Jim's telescopes: 1956, 1957, 2003


The photo below was taken on Oct. 7, 1956 of my first telescope, a 2-inch refractor. I was a high school senior.


My 8th grade science teacher, Mrs. Catherine Dale, was in charge of the high school science fairs while I was there. I made an exhibit every year, and when I was a senior (1956-57), she said if I ground a mirror and built a telescope I would win a first place at the Northwestern Indiana Regional Science Fair.

I ordered a "how to" book, ground and polished a 6" f/10 mirror, had it coated by metal evaporation, and built this reflector telescope - including the mount. To correct the mirror to within a millionth of an inch, you shine light from a pinhole on it, and in the reflected pinhole you slide a razor blade into it. The imperfections show up like hills and valleys. The equatorial mount was made from plumbing pipe. Since in Gary, Indiana we were almost at a lattitude of 45 degrees, a 45-degree elbow provided the polar axis.

Yes, I did win a first place at the state science fair at Purdue University.

Because I built this telescope, I got "in" with Clyde Tombaugh (discover of Pluto) and a job working for him at the New Mexico State University Observatory and Research Center. This is how I worked my way through college. Thank you, Mrs. Dale.

The two photos below are the only ones taken of the finished telescope, and taken with a cheap Brownie camera. Even with computer enhancement, they are still poor quality. Taken Spring, 1957.


Photos taken by classmate Dave Doughman for my science fair exhibit.

1. About Feb. 1, 1957. Rough and fine grinding.
2. Feb. 1957. Examining for pits.

3. Feb. 1957. Making pitch lap for polishing.


4. Feb. 1957. Polishing the mirror.


5. Mar. 1957. Testing for irregularites in the spherical surface of the mirror.


6. Mar. 1957. Aligning the optics.

1960's - MY 12" MIRROR

After grinding the 6" mirror, and during the summer before college, I bought a 12" mirror blank. The plan was to grind it and make a really big telescope. I did the grinding of the initial curve in my dorm room using an oil drum for a table. It was taking forever, and unlikely I would ever finish it. I sold the mirror blank to Clyde Tombaugh, who I was working for at the time, and he put me to work finishing the grinding! He had ground a 16" mirror so he was an expert. I took it all the way to the polishing stage, and he finished it from there.


46 years after grinding the 6" mirror... Retired... A store-bought 8" f/5 reflector telescope.
And I still have my star charts from 1957.

Photo taken Jan. 24, 2005