It’s not as hard as you think, and to be honest many have already done it for science projects in school. If kids can do it, then what is stopping you from doing it with regular household items? This non-complicated process will allow you to build a Galilean telescope that maxes out at about 9x magnification, good enough for basic daily needs. It is a good starting point, and if you really want to take the lesson from this article, you can easily built a telescope that is 2-3 times more powerful than this. It’s all about time, quality of materials and your overall patience.
Don’t think for a second that this will require $1700 worth of materials. It only takes 3 simple items to make a telescope this basic, with the most expensive being the lenses. Your lens choice will make all the difference in the world, so choose wisely. For the telescope tube, you want to purchase a cardboard telescoping mailing tube. Now this isn’t the run of the mill tube you would find after emptying your paper towel holder, but a stronger more specialized tube. Try not to mix up the two as it makes a big difference, and is second in priority only to the lenses. The length should be about 1,100mm and the diameter should be 50mm.
For the lenses you’re looking at either concave-convex lens of 49mm or plano-concave lens of 49mm. There really isn’t a preference when choosing between these two, you just have to be sure not to cheap out since it is the most important part of building your own scope. A bad lens means that the image won’t be crisp and will instead come out blurry. A blurry image that you can’t make out means wasted time for you, and with the materials bought wasted money. This can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it!
In order to get things down to size the tools you’ll need are a box cutter, a coping saw and a drill. If you are underage make sure to have parental supervision when using these tools as they can be very dangerous. If you don’t have a drill available then you can substitute it with an electrician’s punch, which will more or less do the same thing in this particular project.
Paying close attention to the telescoping mailing tube, you want to take notice of the inner and the outer tube. You want to cut exactly two pieces from the inner tube that are about 1 to 1.5 inches for creating spacers for the objective lens. Getting a straight cut that goes through is vital for stability, which is why the coping saw is recommended for this portion.
On the outer tube there is a removable cap that will function as the eyehole. The drill is used to create a small hole in the center of the cap, making sure to keep the cut smooth. This is a vital step as you don’t want to have your eye get poked by sharp plastic!
Using glue press one lens in on the end, and when that dries repeat for the other side. When everything dries out try it out and see just how good of a job you did. If everything is set up properly, you should have your first working telescope!
Why Would You?
A better question would be why not? Using your imagination and a few things around the house you can experiment with the very basics of a telescope and its features. It is a fun way to learn how telescopes work from the ground up, and a quick way to figure out if stargazing is something you want to be interested in. It should be noted that the more complex telescopes that are built with stuff from around the house are gigantic and can easily cost close to 2 grand total once fully built.
This is for the serious DIY’er, and is not something that is common from everyday enthusiasts. A DIY telescope of this size and magnitude rivals the retail versions. While the one you created from this article won’t be able to see the craters of the moon, it serves as a good base for creating your own telescope. You can create something really powerful if you have the right materials lying around the house, and of course the time to make it happen.
So why not try? As shown previously it is very easy to make your own telescope within a very short amount of time, and with very few materials. It is an uncomplicated process that can be as involved as you need it to be in order to get that perfect result. If you do end up building a giant telescope, make sure you do it right the first time!