Building a Shed/Observatory in 5 minutes

The one upside of the last few weeks abysmal lack of astro friendly weather is that I’ve finally had the opportunity to put together the time-lapse videos from my shed project. OK- It’s only 5 minutes with the help of time-lapse video- but it was quite a quick build when I actually got the chance to work on it.

One evening last May there was a unanimous perfect forecast from different weather apps and I dutifully set all the gear up for some imaging. Just as we were getting to darkness a thick bank of cloud rolled in. As it was not forecast, I decided to hang on for the sky to clear, and instead spent the next hour looking round the garden working out how I could have a more permanent set up with all of the advantages it gives. And no- the sky didn’t clear that night…

Looking about the internet there are some amazing creations- both home-made and purchased- but these were all well beyond my available resources for this project in either time or money. Besides keeping costs down, I wanted the following:

–          Really small footprint.

–          I didn’t want it to look like an observatory (which is much too grand a word anyway for this shed).

–          If I wanted to bring my mount out to a club evening or dark site, I didn’t want it to be any more hassle than taking the mount and scope out of the garage is.

So:

–          I used an 7’x5’ apex shed design. This has the disadvantage of limiting the view where the apexes are- but my views are restricted in those directions anyway- and with the smaller roof panels I can move them manually and drop them down the side walls.

–          Upside-down guttering is used to seal the gap at the top between the panels.

–          No pier- the tripod sits on bricks that come through the shed floor so I don’t cause vibrations when I’m walking around.

–          The roof panels slide off on fixed castors fitted to the shed walls (although in practice the tower bolts catch on the sides and it’s more of a lift than a slide).

–          The electrics are in a ventilated plastic storage box to keep them away from moisture. I run an outdoor cable from the garage when it’s in use. I’m using a Nevada power supply which has been a lot less hassle than using a battery, and I can’t prove it, but I think the mount is running better.

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with it- it only takes a couple of minutes to open the roof, the polar alignment seems to be pretty much spot on each time I check it (despite not having a pier) and my setup time to when I start the first sub has dropped from an hour to around twenty minutes or so. Most of this time is to align, frame and focus.

The shed came from Tiger Sheds and seems to be of reasonable quality. The weight of the roof panels was heavier than I had expected (when I was checking out the design I didn’t allow for the weight of the roof felt- blimey it’s heavy!!!) and I was thinking about ways to overcome this. But I’ve got used to the technique to move the panels, and it has stood up really well to some very wet and windy weather over the last few weeks. For now I’m inclined to leave it as it is. It’s also pretty snug in there. I never intended to use it for observing, but if I ever changed my mind about that I’d probably need to start again because space around the scope is pretty limited and alignment often involves a short stepladder and hanging off walls…

It will just about take a 1200mm Newt OTA, but with that one it is really cosy.

It isn’t quite finished yet- I’m in the process of adding some shelving, I need to improve the ventilation (I’m looking into solar powered fans, but failing that I’ll just put some vents in) and I need to lag the walls to help keep the temperature more stable.

So, if anyone is thinking about a more permanent setup, but is concerned about the cost and effort involved, it needn’t be an architectural masterpiece. The basic shed was £320 and with the materials for the base and other odds and sods I’m probably a little north of £500 for the whole project. Which will hopefully allow me to be a little more spontaneous with imaging. Or at least have wasted less time when ‘secret’ clouds come rolling in…

Hope you enjoy the video (speaking of which- this was partly put together with Videopad as recommended at a RAG meeting earlier in the year- I can second that recommendation! 😊).

6 Responses

  1. This is very impressive and your hard work over a very hot summer seems to have paid off. I would like to a bit more about how the roof panels ‘slide’ and held into place when ‘up’.
    Talking about the weight of the roof panels, I have recently covered 2 shed roofs and a log store with corrugated bitumen panels from Wickes as an alternative to felt. They can be used as the roof structure if supported/stiffened adequately which may be lighter than a wooden/felt panel. With the scope in the video it does look very ‘snug’ and I wonder how you rotate the tube and manouvre yourself around it? Well done and thanks for an entertaining video.

    1. Thanks Paul.
      The way the shed is designed, each of the roof panels has a beam that runs the length of the roof and hooks over the end of the shed- I’ll add a picture to the post to show it. You’re meant to nail it in place, but I’ve used tower bolts to secure it- it seems to hold quite well. Unfortunately, those bolts stop the roof sliding on the castors, so it’s more of a lift than a slide at the moment! I might make some runners to make this easier.

      To align the scope is a bit tricky. I’ve bought a short stepladder, and standing on the top of that and hanging onto the walls enables me to see into the scope at most angles. Not elegant, but it works!

Leave a Reply