Astro Sky 10" f/6
I will try to make this a fair evaluation showing both the strong and weak areas of the structure.
There are some pre qualifiers that I think should be mentioned to give proper perspective.
This scope was delivered and returned by a customer because they were not happy with the structure due to issues with the finish and other items not listed. When returned it was damaged in transport, which required some disassembly and replacement of panels before it was shipped to me. I did not send the optics so the scope was not tested before it was shipped. I agreed to accept the scope as the replacement for an earlier version of the 10” f/6 structure. This was an agreement between Astro Sky and myself that rectified some problems with the original structure that had to do with weight and balance issues and the structure needed modification to make the f/6 work properly. It was built in December of 2005 and was not painted with the new system and the plywood and materials were not the same, as the new scopes will use for the structure. So it is possibly not quite as good as the new ones will be.
The hurricane caused many problems at the time of manufacture and his attention was divided between fixing his home and building scopes. Delays in delivery and production caused scopes to be finished behind schedule, which forced James to hurry in construction and this was not good and led to less than stellar work.
My replacement scope kept falling behind because there were scopes that were ordered that were not completed and I accepted a later delivery to allow him to catch up. When this scope was returned it was a way of getting the structure I was owed and letting James get back on schedule.
Here are the positive remarks for the review of the delivered package.
The scope arrived in 3 boxes and each was well packed with bubble wrap and foam rubber. I feel the packing was very good and deserved recognition because of the improvement that was made in this regard.
Upon unpacking I noted that the finish was improved over the first scope as far as the Urethane and coverage and overall appearance was concerned. Also noted were the changes and improvements made that we discussed over the last 7 months. Many of which made the design a better unit. Some of the scope parts looked quite good, while others were not as well done. I will begin with the positive and then move to the negative factors.
The UTA looked nice and the bicycle quick clamps and mounts looked properly finished and mounted. The equipment worked well and assembled quickly.
The finish on the Mirror Box was good without runs or real roughness and was well sealed with Urethane.
The Rocker Box had a good finish, except for the floor of the box, which was somewhat rough in texture due to spraying or insufficient sanding and preparation, but not bad.
The mirror cell was well made and mounted and worked well to hold the mirror and was powder coated for a nice finish.
The spider was properly mounted and was blacked out properly, as was the inside of the UTA.
Nice hockey puck feet and custom AZ bearings (my design) made the ground board work well and movement was smooth and steady. The larger size of the ground board made the scope more stable and less likely to tip. The original needed foot extensions to improve this.
The balance of the scope was much improved and no counter balance was required.
These are the weak points, which I will list in order of magnitude.
The Alt Bearing wheels were not both mounted on center and square, causing the mirror box to ride in the Rocker Box saddles cocked to one side. This required removing one side bearing and filling the screw holes and remounting the wheel. Then the Mirror Box moved in the Rocker Box without undue rubbing on one side. The fit was now good though the rocker box was still slightly out of square, possibly due to the replaced front panel.
One of the bearings had the Ebony Star coming unglued and I had to re glue about 8” of it and fill a few gaps with supper glue on it and the other wheel. Too little glue was used and it came loose. This is something that James can correct easily with the proper application of glue. Once re glued the Ebony Star was smooth and worked as intended.
The focuser board was replaced because of shipping damage and it was not leveled, which required me to shim one side of the focuser by .060” (1/16”) to align it to the secondary. I could have disassembled the UTA and remounted the board, but felt it was more work than shimming the focuser. Not a huge amount of error and he had no way to test it without optics. But I mention it because it was another thing that required attention.
The ground board edge was very rough. The wood had chipped when routed and not enough sanding was done before the finish was applied. I removed it and sanded it all smooth and refinished the edge. This was the worst of the finish problems to me. Though it is below the scope, it is visible and should not lack a good finish. I asked whether he had used a dull bit, but he said that he thought it was the wood and that he had attempted to sand it but had not spent enough time on it. I agree, not enough time sanding. He stated that he has now purchased better plywood for future ground boards.
The mirror cover edge was also very rough on the circle and I sanded and beveled the edge until the chips were gone and then refinished the whole cover so that it matched. Another issue that the original customer had been displeased with at time of delivery and to me a real distraction when making a first inspection of the scope.
The screws shipped for mounting the Alt bearing wheels were not all the same length and 4 of them were ½” too long, which I did not catch before putting one though to the outside surface. This caused a small spot, which I could not repair completely, but fortunately it does not show unless you know it is there and look for it.
Partially my fault, I should have checked them, but I did assume they were all the correct length. A lack of quality control and checking of things before shipping that could be easily corrected. To bad that it slipped past because it too was a negative toward the review.
Some of these problems were probably a result of the repair of shipping damage, but should have been addressed before delivery in my opinion. I do understand that James was under a lot of pressure due to his trying to fix his house after the hurricane and trying to get caught up on customer orders. This is not an excuse really, but I do understand his situation.
This is to review the completed structure after correcting the problems
Now that I have fixed all of these things, the scope is finished and ready to use. It moves very nicely, with good balance, which was one of the issues with the first structure. It looks nice and the design is solid as well as being proper for an f/6 scope. The Mirror Box and Rocker Box were redesigned to address balance and this was a success.
The addition of alignment dowels on the upper truss quick disconnects (my idea) are also a good addition and work well.
The mirror cell was pretty easy to set up and adjust the sling and supports. It is easily removed with only 4 bolts and wing nuts. I did make new mirror clips, but the ones that come with it are functional, I just like a different style of clip.
The weight of the scope appears to be about 60 lbs or slightly less. It assembles quickly and is solid after assembly is complete. The symmetry is nice and the overall look is pleasing.
Collimation showed perfect alignment of the optical train, with the secondary shadow being perfectly centered in the laser holographic grid. The scope held collimation through out the entire movement from horizon to zenith, showing the structure to be free of flexure. The mirror cell collimation bolts are easy to reach and adjust quickly.
The mirror box is oversized and this means a lot of space to aid quick cooling and mounting of fans. There was a small 60mm fan with switch and 9v battery that came with the scope. I added an upper fan and converted the system to 12v for better cooling.
As it stands now the scope appears to be pretty nice. It moves very well with little effort and no sticking or roughness. The size is compact and it stacks well when disassembled. The hardware parts used were of high quality and were installed properly. It is comfortable to use and the height is great for a sit down scope or for a person that is not tall. This makes it great for the wife.
Using the scope for the first time I was able to check out the mount for error with the DSC and the accuracy was good. The movement was smooth and I was able to track objects without a problem, even at zenith. The scope held collimation well and did not change when it was moved or bounced around. The scope was stable and was not subject to tipping. The vibration was well dampened and was at a minimum.
Additionally, I found the Destiny 1800 curved spider to work well with no spikes at all in the view. There did appear to be a slight halo around bright objects, but I could not be sure that this was not atmosphere related, as there had been thin clouds before dark. I will test it under different conditions and this should prove whether the spider vanes are responsible. The images were good, but the optics were proven Zambuto quality, so I expected this.
In conclusion I make these final statements.
Though there were issues with the scope I like the way it looks and works now that I addressed these problems. The cost was reasonable, so I try to keep this in mind when rating the scope for value. If there had not been these issues then it would have rated a bit higher because it was not a truly expensive structure. To be fair, I have to say it fell short of excellent due to the above problems.
The problems took a good rating to a fair one and to some it might have been worse. If you are not willing or able to do a little tweaking, then these problems are certainly not desirable. When these problems are fixed, the scope would receive a good to very good rating perhaps. But with the problems I would have to say, not great so a fair rating is my opinion..
This scope as received would not have been acceptable to some. I would not expect anyone to have to repair a scope that was just delivered as new, so I could understand a less than satisfactory rating. I would like to give it a higher rating because it has merit and with a little work is a pretty nice scope. But, what do you do when you have these things to deal with and then give a rating?
I am going to do this. I think that James at Astro Sky is trying hard to please his customers and is striving to improve and refine his scopes and designs. He is implementing changes right now that may eliminate many of these issues. Better wood, a new person to do the finishing of the scopes, new revisions to designs that should improve the scopes and more time to work on the scopes with less rushing. All of these have the potential to turn around the lack of detail and hurried assembly that has caused these problems and situations.
I wish him luck on this endeavor. I like him personally and through talks with him am convinced that he will do better. He is already making a replacement for the rocker box for me and will make sure that it is correct and since it will not be a repaired unit, I am sure it will be properly made. This will help to correct the problem, but will not affect the review. I felt that it should be included so that all would understand that the scope is being made right in the end or at least an attempt is being made.
So, in conclusion, I think that the Astro Sky scopes have merit and if there is improvement in quality control, they could be a good deal and a nice addition to the family of scopes. Time will tell if these issues are addressed and the next few scopes should tell the tale. I hope that the next review will show some real progress has been made toward correcting these issues.
To those that have scopes on order, I would ask you to wait for delivery to make your own observations and conclusions. It is very possible that your scopes will be much better in all these areas. I have talked with James and discussed at length what needs to be done and he has stated that he will not give up until he has his scopes at 100%.
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