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Frequently Asked Questions
A concrete pier is massive, stable and reduces vibrations to a minimum. It is also easy to build using common materials from any home construction center including the Sonotube which is a cardboard-like form used to build concrete columns. It is also economical to build especially if one is willing to provide the manual labor!
A concrete pier can be the center piece of an observatory or open to the sky in a garden setting. To reduce the wife-thinks-you're-a-nerd factor you could put a sundial, windsock or sculpture on the pier when not observing.
A single plate design only requires one set of adjustments for leveling. In addition, the use of three mounting bolts instead of four speeds up the leveling process without affecting stability.
The anchor bolts, nuts and washers required to mount the Pier Top Plate to the concrete pier are available from Dan's Pier Top Plates as well as hardware dealers such as McMaster Carr. This hardware should be stainless steel only as this will withstand the elements without rusting for many years. The parts needed are included in the assembly diagrams next to each product on the products pages.
Building an 8" pier for smaller telescopes
8" Pier Top Plate Questions
Yes. The adapter plates are meant to attach to either the 8" or the 12" pier top plates.
Yes. The 8" pier plates consist of stacked plates with fixed aluminum standoffs and fixed-length fasteners. Once the two plates are bolted together they act as a single plate with only one set of anchor bolt adjustments.
It depends on the height of the pier as well as the diameter. A 4' high pier will have less vibration than an 8' tall pier. In almost every case however, a well built concrete pier will perform better than the tripod that came with your telescope.
We recommend telescopes of up to 8" diameter optics for an 8" pier, but larger telescopes could certainly be used in alt-az mode or with fewer accessories. The pier plates and hardware will carry much more weight than you will likely be able to place on them, so the real limiting factor is vibration.
In addition, there is no reason why you couldn't mount an 8" pier top plate to a 10" or 12" concrete pier. Keep in mind however that the mounting hardware and spacing is different for the 8" pier plate and the 12" pier plates, so it wouldn't be possible to upgrade from one system to the other using the same anchor bolts.
12" Pier Top Plate Questions
We normally supply shoulder bolts to attach adapter plates to the 12" pier top plate. You can see that illustrated here. The shoulder bolt only needs 2-3 turns to tighten which will provide plenty of gripping power.
The head of the shoulder bolt, however, will not snug up against the bottom of the pier plate. It doesn't need to since it uses the shoulder for leverage.
As you can imagine, the market for telescope pier plates is very small. In addition we build a wide variety of different parts, all in small quantities. So we build all of our products to order. Each order goes into our queue and we'll do our best to ship whithin our stated lead time. Feel free to contact us (email preferred) anytime in regards to the status of your order.
If you order a combo from us that includes the anchor bolt kit, we can send that to you early (no extra charge in the USA), so that you can start working on your pier while you wait for the pier plate(s) to be made. There are diagrams on our Pictures/PDF's page that will help you to do that. When you place the order, leave us a note or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like us to do that.
If the anchor bolts are slightly out of alignment with the pier plate slots, they can be nudged into place by putting a block of wood against an anchor bolt and striking it with a hammer or hand sledge. It sounds worse than it really is, but it works because the stainless steel is somewhat malleable. Just make sure that the concrete pier is fully cured before attempting it.