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Amateur telescope making

Amateur telescope making is the activity of building telescopes as a hobby, as opposed to being a paid professional. Amateur telescope makers (sometimes called ATMs) build their instruments for personal enjoyment of a technical challenge, as a way to obtain an inexpensive or personally customized telescope, or as a research tool in the field of astronomy. Amateur telescope makers are usually a sub-group in the field of amateur astronomy.

Ever since Galileo took a Dutch invention and adapted it to astronomical use, astronomical telescope making has been an evolving discipline. Many astronomers after the time of Galileo built their own telescopes out of necessity, but the advent of amateurs in the field building telescopes for their own enjoyment and education seems to have come into prominence in the 20th century.

Before the advent of modern mass-produced telescopes the price of even a modest instrument was often beyond the means of an aspiring amateur astronomer. Building your own was the only economical method to obtain a suitable telescope for observing. There were many published works that helped spark an interest in building telescopes such as Irish telescope maker Rev. W. F. A. Ellison's 1920 book "The Amateur's Telescope".

In the United States in the early 1920s articles in Popular Astronomy by Russell W. Porter and in Scientific American by Albert G. Ingalls featuring Porter and the Springfield Telescope Makers helped expand interest in the hobby. There was so much public interest Ingalls began a regular column for Scientific American on the subject (spawning that publications The Amateur Scientist column) and later compiled into three books titled Amateur Telescope Making Vol. 1-3. These had a large readership of enthusiast (sometimes called "telescope nuts") constructing their own instruments. Between 1933 and 1990, Sky and Telescope magazine ran a regular column called "Gleanings for ATMs" edited by Earle Brown, Robert E. Cox & Roger Sinnott. The ready supply of surplus optical components after World War 2 and later Sputnik and the space race also greatly expanded the hobby.

Types of amateur built telescopes
  • Albert G. Ingalls (ed.), Amateur Telescope Making (Vols. 1–3). Orig. edition: Scientific American; new rearranged edition: Willmann-Bell Inc.
  • Allyn J. Thompson, Making Your Own Telescope, 1947, Sky Publishing, . (An online version)
  • Jean Texereau, How to Make a Telescope, Willmann-Bell,
  • David Harbour, Understanding Foucault, Netzari Press, , (
  • David Kriege, Richard Berry, The Dobsonian Telescope: A Practical Manual for Building Large Aperture Telescopes, 1997, Willmann-Bell,
  • Richard Berry, Build Your Own Telescope, Willmann-Bell,
  • Harrie Rutten, Martin van Venrooij, Telescope Optics, Evaluation and Design, Willmann-Bell,
  • Neal Eltinge Howard, Standard Handbook for Telescope Making (Hardcover), Harper & Row,
  • Albert Highe, Engineering, Design and Construction of Portable Newtonian Telescopes (Hardcover), Willmann-Bell,


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