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Making Your Own Telescope (Dover Books on Astronomy) Paperback – September 22, 2011
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There are three types of information in any book written by an artist: history of how their art developed in space and time, their perspectives on the artistic process, and a discussion of their tools and materials.
Taking the history first, Thompson reveals a great deal of otherwise difficult to find knowledge about the development of telescopes in general and amateur telescopes in specific. Why do we make reflecting rather than refracting scopes? Why do we make glass mirrors instead of metal ones? Why don't some of the classical telescope designs work for the amateur? The introduction is very good and he takes the time to give a fairly complete story.
Likewise, Thompson's discussion of his process is very good. He simplifies and explains the decisions one makes in producing a telescope and more importantly, the decisions one makes in setting up the tooling to make the telescope. He gives sufficient detail so that one can actually walk through his process and see why and how the parts fit together. Reading this book may be the closest the reader will come to building a telescope without actually doing so.
Now the relatively weak area: Suppose we found a book on novel writing by a mid 20th century writer. We'd naturally realize the technology has changed and read and enjoy their perspectives on what brand of manual typewriter ribbon is best and the way to insert a carbon paper between pages. So it is with this book.
It was written before the invention of the LED so his Foucault tester uses a light bulb and pinhole, and his math is used for a fixed-source device. So what? The principles apply, and if you happen to not be able to afford the extra dollars to build a Stellafane style Foucault device his design will work. It was written before Zip codes and most of the suppliers have disappeared. So what? It takes just a few minutes to run an online search to find others. The specific names and sizes of grit available on the market may have changed. So what? Pitch is now available pre-measured. So what? Thompson's writing style is interesting and readable. It is my strongly held contention that his presentation of even this outdated information is interesting and provides the reader a free perspective about what has changed in the world, not all for the good.
Of course one does not want to just use a single reference unless they must. Here are a few more good ones:
Amateur Telescope Making : Books 1, 2, and 3, Complete in 3 Volumes
How to Make a Telescope