Building a 4" Refractor Telescope With PVC Pipe

artist's conception of finished
Artist's rather crude conception of what the telescope will look like.

This page last updated 01/10/2019

First  Update: 09/12/2018

A Bit of Background:

I had a small 3" telescope, bought from K Mart, when I was a child.  I aimed it at a bright object next the moon.  I focused it, and there it was before me: the planet Jupiter.  I could see the stripes on the planet, and I could see two of its moons.  It was a great moment.

Another time, I looked at Saturn.  The rings were not visible as rings: all I could see were what looked like mall dots on both sides of the planet.

I used that telescope to look at the sun; way back then, using a sun filter.  back then, there wasn't much fear of lawsuits.  The instructions warned me the sun filter could crack, and they saw their obligations concluded at that point.  The sun looked like a rather calm yellow disc, with occasional sunspots.  I never did see a flare.

When a solar eclipse happened in 1970, I got smart and used the projection screen on the telescope instead of the filter.  Then I saw Baily's beads, which were essentially the moon's mountains.  Now that really impressed me.

Other interests came along, and I put the telescope away.  Like just about everything else I owned, it was stolen from me.  I did buy a massive 5" Newtonian telescope, but the darned thing is so heavy I have to get friends to help me take it outside.  I figure that this smaller telescope will be easier to handle.

meade polaris 130
The Meade Polaris 130, which sits forlornly in my living room.

I have since bought a Celestron Firstscope, which is a lot easier to handle.  I have been using it as a guide to see how well my home made telescopes do.

Celestron Firstscope, with  "optional" (that is, necessary) accessory pack.

Suggested tools for the project:

Rotary tool with carbide saw bit
Electric drill with a good assortment of bits
Philips and slot head screwdrivers
Ratcheting PVC Pipe Cutter 1-5/8"

Progress of the Telescope:

first buys

Anyone who knows me knows that I am big on making things.  So when I saw 4" DCX (double convex) lenses on sale at American Science and Surplus, I immediately thought "make my own telescope."  I have no choice in the matter: when that light bulb goes off, I have to follow it to its conclusion.
The telescope has not been built yet; I will post installments when the parts come together.  So far I have bought:

109mm DCx GLASS LENS, ITEM NUMBER : 46228P1, focal length: 255mm, $3.00 from
American Science and Surplus

I ordered two of these, and postage was $6.95.  Total: $12.95

Folks who use telescopes a lot talk about the f ratio.  Take the objective lens' focal length, and divide it by its diameter.  This particular lens has an f ratio of 2.3, typically written as f/2.3.

What this means: a shorter tube, lighter weight, and a wider field of view.

Maximum magnification is 50 times ihe objective lens' aperture in inches, or twice its aperture in millimeters.  That would mean this telescope would have a maximum magnification of about 200X.  Not bad!  The eyepieces you use affect this more than anything else.

A Barlow lens is used in conjunction with a telescope's eyepieces.  I purchased a 3.5X Barlow lens.  Barlow lenses are tricky, and quite frankly are a pain in the rear: they have to line up straight, and the image you  get is very difficult to get in focus, and is very dim.  But eBay had a good bargain on a Barlow lens, so I got one.

4 in. PVC Hub x Hub Coupling (to be used as a sun shield), $1.56, available from Home Depot (link below)

4 in. x 2 ft. PVC Foam Core Sch. 40 Pipe, to be used as telescope body, $7.78, available from Home Depot (link below)

The focal length of the objective (front) lens is about 10 inches, and I have seen articles that say my telescope should be at least 10 inches as a result.  I am going to leave the pipe uncut, and make the telescope the full 24 inches.  When I insert the lenses and test it, I can always cut it down to fit.

4 in. x 2 in. PVC DWV Hub x Hub Reducing Coupling, to be used to connect the focusing mechanism from my 2" telescope, $6.57, available from
Home Depot

The total for the Home Depot order was $17.12, tax included

Cassini FS3X - 3x20 Black Crosshair Finder scope w/bracket, $5.99 postpaid, from eBay (link below)

.965" Super Economy 3.5x Telescope Eyepiece Barlow Lens, $2.95 plus $3.00 shipping ($5.95 total) from eBay, link below.

2Pcs 6mm Knurled Shaft Insert Dia Potentiometer Control Knobs w 2 Screw Inside, $3.47 postpaid (these are to replace the two knobs missing from the focus assembly), available from

And I have an old, tired, broken 2" Emerson telescope on hand.
  I'll be using the focusing mechanism, tripod and mount, eyepieces (5mm and 12mm), star diagonal prism, and various screws from it.

Other things, such as black paint and so on, I have on hand from other projects.

And this is where I am now.  The parts are on order, and will be coming in shortly.  I should have the PVC pipe in by tomorrow; I'll assemble and paint that and have photos of that up in a day or two.

Cost so far: $45.48

I realize that I might be making some mistakes here, but that is the point of this: I'll make the mistakes, so you don't have to.  Any errors I make will not be glossed over.  There will be lots of false starts and dead ends.  Stick around.  This should be fun.

Update: 09/21/2018

more stuff!

I got the PVC telescope parts, and right away I saw a problem: the part for the sun shield did not fit.  I returned it, and looked around Home Depot for something suitable.  And I found it.  It's part #000226, a schedule 40 pipe adapter, for $3.96.  What is great is that it is black already, so I don't have to paint it.  Home Depot's photo of the part is not quite accurate: the small part is smooth, and it is shot in forced perspective: actually its sides are straight.

I did what they call a dry fit: this is going to be a very big telescope.  My main worry was the focuser, but it fit inside of the telescope like a glove.

Now, while I wait for the other parts, I must design a mount for the scope.  The tripod mount I have is not robust enough for the job.  I don't know what the mount will look like, but I do know this much: it will be made of PVC pipe.

Above, right: A dry fitting of the parts so far.  Note the dollar bill to indicate scale.  Even at this early stage, it looks like a telescope.

Update: 09/22/2018

And things change once again.  After going over several websites on telescope building, I finally got an answer as to how long to make my telescope.  A telescope's barrel should be around the size of its focal length.  The above barrel is 24" (609.6mm).  The focal length of the lens I'm using is 255mm  (10.0394 inches).  I mentioned this above, but the web pages I read were unclear as to whether this was a minimum or a maximum.  I'd assumed that "at least" meant "it can be any length."  You know what they say when you assume something.  And now that I've made an ass of myself...

On the plus side, short telescopes are all the rage now.  And, with that decreased size, it means decreased weight, which means I can use that old tripod after all.  This is a good thing: I was driving myself batty trying to design a mount for it.

The main disadvantage to this is I have to cut the barrel down.  I don't have the proper equipment to do a precise, straight PVC cut (at least on a pipe this big). I'll look up various methods online before beginning..  The cut will not be at all straight-- but thankfully it will sit inside of the eyepiece holder at the end, so it won't be visible.

I looked up the best ways to cut PVC pipe, and one unique method caught my eye: using a piece of string, and sawing back and forth.

The method: cut a notch in the pipe, attach both ends of string to makeshift handles, and get to sawing.

Well, it works. It would take a long time, but you could do it.

The problem is that tiny specks of plastic, too small for the eye to see, start flying through the air. Some landed on my hands, producing the most powerful itch I have ever experienced-- about on the level of a poison ivy itch (as a side note, what they sell as itching powder in the gag catalogs is similar: powdered nylon).

I suspect that the YouTubers that put up those videos figured "OK, I made myself miserable, so I'll just pass it on."

I prefer the YouTube hacks that just plain don't work.

I have a generic knockoff Rotozip, but I'm going to try my Dremel tool first.  A Dremel tool is easier to control.

On other news, the 2" focusing barrel worked way too stiffly.  I tried using baby oil to lubricate it, which didn't help at all. Then I went to a website, and read the following: "My Orion refractor has two set screws on the focuser, located to either side of the focus lock screw, which seem to act as tensioners on the drawtube."  Sure enough, my focuser has two screws, both located on the top.  I loosened them a bit, and the motion is not stiff at all now.

Update: 09/23/2018

I got mt Dremel tool, put a carbon saw blade attachment on, and managed to  cut the tube.  My procedure: I cut a line all the way around the tube, and just kept going over that line, going deeper with each cut.  The result wasn't perfect, but I expected that.  It doesn't need to be perfect.

The barlow lens came today.  The finder scope should come tomorrow, and the objective lens the day after that (Tuesday).

Th old telescope's tripod was a bit rickety even for a 2" telescope, so I decided to buy a tripod to put the telescope on.   Ebay has one for $13.73, postpaid (Lightweight Heavy Duty Tripod - XIT Photo XT57TRS Pro Series 57" DSLR Camera), and it will be delivered three days from now (Thursday).  That old, broken telescope had a tripod mount on it, which I'll use the for the new telescope, using both glue and screws.

Why not go with a fancy equatorial mount?  I don't plan on doing much astro-photography.  An equatorial mount is good for that.  My main way of using a telescope is looking around at the night sky, finding an interesting object, and aiming my telescope at that.  So a plain old tripod will work fine.

cheap tripod
The tripod.

tripod mount
Tripod mount.

The telescope needs to be matte black on the inside, to prevent stray light from messing up what I see in the eyepiece.  I have a can of matte black spray paint, but I am a bit worried that the paint will spread to the outside, ruining the outer surface.  I want to keep the outside unpainted, so that people can see it was made from a PVC tube.

So I looked up flocking paper.  I, of course, went to eBay.  Prices from companies in the USA are way too high.  Prices from China are reasonable, but I'd have that long wait. 

OK, I'll go with the black paint, just being extra careful and covering everything that doesn't get painted with masking tape.

Everything is coming together quite nicely in this project.  Something will eventually come along and screw things up, of course (if you watch any of those home rehab shows on HGTV, you know what I mean).

Update: 09/24/2018

The finder scope came today.  It doesn't use the standard screw mounts.  From what I can tell, you need a special mount for it that you can just slide the finder scope on.  I can either solve the problem one of three ways: 1)  just glue it on with JB Weld, (which wouldn't work out too well, a I want to be able to take the telescope apart for transportation) 2) some sort of cobbled together slide on mount (which, without plans, I do not know how to make), or 3) since it's plastic, I could use PVC pipe, and glue the scope on that with JB Weld for plastic.   Then it's a simple manner of securing it with screws.

I will use number 3.  See the below drawing for information.  This may seen a bit complex, but at this point I have more time than I do money.

finder scope mount

Cost so far: $60.55.

The total is approaching what a good refractor telescope would cost, all assembled and ready to stargaze.  And if it turns out that it would have been cheaper to just buy a telescope, so what?  I'm enjoying the process of putting it together (and learning a lot about optics), which I wouldn't have if I just went out and bought a telescope.

Update: 09/25/2018

I kept fiddling around with the telescope's focuser, loosening the screws, trying to get it to work more smoothly/  I went  bit too far: the focuser wouldn't move at all.  So I tightened the screws up a bit until it worked again.  Lesson learned.

I knew the lenses would come in today, so I taped up the telescope's barrel and spray painted the insides black.  I did a fairly decent job of it: the paint went where it needed to, and nowhere else.  I let that dry.  I then glued on the tripod mount.  later, I will drill some holes and screw that in.

The tripod came today: two days before it was scheduled to  There will be no problem using this with the telescope.  The tripod has a quick release on it.  Since I will be using this tripod only on the telescope, I decided to attach the quick release to the telescope's tripod mount permanently, with some E6000.  I can do this only after I get the tripod mount securely screwed in.  The main advantage to doing this is that putting the telescope on the tripod would be just a matter of pulling a small lever and placing it on the tripod. 

I waited in the office by the front door.  I heard the clunk sound that a package makes when it's put on the front steps.  The lenses had arrived.
My first impression: the lenses were quite heavy.  They'd be exceptional magnifying glasses.

I assembled the telescope.  I glued one of the lenses in the top, using E6000.  I attached the eyepiece, and... a whole lotta nothing: just some blurry blobs.  To add insult to injury, the lens fell out of the telescope and onto the floor.  It got some scratches, and there is still some easily removable glue on it.  I'll admit that I was impatient: I should have let the glue dry completely first.  But I learned something: just gluing it on won't cut it: I have to come up with some way to hold it in along with the glue. 

And then I looked at the telescope.  Yes, I had cut the barrel down to about 10 inches.   But I had neglected to count the hub reducing ring (the part where the telescope's focuser goes in).  That added 3 inches to the overall length.  So I will have to get my Dremel and cut off another 3 inches.

And, sigh, there is still that matter of mounting the finder scope.  I won't bother with that until I get a good image.

As fro holding the lens in, one of the things that came with using PVC pipe could be a big help: the sun screen has an indentation.  See below illustration.


Time to call it a day!  I'll Dremel off those 3 inches, and try it again.

Update: 09/28/2018

I decided to test the focal length of that lens.  I used the standard test: I placed the lens  between a light bulb and a white surface.  The result: about 308mm (12 inches).  Sciplus listed the focal length as 255mm (about10 inches).   I have written to Sciplus about this.  I don't want to be messing around with the telescope's length until I get a definite answer.
Just checked my email.  No answer from Sciplus.  Well, isn't that special.  So it's back to by guess and by golly.

As for holding the lens in, I woke up today and came up with a plan.  4 inch O rings are not available.  A good substitute  would be: I could apply caulk around the sun shield's inside, let it dry, and use that as my seal.

All of this will have to wait until I get out of the hospital, which could take up to a month.  Sigh....

Update: 10/06/2018

I heard from Sciplus: the focal length is 255mm; he pulled out a box of lenses and tested them (I thank Sciplus for going the extra mile on this: they could have just as easily ignored me).  So that settles that.  Still, I am going to cut the barrel down by one inch, and try a dry fi from there.  If it doesn't focus, I will cut it down another 2 inches, and go from there.  This, of course, will happen only after I am released.  Once you're in the medical system, you're stuck until they release you.

And, looking at the telescope, I decided to order some more telescope equipment.  If nothing else, I can still order stuff for the beast.

This was done so I could make a second telescope.  I promised one to a young lady.  Yes, I am 59, and a pretty smile can still turn my head.  So sue me.  She will be getting all the old equipment: I'm not all that generous.

With these purchases, plus a couple of PVC coupling purchases, I will have the material for two telescopes.  Figuring on the two couplers, that will add $10.53, plus about $0.64 sales tax: $11.17 total.  She will be getting a basic telescope with no tripod. Or, if she wants it, she can use the rickety old 2" telescope's tripod.

lots more stuff!

Meade 1.25" Economy 90 Degree Telescope Star Diagonal, $9.95 from eBay.  This uses a prism.  I suspect the star diagonal I have uses a first surface mirror.

.965" to 1.25" telescope eyepiece plastic adapter sleeve, $2.99 from eBay.  The above two items had shipping fees, so $15.94 for both.

Why the adapter?  I am thinking that in the future I might find a good buy on .965" eyepiece lenses (see below), I can use them. 

1.25" 2X Barlow Lens M28.6*0.6 pitch Thread for 1.25Inch Telescopes Eyepieces, $7.51 postpaid from eBay.  Yes, I already have a Barlow lens.  But it's a long, fiddly thing, and you have to line it up precisely with the eyepiece, which is fun if you're playing the Mexican cup and ball game, but not so fun if you're using a telescope. 
This just screws inside of my eyepieces, with no problems.  I would happily sacrifice the greater magnification.

1.25" 4/9/25mm Telescope Eyepiece Set 3-element Fully Coated Kellner Eyepieces, $19.73 postpaid from eBay.

Celestron 1.25" Telescope Focuser For Refractor, $15.99 plus $4.99 shipping from eBay, $20.98 total.

Total so far, for two telescopes: $140.93

I haven't mentioned this, but my current lenses, focuser, prism and eyepieces are .965" in diameter.  The new equipment is 1.25".  The larger size should make for a slightly wider field of view.

Update: 11/06/2018

Yes, I am out of the hospital now.

I have decided that the point of making these telescopes is not that I could make a telescope cheaper than the ones on the market (you can get a decent telescope on eBay for under $50).  The point is just simply doing it.  I have learned quite a bit about such things as optics, focal length, and so on.  The journey is the important part, and not the destination.  Translation into English: I had no idea of what I was getting into, but I'm pig headed enough to get this done, mo matter the cost in money, time, and aggravation.

I tested the objective lens on my telescope, finally.  There was some distortion on the edge, as well as chromatic aberration (colors that should not have been there).  What to do?  And then two answers came to me:  I had bought a 4"to 3" adapter for my own telescope.   (4 in. x 3 in. PVC Hub x Hub Reducer Coupling, $2.94, Home Depot).  That would eliminate the edge distortion.  Sure, that would cut the field of view down, but getting better resolution makes that a good trade off.


multi coated lens filter

But the chromatic aberration?  I thought about that.  Chromatic aberration is reduced by a process called super multi coating.  The objective in this case is a plain glass lens with no coating.  The answer: get a multi coated filter and install it over the lens.  But, as usual there was a snag: there are no 109mm lens filters.  And then it hit me: I didn't need a big filter.  I'd get whatever multi coated filter I could get, and put on the inside of the telescope's focusing tube.  I found something called 52-82mm Camera Cap Multi-Coated Optical Glass Premium Clear UV Filter (eBay, $2.86).  I bought two of them, for both telescopes.  They will be glued to the inner focusing tubes with epoxy putty.

I tested the focusers.  The .965 focuser fit loosely inside the 4" x 2" hub adapter.  Some masking tape and E6000 glue (available at any hardware store) made it fit precisely.  Good deal!

focuser rig up

The 1 1/4" focuser was too big for the 4" x 2" hub adapter  So I got another 4" x 3" hub adapter.  The focuser had an outer diameter of 2 1/2".   How to make it fit?  I used the Home Depot online chat feature.  All the person that answered could come up with was "use super glue."  That didn't address the 1/2" gap in any way.  So I thought this out too.  My solution, while not cheap, should work.

more parts

I needed some way to hold the focuser in so that it was centered.  I wanted something that would be exactly 1/4".  Plexiglss 1/4" x 1.4" would be ideal ($7.98, eBay).  These can be cut to length and either epoxied in, or bonded with E6000.  Note that rather than have the rods just right over the screw holes, I have them on either side. This is so that I can avoid any problems with not hitting the rods dead center with the drill.  Any gaps between the rods will be covered up with a bit of caulk.

Next, I need metal screws that are both the same width as the original set screws. and long enough to get through the rigged up filler, but not so long as to go too far into the focuser. (I can probably sand them down to the exact fit).  I have no idea as to the size of the screws.  I will just have to go to Home Depot and ask them what I need.

And getting the holes in the exact location on the coupler will be another problem.  I will measure everything the best I can.  Getting the depth will be no problem.  What I think I will be doing is instead of just cutting round holes with my drill, I'll cut horizontal slots, so the screws can be moved back and forth until they match the focuser's holes.

I also needed a way to fill in the gaps between the rods.  Weather stripping would work; the focuser could just be slid in, and then the screws could be tightened.  (3/8 in. x 17 ft. Foam Weatherstrip Tape, $2.88, from Home Depot).

dobsoniam mount

Just for fun, I doodled up a sort of Dobsonian mount for the telescope, made with PVC pipe.  it's fairly self explanatory.   I decided on making a full yoke, rather than having it mounted on just one side.  This is for stability.  The mount swings around, because the connection between the yoke mount's support pole and the bottom 5 way PVC cross is unglued.  Lubricated with Vaseline, the telescope can be rotated freely, with just enough friction that it won't  fall apart (this is my hope, actually).


The parts consist of

two 1/4 in.-20 tpi x 2 in. Stainless Steel Thumb Screws  (Home Depot, $1.36 ea.) 

two 1 in. Schedule 40 PVC 90-Degree Elbows (Home Depot, $1.14 ea.)

six 1 in. Schedule 40 PVC Caps (Home Depot, $.83 ea.)
one 1 in. Schedule 40 PVC Tee (Home Depot, $1.34 ea.)

four 1/4L Beveled Washers (10-Pack) (Home Depot, $1.97)

two 1/4 in. - 20 tpi Zinc-Plated Steel Hex Nuts (10-Pack) (Home Depot, $1.18 ea.)

one 1 in. Schedule 40 PVC Tee (Home Depot, $1.34 ea.)

about 4 feet of 1" PVC pipe  (please note that getting a 10 foot piece of  PVC pipe is actually cheaper than buying it in smaller amounts) 1 in. x 10 ft. PVC Schedule 40 Plain-End Pipe 
(Home Depot. $3.33 ea.)

one 1" 1 in. Furniture Grade PVC 5-Way Cross in White (4-Pack) (Home Depot, $16.47)

I also will cut a couple of pieces of scrap 4" tubing to fit around the telescope, and to sink the nuts halfway in.

As for dimensions. I will supply them when I actually put the rig together.

To add to all of the above things, I decided to use my old telescope's objective lens and make a new telescope.  I also bought a junk reflector telescope on eBay, removing the curved reflector and front mirror for yet another telescope project.  I will probably do another web page for them.

Update: 11/17/18

Things are progressing.  I caulked the lens inside of the 4" x 3" reducing coupling.. It's a good thing tht the lens isn't coated, because all of the scrubbing I had to do to remove excess caulk would have messed it up anyway.

I decided to focus on my friend's telescope.  I could always put mine together later.

I did a dry fit of everything, and decided to focus on  neighbor's house across the way.  Blurry globs, and that's I had a shorter piece of 4" tubing and the focus was clearer.  I took that tube and cut one inch off of it.  Success!  The image was of acceptable quality.

This either means that either the lens had a shorter focal length than advertised, or that the   standard rule that a telescope's barrel should be at least as long as the focal length of the objective is pure bunkum.

I waited for dark, to give the telescope First Light, as amateur astronomers like to put it.  First Light is when you first use your telescope to look at an object in the night sky.  The sky was overcast, of course. I won't know if the telescope is done until I get that First Light.  If I get a good image, I can glue it all up, including the finder scope, and just wait until the multi coated lens filters come to make it completely up to snuff.  As it stands right now, I just have to wait for a clear night.

telescopwe so far

The telescope so far.  Yes, i know the paint on the objective lens mount is already peeling.

scope mount

The telescope's mount. This is before I put on the thumb screws (see below).  It will fit very tightly, which is what I want.

The mount has presented its challenges.  Since I am a member of The International Society For The Promotion and Preservation of Incompetent Carpentry (our motto: "If you screw it up, cover it up"), I glued it up with E6000 before I drilled the thumb screw holes.  This presented some unique problems as to alignment, which I solved by enlarging the screw holes until they aligned.  Some 1" washers and JB Weld in the right places, and no one will know the difference.

Finally, I found that Home Depot has 1/4 in. x 36 in. Wood Square Dowels ($.98 es.).  These are much less expensive than the plastic rods I was considering.  Cheaper is always better.

Update: 11/19/2018

Two views of the telescope and mount

After some tweaking, I put the telescope on the PVC yoke mount.  I need some metal washers and flat head screws to finish the build.  And one day I will get clear skies, and will be able to test it thoroughly/

I call it The Cement Mixer, because it looks a lot like one.

 also got the multi coated filter.  I will have to mount it on shelf inside the telescope, just above  where the focuser's shortest point ends.  This will be fairly essy to do, as the filter came  in a round clear hard plastic box.  I'll drill a hole for the filter''s light and spray the rest of the shelf black.

After that, all I need is a lens cap.  Fair waning:Home Depot has a lot of great PVC pipe stuff.  I ordered a lot of it online. and a some of it did not fit as described.  I'll have to go back there, return some parts, and come along with some scrap 4 in pipe to make sure everything fits.  For the most part, you can order from them online and r assured you got the right sized parts.  If you want to be 100% certain, bring some pipe along with you and test fit the parts. 
Always check to see if parts will fit together.  If this means having to shop at the stores, so be it.
Also, when the telescope is completed, this page will be moved to the  Pages No One Ever Goes To section of this website.
  It's been up here a month, and very few people have looked at it.  It will still be here, just not listed on the index or updated.

Update: 11/24/2018

With her telescope almost finished and the Thanksgiving festivities over, I decided to do some more work om my own telescope.  I bought another 4x3 PVC reducing couplmg (see above), and decided to use the black schedule 50 pipe adapter. At this point In
realized that both telescopes needed lens covers.  I had bought some parts by mistake (DWV PVC pipe will not match up to PVC pipe).  I also looked around my room. My solution is seen below.

lwns caps

Left, my cap: NDS 4 in. x 3 in. PVC Hub x Hub Reducer Coupling (SKU # 226055) available for $2.94  from Home Depot.
Oatey 3 in. Knockout Test Cap (SKU # 508260) $0.44 each from Hone Depot.  The knockoff tab was inserted into the  NDS coupler and caulked in place.

Right :Her lens cap.  Great Value Original sour cream container 24 oz., cut down to fit (Walmart $2.66 each).
 Also, I found yet another glitch to Home Depot bug filled website: I ordered some parts online, but didn't pick them up.  A couple of days later I ordered some more parts.  They handed me a bag, and I figured that both orders were in the same bag.  That was not the case: they put only the second order in the bag, and online they changed the older items' number to the newer one.  All of this happened because I didn't check what was in the bag.``

Update: 12/13/2018

do not buy these

I tested both of the cell phone telescope adapters I bought.  What I got for my efforts were excellent shots of the inside of my telescopes' barrels, with a teeny tiny image at the end.  Don't waste your time on these.

usb camera
Kind of OK, with reservations.

I next bought this USB telescope camera from eBay. 

1) It actually works.
2) You get a nice, big image on your monitor.

1) It's low resolution: 640x480
2) It replaces the eyepiece, but there are no threads for filters
3) If you need a different eyepiece size, you're out of luck.
4) There are no instructions or software provided.

It's a simple thing to install: it's nothing more than a webcam with a 1 1/4" barrel on it.  As for software, I recommend Webcamoid.

Using my Celestron Firstscope, I focused on some trees outside my window, with great success.  How it does on planets and stars is another story (and once I get a good, clear night, I can report on that), but if you like looking at leaves, then this is the camera for you.

pvc dobsonian mount
Dobsonian PVC mount

Like all projects I have done, I had to mess around with it further.  I created a Dobsonian mount with PVC pipe.  Note the handle to turn the mount on its axis.  Dobsonian mounts are all the rage now, and since I want to be one of the Cool Kids, I had to make the change.

Update: 12/22/2018

I went to the forums at Cloudy Nights and gave them the basic parameters of my telescope's lens and so on.  They were very helpful!  I kept messing around with barrel length, never managing to get it right.  They told me that the shortest length between the lens and eyepiece means better focus on far away objects.  So I essentially eliminated the barrels, using a 1 in or so piece of PVC pipe to join the lens half and the focusing half together.  I have achieved partial success.  The first time I get a chance to shoot a sky object is when I can claim that my telescopes are done.  I highly recommend going to forums such as Cloudy Nights, and picking the brains of the experts there.

The lens I picked is not the best choice for a telescope, I also learned.  Or, rather, relearned, as I had been told the same thing before.  But it does work, and I get a clear image, at least so far.  What the night sky tells me could be quite different.  Stay tuned!

Update: 12/23/2018

I had bought a banged up reflector telescope from eBay, figuring I could take it apart for parts: the
Stevens Innova reflector telescope (one of many telescopes issued by companies to capitalize on Halley's comet).  The thing was pure junk, from top to bottom.  Every corner they could cut, they did.   Even the eyepieces were no good.  I did keep the finder scope, in the hope that with some major grinding, it could be used to mount another finder scope.  The primary and secondary mirrors were OK, so I salvaged them.

Possibly the worst telescope finder scope ever: it had no lenses, was not adjustable, and had the reticule was a simple plastic insert.  It deserved to die.

Most of what I am doing now is eliminating all of ITIWAGIATT (I Thought It Was A Good Idea At the Time) innovations, and went with a simpler design.

Since there are no barrels, all of the accessories (finder, scope mount, tripod mount) have to go on the focuser section, the 2" and 3" coupler.  On her telescope, I had used a 4 in x 3" adapter, to eliminate edge distortion.  I looked through my telescope, which didn't have this feature.  What do you know: there was no difference.  Now I'm using the schedule 40 pipe adapter on her telescope a well.

The interior coated filter was removed.  You need less interference to get a good image.

curenttelescope design

Current telescope design.

The lens to her telescope had been glued in with caulk.  This stuff is remarkably sturdy: after a long time of scraping and using a solvent that works well to release labels from plastic (baby oil) I gave up.  I can buy caulk remover for about $7 a bottle.  Or I can get a new lens for $3.50.

Her telescope's finder scope with that inferior holder met its maker when the telescope fell.  Nothing else at all got damaged.  The finder scope itself was OK; just the mount died.  So I got that junk finder scope mentioned earlier.  I cut and ground the holy living heck out of it, and the finder scope fit well inside of it.  I added three screws to make the whole thing adjustable.  It's held to the telescope with a combination of a 10/32 machine screw and caulk.

I got a .1.25 to .965 adapter for her telescope, as well as some eyepieces and a diagonal prism.  I glued the adapter on the telescope: now she can use whatever 1.25 in  eyepieces she likes.  As for the set of .965 lenses I had, she will be getting those as well.  I glued a 1.25 to .965 adapter onto that .965 diagonal prism.  This will give her a lot of freedom: if someone is selling old telescope parts, she needn't worry if the eyepiece sizes are right: most amateur telescope eyepieces are either .965" or 1.25".

.965 focuser
.965 focuser

And, finally, I have a spare .965" focuser which I will give away to anyone who wants it.  It's from that old Emerson telescope mentioned earlier (for fun. look up the reviews of this telescope on Amazon.  People do not like this telescope at all).  It will fit into a 2" tube, with just a bit of masking tape and E6000.  You have to use both knobs to focus it, as the focus is a bit rough.  But by gosh and by golly, it's FREE.  Interested?  Email me at

Update: 12/30/2018

This is not so much an update, as it is an observation.  Google some images of telescopes or  space ships.  Use a protractor to examine the angle of all of them.  More often than not, the angle is either 20-30 degrees, or its opposite, 150-160 degrees.  For some odd reason, artists have picked that angle as symbolic of space exploration.  A few examples:

space ships wf?
Cherry picked photos to prove my point.

Does anyone remember the TV series Space:1999?  They almost always depicted their space ship straight, and not at an
gles.  This always seemed odd to me as a kid.  I had already been trained to accept the 20-30 degree paradigm.

the eagle
It was probably easier to do the SFX with the space ships straight on.

And now, back to our telescope making...

Waiting for the first of the month, when I can get a second 109mm lens, a second 45 degree prism, a second telescope camera, a laser collimator (for a reflector telescope project), and some more E6000.  Then both my main telescopes will be done, and I can work on my reflector.

Update: 01/06/2019

Sybony collimator

reflector telescope
My 90mm reflector telescope.  Note the angle.

I collimated my home made reflector telescope with a Sybony laser collimator.  It was simple to adjust the primary and secondary mirrors (there are numerous YouTube
videos on the subject).  I still can't get the beast to focus, but I suspect that's because it's more suited for celestial objects than earthly ones.  And, as usual, it was a cloudy night, so testing the telescope will have to wait.

For fun, I designed a lens hood that will fit all three telescopes I made.  here is the design:

telescope logo
Yes, we swipe only the best clip art!

I used the word 'heingemacht," which is German for "home made."  During Prohibition, my family referred to home brew as "heingemacht," as a term of derision.  Nowadays, home brewed beer is often better than anything the breweries put out.

Update: 01/11/2019

I'm done with both telescopes.  It's hard to believe, but it's true.  There are some things I didn't mention in construction:

I bought a .965 in focuser because of the low cost.  I attached a 1.25 in to .965 in reducer to it, so that both types of eyepieces could be used.  Also, the .965 in focuser fits perfectly into the
4 in. x 2 in. PVC DWV Hub x Hub Reducing Coupling.

I used a plain old 1/4" 20dpi nut for an optional tripod mount.  I drilled a hole halfway through the bottom of the scope, big enough for the nut to slide into, ond epoxied the nut in.  This was much simpler than my previous ideas.

This is the second to last update for this page.  The last update will have photos taken with both telescopes (and if I can get the reflector up and running, that telescope too).

I tested the telescopes tonight.  I figured that  a skyglow filter might make the stars more visible.  Nope.  Nothing can get through Lemay skies.  As per usual, I used my Celestron Firstscope as a benchmark.  I can honestly say that my two telescopes did just as well as the Celestron.

And, thinking about that telescope camera I bought, I realized there was one more problem: if you have it connected to a laptop, the light from the laptop would make the stars and planets less easy to see.  You'd need to aim your telescope with a finder scope and a  standard eyepiece, lock it in place, put in the camera, turn on the laptop (which has been covered by a dark cloth to keep the light from ruining everything), and then take photos.  Or else you'd need to have someone else with the laptop under the cloth while you aimed your telescope, calling out "OK, turn the focuser a bit.  No, too much!  Back a bit..."  I'll have to ask the folks at Cloudy Nights how they do it.

Below is a list of what I used to make the main telescope.  I have eliminated all of the parts I didn't use.


Seller retevisofficialstore
1.25" 2X Barlow Lens M28.6*0.6 pitch Thread for 1.25Inch Telescopes Eyepieces US New
$8.59 Standard Shipping  4 days  Free shipping

Seller sharp-ideas
Celestron PowerSeeker 5x24 Finderscope With Bracket - Telescope Finder Scope NEW
$5.99  USPS Priority Mail  3 days  + $3.99 shipping

Seller sharp-ideas
Reducer Eyepiece Adapter .965" to 1.25" - Fits Celestron Meade Orion Telescopes
Reducer Eyepiece Adapter .965" to 1.25" - Fits Celestron Meade Orion Telescopes New
$4.99  USPS Priority Mail  4 days  + $3.99 shipping

Seller optics21406
$9.99  Economy Shipping  6 days  Free shipping

Seller free-shipping-goods

Rust-Oleum 12oz High Heat Enamel Black Satin Spray Paint 777883 BBQ Grill Burner New
$4.49  USPS Parcel Select Ground  6 days  Free shipping

Seller pnb12
4 in 1 Camera & Lens Cleaning Kit, Cleaning Agent, Air Blower, Brush New
$3.41  UPS Ground  6 days  Free shipping

Seller k40auyqe9
1.25" Telescope Digital Electronic Eyepiece Camera for USB Port Astrophotograph New
$11.35  Standard Shipping  4 to 9 days Free shipping

Seller scopehed1
Meade 1.25"  Economy 90 Degree Telescope Star Diagonal - NEW!
$9.95  USPS First Class Package  3 days  Free shipping

cart total
Items (9)    $68.45
Shipping     $7.98
Total       $76.43

Home Depot

 NIBCO 4 in. x 2 in. PVC DWV Hub x Hub Reducing Coupling c4801HD42  $6.67

 J-B Weld 2 oz. SteelStik 8267 $5.77

Everbilt 1/4 in. x 5/8 in. Black Neoprene Washer (4-Piece) 815738 $0.96
DURA 1 in. Schedule 40 PVC Cap C447-010 (ORDERED 6) 
     Everbilt 1/4 in. x 5/8 in. Galvanized Steel Flat Washer 804096 (ORDERED 6) $0.78
DURA 1 in. Schedule 40 PVC Tee C401-010 $1.34
Formufit 1 in. Furniture Grade PVC 5-Way Cross in White (4-Pack) F0015WC-WH-4 $16.57

E6000 2 fl. oz. Clear Adhesive 237032 $4.29
1/4 in. -20 tpi Zinc-Plated Hex Nut (25-Pack) 802344
Everbilt 1/4 in.-20 tpi x 3 in. Zinc-Plated Round-Head Combo Drive Machine Screw (3-Piece per Pack)
803531 $1.18
J-B Weld 0.85 oz. KwikWeld 50176H $5.87
The Hillman Group #10-24 Stainless-Steel Hex Nut (25-Pack) 958 $4.52
RELN 4 in. Schedule 40 Pipe Adapter 000226 $3.98
Everbilt #10-24 TPI x 3/4 in. Zinc-Plated Round-Head Combo Drive Machine Screw (8-Piece Per Pack) 803191
Everbilt 1/4 in.-20 tpi Coarse Zinc-Plated Steel Wing Nut (4-Pack) 802371 $1.18
1 in. x 10 ft. PVC Schedule 40 Plain-End Pipe 531194

Everbilt #10 Zinc-Plated Steel Flat Washer (30-Pack)
802471  $1.18

VPC 4 in. x 2 ft. PVC Foam Core Sch. 40 Pipe 2204

Sales Tax (determined in later step)

American Science and Surplus

109mm Dcx Glass Lens 46228P1
Subtotal                     $3.50
Estimated Shipping    $6.95
Total                            $10.45

Total: $160.06


tripod mount
Seller quality-choice
XIT Photo XT57TRS Pro Series 57" DSLR Camera Lightweight Heavy Duty Tripod New
$16.67  Expedited Shipping  3 days  Free shipping
Tax    $1.36  TOTAL: $18.03

Dollar Tree

Tool Bench Hardware Tool Box  $1.00

 2-in-1 Laser Pointer Key Chain $1.00

The cheapest 102mm (4 in) refractor I could find was on eBay:

Seller adoramacamera
Meade Infinity 102mm (4") 600mm f/5.9 Altazimuth Refractor Telescope #209006 New
$209.00  UPS Ground  4 days   Free shipping

The cheapest 102mm reflector telescope I could find was on eBay:

Seller optics21406
Cassini FH-102TRZ - 640mm x 102mm Reflector Telescope w/6.8mm-16mm ZOOM Eyepiece New
$159.99  Economy Shipping  6 days  Free shipping

Of course, there's no comparison, save for lens size.  What I have proven here is that yes, you can make a telescope out of PVC pipe and a magnifying glass.  For a little more money, you can buy a much better telescope, and save yourself the time and labor.  But on the other hand, putting the beast together was a whole lot of fun.


Webcamoid..  A free webcam viewer that will let you record videos and take snapshots.  Very useful if you buy the telescope camera mentioned above, which contains neither software or instructions.

Stellarium. A great astronomy program.  It will show you the stars and planets visible in your area, in real time.  For the most effectiveness, you need to load this on a laptop, and take it with you.

Make your own planisphere. 
If you'd rather use a less technological star finder, download this PDF and print it out.

A Simple Guide to Backyard Astronomy Using Binoculars or a Small Telescope.  A well done PDF guide that can get you started.

Astronomy Books Online.  An incredibly huge collection of free astronomy books in PDF format.

Amateur telescope making links.  A great collection of links for every aspect of telescope making and astronomy.