle to open and close the clamshell roof - each side is ~25kgs and an awkward angle to lift especially in the middle of the night in the freezing cold. I decided to convert it to a roll off type. This page follows the conversion process.  Stage 2 will be to motorise the opening and closing of the roof. Stage 3 will be to connect the motor drive system to the computer that controls the telescope and mount so I can ask the roof to open then the mount to unpark and commence an imaging run all completely autonomously and remotely from the comfort of our Lounge or anywhere in the world. When the routine has finished the scope should park and the roof should close. It will also be linked to rain, cloud and wind monitors and if any report a danger situation like rain or very strong gusts of wind the scope will park and the roof close automatically, with the option of reopening the roof and resuming the imaging run if conditions improve.  That's the theory - we will see what happens!

I will post links to the parts used at the foot of the page in case anyone else wants to build something similar. I am more than happy to help or answer questions my contact details are here.

Phase 1 - Conversion of 'Clam Shell' roof to 'Slide off'

1st March 2024 - This is the clamshell roof closed and open before conversion.  The scope is not fitted to the mount.

5th March - the first task is to raise the height of the walls and door by ~150mm. This is neccesary as the sliding roof would hit the scope when its in the park position. It also provides a handy recess to fit the heavy duty drawer slides that will be used to slide the roof back.

11th March - heavy duty drawer sliders and the outer sides fitted, frame to support the roof made and fitted - internal bracing fitted to keep the roof square whilst moving - this will become important when the electric drive is fitted as only one side will be driven and it it moves from square it could jam. 

13th March - original roof installed on top of the new frame and and a quick test to make sure the drawer slides work. Some minor woodworking required to match up the shiplap walls and a coat of paint. It is now waterproof and fully functional.

Stage 2 - Motorising the roof opening and closing. 

April 2024 - framework made to support the motor - some tricky woodworking angles to provide support in the directions that the motor will exert force when it opens and closes the roof.  The toothed rail is fitted temporarily to allow accurate measurement of the height of the motor platform. All joints glued and screwed to provide stiffness. 

Mid April 2024 - the motor frame has been painted and the motor added to the brackets. The drive rail has been adjusted and permanently affixed and test run. Some minor adustments required to stop the wobble when it starts to close.


Parts used.

Alll the timber was bought from MKM Timber - Oban - extremely helpful, knowledgeable and patient staff!!

The heavy duty drawer sliders are from Eurofit Direct - they have a massive range of sizes and weight capacities - the ones I am using  are  1450mm and are rated at 227kgs! I like over-engineering :-) 

Stainless steel fasteners all from Westfield Fasteners - great service, quality products and sensible prices.

Voltage regulator to give a soft start and slow down the opening and closing process.

Gate opener/closer to be modified to open and close the roof.