My Dad’s birthday was coming up and my sister wanted to get him something special. For their Christmas present to each other Mum and Dad had got themselves a telescope. They hardly used it as it was a big thing and they had to take it out of the house every time they wanted to use it. The solution was an observatory but after a brief look online they aren’t something that is easy to get hold off. Not too worry; during a particularly mundane exam I sketched out a design and sent it off to my brother, he critiqued certain aspects which were improved upon. Rob and I synced our calendars and organised a weekend we’d both be home.
The first job was to measure the base of the shed and work out exactly where the pivot should go. We wanted the structure to be as close to the wall/flower bed as possible to keep the garden neat but it couldn’t be so close that it couldn’t turn. With this worked out we started digging a shallow, circular hole. We made the hole slightly wider than the observatory’s shortest edge so there wouldn’t be any leaning in that direction, and any wobble in the length wise direction would be kept to a minimum, this was a very un-scientific decision making process.
With the hole dug we filled it with concrete, all the while ensuring the large galvanized bolt we bought was kept perfectly up right. The concrete was left to set overnight.
We started to modify the B&Q shed by cutting the wall furthest from the door in half. We then attached a couple of hinges so that the top half could bend out. We built the other shed walls up as per the instructions with the exception of an extra A-beam in the centre to give the side walls some extra support. At this stage we left the roof off.
Rob and I then started on different parts of the project. While I built an intermediate piece to sit between the shed and the pivot from marine plywood Rob drilled and nailed 100 nylon rollers to the concrete base from day one. I drilled a large hole in the centre of the intermediate piece and reinforced it with some metal plate.
With these two sections complete we could then merge all the pieces together. We placed the intermediate piece onto the rollers and then lifted the shed onto that. We used the nut to tie the whole structure down but also screwed the “shed” to the intermediate.
The final job was to fit the roof and this was going to be the biggest challenge. We wanted the roof open completely but the “proper” way to fix it would not have allowed this. Instead we put a number of braces at the top of the side walls and held the roof to the walls with these and hinges. The result was that the roof could be opened and each side would hang down. When we came to clad the roof in tin we put a cap on one side to act as some weather resistance. We then worked to make the observatory as waterproof as possible. I built a small stand for the telescope to sit on, so that the user would not have to bend over too much and the observatory was ready to go.
The finishing touch was the “Dad’s Observatory” sign for the door.