Last updated on
4/11/
2006

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Make a Tripod Eyepiece Tray
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Computerized SCTs have a hand-held controller, and you will likely purchase a few eyepieces. You will quickly discover that you wish you had a tray on the tripod, upon which to put these while you are enjoying the view through the scope.  ScopeStuff sells an eyepiece tray made out of black PVC for $44, a reasonable price.  But if you have woodworking tools you can make a very nice eyepiece shelf that will hold more 1.25” eyepieces, for a lot less.  (If you use 2” eyepieces, see the update at the bottom of this page.) The directions below are for a Celestron tripod - modify the diameters appropriately for a Meade tripod.

(Click on the thumbnail to view a larger image.)

You will need large compass, a half-inch wood bit, a 1.25” forsner bit (the Vermont-American brand of these are commonly found in or ordered by a good hardware store or from Woodworker’s Supply - call them for a catalog at 1-800-645-9292) and a washer with a 1/2” center hole. The 1.25” bit will require you to sand the eyepiece holes a little after you varnish the tray.  To avoid this you could use a 1-3/8” bit instead, but in my experience this is too large because some of your eyepieces may slip through that slighly oversized hole, with unfortunate results. Here are the steps:

Start with a piece of half-inch plywood. Since you have a good-looking scope, you ought to make the tray attractive as well, so I recommend you buy a 2’x4’piece of birch plywood, which Home Depot sells for about $15. Birch plywood has a very attractive grain pattern.

Use the compass to draw three concentric circles, at radii of 4.25”, 7”, and 8.5”. Be sure to mark the center of these circles when you start! The 8.5”-radius circle is the outer edge of the shelf - cut along this circle with a jig saw, to create a 17”-diameter shelf.  Drill a 1/2” hole in the center (for Celestron tripods) - this will allow you to slide the shelf up the center threaded rod of the tripod.

Remove the tripod’s 3-winged center support and line it up with the center hole in the shelf.  Mark the location of the three wings on the shelf, so you can be sure that your eyepiece holes miss the support.  The two other circles you drew on the shelf (at 4.25” and 7” radii) are good distances at which to locate the holes for eyepieces. I spaced mine 2.5” apart along the 7” radius, and located two more along the 4.25” radius, one spaced between the 1st and second outer holes and the other between the 3rd and 4th outer holes. This spacing is adequate even for fairly large 1.25” eyepieces.  Use the forsner bit to drill the eyepiece holes.  Place these sets of holes at all three segments of the shelf (between the three wings of the support bracket) - you will be sitting in different places around the scope as you use it and you may as well have eyepiece holes available wherever you’re sitting. You will still be able to put the scope’s hand controller on the shelf anywhere.

The 17” diameter of the shelf means that you need to sand a “notch” where it hits the tripod legs - you want the shelf to clear the legs so that they are supported by the Celestron bracket. Put the Celestron bracket and the shelf back on the tripod and mark where the shelf hits the legs. Remove the shelf and sand the notches with the nose of a belt sander or a sanding drum on a drill press. Note that you want to sand the notch at an angle to match the angle of the tripod legs, and you don’t need to remove much of the plywood to get it to fit.  Then, use a router to round over the edges (top and bottom), both of the shelf and of all the eyepiece holes (to make it easier to slide an eyepiece in and out of the hole - remember that it will be dark when you’re trying to stick an eyepiece in the hole).

I finished my shelf with MinwaxTM sealer-stain; the stain color is Ebony.  The Ebony color turns the wood black (to match the tripod) but still allows the nice birch grain pattern to show through. Paint the unattractive edge grain of the plywood with black paint, and after everything is dry spray a few coats of urethane varnish on the shelf to protect it.  After this is all done you may need to sand out the eyepiece holes a little if you used a 1.25” bit, since the varnish may close diameter of the eyepiece holes.

When you attach the shelf to the tripod, place a washer with a 1/2” center hole between the bottom of the shelf and the Tension Knob, to prevent the Tension Knob from gouging the wood shelf over time.

Alternative for 2” Eyepieces

If you use 2” as well as 1.25” eyepieces, the eyepiece shelf design described above may be modified as follows:

Use an outside radius of 8.5” as noted above, to cut the overall size of the shelf.  Draw radii of 4.25” and 6.75” for the eyepiece holes; place the 2” eyepiece holes at the 6.75” radius and 1.25” eyepiece holes at the 4.25” radius. 

This will make a very nice eyepiece shelf for 2” eyepieces, as shown in the photo on the left here.  (Click on the thumbnail to view a larger image.)  The wedge you see here is the Mettler Wedge I use.


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