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MAKE TELESCOPE TRAVEL CASES
Homemade cases for my 6" F/8 refractor, and 70mm F900mm refractor.
Case dimensions are 1'x1'x5', and 10"x10"x4' respectively.
If you have to travel with a carload of equipment to get to your favorite viewing site, you want it to be well protected to prevent damage. In my case, this involves a drive of almost 2 hours with the back of my pickup truck full. My eyepiece cases protected them, but I had a 6" refractor and mount to lug around. I needed hard cases that were strong enough to put lighter boxes and bags on top of to maximize space. I have seen hardshell cases advertised in magazines for 6" F/8 refractors, but they were expensive (over $300 U.S. plus shipping and handling over the border). They did look attractive, but didn't really have much cushion around the entire tube. I thought it would be better and cheaper to build one not only with more room for padding, but one that was
custom made for my scope.
I considered using material similar to a musical instrument case or some sort of hard sheet material, but I wanted something easy to work with that was cheap and readily available. I chose to use 1/4" plywood for the sides of the box, and would join the sides together with 1x2 strips along the inside of the box. I wanted the case to be large enough to hold my 6" F1200mm refractor and have sufficient room for foam padding on the bottom and around the sides of the tube, similar to the compartments in my eyepiece cases. I thought a case with exterior dimensions of 1' high, 1' wide and 5' long would be about right. This would give me plenty of room for 2 foam layers 4" thick, and the 1x2 wood strips holding the case together. I had the plywood cut by the staff at Home Depot on the giant machine mounted to the wall. The cuts were pretty accurate, and I could account for any variation easily enough during assembly. It also saved me a lot time, mess, and effort.
I started by drilling holes about 5" apart on the edges of the plywood so they would be in the center of the 1x2 strip inside the case. Making sure the strips were centered and the edge lined up with that of the plywood, I used clamps to secure them and drilled small pilot holes into the 1x2. To give the case added strength, I put a bead of carpenters glue between the 1x2 strips and the plywood when I screwed the pieces together. I scraped the excess glue off with a piece of cardboard and wiped it with a paper towel. I wasn't too concerned, as any glue on the inside would be covered by the foam. I did put a little extra care into the exterior edges.
I decided that the lid would be mounted flat on the top of the case to hide any end grain, and make sure the load was on the sides of the case and not the lid if anything was placed on top of it. It would be easy enough to put small 1x2 blocks on the inside of the lid to give the hinges something solid to screw into, but I needed a little meat on the bottom of the front of the lid to mount closing clasps to. I put a 1x2 strip underneath only the front of the lid, and altered the ends and front of the case so everything would line up smoothly when the lid was closed.
Note the 1x2 strips along the inside corners, and the latch edge of the lid.
I didn't need to do much sanding, as the plywood was smooth and the cuts were clean. I used a small handsaw to cut the 1x2 strips to length, and sanded the ends by hand. I used a sanding block to round all edges and corners of the shell of the case. I put 5 coats of satin Varathane on the case, and it looked great. The varathane has soaked into any exposed end grain and sealed it nicely. I used door hinges to mount the lid to the box, and trunk latches for the front of the lid. I put 4 large folding handles on the case for ease of transport; 1 on each end and another on opposing corners about 1/3 of the way from the ends on the sides. This would provide 2 handholds each when a friend was available, and the handles on opposite corners would make it easier to carry by myself.
The foam wasn't all that difficult to cut. I used a long thin exacto knife, and changed blades often to keep the cuts easy and clean. I cut 2 4" thick slabs to place in the case one on top of the other. I trimmed a strip 1"x2" wide along the entire bottom, and up the side edges of the first piece of foam so it would mold nicely into the case. I laid my telescope tube on top of the second piece of foam, centered it, and used a fine point marker to place a pattern of dots on the foam to outline it's shape. I then used a straight edge and the exacto knife to cut a pattern through the entire 4" of the foam. I cut enough out of the side corners of the foam to clear the 1x2 running up the corners of the case. This second layer of foam not only hid, but provided protection around the ends of the bolts holding the carrying handles to the outside of the box. The handles were slightly above the center of gravity of the full case to keep it balanced without being top heavy and prone to tipping
The bottom foam layer was trimmed along the edges to fit snugly between the 1x2 strips.
The top layer provides protection for the tube and keeps it from shifting in the case.
I had to cut a little out of the bottom layer of foam on one end to make a depression for the large dew shield to fit into. I deliberately cut the space for the tube a little narrow, which helps keep the scope from bouncing around inside the case. With 4" of protection on the bottom, and almost 3" along the sides extending over half way up the tube as it lies flat in the case, it is well protected. The case is strong enough to withstand transport without having screws work themselves loose, and is flat on top so objects stacked there won't fall off easily. I have used it for several years now, and it is fantastic.
The cases just before the top layer of foam is inserted.
Note the foam removed from the bottom layer for the dewcap and camera mounts on the rings.