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Telescope Making Books

Amateur Telescope Making, 3 Volumes

Albert G. Ingalls, ed.
Scientific American, Inc.
Original Out of Print
Reorganized and Republished by Willmann-Bell, Inc., 1996
ISBN 0-943396-48-4 (V. 1)
ISBN 0-943396-49-2 (V. 2)
ISBN 0-943396-50-6 (V. 3)
Volume 1 Table of Contents Order It
Volume 2 Table of Contents Order It
Volume 3 Table of Contents Order It
Amateur Telescope Making, 1926 (titled Amateur Telescope Making, Book One in later editions)
Amateur Telescope Making, Advanced (Book Two), 1937
Amateur Telescope Making, (Book Three), 1953
The original ATM "Bible" that was largely responsible for starting the ATM movement, at least in the USA. The first volume was essentially a re-print of the articles Russell Porter wrote for Scientific American in the 1920's and 30's. The later volumes were not originally planned. Despite their age, these are still a valuable resource. Certain information, like Porter's articles on the Springfield mount and Wright's and Paul's articles on the design and construction of Schmidt cameras can be found nowhere else.

Can sometimes be found in used book stores for \$15-20, but can fetch close to \$150 for a full set in good condition at a star party swap table. Just about every "old-timer" ATM has a set.

Recently republished in reorganized form by Willmann-Bell. The articles were not updated, but were rearranged into a more logical order. The "Order It" link above goes to the new versions. Also, since the material was moved across all three volumes, you can't buy one of the new versions to complete a set of the originals.

How to Make a Telescope, 2nd Ed.

Jean Texereau
Translated by Allen Strickler
Willmann-Bell, Inc., 1984
ISBN 0-943396-04-2
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The modern heir to the title of "ATM Bible". Some parts are getting a bit dated (Dobsonians are only mentioned briefly in an appendix), but the information on mirror grinding and testing makes this a "must have" for those making their own optics. Also includes complete construction information for Cassegrains, and for the fabrication of an optical window.

Build Your Own Telescope

Richard Berry
Willmann-Bell, Inc., 1985
ISBN 0-943396-42-5
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Not nearly as detailed on mirror making as Texereau, but a much more complete reference on the mechanical aspects of telescope construction. Has complete plans for five different telescopes; including Dobsonians and refractors. This book and Texereau make a very complete beginner's set.

Standard Handbook for Telescope Making

Neale E. Howard
Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1959; Republished by Faber & Faber, 1969
ISBN 0-571046-80-0
Out of Print
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Another very good older work. Maybe it's just because I learned with this book, but I think the mirror making stuff here is actually better than in Texereau. Also has a very good section on making a fiberglass telescope tube, and if you find that making a pitch lap hasn't messed up your kitchen enough, this book has a recipe for doing your own silvering!

Special Note: There is an error in the formulas for data reduction on page 98. This formula is used for the numbers in the table on page 100, but other data reduction methods can not reproduce Howard's numbers. The graph on page 126-127 is similarly flawed. This is an excellent book for mirror making, just use data reduction formulas from Texereau or some other source.

Making Your Own Telescope

Allyn J. Thompson
Sky Publishing, 1947; Revised, 1973
ISBN 0-933346-12-3
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A very complete and concise guide to making a Newtonian telescope. Includes a few techniques and ideas that are more of historical than practical use. Despite it's small size, about 200 pages, it contains everything the beginner needs to know. And it's still in print!

Making & Enjoying Telescopes

Robert Miller and Kenneth Wilson
Lark Books, 1995
ISBN 0-806912-77-4
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Not available for review.

Optics and Optical Instruments

B.K. Johnson
Dover Publications, 1963; Revised, 1967
ISBN 0-486606-42-2
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An outstanding guide to optics in general. Has the basic princples on reflection and refraction, how to measure focal lengths of optical elements, even a chapter on working and testing glass. Includes two formulas for silvering.

The Modern Dobsonian

Tom Clark
Tectron Telescopes
Table of Contents
Not available for review.

A Guide to Building Truss Tube Telescopes

Randy Cunningham
Astrosystems, Inc.
Table of Contents
Not available for review.


Page and Page
Macmillan Co., 1966
ISBN 0-025943-60-X
Out of Print
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A collection of articles that appeared in The Sky, The Telescope, and Sky & Telescope between 1937 and 1965. Most of the real "how-to" stuff is available in Allyn J. Thompson's book listed above. The remainder is pretty dated but there are some great historical articles on Sir William Herschel and Alvan Clark as well as a section on famous historical observatories and telescopes. This is not a telescope makers "must have", but is a good read if you come across it in a used book store.

Star Testing Asronomical Telescopes

Harold Richard Suiter
Willmann-Bell, Inc., 1994
ISBN 0-943396-44-1
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Every telescope maker needs to do testing, and the star test is by far the most sensitive, surpassing the foucault, caustic, ronchi, etc. The problem has always been interpreting what you see. Suiter has stuffed this book with hundreds of computer generated star diffraction patterns: find the ones that match what you see and read the diagnosis. Also has several detailed chapters on the theory behind the patterns.

Telescope Optics, Evaluation and Design

Harrie Rutten and Martin van Venrooij
Willmann-Bell, Inc., 1988
ISBN 0-943396-18-2
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About the only source that really has a taxonomy of telescope designs. There is a section for just about any design that has been popular over the years along with spot diagrams and technical design information. This is not a "how-to" book, but a reference for scope design.

Advanced Telescope Making Techniques, 2 Volumes

Allan Mackintosh, ed.
William Charles Communications, 1977
Republished by Willmann-Bell, Inc., 1986
ISBN 0-943396-11-5 (V. 1)
ISBN 0-943396-12-3 (V. 2)
Volume 1 Table of Contents Order It
Volume 2 Table of Contents Order It
Advanced Telescope Making Techniques, Volume One, Optics
Advanced Telescope Making Techniques, Volume Two, Mechanical
Review in progress.

Microcomputer Control of Telescopes

Mark Trueblood and Russel Genet
Willmann-Bell, Inc., 1985
ISBN 0-943396-05-0
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About 10 years old. And while that's nothing for a telescope book, it's over a hundred in computer years! Just try to find a TRS-80 or a Digital LSI-11 these days. Otherwise, lots of good info on drive systems, servo-control theory, gearing, motors and encoders.

Unusual Telescopes

Peter L. Manly
Cambridge Univ Press, 1995
ISBN 0-521483-93-X
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Not available for review.

Equipment Guides

Star Ware

Philip S. Harrington
John Wiley & Sons, 1994
ISBN 0-471576-71-9
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An extensive guide to the purchase of everything for the amateur astronomer, from telescopes to thermal underwear. The equipment sections compare products by brand name. Also includes a section on build-it-yourself accessories.

For additional information, check the Star Ware Web Page.

The Backyard Astronomer's Guide

Terence Dickinson & Alan Dyer
Camden House Publishing, 1991
ISBN 0-921820-11-9
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Includes chapters on selecting binoculars, telescopes, eyepieces, filters, and accessories. There are also sections on equipment for astrophotography and a comparison of popular star charts. The remaining eight chapters are devoted more to observing and general astronomy than equipment. Probably one of the best all around books for the beginning astronomer.

Observatory Books

How to Build Your Own Observatory

Kalmbach Publishing, 1990
ISBN 0-913135-06-2
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A collection of observatories that were originally published in Telescope Making magazine. Contains many roll-off roof designs and several different domes.

Small Astronomical Observatories

Springer-Verlag, 1996
ISBN 3-540-19913-6
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Twenty-four and one-half observatories built by amateurs. Almost every article has drawings, instructions, photos - just about all you need to start building. Also, there's a valuable "second thoughts" section included with most chapters - things the author would have done differently the next time around. All-in-all there are 6 roll-off roofs, 12 domes, 1 multiple installation, 1 roll-off building, 1 rotating building, 1 flip roof, 1 radio observatory, and 1 only of historical interest. You'll have to see the book to understand the one-half observatory at the end.

How to Build Small Barns and Outbuildings

Monte Burch
Storey Communications, Inc., 1992
ISBN 0-88266-773-4
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Doesn't have one word about observatories, but from the ground up to the funny-looking roof, they're just another building. This is a real encyclopedia with everthing from planning for drainage to attaching shingles. May be easier to find at a home improvement center than a book store, or just click the Order It link above.

CCD Cameras

The CCD Camera Cookbook

Richard Berry, Veikko Kanto, & John Munger
Willmann-Bell, Inc., 1994
ISBN 0-943396-41-7
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The book for making your own CCD camera. Step-by-step procedures go through every detail so that virtually anyone can build the camera; it even includes instructions on how to solder. Comes with a diskette that contains PC software to test and run the camera. Highly recommended.

CCD Astronomy

Christian Buil
Translated by Emmanuel Davoast
Willmann-Bell, Inc., 1991
ISBN 0-943396-29-8
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A very good guide to all aspects on CCD work, from camera design to image processing. Much of the camera design in the CCD Camera Cookbook came from this book. The second half, on image processing, contains a bunch of algorithms just waiting to be coded into your do-it-yourself image processing program.

Electronic Imaging in Astronomy

Ian McLean
John Wiley & Sons, 1997
ISBN 0-471969-72-9
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Similar to Christian Buil's book above, but more up-to-date. Contains a wealth of information on types of CCD chips, how to do bias frames, calibration procedures, image processing, etc. And, like Buil's book, it's written in a manner that does not require a PhD to understand.


Telescope Making

No longer published
Originally published by Kalmbach (the people who do Astronomy magazine). I think there were 46 issues in all. You can sometimes find these at swap tables, but the demand definitely outstrips supply. Back issues are available from Kalmbach, but only for the last several issues.

Amateur Telescope Making Journal

This is a quarterly (or so) journal that took up the slack when Telescope Making ceased publication. Lots of good articles and complete back issues are available.

Sky and Telescope

Sky and Telescope has included a section on telescope making in every issue for several decades. Originally called "Gleanings for ATMs" and then "Telescope Making". The articles are generally far too brief to be called a reference, but it's a great source of ideas. Starting with the July 1997 issue, this column has again been renamed, this time to "Telescope Techniques" and the articles seem to have taken a decidedly non-technical slant. Time will tell if this will remain a valuable telescope making resource.