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Hawaii with John Dobson 1998 - Part 2

Dumster diving with Dobson by Jane Houston Jones



If the first day was smooth sailing, and it was, the week in between the two kids sessions were anything but smooth! First, our host, Lutz Hoffman decided to run the Honolulu Marathon rather than participate in the first session with kids on Sunday the 13th of December, even though this was his project. He didn’t show up till Wednesday night! Nobody knew where he was – and we didn’t know the status of the rest of the project –all though we had a sinking feeling there was no status on the rest of the project. We spent an enjoyable Monday thru Tuesday morning at South Point enjoying the hospitality of Meteor Group Hawaii and Mauna Kea Astronomical Society President Paul and his wife Kathleen Sears. Paul is a big alternative energy user and consultant, with solar panels and a windmill powering his house and meteor observing /equipment shed. He also has lava tubes – three of them running thru his one hectare property. We picked fresh fruits and veggies from their massive garden, took my scope out for its furthest southern observing session to date –South Point is the most southerly point in the US at 19 degrees latitude! We hiked around the point, noting the geology, watched the sunset and hiked back to the car. That night we had lively conversation, interspersed with magnificent looks at Jupiter and Saturn thru the 9 Nagler at 202X thru my scope before it got DRENCHED in a sudden downpour. That’s Hawaii for you –dark clear skies one moment, rain the next. But as they say in Hawaii, no rainbows without rain. After this brief peaceful interlude, we plunged into telescope making. On the drive back from South Point we a stopped at the grocery store in Captain Cook. Captain Cook died and was, um eaten by the Hawaiians right here. Not at the grocery store, but nearby. One of the items necessary for pitch lap pouring for 40 mirrors is 7 empty three pound coffee cans, so I bought a big can of Maxwell House coffee for 6 bucks on the drive down, with all intentions of throwing away the coffee to use the can. Luckily Paul and Kathleen had TONS of them, and we drove back with our 7 cans. While in the grocery line I met an interesting fellow. I’m pretty outgoing at the grocery store, and when this really nice guy asked me if I was returning the coffee to buy some good Kona coffee, I said, no I was using the cans to make telescopes. Well he smiled and said “I’m a scientific optical glass maker and a glass blower”… “Have an observing platform, but no telescope yet. Maybe you can suggest scopes for me“ John was off in search for Dove Bars, but soon Cyrus, aka Cy, Wagner, scientific class blower and owner of Smoker’s Hardware (he makes certain kinds of smoking pipes, apparently), an only in Hawaii head shop he is franchising)discovered each other and were busily chatting away. John gave a talk with a slide show at his son’s elementary school a few days later. Cy came and helped with pitch lap Sunday too! I’ll be combining some excerpts from HAS VP Barry Peckham’s write up of the weekday adventures now. Barry joined us Tuesday thru Friday, Dec 15 thru 18for the telescope making part of the project. We picked up Barry at the airport on our way back from the South Point Tuesday the 15th. He arrived with rescue equipment, a box of $1000 worth of his own tools, rocker box sideboard and trunnion templates for cutting plywood parts for the scopes we needed to read some of the kids mirrors. He also brought a“gut full of anxiety.”We discovered that the donation of 20 plywood sheets had fallen thru. We discovered that Sonotube does not exist on Hawaii. We discovered that there were no parts of the project ready for us other than the mirrors, which was orchestrated from California! And an AWOL leader! So we dialed for plywood, sonotube, drainpipes, LP records, and the many parts needed to pull this project off. Then we found Trojan Hardware, managed by an amateur astronomer. She was really helpful in finding the bits and pieces we needed. Including a call to many plumbers to locate the little drainpipe pieces we use as focuser drawtubes. And she donated sandpaper, nails, screws. We shopped till we dropped getting glue, drill bits, cardboard mailing tubes and shingles. Next we embarked on a little dumpster diving. Most woodshops close up at4:00 p.m. so at 4:15 we were driving around Kailua-Kona’s light industrial park, looking in all the construction dumpsters. We found some wood, some laminate, and some teak, which we formed into pitch lap stirring sticks. It was pretty funny pulling up to the dumpsters, three car doors plus trunk flinging open and three of us dashing to the dumpsters! Looking in, grabbing stuff, stowing it in the trunk, hopping back in the car and off we went to the next dumpster at the next shop. That was our Tuesday. Wednesday morning Barry and I found a sympathetic woodshop. We dashed over and introduced ourselves. After looking us over and hearing our dilemma, they offered the use of their shop, tools, including a huge table saw the next day. Wednesday night by flashlight, we used Barry’s jig saw to cut the waterlogged plywood procured at a local lumber store. Water came squirting out of the wood onto Barry’s face from the wet wood as he cut rocker box pieces from the templates. We also took sunset beach walks and saw a green flash and my first look at Venus this season over the Kona Coast. And ate Thai food to help balance our hectic days. Telescopes came out at night of course, but that’s another story. Thursday the mounts were constructed at the local Kailua-Kona woodshop we found the day before, and the guys there gave wood scraps and let Barry use their fancy power tools. One 20 foot piece of Sonotube was located in Hilo, 80 miles away. At only $4.95 a FOOT, too! Luckily, they drove it over the Saddle Road between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa to the wood shop for free! Soon we had 5tubes. And two rocker boxes. The only ones working on these scopes were the three of us non residents. Telescope making is a lonely avocation! Friday the 18th. We made two tubes. Barry left for his twice monthly Molokai Ranch star parties. Shingles for the spider were attached to the dowels. Tailgates were screwed in, and the whole rocker boxes plus sonotube balanced with a leftover mirror. Now we were ready for the Pitch Lap Sunday. But that’s the next installment, Hawaii, Part 3: Squished pitch in the Hawaiian heat.

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