How to Make a Telescope

Because the theory behind the telescope is so simple, making a basic telescope is something just about anyone can do with a modicum of arts and crafts skill. In this article we will look at putting together a simple refractor telescope, and then look at building our very own Dobsonian telescope, which will take a little bit more time and skill!

To build a simple refractor telescope simply take two magnifying glasses and a sheet of printed paper, and ask a friend to hold the larger of the two glasses between you and the paper. Once that is done, hold the second glass between yourself and the first glass and move it back and forth until you can read the print clearly. Measure the distance between the two glasses and write it down.

Once you have done this, cut two slots in the cardboard tube, one about three inches along the tube, and the other as far back down the tube as the distance you have written down. Slot in the magnifying glasses and secure them with duct tape. If done right, you should be able to read the printed page through your very own refractor telescope!

The Dobsonian design is popular amongst amateur telescope makers for its simple requirements, and the design is being continually re-evaluated, remodeled and tested. Dobsonian telescopes are also popular among astronomers because of the large aperture, portability and low cost, all of which are necessary for the telescope to function properly. Although many companies manufacture commercial Dobsonian telescopes, building one of your own is considered a badge of honor among amateur stargazers.

For the body of his first scope Dobson used a sonotube – a thick paper tube used to mould concrete pillars and columns. Instead of costly Pyrex lenses, he used old ship’s portholes ground down to fit into the tube, and for the mirror housing he constructed a simple plywood box.

There are dozens of sites out there that go in to explicit detail in how to created your own Dobsonian telescope, but the general rule of thumb is this: plan everything in detail first. Make sure you get the right parts, and assemble them with care. Don’t be too ambitious the first few times, and never be afraid to ask for help from friends or fellow astronomers – building a Dobsonian takes a lot of time and effort, but can be totally worth every moment.

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