A trip to the local hardware shop resulted in some Cuprinol 5 Star Complete Wood Treatment which is used to impregnate the wood and act as a fungus killer. I liberally applied this to one section of an inner wall, as per instructed, painting on four coats. While it was well ventilated when painted on (the roof was rolled off at the time), the fumes coming off it persisted for days. I found another unsettling side effect. An eyepiece I had left uncapped developed a thin oily film on its exposed lens. I tried various lens tissues and even a LensPen, but nothing would remove the film; all just seemed to smear it. The eyepiece has not been the same since. The culprit (besides my own stupidity) was the fumes from the wood preservative. I didn't use it again. I ended up wiping as much excess as I could from the affected panel and drying it with an electric paint stripper (something like a cross between a ray-gun and a hairdryer).

After that, I painted everything inside the observatory with the same redwood preservative paint I used on the outside. Some old linoleum was put on the floor to deaden noise late at night and provide a small amount of protection for dropped eyepieces and the like.

A small worktable was finally added for charts, books and a laptop computer when used.

Other Problems

When the roof is rolled off, I leave it so that there's about 18 inches still over the observatory, This provides a measure of protection from the elements - this is where the worktable and electrical connections lie - especially when I'm using a laptop computer that could be sensitive to due build-up (can anyone say "short-circuit"?). The roof slopes into the observatory, however. It was designed this way so that the it wouldn't block the telescope from looking east. But this does mean that water condensing out of the atmosphere onto the roof, provides a slow, but steady, trickle into the observatory all along the width on the roof. To cure this problem, the roofing felt was lifted at this end of the roof, a 0.5-inch square strip of wood was placed along the width of the roof (the strip tapers downwards at the edges of the roof) and the roofing felt placed back in position. The net effect is that there is now a lip on the bottom edge of the roof that traps runoff water and directs it safely off the sides of the roof into the garden.

The almost finished observatory - most of the cladding is in place and one wall has been stained with a redwood wood preservative

Squeaky Door: Damp conditions on Winter nights tend to make wood swell slightly. The outcome of this was that while the observatory door was relatively silent to open at the beginning of an observing session, it sounded like something from a bad horror movie at the end of the night. Not something appreciated by the neighbours. This was cured by sanding the saddle board beneath the door and liberally rubbing candle wax into it. Viola, a silent door.

Squeaky Rails: The rails began to suffer the same problem as the door as Winter wore on. Opening the roof was, again, relatively silent, but the noise coming from the closing roof made me think of a hyperactive clown doing a balloon animal act. Once again, candle wax was pressed into service and the clown had to find another venue.


Despite having limited woodworking skills and no real experience of building, this project, designed from the ground up, was completed in 12-14 weekends (about 3 months). The hurdles I had to overcome were all pretty minor and, had I been more experienced, I could have forestalled their introduction.

I now have a fully working observatory which allows me to pop out and almost immediately start observing when there's a clear patch of sky. It's also a boon where astrophotography and CCD imaging are concerned. As the saying goes: If I can do it, anybody can!

However, had I known about the SkyShed observatory plans when I embarked on this project, I'd probably have goen for those and built a professionally designed observatory. Still, what I thought was a rickety shack has withstood several years worth of winter storms and still seems as solid as the day it was build (much to my surprise!).

In conclusion, I'd like to give my thanks to all my buddies who lent a hand during various phases of construction.

Some Images Taken Using the Observatory

M51: Prime focus images through a Vixen VC200L 8" reflector at f6.3 (using a focal reducer) using a Starlight Xpress MX516 CCD camera and STAR2000 tracking. Ten 5-minute exposures stacked.

M57: Prime focus image through a Vixen VC200L 8" reflector and a Starlight Xpress MX516 CCD camera. Sum of a 30 20-sec exposures (overall 10min exposure).

Books About Observatories:

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6
SkyShed Backyard Observatory Building Plans
SkyShed Building Plans Lite Version

Home Observatory Videos:

[tubepress mode="tag" tagValue="amateur astronomy observatory"]

Products on Overstock:


Filed under: Astronomy Articles