AT LA FOIE CONTACTS
French Blatting Company
Life at La Foie
A Failed Observatory
I had an idea to build an
observatory. It would have a solid base and the top, with a door would hinge
back so the base was completely exposed. Well that was the theory.
Just back from Brico Marche with 4 walls, a top and bottom, 32
metres of 2" x2", loads of fixings and new bungees (to hold it on the
roof of Lynne's car). Got it all in and
on Lynne's Jazz. Have lunch and start building.
Lynne, worked like a man possessed, or should that be a women.
She drilled, screwed (that's wood screws before you get the wrong idea), cut,
hammered, fetched and carried, as well as swore just like I do.
All the stuff we bought, not bad at 287€, about £225. I've
been sent an email about buying a home observatory for £1500! The garden sheds
start at 290€ and that wouldn't do the job.
And the building. It's not finished, I need more battens and
more screws. I'll get than in the morning, build the door, put a few more cross
braces on and then spray it with wood preserver and cover it with plastic sheet.
The idea is to open the door and then open the three sided
structure back, hinged at the bottom of the base to reveal the telescope. The
base will be securely anchored and the top will be padlocked to the base. The
door will have three padlocks. It will not be 100% secure but will be as secure
as it would be in the house. I'm thinking of getting some venomous snakes to
keep in it. Or maybe a dog, or just leave Lynne on guard.
I posted a link to this page on an astronomy forum. It's a USA
forum but a chap from Harrow posted me some excellent advice.
So, I'm making changes in line with Jerry's
advice, many thanks Jerry.
I've thought about this overnight. I'll install a
small electric heater, set low, so that it keeps the damp out.
I'll also increase the size of the feet. I have a
big lump of wood that I'll use, photo's later, it's 0550 here at the moment and
I'm not going outside to photograph a bit of wood.
I was going to stain the wood to protect it but
now I'll paint it gloss white to reflect as much heat as possible.
8th August, wet, warm and humid.
Door on, only hasps and staples to bolt on now.
Then the base needs making.
It's now the morning of the 17th August 2014.
Yesterday I got the observatory finished to the point of bringing it outside and
standing it upright. This with the help of Roy who is on holiday here-some
holiday! I then fitted some bits and pieces and put some floor boards down. Only
problem was that I screwed the hinged top to the base-what an idiot. Chris and
his lad Jonathon sorted that for me and we're now ready to cut the grass where
it will be sited and move it there. Here are some pictures of the last few
The observatory was moved from the front of the garage to it's final resting
place, which the observant observatory observers will not is not where we said
it was going (see above). This is in front of the gites.
Ah, a rest. Actually I've hardly got off this stool, my back hurts less if I'm
Apart from when I show my best feature to the world.
Inside the box, er, observatory.
I drove 4 1 metre threaded rods through the feet into the ground, at an
angle. This is the top of one of them.
No idea what I was doing here.
Observing the observatory.
The MK 1 observatory. Only problem is the box bit is too heavy to swing open
with 2 people, one with a broken back and the other a member of the fairer,
Aye, aye, what's this then.
The long pole is to lift the box....
Just like this, but it was too much for me, Now for a sit down and think
about the problem. The MK 2 is being conceived.
The MK 1 version was a failure! The top was too heavy to swing over.
(In fact, had I not had a bad back it wasn't too heavy
at all and would have been fine. But I was influenced by Lynne so it all went
wrong) So the
MK 2 version was conjured up out of a few bits of floor board and a jigsaw. I
cut the top 1/3 rd off and hinged it one side so the top wouldn't be so heavy
and the telescope could still see out. However, it's either too heavy, jammed or
I'm too weak. We lifted it open, the we being Roy, our guest and I, but I cannot
lift it on my own to close it. I suspect the hinges are jamming. I'll ask Chris,
our other guest, to see if he can close it today. Pictures to follow so keep
I've done some mods. I've covered the red light on the on/off switch with
gaffa tape, wrapped gaffa tape round the "joints" in the power cable
and gaffa taped the cable to the fork and tripod leg. I'll get some pictures up
Cable management. To plastic lemonade bottles with canes in them. The cable
will not get wrapped around the telescope now.
The top prior to being cut.
Chris taking the lid apart prior to surgery,
Thought you may like to see the sky in the afternoon of the 1st September.
Chris fitting the floorboard edge to the newly reduced lid.
So the MK 2 is finished and ready to be tried later on this evening.
17:30 06/09/14 and very tired. The observatory, really a small box will
probably now be used as a secure and dry storage box. When the telescope is used
it will be wheeled out on to a 1.6 metre x 1.6 metre concrete pad. The lid is
now only about 8" high. The cabling management system is complete and works
very well. I've wound the telescope round 8 times with the cable to the computer
and the cable to the dew heater attached and nothing got caught or wound up. The
triangular board has 3 wheels which can be raised or lowered. They will need strengthening
blocks fitting, which will be done tomorrow. Enough waffle, let the pictures
tell the story.
The box with the lid fully open. The support arm is attached by a strip of
webbing and when the lid is closed the arm lays flat on top.
It also has 2 "half open" arms. These swivel on the lower fixing
and can be moved round to support the lid in a half open position.
The cable management system. The pole nearest the camera will go next to the
concrete pad when it is laid. This will leave a lot more cable.
The wire hooks
The pole on the telescope. Both poles are copper pipe. The one on the
telescope is split in two with a garden cane down the center. This is so the top
half can be removed allowing the lid to shut.
The power supply. The battery is permanently connected to a Ctek battery
conditioner. The mutli-cigar lighter socket is also permanently connected. The
two cigar lighters are the dew heater and the wire to the goto computer.
I will fit an on/off switch to the dew heater wire so it can be turned off
rather than pull the cigar lighter out. I'll fit an illuminated switch.
The wheels which can be raised and lowered. Lift the board, swivel the wheel
and fit the pin through the holes and it will be on the wheel. I need to fit
strengthening noggins in the morning and then they will work a treat. I may fit
handle to lift the board the few inches needed. There are three wheels (one each
side of the triangle). When the concrete pad is there there will be a
"bridge" from the floor of the box to the pad and the board, on its
wheels, will be roiled in and out.
I have a few more bits and pieces to do, tomorrow should see it finished
other than the concrete base.
It's now 1530 on 13/09/14 and it took more than a day. It's now finished
other than the concrete base which will be laid, by Wayne, next week. So, it
will be completely finished and ready to use as the sky clouds over. Isn't
it always the way!
I've made new retractable wheels and fitted some strengthening floor boards
to the side as they were wobbling all over the place when the door is open. I've
also cut about 4" off the bottom of the door and refitted the piece cut off
on the outside, back to front in order to retain the rigidity. The door will now
open when the concrete base is the same height as the floor of the
The new retractable wheel in its retracted
position. The copper pipe laying
on the arm is the "lock"
The wheel in its raised position with the copper "lock" holding it
in position. It's very easy to raise, no effort required at all.
The telescope with the wheels raised (it moves easily, even on grass). The
area marked out by the floorboards is where the concrete pad will be. The area
between the pad (1.6 x 1.6 metres) will be a gentle slope to the floor of the
The stool cost 19.99€ and will lower to 53 cm. Perfect for looking through
the eyepiece. Since taking this picture, the wire mast has been clipped to the
enclosure. I've also got to get a groove cut to bury the orange mains cable
which is going into the workshop. I'll ask a friend to do that with my chain
saw. If my back was OK I'd do it in 10 minutes (every hour long job takes 10
minutes in my book). I'll paint the new wood floorboards later next week.
One final bit of luxury will be a shelf at the back of the enclosure to hold
the lens case and the books and maps we have accumulated. I'd have done it by
now if I knew where Keiran has put the two large angle brackets when he cleared
One final explanation. I was a bit disappointed when I realised there wasn't
enough space inside the observatory. Then I remembered that it started with the
whole box section hinging backwards which would have left more than enough
space. The box section turned out to be too heavy to lift (according to my ever-loving
- I can't lift anything until my back is healed). So the mark 2 saw the box
fixed to the floor and the top foot or so hinged to open. The top still seemed
to be too heavy so the top was reduced to just a lid, about 3 inches deep. (The
"heavy" turned out to be the top jamming in the guides!). So now I
realize why it hasn't enough room.
Monday evening 15/09/14. Another tiring day spent putting the shelf in,
tidying the wiring, adjusting one of the wheels, painting the unpainted bits and
a few minor things.
and finally, neat electrics. Mains, battery, 4 way cigar lighter with switch.
The Ctek battery conditioner is clipped up at the top of the side wall.
So, all in all, a total waste of time and money
as I've now ordered a tin shed. Piccies when it arrives, Bet you can't wait. Who
else can bore you like this, or, more to the point, who has just read all this
On Friday 26th September, I took all the fittings
off and got the anchors out and moved the box back so Wayne can lay the concrete
I've sprayed the ground 3 times with roundup. Should have used diesel,