2018-09-01: A FEW ADJUSTMENTS

I got an Astro-Physics Mach1GTO mount with an Avalon T-Pod 130 tripod. A lot of parts came with these, but a couple of things were missing.

On A-P mounts the control box is usually attached to the south side of the mount under the azimuth adjustment bolts with a "holder" called the control box adapter. The adapter is held in place by one of the three bolts holding the mount head onto the tripod. Those are the black knobs in the top picture. The original owner usually used an 8" extension between the top of the tripod and the bottom of the head. I found just the tripod and head without the extension, like it is in the first picture, was going to be the right height for my stuff. The problem was the Avalon mount was built such that there wasn't enough room for the control box adapter between the bolt and the tops of the tripod legs and/or the A-P adapter that allows you to put an A-P mount on the tripod was as short as it could be -- about 1-1/4".

After rumaging around at the hardware store I came up with a solution. Not an elegant one, but not bad for the Middle of Nowhere. This kept the adapter, and the control box that would mount to it, out away from the tripod legs. It turns out that Astro-Physics already had a solution and it looked a lot better.

   

The control box adapter extension, part Q6280KIT, is made to move the control box adapter away from the legs of a Berlebach tripod, but it also works with the T-Pod and probably others. It's just a spacer. The picture on the left is from another mount in the area and you can see that the extension piece is being held in place by one of the three mounting bolts (they are not using the knobs in this case), and then the control box adapter is attached to the extension using a short bolt. The idea is that you get the head bolt started and then slip the extension on and tighten the head bolt the rest of the way. The problem is that once the extension is in place it becomes difficult to grip the head knob with your fingers and get it really tight. The hole in the extension for the short bolt ends up over the Allen wrench hole in the top of the knob, so you can finish tightening the head bolt with an Allen wrench. Once that is done you attach the control box adapter with the short bolt and then place the control box on the adapter. In the desert, where all of the rocks on the ground look like nuts, bolts and washers, and with having to do and undo all of this each time I use the mount, it all seemed a bit cumbersome.

I decided to permanently attach the control box adapter to the extension with four #4-40 bolts into threaded holes I made in the extension. This eliminated the short bolt step of getting this attached.

With the short bolt no logner used the hole for tighening and loosening is always open and there is nothing to drop on the ground. One problem down.

You have to have a place somewhere around the mount to put things. Usually there is a small table, but more handy than that is just having a tray on the tripod to put things like dust covers and oculars. The T-Pod has a perfectly fine place at the junction of the leg spreaders to put a tray, but the manufacturer doesn't make anything to go there. Several people on the astrosite CloudyNights, have come up with solutions like mine.

I drilled a 13/64" hole down from the top of the piece in the depression that looks like it was made for hole-drilling. I threaded a short 1/4"-20 bolt up through the hole.

On the top side I secured the bolt with a thin jam nut which partially fit into the depression. The spreader piece is only plastic so I'll have to keep an eye on it to make sure the bolt doesn't come undone. I'll put a little Locktite on it if needed.

I found a bunch of little knobs at the hardware store. I picked one with three arms.

   

I was planning on using a 10" cake pan like I had used on my Losmandy tripod as a tray, but came across two Nordic Ware 10" microwavable plates, instead. The plastic is slightly rubbery, so they are not brittle. I drilled a 1/4" hole in the middle of one of them and a tray was born. The metal cake pan is a little noisy. These solved that, and these are slighty curved on the edges to keep food and oculars from rolling off. Perfect.

The bottom of whatever I used for a tray was never going to be touching the spreaders, because the piece at the junction was higher. I was going to glue a ring of foam rubber to the bottom of the tray, but decided to use some closed cell foam dots near the center bolt to keep the tray from wiggling/vibrating. They were sticky on the one side, so they stayed in place. Once the knob is tightened the plate gets quite rigid. Done! Since the plate is plastic I can just throw it into the tripod bag and not have to worry about anything getting scratched. The knob just screws back on to the bolt to keep it from getting lost. Some people put 1-1/4" and 2" holes in the trays for oculars. I usually have dust covers on the ends of my oculars when not in use, so they don't fit in those hole. I usually don't have many of them out at a time, either.

Two down. One to go.

The CP4 version of the control box makes it possible to control an A-P mount with a phone or iPad using programs like Luminos or SkySafari. One of the cleaver folks on CloudyNights found these Rolodex phone/pad stands and strapped one to their tripod. I bought one, tore it to shreads, and used one of the M6x1.0 threadded holes in the T-Pod leg to attach it. Since the bolt was going to be through nothing but mesh I used a large fender washer to spread out the force. There are normally two halves to these stands and the angle of tilt when sitting on a table is adjustable. I just needed the one side.

Just like in the movies...or good enough for watching movies.

THE END

2018-09-04