What will hopefully be the final iteration of our new aluminum altitude bearings are here and installed on a new 18" F/3.6 that we are currently completing. We've got a powder coat that is actually Black this time, we've nixed the full write-out of "Teeter's Telescopes" and just went with our Two-Big-T's from our logo, we've moved the welds to the backside of the bearing, pushed the face of the bearing further toward the middle of the 1" bearing width which allowed us to use thinner "ribs" behind the face thus making these bearings lighter than the first prototypes. All positive modifications that, I think, make for a really sleek looking component.
Another real nice feature about these bearings is that they're not the typical 180-degree arcs that most other manufacturers use, they're roughly 184-degrees. What does that do for us? The silver "lug" you see is the connection point for an altitude encoder for digital setting circles and is affixed right to the bearing, which must sit exactly at the center of rotation of the bearing (imagine it as a full circle, not just the half circle). With 180-degree bearings that the other guys use, any connection for the encoder ends up hanging off the top of the bearing, which is not as stable/secure or as aesthetically pleasing as having the lug mounted flush with the bearing. It's a minor point, but when we designed these bearings we figured - why not do it better?
Further, the surface that actually rides on the Teflon pads is also powder coated, but with a wrinkle finish called "Silver Vein." That finish on the aluminum acts remarkably just like the old Ebony Star laminate material. Except now, that pebbled finish is baked right onto the aluminum, giving a super tough finish and surface, versus a laminate that is glued on and can chip, flake or crack and break.
Let us know your thoughts! More pictures to follow of the full scope once we get nearer to completion, but we have uploaded a few more of this scope in "transport" mode taken from different angles in the TT94 Gallery.
Many potential customers have clamoured that they would like our telescopes better if we included aluminum altitude bearings as standard equipment, like some of our competitors. The thought is that aluminum is lighter than the equivalent plywood bearing yet just as strong. We take every comment to heart and give them all consideration, but this request always felt like a change that would have very little impact, good or bad, on our product and was one that consistently got tabled. Then, we all but shelved this idea for good when we put out an RFQ for machine shops to produce cast aluminum altitude bearings and we got back quotes that were literally thousands of dollars for each mold (we use four different altitude bearing diameters, dependent upon the aperture of the scope, thus four different molds) and then several hundred dollars per bearing. Another option, doing the bearings out of solid 1" thickness aluminum plate, was just as costly and could never be worked into our scope prices.
But then while discussing this with our powder coater, Jim A. (pictured above) and his brother who works in a machine shop, we decided that the bearings could still be done out of aluminum, but using much thinner material for the face and the bearing surface itself. By using a series of what we're calling aluminum I-Beams behind the face of the bearing, we're essentially making a hollow aluminum bearing, which when welded and powder coated will look and be as strong as a solid aluminum bearing, but at a fraction of the price.
Since I've always got an eye toward the aesthetics and since we were employing a water jet to cut the individual pieces, we were able to work our "TT" logo onto the bearing. With the letters cutout all the way through the aluminum, when the bearing is mounted to the mirrorbox of the telescope the wood stain color will show through the letters, making them standout from the bearing itself. This should be quite eyecatching and will let others on the observing field know whose telescope you've purchased.
Pictured above is the prototype being fabricated for our personal 20" F/3.5 Truss-Dob. When finished, these bearings will be primed and powder coated with the same "Silver Vein" finish that we use on our STS tube assemblies. That includes the outside radius on which the Teflon rides for the altitude axis of the telescope. This powder coat has an uncanny similarity to the texture and finish of the Ebony Star laminate that was so popular for smooth telescope motions before it was discontinued by WilsonArt. Preliminary tests have shown what we are expecting, smooth motions from the powder coat riding on Teflon. The real tests will commence once we've mounted this first set of aluminum bearings on our 20". If all goes according to plan, unless specific customers have an objection, these aluminum bearings will become standard on all of our Truss-Dobs. The wooden bearings will still be an option.
More pictures and updates to come as the prototype nears completion.
Pictured above is TT1, the first Teeter's Telescope built for a customer. This scope was delivered in 2002 which makes 2012 our 10 year anniversary since we started marketing custom made wooden telescopes. Little did I know that 10 years after TT1 that our production log would be up to TT101 and STS18. What started as one Truss-Dob built for a customer who, with his 8" F/8 R.F. Royce primary mirror, had been told no one would build a scope around his mirror, we made a name for ourselves by filling a gap in the market for amateur astronomers who had "orphaned mirrors." These mirrors may have come our of EQ-mounted Newtonians that were observatory based, such as a couple 12.5" F/6 mirrors we transferred into our Truss-Dob structures. Other mirrors may have been commissioned as the "engines" for planetary scopes, such an 18" F/5.4 we built after the customer discovered no one would build a structure for that exact aperture and focal length. Had we not found that niche, its doubtful we would have as many unique and one of a kind scopes "under our belt." Going head-to-head with our biggest competition 10 years ago by offering similar scopes yet not having any name recognition would have proven fruitless. But by offering a product that they didn't offer, we became recognized as the company that would build that custom scope that no one else would. For that, we are most thankful. TT1 set us on the right path.
Thanks to everyone who put in a vote for us in our quest to win one of the $250,000 grants that Chase and LivingSocial have put together for deserving small businesses. We realize the chances are miniscule that we'll actually be selected, but like the title of this post indicates, my thought process has always been that if you want to have a chance of getting something, you can't sit idly by, "you've got to be in it to win it." After I first learned of this program, I figured what was there to lose? I completed the 6 essay questions which asked about the uniqueness of our company, the strength of our staff, our new business plan if awarded the grant and any barriers to growng our business. With the help of my wife, Heather, who holds an MBA in Marketing we were able to really pull together some good answers for the questions. Then the second piece to the puzzle was getting at least 250 votes from supporters of our business, which we were able to do in only 4 days time. We actually ended up with final tally of 314 votes, which topped most other businesses that signed up around the same time we did.
On or before September 15 Chase and LivingSocial will be announcing the twelve winners of the $250,000 "Mission: Small Business" grants. I'll be completely honest with everyone - I'm not holding my breath on this grant. We put together a great application, got more than the number of votes we needed and we believe Teeter's Telescopes has an appeal outside of our unique hobby, but SO MANY businesses applied that we may not be able to rise above the noise of everyone else. But stranger things have happened! If we are awarded the grant, expect some BIG things from us in the future. :-)