Review - Pier-Tech 1 Pier and Eyepiece Tray
Posted: 25 April 2016
Pier-Tech 1 Pier
Pier-Tech Eyepiece Tray
I had been planning to get a pier for my observatory for several years, even when I had the 8" LX200-ACF. Once I made the decision to upgrade to a 12" LX600 telescope I knew I would definitely need a pier due to the wide stance tripod that came with the LX600. My prior research on piers was combined with discussions with OPT on what would be required to support the 12" LX600 with X-Wedge and I decided on the Pier-Tech 1 from Pier-Tech.
Having made an eyepiece tray for my 8" telescope I knew that I wanted an eyepiece tray for the pier. While I could have modified my existing tray to fit the pier, I felt that the Pier-Tech Eyepiece Tray would satisfy my needs and look nice as well.
The final decisions to make on the pier were its height and where it would be installed inside the SkyShed POD. With the 12" LX600, X-Wedge, and Tripod in the POD I made the following measurements:
Top of tripod = 30-1/8" (adequate over the POD wall viewing of horizon)
Observatory door (on South) to wedge spacing = 22"
Eyepiece (on North) to wall spacing = 21"
Tripod North-South center aligned with East & West wall support South edge
With these measurements in mind, I initially determined the following:
Pier height = 28" (floor to top of mounting plate)
Center pier East-West
North-South center offset 4" to South of POD center
(POD user recommendations are 9-10 inches south of center but the PZT will compensate for having less)
The pier and eyepiece tray arrived in a large box:
(In the background of the photo above is the POD Zenith Table prepared for varnishing. Another of the Cassiopeia Observatory upgrades.)
Inside the double-boxed box were the parts, all foam wrapped with lots of tape, and a single printed pier installation instruction sheet:
This was the best wrapping of any product I've ever received. Excellent job Pier-Tech.
Here are the parts unwrapped. Left to right: pier, instruction sheet, bottom pier plate, studs/washers/nuts, and the eyepiece tray and its mounting bracket.
There are additional pier mounting instructions on the Pier-Tech web site.
This is the telescope mounting plate, with South at the top:
It is supposed to match the Meade X-Wedge but I had some initial doubts as the central wedge mounting hole was offset from the three wedge securing bolts. The X-Wedge has those holes equidistant from the central hole. I emailed Pier-Tech for a confirmation and heard back within minutes (on a Sunday). I was informed that the Pier-Tech pier does not use the central hole to hold the wedge, only the three other holes. I still wondered about the lack of a central mounting point for security and StarLock aided polar aligning. Pier-Tech is highly experienced with telescope mountings so I proceeded with my plans.
The pier and all the supplied parts are of excellent quality and finish. So I was a little surprised that the bottom side of the Eyepiece Tray was not finished:
When I began to mount the tray on the pier I discovered that this backing just peels off. Guess it was inadvertently left on at the shop.
Using my initial planned location for the pier I placed the bottom mounting plate on the observatory floor. Here you can see a string run from one side of the POD to the other side for North-South positioning and a tape measure for East-West centering:
I left the plate on the floor so that I could check its location during night use at the telescope. I confirmed that the 12" telescope and the StarLock could both view the Zenith with the dome moved onto the POD Zenith Table (PZT). I did some more measurements and decided that I could shift the pier center 1/2" towards the South from my previously determined position. That should allow a walking space of 21.5" from the POD door to the South side of the wedge and 21" from the StarLock telescope (at the Zenith) to the North POD wall. I had done those measurements with the dome open. When I checked with the dome closed I realized that I needed that extra 1/2" at the South side, so I decided to not add that. Recommendation for anyone installing a pier in an observatory: always check your measurements with the dome opened AND closed, especially if you have a clamshell style dome.
With the location confirmed installation of the pier could proceed. I contacted a local contractor, who we have used in the past at the house. He would do the drilling into the concrete pad for the pier mounting studs and secure the studs to the concrete pad using concrete-anchor epoxy.
A couple of days before the plate installation I came to a realization that I had goofed during the measurements. I used the central wedge mounting location as my measuring point. But since the pier top doesn't have its central hole centered between the wedge mounting holes, my measurements would have resulted in the pier being installed 5/8" too far to the North. Glad I discovered this prior to drilling the holes.
One day before the planned installation I began to wonder how deep the holes had to be drilled for the anchor studs. Nothing in the included or online documentation indicated how deep to drill or how deep the anchor studs should be inserted into the concrete. And of course, once inserted with the concrete-anchor epoxy it would be nearly impossible to reposition the anchors if the holes were too deep. So I assembled one corner of the mounting plate and pier bottom using a supplied 6" anchor stud, washers, and nuts. Allowing for some nut movement to level the pier I ended up with this:
Would having the studs only 1 inch into the concrete pad really be sufficient for the large 12" telescope? I fired off an email to Pier-Tech. A few minutes later Vito from Pier-Tech and I were on the phone discussing my concern. It turns out that the threaded studs they supply are to be flush with the plate bottom. I would need to purchase locally three anchor studs that go into the concrete and use different holes on the plate. I got three 3/8"x4-1/2" studs, washers, and nuts, and the concrete-anchor epoxy from a local hardware store for $14.
The next step in the pier installation process was to remove everything from the observatory (to avoid concrete dust from the drilling accumulating on everything). The contractor helped me unmount the 12" LX600 telescope from the tripod/wedge.
We then positioned the bottom plate where I had determined it needed to be and he drilled the holes for the anchor studs. The epoxy was applied to the holes. Once the anchor studs were inserted, the bottom plate was bolted down.
Drilling into the concrete pad turned out to be a major job for three holes. The contractor had to leave once to get new drill bits. Then had to leave a second time to get another drill as one hole could not be drilled deeper than 3/4" when they all needed to be 3.5". The drilling job took over three hours. This was a surprise as the concrete is fiber filled and there was no rebar used during construction of the observatory pad. I spent pretty much the entire day at the observatory moving stuff out, getting the plate installed, and then moving stuff back into the observatory!
I waited 24 hours for the epoxy to fully set. Then I moved the heavy pier to the observatory using a dolly:
The pier was mounted to the bottom plate using the four threaded studs, washers, and nuts supplied by Pier-Tech. I made certain the pier top was precisely level:
Next was the mounting of the wedge, but I ran into a glitch. The three holes on the pier top plate matched the slotted holes in the X-Wedge, but the threaded holes on the plate were slightly larger diameter than the bolts that were included with the wedge:
Consequently the bolts could not be tightened down. I immediately called Pier-Tech (late on a Friday evening) and actually reached someone. He was surprised that the holes in the plate did not match the bolts, but gave me bolt dimensions to purchase locally. Once I did that (the next day) the wedge was successfully attached:
The telescope was then mounted on the wedge, with some assistance from the wife and CFO, as seen in the photo at the top of the page. The next steps were to attach the Eyepiece Tray and route all the various wires to the telescope. I used Velcro to hold the telescope and camera AC adapters to the bottom of the pier:
I may look for some nice cable guides or ties for the wires running up to the telescope.
The final step was to polar align the wedge using the StarLock automated polar alignment. That was done the next clear night.
The Pier-Tech Eyepiece Tray (12"x12") holds fifteen 1.25" and five 2" eyepieces. I don't have 15 1.25" eyepieces but do have (currently) five 2" eyepieces (plus the 2" 2X PowerMate and a 2" DSLR camera adapter). So this tray is larger than I would need to hold all my eyepieces, but the extra unused space could be used to hold the AutoStar II handcontroller when not in use and other flat accessories (filters, iPhone, etc.).
Once I had determined the final location of the pier in the observatory I needed to see if the Eyepiece Tray would work for me where it would be attached to the pier. This photo shows the offset position of the tray when it would be attached on the North side of the pier:
There would not be any offset if the Eyepiece Tray were attached on the East or West side of the pier, but neither of those positions would work for me.
With the pier bottom mounting plate on the observatory floor, I placed the Eyepiece Tray on the floor next to the plate. I checked it offset to the left (East) and right (West), and decided that a right offset would work for me (photo shows a side view:
I confirmed the tray position at night and was OK with its position.
There were no instructions for mounting the Eyepiece Tray to the pier in the box or on their web site. I contacted Pier-Tech about that and received a response within minutes (on a Sunday). I was told that the small inserts first needed to be removed from the Eyepiece Tray block:
and placed in the slots on the pier. Once the pier was installed I attached the Eyepiece Tray. Here you can see the four inserts in the slots on the pier. The top left insert has been only partially inserted to show how to push the inserts in. The little red pieces of rubber are handles to slide the inserts up/down for positioning.
This is the tray block attached:
And the Eyepiece Tray on the pier:
The Eyepiece Tray is a very useful add-on. At 12"x12" it is certainly a large tray but it can hold a lot of my stuff:
I do wish there was a smaller size tray available however. Something like 12" wide by 6" deep that would hold 3 or 4 2" eyepieces and some number of 1.25" eyepieces would have been ideal for me.
I keep my eyepieces stored in drawers in the observatory when not in use during a session. With the new Eyepiece Tray holding so many eyepieces I began to wonder if I could just store all my eyepieces on the tray. With the typical dusty (and high pollen) conditions here in southern Arizona I knew that any eyepieces kept on the tray would have to be capped on both ends. While that is certainly doable as I've kept them capped in the drawers, I am considering making an enclosure for both the top and bottom of the eyepiece tray. The bottom enclosure would be permanently mounted (somehow) to the tray, with the top enclosure being removable. I will report back if I do make this add-on.
Initial Pier Use
The most obvious thing about having the pier in the observatory is how much more roomy the POD seems with it. I no longer have to step over the tripod legs or worry about me or others tripping on the legs. (During initial use I did find myself stepping over the no-longer-there tripod legs.)
The pier is stable, with any vibrations induced by tapping on the pier dampening out in a couple of seconds. No image vibrations have been seen from walking around the pier.
As mentioned earlier, I was concerned about the lack of central hole for securing the wedge. I had no difficulty with polar aligning when the tripod wedge bolts were loosened to allow movement in Azimuth. The wedge was still securely held. The LX600 StarLock aided Polar Drift Alignment worked perfectly. My concern about the lack of a central securing bolt was unwarranted.
The Eyepiece Tray is very convenient for holding eyepieces and some accessories. It was a great place to put the AutoStar handcontroller when not being used. The tray was stable, with no tendency to droop from the weight of eyepieces or accessories I stored there.
I am really excited by finally having my telescope on a pier in Cassiopeia Observatory, as seen in this fisheye lens photo:
The Pier-Tech 1 pier is definitely a high quality pier for large telescopes like my 12". There are no sharp edges on any of the pier or tray edges. The unfortunate lack of adequate documentation and templates will mean that you will have to do some extra work on your own to avoid making any mistakes. And this lack of documentation may result in your having questions. I do applaud and appreciate the rapid email responses and phone support I received from the company when I had questions.
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Copyright ©2016 Michael L. Weasner / firstname.lastname@example.org
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