Focal Pointe Observatory
Astrophotography by Bob Franke

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Observatory Dome Assembly


After losing the dome for two weeks, Yellow Freight could not complete the delivery, because the local terminal did not have a big enough truck. Tri-City Towing, from Chino Valley, was able to get the "700 lb Box From Hell" to our house is less than two hours.  Click on the image to go to Tri-City's home page.

The driver placed the box in front of the garage without the slightest bump.

There was just enough room in the small bay of our three car garage to do the pre-assembly. I drew a 10-foot diameter circle on the floor, and started the assembly.


Here’s the complete wall assembly, with one wall ring and the base ring on top. This was later broken down into three sections, plus the door, and carried out to the pad.


TI supplied a very handy template to locate the holes for the side and main rollers. 


The inside of the front shutter, showing the locking mechanism, the inside handle and a couple of pulley assemblies for the cable system.


The inside of the rear slot cover, showing the installation of the electric windlass.


The inside of the top shutter, showing the installation of the bar latches.


A close up of the installation of a J-Cable guide on the top shutter. This cable prevents the top shutter from blowing off when opening or closing in high winds.


The outside of the front shutter, showing the locking and grab handles.


The pre-assembly of two dome quadrants. C-clamps are necessary assembly tool, make sure you have plenty. I suggest having ten. This was broken down and reassembled at the observatory pad. Two people can install it, but three is better… two to lift and one to guide. Also, do this on a day with no wind.



A 1/2 inch hammer drill was used to bore the holes for the 3/8 inch RedHead wedge anchors. I drilled all the holes and then moved the dome walls back over the holes. The two black lines, extending from each hole, are guides to find the center of the holes when later drilling the bottom wall flange.


Large paper clips were used while adjusting the dome support ring diameter.


An electronic water level was used to level the walls.  This was a bit expensive, but it sure made the job easy.  Borrow one if you can.


After the two dome halves were erected and about half of the rear cover bolts were installed, a sudden thunderstorm rolled though. It hadn’t rained for weeks and now Mother Nature decided to provide 50-mph winds with heavy rain, hail and lightning. I stayed inside to hold the dome down, but it was doing just fine on its own. When the thunder got down to a 2-second time delay, I ran for the cover of the house. In just a 50-foot run I got completely soaked. The dome had no problem, even though it was only partially assembled.