Last updated: 12 March 2010
I get emails asking how something should be put back together following a disassembly. Whether it is an eyepiece, a finderscope, a telescope, or a handcontroller, it is easy to assume that what comes apart easily will go back together just as easily. And of course, you will remember what steps you took during the disassembly so there will be no chance that you'll forget the order or placement of components. But then the phone rings, the cat runs off with a cable, or something else interrupts you. When you resume, you can't remember what goes where! Egads. Now what? Of course, you ask for help. No harm in that. But with some simple steps along the way you could have avoided some moments of panic and concern, and yes, embarrassment.
This short article will offer you some things to think about BEFORE you start disassembling that expensive item and possibly ruining it in the process, things to do during the disassembly, things to after the disassembly, and then things to do to re-assemble the item. These steps should be followed no matter how big or little you think the job is.
0. Be certain you have a good reason to disassemble the item. Just because you think something MIGHT be wrong, that is not a good reason to take something apart, only to end up MAKING something wrong in the process. Confirm the problem first by testing and/or asking questions of other telescope owners or your dealer.
1. Allow enough time to finish the job before you even start on it. Never start a disassembly unless you are certain you can complete the entire job, including the re-assembly, uninterrupted. And don't assume it will be a simple task, taking only a few minutes. If you think it is minutes, allow an hour. If you think it will take an hour, allow 3 hours.
2. Make enough room in your work area. You don't want to have to put items you remove on other tables, or put them where you can't easily see them (and then forget about them), and you don't want to have to put items removed on top of each other. Be neat. Set aside locations for tools, small parts, large parts, documentation (disassembly instructions, if any), and items you'll use to document what you are doing (see #5 below).
3. Collect all the tools and other items you think you might need before starting the disassembly. These can include pliers, screwdrivers, hex keys, clamps, flashlight, pen, paper, camera, containers to hold small parts, magnifying glass, assistant, etc.
4. Some of the extra time allowed will be for documenting what you are doing. Even the simplest jobs can benefit from documenting the steps you perform when disassembling something. It will force you to take your time and think about what you are doing. Plus you'll have a record of what you did, what items were removed in what order, and any difficulties along the way. Then when you are ready to re-assemble the item, you'll have a guide to help you. And if you do get interrupted, you will know where you left off and you'll have a memory aid to assist you during the re-assembly with what goes where and in what order. And if you need to repeat the disassembly/re-assembly again in the future, you'll have a handy guide for use at that time. It can also be distributed to others to help them when they want to disassemble/re-assemble the same item.
5. So, how do you document what you are doing? There are many possible solutions. Having an assistant do the documentation can be a great help.
6. During the disassembly, go slowly and cautiously. Study the item before you touch a tool to it. Document, document, document. Be certain you understand the effects of what you are doing BEFORE you do it. Are you loosening the right screw? Is there a risk of scratching the lens surface or breaking a wire? If working with electrically powered components, triple-check that the power source is removed and the item de-energized. If an extra hand (or clamp) would help, use it. And, yes, document, document, document.
7. Now that the item is disassembled, re-check your documentation. Is it complete? Is it understandable? If you missed any steps, get them documented now as best you can. If something isn't clear, add some explanations. But don't try to improve the documentation by adding things you aren't sure of; you can easily create confusion or add something that is wrong.
8. With the item disassembled and your documentation completed, you can now do whatever it is that made you disassemble the item in the first place. (You did have a good reason to disassemble it, didn't you?)
9. To re-assemble the item, first go through your disassembly documentation. Look at your notes, drawings, photos, and/or video, and/or listen to your audio recording. If some time has elapsed since you did the disassembly, be certain you re-check steps #1, #2, and #3 above. They are applicable to the re-assembly too. As with the disassembly, go slowly and cautiously. Study the item before you touch a tool to it. Re-review your documentation. Be certain you understand the effects of what you are doing BEFORE you do it. Do you have the right screw? Is there a risk of scratching the lens surface or breaking a wire? If working with electrically powered components, triple-check that the power source is removed and the item de-energized. If an extra hand (or clamp) would help, use it. And, yes, document, document, document. By that, I mean that you should document any problems you experience during the re-assembly. Do you have to hold something in a certain way to be able to insert a screw? Do you have to hold something out of the way to insert something else? Note any extra steps that you have to perform.
10. With the item now re-assembled, you will want to do an "ops check" to check that it operates (or performs) as it should. If an electrical component was worked on, you'll need to do a "smoke test". After you apply power, check for smoke, abnormal smell, sparks, or strange behavior of the item. If you experience of any these, immediately remove the power. If the item doesn't perform as expected, go back through your documentation and see if you might have missed any steps, did something out-of-order, or did something wrong during the re-assembly. If necessary, you may have to repeat the disassembly and re-assembly. You may have to replace damaged components. You might even have to send the item to a repair shop to deal with it. (You did have a good reason to start this whole thing, right?)
With your excellent planning, documentation, and skills, the ops check (or smoke test) came out good and you can congratulate yourself for a job well done!
If the documentation you made would assist other visitors to this Site, send it to me for posting on the Mighty ETX Site. Thanks!
Subject: re: DISASSEMBLY PROCEDURE Sent: Wednesday, March 10, 2010 22:16:43 From: richard seymour (email@example.com) That's a nice write-up. One procedure i use (*especially* when tearing into Apple PowerBooks) is to tape the screws (as they come out) onto a sketch of the device i'm disassembling. I use Scotch Magic Mending tape to hold the screws to the drawing, and cut them free as i proceed with the reassembly. have fun --dick
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