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Hawaii with John Dobson Part 3: Squished pitch in the Hawaiian heat
by Jane Houston Jones 

     Well, now we had two telescopes completed.  I wanted a pitch lap pouring dress rehearsal Saturday before
         the kids arrived on Sunday morning.  Pour some pitch laps for some of the kids early.  Make sure everything worked, and train
         the helpers. That sort of thing. It’s a good thing we did the practice session, as boy did we ever had problems now!
         As if we hadn’t enough challenges getting materials to build the rockers.  We started by breaking up the 50 pound block
         of pitch a few days beforehand.  Smashing it to smithereens, and placing it in the coffee cans.  Between that day we broke
         it up and Saturday, the stuff  SOFTENED without any heat.  Glued itself back into one big misshapen glob the color of a Caffe
         Latte.  That’s a bad thing!  A very bad thing!  This pitch was too soft!  Or the heat and humidity were too much. Or
         a combination of both! We poured a practice lap on teacher Jim Pitt’s mirror and started polishing.  The grooves squished
         together in about 10 minutes of polishing!  So we all put on our thinking caps, and as it was raining cats and dogs over the
         volcano, we scuttled our Mauna Kea dark sky observing plans.  Bummer! That was the new moon Saturday night, too.  But Mauna
         Kea is a three hour drive from where we sat, and no one (except me of course) wanted to risk the weather. So I joined the
         thinkers instead.  I had a nearly all night observing session the previous night anyway. We poured an extra 10 laps on Saturday
         night, and pressed the F8 curves into them.These could be used when the students were waiting for their own squished lap to
         be repressed.   We decided to repress the grooves for the kids in an assembly line. And we decided to haul the 40 kids 100
         yards down the hill from the workshop to the little rental house for their pitch laps on Sunday morning. That way no messy
         pitch, hot plates (which no one remembered to get anyway) need to be transported in cars.Beginning at 9:10 AM until 10:19
         AM carload after carload of kids waited in line for John to pour their pitch lap on to their 6 inch tool, and press the mirror
         curve into it, press grooves we knew would disappear after moments of polishing. A chorus line of strong and hunky guys were
         given the duty of repressing the grooves with dowels, and repressing the curve onto the mirrors.  This happened about every
         10 minutes for every mirror. It was a real clever solution borne out of desperation.  Before resorting to this, we did try
         to find some rosin to harden the pitch.  Music stores, gymnastic clubs and boat builders were called to no avail. We didn’t
         have enough time to harden the pitch by cooking it longer either.  Extra dowels were procured for Sunday morning.Sunday morning
         the kids arrived from all over the Big Island of Hawaii, and transported down the hill for their pitch lap.  Three at a time,
         mirrors and tools were placed on a kitchen table, and pitch laps poured, grooves pressed and then cooled.Then the next three,
         and the next three.  It was an awesome thing to watch!  As soon as a carload was full of kids and pitch laps, off we went
         to the cultural center up the hill.  The wooden tables we used so successfully to grind the mirrors the previous Sunday could
         not be nailed into, to hold the mirror or tool as polishing took place.  That was the rule. no nailing on the tables.  Again
         simultaneously, a couple of us figured if we turned the tables upside down, drilled screws into the underside of the table
         no one would ever know.  This worked like a charm, and soon 40 mirrors were being polished.  From about 10 am till about 2PM
         those kids polished their mirrors.  It’s very hard work, and they all pooped out. Shoulder massages were given to the
         sore kids.  This should never have been a one day session, but the powers that be over there planned it as the only way to
         get all these kids from all over the island in one place for the program.  So by the end of the day a few mirrors were polished
         all the way to the edge, a couple mirrors read and fixed but most kids went home with a dowel and a little bag of cerium oxide
         to polish on their own. Of course to add insult to injury, it clouded up and rained, so we couldn't have read the mirrors
         by sun glint on a power pole insulator anyway. A few kids came over Monday and Tuesday and worked with John.  A few additiona
         lmirrors were completed before we left for home Wednesday the 23rd. And plans are underway to have smaller groups of kids
         get together and finish their mirrors before they are hauled up to the summit of Mauna Kea and coated in the Keck telescope
         aluminizing chamber. I guess I’ll have to go back for the first light!  I’ll never forget the adventures we had
         for 10 days on the big Island of Hawaii, and the 40 mirrors that will soon be turned into ambassadors to the universe.  And
         after 10 days in Hawaii, boy was I ever ready for a vacation.  A day later Mojo and I were off for a real vacation –this
         time to the other lowest point in the US, Florida with my trusty LITEBOXTelescope, Strider.  But that’s another tale.