Tom Jonard's
Amateur Telescope Maker

Making instruments remains and always has been one of the challenges of cutting edge science.  Research instruments are still mostly one of a kind things.  There is no large market demand for multi-channel spectroscopes, nucleon colliders and gama-ray telescope satellites.  Specialty machine, glass or electronics shops required to produce what's needed are an adjunct to any research.  And large experimental apparatus requires the technical skill of large teams of workers as a matter of course.  Science is about exploring the unknown and the tools required are equally unknown before an experiment is proposed.

Of course amateur astronomers don't have to make their telescopes today.  They don't even have to make relatively sophisticated support equipment like computer drives and CCD cameras.  All that is available to anyone with enough money.  But at the beginning of the last (20th) century none of the commercial products available today existed and amateurs like professionals made their own equipment out of necessity.  The availability of surplus optics after World War II fed a cycle of supply and demand that saw amateur telescope making (ATM) and commercial products grow side by side.

Today ATMing thrives as a means of capturing some of the flavor of the cutting edge science, the "good old days" and remains the only way to get that "one of a kind" telescope.  It is also a way of stretching the bucks for those who don't have many.  With "sweat equity" the frugal amateur can make more than can otherwise be acquired.  It is also a way for people with some mechanical skill to add another dimension to their astronomical experience.  To these belongs the gratification of seeing the wonders of the universe with the product of their own hands.

A 0X Finder

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Created August 16, 2002,
© 2002, Thomas A. Jonard