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A New Old Scope Breaks Me In (Again)

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I suppose if all scopes were blue instead of white, I wouldn’t even give a blue scope a second glance.  But since that’s not the case, when my eyes first landed on the two contrasting shades of blue on the old sixty millimeter Sears scope, they transmitted a “BUY NOW” message to my brain.  And even though I need another sixty millimeter scope about as badly as I need another eyepiece, there was no resisting.  It was mine.

Half the fun of anticipating a new scope is matched by the other half you have when you unpack it the first time.  This one arrived in a nice wooden box with so much bubble wrap inside it that I almost couldn’t get it all back in after I had all the pieces out of it.

I unpacked it outside since it was a nice sunny day and took my time.  First the tripod, the scope, then a few eyepieces, a solar screen, the mount at the bottom, and then a beautiful little eyepiece tray with a lamp on it.  They just don’t make this kind of stuff any more.

Putting it all together in front of the house, I stood back and admired those two contrasting colors of blue.  Nice.

And then comes the real test – at night, under the stars, in the dark.  There is always a period of “adjustment” when you use a scope for the first time.  This one was no different.  You find things.  Little things.  Not at all major, usually, if you’re fortunate.  But … they ….. slowly …….add …………………………up.

There were the slow motions controls. They didn’t fit the spindles on the declination and right ascension axes, but I had replacements.  No problem.  Then there were the controls for the clutches.  I had used them in the daylight, but in the dark they weren’t where I thought they were.  Out comes the red flashlight, a little searching, and we’re back in business.

Now, time to line up the mount on Polaris.  I sighted along the tube, bent over to look in the finder ….  but I don’t believe I mentioned the finder, did I.  It came without an eyepiece.  Again, no problem.  I just used one of the .965 millimeter eyepieces that came with the scope.  Except that it wasn’t a tight fit.  And when I bent down to look into it, it slid out and landed firmly against my eye socket.  Ouch.  Back in it went, and back out it came.  Ouch.  Again.  OK, I’m not really that stupid, so I went into the house, got some tape, and wrapped it around the eyepiece and finder tube once.  Back in business.

Now, the next step is to loosen the latitude knob, adjust the equatorial head so that Polaris is visible in the finder with the semi-permanent eyepiece, and then lock the latitude knob into place once again. I had it set already for forty-five degrees, so it was close, but not close enough to put Polaris where I wanted it in the eyepiece in the scope.

Now you have to do this carefully.  I grabbed the optical tube, loosened the locking knob, and the scope pitched forward because of the counterweight on the end of the shaft.  I expected that.  The trick is to pull the scope back up, look in the eyepiece until Polaris comes back into view (and there is NO guarantee of that), and lock the equatorial head down.   I did all those things, and the scope settled forward enough to lose Polaris completely.  I tried loosening the latitude knob just a bit, hoping to keep some tension on it so I could make a small adjustment, and the scope pitched forward again.  I pulled it back up, repositioned Polaris so it was slightly out of view at the bottom of the eyepiece, locked the knob again, and watched Polaris slowly glide up from the bottom, past the center, and just out of sight at the top of the eyepiece.

Uh-oh, I think I'll just go in the house now.

Patience used to be one of my virtues.  I still use it occasionally.  I used a little bit of it for a while, adjusting, readjusting, repositioning (and don’t forget, it’s dark, as in pitch black), and finally got Polaris about where I wanted it, sat down behind the scope, swapped eyepieces, and watched Polaris slowly creep up to the top of the field of view and right on out of sight.

I’ll spare you the rest of the sad details, but let’s just say I realized it was time to give it up for the night.

A few nights later, I was armed and ready for the battle, and it went much more smoothly.  I got Polaris where I wanted it, used a pair of vise grips to lock the latitude adjustment, and it stayed put.  And I actually got some serious observing done with the scope.  A true test of a 60mm is the faint companion of Polaris, and I could see it just peeking out from beyond a diffraction ring at about the ten o’clock position.

Was it worth it?  It is when I look at those beautiful shades of blue.  And the scope does a very nice job at night under the skies.  And there’s that neat little light on the eyepiece tray.  Which is too bright to use in the dark.  But I can fix that with some red tape.  And if a nice two toned red scope shows up somewhere — well, now how could I say no?


One Response

  1. I love this account John! Great mixture of humor, integrity, and useful details. You have captured the experience and feelings of every classic scope addict – or at least this one – precisely. Our approaches couldn’t be more identical – and our experience of a new/old scope pretty much matches, though, of course, details change. I really envy you that little light – it’s sort of like the Jason reflex finder – something that makes the scope special. (Sadly, the reflex finder is about as useful as a white light – but as you point out, the light is easily corrected. The small fov of the finder isn’t. Unlike with your Sears scope, the finder’s eyepiece isn’t close to .967.)

    Of course my favorite part of the review is the wordless comment on your patience made by Klaus! Tell him Eliza and Higgins understand completely. When my patience gets low it’s time for them to get under the dining room table – they know they’re not at fault, but it’s better to be safe!

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