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ScopeX 2013 ATM Awards
by Chris Stewart

The purpose of the ATM awards is to recognise accomplishment and to spur people to stretch themselves, thereby advancing the intriguing art of amateur telescope making (ATM). By highlighting the merits of certain exhibits, it is hoped that others will adopt the good ideas and perhaps find way to make further improvements.
Instruments that previously garnered awards are not generally eligible for another, but significant improvements to those instruments might well. The judges may consider a component, a complete instrument or a body of work to be worthy.
The following characteristics are of particular importance...
Workmanship: Quality of finish, beauty, style, precision
Innovation: Application of new ideas, principles, materials, techniques
Ambitiousness: Difficult optical configuration, grand scope of project, courageous modifications
Ingenuity: Lateral thinking, unusual ways of solving old problems, interesting use of found materials
Once the selection has been made, the perceived needs of the recipients are as far as possible taken into consideration when deciding the allocation of the available awards. The items awarded are donated by commercial vendors, mostly in lieu of payment for exhibition space at ScopeX. We are grateful for their contributions to this special day.
Yet again we were pleasantly surprised by the number of worthy examples of new and interesting items on display. This time the Pretoria contingent dominated the field with a plethora of new instruments - but was by no means alone.

Peter Rendall is a woodworker par excellence. His beautiful wooden-tubed scope which took an award last year was joined by an unusual take on the curved-bolt barn door tracking platform for astrophotography. This item, beautifully executed in wood and brass with an 18 th century steampunk appeal, netted him a 6x30 GSO finder scope from Eridanus and a small home tool kit from MTS.

Percy Jacobs has an endearing habit of polling for advice then going his own way and battling through to the finish. True to form, he chose to build a German equatorial mount using basic pipe fittings. Traditionally this involves some machining and pouring white metal babbited bearings. However, by exploiting modern plastic components in addition to the conventional parts, he was able to produce eminently workable bearings at low cost and effort, without the need for machine tools. He then went on to motorise the polar axis. An elbow joint enabled the tee joint holding the polar axis to be coupled to the tripod such that the latitude angle could be set. These efforts garnered him a Baader Planetarium Moon & skyglow filter from Eridanus plus a set of screwdrivers from Industrial Hardware.

George Jagals keeps telling us, "This is the last mirror I am making" – and then pitches up with yet another telescope. His latest, a 9" long focus truss tube Dobsonian, is robust yet disassembles into a few relatively compact modules for transportation. The strut connections are rather elegant and the rocker box also disassembles into a virtually flat pack. His prize, a Celestron accessory kit including 2 eyepieces and 3 filters from G&L Agencies, will help him enjoy lunar and planetary views though this new scope.

Bosman Olivier, no stranger to the travails of figuring difficult mirrors, is tackling a thin fast one which deserves something special in the way of a home. And now it has one, in the form of a "string telescope". Technically a tensegrity structure, the tube comprises a set of thin struts in compression, stabilised by steel cables under tension. Together they rigidly hold the ring to which spider, focuser and finder are attached. This extremely lightweight structure is collapsed by simply unscrewing the struts on their jackscrews, relieving the tension on the cables. The struts can then be removed and the top ring stored in the mirror box with strings still attached, ready for an equally quick set up. This instrument is appropriately dubbed Lyra (the lyre). There are other interesting aspects to the scope that are worth emulating too; seek it out and take a look. A fast mirror needs a good quality short focal length eyepiece and this one appropriately earned a Baader Planetarium 3mm eyepiece from Eridanus.

Johan Smit is well known for his stalwart support of the ATM community. Many people have benefitted from his generous assistance and willingness to help at all hours, not to mention his long involvement in the ATM class. This has been such a busy and productive year for him that he exhibited a slew of instruments, each with an adventurous and innovative aspect. Notably, these include his half of the Castor and Pollux twin scopes, a refractor using an exquisite Zeiss aerial camera lens of WWI vintage and a mounting for a commercial short-focus Newtonian that not only brings the OTA to a convenient height but also stores it for transportation. Several other scopes in the field sported versions of his signature finderscope mount and focuser designs, a testament to his dedication in making it possible to produce viable instruments from basic materials. This body of work certainly deserved his award of a Baader planetarium clickstop 8-24mm zoom eyepiece with matched 2,4x Barlow, courtesy of Eridanus.

The following deserve special mention. Wessel Nel for the other half of the Castor & Pollux twins and a Polarex refractor with a flexion hinge Crayford focuser. Louis Lombard for 6" f/8 Dob sporting a low profile Crayford focuser and altitude trunnions running on bearings with an adjustable damper that still needs a little more development to be effective. Eric Slaghuis for his wooden strip tube, which is work in progress but the workmanship was much admired. Rainer Jakob for his magnificent array of sundials, each of which is a work of art, plus his work in progress Dobsonian with aluminium structure and carbon fibre on foam tube. We look forward seeing the unfinished items in their final form. Rainer is also due a huge vote of thanks for all the behind the scenes work he does for ScopeX and the ATM class.

--- Chris Stewart and Dave Blane


 
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