A Fishskin Covered Telescope-18th C.

These early 18th century telescopes were constructed of cardboard, brass and finished with fishskin for extraordinary durability. Measuring over six feet long, it was fitted with a five element optical system including a single lens objective. The lenses were difficult to grind on a large scale, but the long focal lengths gave powerful images. Pretty to look at, if you don’t get distracted.

Do No Harm

Do No Harm

Early telescopes are very susceptible to damage when under repair by the inexperienced “Antiquer”. Considerable thought should go into what the issues are in repairing, and an outline in how you are going to proceed should be written out.

A “simple” task like removing an 18th barrel from the swivel mount presents a number of challenges. The swivel mount bolt is tapered and is secured by a nut with a variety of configurations. The nut often has been slotted to allow a special wrench to remove it. Many mechanics reach for a water pump pliers and a rag, in the hopes of loosening the fastener without damaging it. Don’t even think about it. The parts are soft metal, brass or silver with delicate walls and radial configurations. The first task is to draw up a blue print of the wrench design, then turn and mill the tool from aluminum and steel. It can take several hours to produce the finished product, but as little as 15 seconds to use it. You cannot buy these tools, all of them are custom made and each telescope is different.

As a restorer, my responsibility is to not damage that telescope, and treat it as if I was the original maker.

This refractor telescope was built by Adams circa 1770, extending 58” at full draw and complete with a one piece tapered mahogany barrel. It is designed for use at a desk and stands 24” high. The telescope can be seen at lannangallery.com in Norwell, MA.

Repairing a Pair of Big Eyes

mount detailThis giant pair of binoculars from Lannan Ship Model Gallery was brought in to be fitted with a tripod and the optics realigned. This type of optical instrument became popular during World War II, and many different versions were produced. This is a D.F. 10 x 80 aluminum construction with coated optics.

If you are interested in purchasing this fine pair of Giant binoculars, go to Lannon Ship Model Gallery.

Mystic WoodenBoat Show

Mystic Seaport, June 30–July 2, 2017
Show Hours: 9:00am–5:00pm

Benjamin Pike Refractor, built in 1860, sold at Mystic WoodenBoat Show in 2016

Holtzapffel Rose Engine-1816

Skinner Auction offered this lathe on April 28 at their most recent sale in Marlborough. Have you ever come across those small ivory turnings looking like lost chess pieces at the flea market or antique shops, often with round heads, radial turnings and multi-piercings? This little foot peddle Ornamental turning lathe could have produced them. Made from polished brass and fruitwood with steel bearings, I could set it in motion with a twist of the wheel. Gazing down at the shinning gilt components and following through the working gear train I became completely lost as to where I was; time seemed to stop. It did not sell, but its little brother next to it did, at $140,000 and a less interesting 1865 time machine nearby went for $260,000.   Holtzapffel and Deyerlein 12 inch Rose Engine 3 detailHoltzapffel and Deyerlein 12 inch Rose Engine

The First Telescope

I can clearly remember, when I was 11 years old, wandering through a junk-shop in Kingston, New York, and coming across a small brass telescope, or part of one, actually. It had a 1” objective with three draws attached, all else was missing. It stayed on that shelf for 3 years, collecting dust with other pieces of odd and curious devices, while I dreamed about someday owning it. The summer heat and the smell of fresh mowed cut grass still brings back that memory, as that was how I saved the money, $10, to finally buy it.

Today I have bins of antique telescope pieces, parts and lenses of every sort. I have boxes of 6” glass objectives, hundreds of erector tubes, and thousands of lenses. I have 17th century parchment telescopes, giant brass refractors, wooden barreled spy glasses and binoculars that are four feet long from the mid 19th century. I went on to build a fairly large company that produced thousands of telescopes, employed hundreds of workers, fabricated all kinds of science instruments and sold optical devices all over the world.

And I still have that little telescope sitting in a box waiting to be reunited with its lost eyepieces.