Look to the stars. God isn't hiding anything.

Constructing a bigger, better, space observatory!

Step one - destroy the old building.
In 2006 I was inspired to build a strange thing. Of all the weird things I have done, this would be one of the most left-field stunts I could have pulled on my wife. "Honey, I think I will build an observatory - Oh and by the way, I'm doing it in the FRONT yard." Can you imagine it?

Over the course of a year, I gave my all to build this thing, scrounging every piece of scrap wood, metal, carpet, vinyl or anything I could find from the side of the road, industrial bins or the rubbish dump.

Finally, with much help from friends, family and God Himself, the building was completed and commenced operations.

Over time though, the building proved too small and cramped, with visitors and even myself bumping the telescope and tripping over cables trying to squeeze into the dome all at once.

Right: The first ASIGN Observatory was a fibreglass covered, plywood geodesic dome, standing three metres wide by three and a half metres tall with a rotating dome and sliding roller door.

Below: A video of the previous ASIGN observatory construction. 

The astro-images in this video, while some may consider amazing, were pretty amateurish by today's standards, but time and experience has helped me grow and improve to the point where it is time to upgrade.

Step two -  ASIGN Observatory II Concept and design

I designed a new concept which features an office/warm-room space underneath, internal stairs leading to a viewing platform/dome-room above. It is of all-steel construction and FIVE metres in diameter!

Instead of having a dome-door that rolls over the top, this design has a vertically-split door that opens sideways.  

Below: an animated cardboard model of the new ASIGN Observatory II concept and design.


Step three - begin construction 

Once the old observatory was demolished, the only thing left standing was the central pier. It is sitting on an adequate block of concrete underground and is already wired with electricity. All I had to do from there was pour a slab around it. This was done by leveling and compacting the ground, building some flexible and circular form-work, and putting in reinforcing mesh. I got a mini cement truck to back in and pour the cement while a wonderful family member who is very experienced in laying concrete worked his magic!

Below: Picture 1 - remaining pier, picture 2 - leveling and laying form work, picture 3 - form work and reo ready to go, picture 4 - concrete truck and many hands, picture 5 - the master at work! picture 6 - smooth as glass!

Drafting plans - Make it up along the way or go for precision?

I think I did alright on the last one, using the range of skills and experience I have picked up in the rural industry, my military background and over the last few years, the transport and building industry. Most of it I improvised and adapted as I went along. I had a pretty solid mental picture of the finished result in my head the whole time, but liked the excitement of tackling hurdles along the way and nutting it out for myself.

I want to do a similar thing this time, but I also want to include some professional help. I could have gone ahead and built it bomb-proof, (in fact I did actually start to) but as I am not an engineer I would have spent too much money on too much steel.

It was then I had a very kind offer from an engineer to draw it up for me to meet structural safety standards while minimising wastage. So, I sent him all my design concepts and dimensions along with a video walk/talk of the site. He has since sent me back his amazing drawings which are now serving to guide me with the important support structures and guidelines, while leaving me to work out the actual measurements, cutting and erecting. I have erected and helped erect several structures both domestic and industrial, but nothing is as fun as this!

Below: Design concept of bottom half of the building. 3 red bearers and 4 support studs (one more hidden behind pier), grey floor joists and blue steel wall-framing and flexitrack.


And now, praise GOD!! People have started to jump on-board this train and pitch in to the project to help me finish it! This week, with the help of some generous people, I bought all the steel I need for phase one of the structural support.

Cutting begins!

This week so far, I have cut the bearers and supporting studs to size. I have also cut all the plates to be welded to each bearer and the caps and feet of each stud. Today I drilled them all with holes to fit the M12 bolts. The welder is coming tomorrow, so I also ground back all the galvanising off the weld-points to reduce the toxic fumes given off by welding it.

Welding - The important part!

A very generous Jacob Argent volunteered his MIG welding skills and even after a long drive to Sydney and back today, managed to spend three hours welding up all the support beams and posts for me. Each post had a cap and foot to weld on, three of them had a horizontal bracket to weld on and the bearers all needed brackets welded on to join together.

It was dark and freezing cold and I had to hold up a large flat piece of craft-wood to form a windbreak, stopping all Jacob's precious argon gas from blowing away from the hot metal. A beer, coffee, some home-made rocky road and cinnamon donuts later, it was all done and time to go inside and thaw out.

Great job Jacob! Now I can start erecting the structure! Exciting times!

Cutting and joining - the first steps.

The dome is currently sitting on a skeleton-frame that shows the shape of things to come, but sadly will not do the job on it's own.

Below: Existing posts are being replaced with stronger support. Now with the engineer drawings through, I have started to assemble the correct and adequate support structure. The engineer has kept within my desired concept, while minimising wastage and providing rigid and safe support. The heavy load-bearing beams have now been cut to size, welded and painted. Test-fit assembly has been done and checked. The structure will be assembled on the ground then stood up in place, rather than erecting the support poles and trying to wrestle a heavy load-bearing beam up two and a half metres to bolt on top.

Below: Steel joining plates welded onto load-bearing beams to join the configuration.

 Below: Steel plates welded on top of support posts.

Below: Steel plates welded to feet of support posts. (Except far left - this one is to go under the central join of the bearers.)

 Below: Support configuration starting to take shape

Heavy Lifting!

Today I got a few hours worth of work done and then well into the night. I guess I am lazy when it comes to certain things, like the fact that I had spent so much time and effort getting the dome up on the previous studs, that I didn't want to have to dismantle it again, drop it to the ground to put up the bearers and then put it back up again. Yes, there are better ways to do things, but I like the challenge of nutting things out for myself.

So, I used a scaffold and a series of blocks, steel sections and some long steel levers to raise and support the dome at the height I needed to get the bearers and posts under. Little by little, inch by inch I raised it, using ropes pegged to the ground to stop it from overbalancing. A little risky, but I took it very slowly, making sure that everything was either clamped or tied to stop it from shifting. After it was supported, I then dismantled all the old steel studs and removed the bottom ring from the concrete. Once I got the dome and it's support ring to the right height, I called on my brother and my neighbor to give me a hand to stand the bearers up on their posts and bolt them all together.

Then it was just a matter of lowering the dome in the reverse order and clamping it to the bearers. I'll have to raise it again later for the joists and such, but it will be a lot easier and more stable now with this solid platform to work from.

Below: The hardest and heaviest work is done now, the rest is in-fill. Next will be the wall-framing.

Below: Laying on my back under the observatory construction tonight, I stopped marveling at my work and looked beyond to marvel at God's work.

What a STUD!!

This weekend was a marathon of time available for building. By doing some extra cash work after hours and with help from some awesome people and faithful givers, I managed to get together enough funding to buy the wall-framing.

The flexi-track was screwed underneath the dome support ring and bolted down to the concrete floor. Cutting the studs to length and snapping them into place was a breeze! Lot's of work preparing, screwing and bolting, but once the studs went in, it really starts to look like an observatory!

Below: Studs in place - with some minor plumbing (vertical alignment) to be done on each before they are screwed to the flexi-track top and bottom.

  Below: Yes, it is in the FRONT yard!


Construction is progressing nicely. This week I got the floor support ring assembled and the floor joists placed into position, cut to lengths and secured. This week the outer skin for the walls will be delivered and hopefully up by the weekend! With God's help, I should be able to get some extra work to earn for the floorboards for the top floor.

People are regularly stopping by now to ask me what it is. Praise God, this project is going to open some big doors!

Below: Floor joists cut to size, spaced correctly and secured.

Just as I need funds for the next stage, I get some more after-hours gardening work and donations! The floorboards and all the tin for the outside walls have now been delivered and I have got well underway with them.


Because everything so far is at right-angles, the more weight I put on top, the more the building sways. As this is a round building, not a square, it is hard to cross-brace. However, the tin on the outside wall and the timber to go on the inside wall will put a stop to that! Already, I have gone full-circle around the building with the tin, and all the sway has vanished. I put one piece of flooring up top over the joists and climbed on top of it. It feels very safe and secure now.

Below: The space inside, once contained, feels HUGE!

 Below: Video of the dome rolling on it's bearings. Manual push for now, but will be motorised later.


One small task at a time. Today my goal today was to build a door frame and door to fit it, out of steel.

As I walked towards the shed to don my tool-belt I spoke concisely to God. I said, "Please help me build a door well. I have no idea how to start, I have no plan as yet, nor do I even know if I have the materials to do it."

In the next minute, I went out the back to where all my steel scraps are. I found two second-hand steel posts exactly the right size and length and get this....they both had feet welded to them so all I had to do was bolt them straight to the floor! ( A friend of mine, Frank, had given them to me months ago when I had no formed plan.) Not only that, but I had the perfect amount of steel left from my last stuff-up to make the door itself. Lastly, the steel strap that was around the pack of tin for the walls was not in the bin as is customary, but was there and the perfect thing for bracing!!

When I built the first observatory, these coincidences (Godinstances) happened so many times it was beyond a joke and downright spooky. Not only the occurrence of things I needed, but the perfect timing of each one. If you don't understand it's alright - you had to be there. My point is they are still happening for this one.

Keeping busy this weekend even though I can't really do much until I have all the roofing materials. I'd like to put the floor down, but because it is yellow-tongue chipboard, it will only last a month or so in the weather.

So, this weekend I dressed off the doorway with colourbond cut to fit, painted the pier again, and cut all the flooring to shape.

I had 8 pieces of yellow-tongue to cover a five metre circle. First, I plotted it out on the computer to find the best configuration to minimise wastage and maximise secure fixing across the joists. I laid out the sheets on the flat driveway and tapped them all together using a sledge hammer and block of wood to protect the edges. I then nailed in a steel strap to act as a compass from the edge, to 2.5 metres for the radius. ( I didn't use string, because string stretches too inconsistently.) It was then a simple matter of belting a hole in the other end of the strap with a really big nail, so I could poke my marker pen through the end and scribe the circle across all the sheets.

Below: Marking the radius for cutting of the flooring 

Below: Inside view 

Finally got the last of the heavy bows on the roof. I've been at it for roughly two hours every afternoon after work until I run out of light. I've even come home at lunch times to get 30 minutes of labour in at times. Time is so precious.

The next step is to roll-form some lighter intermediate bows. Flat sheet to cover the dome will bend nicely one way, but not two ways, so trying to bend it over the large area between these heavy bows is likely to warp and distort them too much. Putting in some intermediate bows will mean thinner strips of sheet, reducing the need to bend them two ways. 

Below: Heavy bows installed 

Pier pressure. 

One of the hurdles I've had to overcome is that the old pier is not high enough to mount the telescope on, as the new floor level is now much higher. To solve this, I have built another wooden box like the one underneath, to be filled with reinforcing mesh along with some conduit to run electrical cabling. It will then be filled with concrete.

Below: Constructing the pier extension

 Below: New pier extension in position



Below: While I was at it, I skinned the door with thick steel sheet.

The race was on today as the rolled steel arrived to build the dome's sliding doors and complete the intermediate dome ribs. I say, "race" because tomorrow afternoon I have a professional welder coming over to weld stuff together.

This afternoon I measured, cut and joined all the framing together for the sliding doors. I have used 20mm steel plate to join it all together with screws, that way the welder can just weld all the joints together, then I can remove the ugly plates and screws.

Below: Picture 1 - One side complete. Picture 2 - The two halves will split sideways to open the dome slot.

Below: My welder friend Jacob gave his valuable time and skills tonight to weld up the door-frames as planned. They are extremely rigid and strong now. Great job mate.

Putting up all the intermediate dome ribs was so much quicker than the heavy ones. I got a couple done yesterday at lunchtime, a couple more in the afternoon, a couple more today at lunch time and the rest done this evening. I even had time to paint the door with primer.

Below: All bows up, ready to be welded in place and then the temporary joining brackets can be removed and the roofing can go on.

It's been quiet for a while, waiting for funds, time and some expert help on a couple of design concepts.
I've been trying to work out how to get the doors on top of the dome to slide sideways, without leaving protrusions outside the dome when it is closed. My uncle came up with a solve consisting of four bearing-slide-rails from industrial sized photocopier paper trays. I now have them and they look and feel like they will do the job nicely. I'll put pictures on the website when I have them figured out.
Today I got my welder friend Jacob to come over and weld all the ribs on the dome, so I can take off the cumbersome steel plates holding them on. Now I can start getting some sheeting on the roof and seal it all up. For a photo of Jacob in action today, please click the link below.
I've bought some cement and hopefully this week I can mix enough concrete to fill the central pier extension. With that in place, the telescope can be mounted as soon as the roof is on and operations can begin! All the prettying up on the inside will follow, but at least I can start to use it.
My next-door-neighbor is a carpenter and has volunteered to help me build the stairs inside. Actually, he is the expert, so I think it is me who will be helping him!
I've been trying to work out how to get the doors on top of the dome to slide sideways, without leaving protrusions outside the dome when it is closed. My uncle came up with a solve consisting of four bearing-slide-rails from industrial sized photocopier paper trays. I now have them and they look and feel like they will do the job nicely. I'll put pictures on the website when I have them figured out.
Today I got my welder friend Jacob to come over and weld all the ribs on the dome, so I can take off the cumbersome steel plates holding them on. Now I can start getting some sheeting on the roof and seal it all up.
I've bought some cement and hopefully this week I can mix enough concrete to fill the central pier extension. With that in place, the telescope can be mounted as soon as the roof is on and operations can begin! All the prettying up on the inside will follow, but at least I can start to use it.
My next-door-neighbor is a carpenter and has volunteered to help me build the stairs inside. Actually, he is the expert, so I think it is me who will be helping him!
I don't know how many times I have leaned on the unattached pier up on the top floor and nearly toppled over, so today I filled it with concrete and mounted the mounting plates.
Solid now and good to lean on!
Below: Looking down the pier extension. Conduit inside to run electricity and the telescope mounting plates at my feet to be pushed into the wet concrete via the long rods. Reinforcing mesh will also go inside the box before the concrete is poured.
16 November 2012. The steel for the roofing arrived today!!! Thanks to a couple of good jobs with the chainsaw and a wonderful donation. Along with the roof sheeting, I also got the doors custom covered.
Thanks to the help of my next door neighbor and his friend, we got all the flooring in on the first floor today. Getting the first sheet in took a little work, but once we got a flow happening, the rest went in so quickly. Now I have something to stand on while I put the roof on. 
As soon as we were done, it poured with rain, but I've had two test-pieces up there for months and they are not yet swelling or deteriorating from all the weather. Hopefully, I'll have the roofing on within the week and won't have to worry about that anymore.
Below: Colorbond sheeting cut to size and ready to clad the dome.
 Below: Dome doors covered with colorbond sheeting.
 Below: Flooring installed.
Blood on the observation deck. - 1 Dec 2012
It's been an interesting week of fiddling about. I've been putting up some of the roof sheeting and finding it challenging. Not only because of the difficulty in handling such thin and cumbersome material, but at height making it all the more dangerous and time-consuming.
The worst buckling of the sheet is caused by trying to bend it on two axis, which it just won't do without some sort of roll-forming through such machines as an English wheel. However, I am prepared to accept a few buckles, being worst either side of the central slot, as long as the buckling is uniform. The rest of the ribs are only 500mm apart, so it's not as much of an issue there.
Last week I had a bit of a mishap while fitting the doors on the dome. One slipped down the side and was looking at total oblitteration on the ground had I not caught it and stopped it. In doing so, I slid my forearm down the edge of the sheet metal and sliced myself open a treat. It was fascinating seeing all that muscle tendon under the skin sheath. A quick trip to the hospital for some stitches and a couple of hours later, back to work.
Finally, yesterday I got the doors on and sliding on their retractable ball-race tracks. I was given these out of a heavy-duty photocopier. They hold the drawers capable of supporting two reams of paper, so the weight of the doors is not a challenge for them.
 Sheeting the roof - 9 December 2012
One at a time, the roof sheets are going up. This is a long process involving placing the sheets up, stretching them tight, clamping them then tracing the bows onto the sheets with a marker pen. Then take them down, cut them with a jigsaw, unscrew one side of the previous sheet, slide the next sheet under, pull tight and clamp again, then screw it down.
While the sheets are going up, I can't put sealant between them until the whole thing is done. Once it is finished, I will have to put the ladder up on the outside, back off all the screws one sheet at a time so I can get some sealant in between the overlapping joins of each sheet and screw it back down again. 
It's really looking good though. One cool thing is that it is acting like a big satellite dish on the inside, so when you place your head over the central pier and talk, you can hear your own voice all around your head...Freaky!

Massive space inside!

As each panel goes on, the space inside just seems to feel bigger and bigger. I ran some test shots for the Geminid meteor shower last night and couldn't resist shooting from inside the dome.

Nearing Lock-up!

With only four panels to go, it's nearing the last few photos where the outside will look any different.

Dome fully covered!

Finally, all the sheets are on. The only thing left on the outside now is to squirt sealant between the sheets by unscrewing them all a fraction, squeeze it in then tighten them up. A few other flashings and skirts and it's weatherproof!

Gearing up.

Fitting the telescope, mount and electrical units on the pier.

First Light!

A very quick set-up of a DSLR on the end of the telescope to check the optics with a shot of the moon.

Video Tour

Please enjoy this brief movie of this fully armed and operational battle-station!

Aerial shot

A quick spin past my house on the way back to work provided me with an opportunity to use the elevated work platform for 30 seconds while still parked on the back of the truck. Boom up, quick snap, back down and drive on!

Weather-proof flashing and sealing joins.

I designed a Z-profile flashing from Colorbond to form a skirt to cover the gap between the rotating dome and the building below. The good folks at Still-Standing Sheetmetal in Queanbeyan expertly fabricated them for me according to my specifications. Great job guys!

As well as installing the short pieces of skirt, I had to squeeze silicone into every join where one sheet of Colorbond overlaps another. This was a precarious job on the last two rungs of the longest ladder I have. What fun. Took a few days, but a thunderstorm the other night tested it all out for me, exposing half a dozen small leaks which I then plugged up from the inside. It's all sealed up beautifully now so it's ready for insulation and internal fitout.

Electricity and Insulation

This week our friend and family electrician spent some good hours in the observatory with me, planning the lighting, powerpoints and distribution board. The cabling has now all been run, ready to connect all the hardware.

As well, this week I got a lovely $50 donation from a Canberra local, which I was able to spend at Fletcher Insulation in Hume on a few bags to insulate from heat and sound. It is instantly cool in there now and OOOHHHHH SOOOO QUIET!!

Material for internal stairs.

I picked up the wood for the stairs today. Beautifully seasoned cypress that is lovely and straight with no splits.

I can't wait to start working this stuff. I'm thinking of using good deadwood for my posts and handrails, sanded all over and rubbed with raw linseed oil.

Inside fitout begins.

It's been a big week for the observatory this week. I was able to purchase the thin plywood interior wall paneling and even cut some to size and fitted two sheets.

I tested a corner of the cypress slabs I picked up last week by belt-sanding them with some 40 grit to get the saw-marks out of it, then rubbed some raw linseed oil into the test-patch to see the colour. The yellow-gold natural colour takes on a rich red-gold.

I applied by letter to my local government for a large log that one of their services had a stockpile of. To my delight, they approved and happily donated a log. 

I found a magnificent pine log, well seasoned with the bark just falling off it. It is my intention to cut it four ways down the length, to cut a post out of the middle of it. The post will be kept aside while the rounded slices will sandwich around the centre pier downstairs, making the pier look like a big tree-trunk. This will then be sanded and rubbed with raw linseed oil, as will the stairs and handrails.

Gardens and Carpets

My uncle lives near a carpet layer and spotted a truck load of second-hand carpet about to go to landfill. It was from a business premises in the city and came complete with underlay. I have only recently got quotes for the carpeting done and realised it was going to cost me nearly $3000!! I remember telling someone that God will provide. Well guess what?......

This week I laid out the underlay in the driveway, constructed a 2.5 metre compass and drew the shapes to be cut to lay inside upstairs and downstairs. I'm hoping this week I get time to do the same with the carpet itself. As I stand here on the underlay typing this, it's already noticeable how it dampens sound and vibration.

On the outside of the building, I prepared the ground for some drainage pipe and a rock edge. The garden will be mulched to assist drainage and will be planted all around with small shrubs to help blend the dome in with the rest of the garden to make it look like it belongs there.

Below: Relaxing at the end of a dusty and hot day digging and laying underlay.

The first images are up!

Not far from completing construction of the building, it's at the operational stage to at least be doing some serious imaging. Praise God, I got THREE clear nights in a row with no moon and no clouds!

I'm still learning the new full-versions of the programs that run the cameras, plus I have purchased a new planetary camera for our solar-system beauties out there.

So far this week, I have captured and processed hours worth of photons coming from the bright and grand old lady of the solar system, Saturn, plus the distant, faint, immense and beautiful Eagle Nebula, Trifid Nebula, Lagoon Nebula and the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy.

I urge you to go have a look at the galleries, that are now building up, or just click on the hypertext above.

Work begins on the stairs

Finally!! Work has started on the stairs!

The builder's carpenter turned up today and together, we plotted out the stairs. There's a lot to watch out for with building standards, made even more challenging by the curve. Stair calculations are fairly simple though, once you get the hang of them. I just happen to be doing a tertiary course right now and just last week, we had an assessment on stair calculations. Coincidence? I THINK NOT!! ;)

With it all marked out, this week I'm going to crack on with cutting the support posts, fitting them and cutting the hole in the top floor larger to stop people from hitting their heads as they ascend the stair.

Natural posts

Today I got an early mark from tech school, so I came home to work on the observatory.

I had another log to inspect and grade to see if it was good enough to support the stair stringers. This one had several layers of rot, but it was a beautiful piece of wood. I used a rotary chisel to rake back all the layers until I was happy with what was left. It turned out pretty darned good actually. 

The posts (below) are to support the stair stringers, as well as to provide solid attachment points to the hand-rails. I haven't yet decided if I'm going to have four posts or five. The last one is not needed, but I think it will finish it off nicely.

I haven't  oiled them, so their true colour is yet to come out. I have also  left the borer-insect marks on the wood as I just love the look.


The ground here is full of clay and sets rock-solid once you wet it down. This makes it great to work with if you want to shape the ground to achieve a task.

Water tends to gather and sit on top so I've dug a trench all the way around the building and laid in some 100mm ag-pipe to drain any excess water away from the slab and re-direct it down-slope.

Tomorrow I'll cover it all in mulch and ready the ground for some planting of shrubs. That will mark the end of works to the outside of the building!

Drainage installed, shrubbery planted, garden mulched.

Stairway to heaven.

I made some good progress on the stairs today. Four stringers have been cut to the correct angle and calculated for the rise, tread and number of steps. It's not the first time I've built stairs, but it's the first time I've built curved stairs and it's a real head wringer. Not only do all the angles and distances have to be right, but using natural wood means there's not a straight edge to be found to measure from.

To fix that, I marked the centre of each piece at both ends, then ruled a reference datum to make all measurements from. That solved the problem.

Posts are rebated to firmly seat and bolt each stringer into them.

I'm making a massive mess of the space, but it will look a million bucks when I'm done!

Bloody knuckles.

Today was probably the most productive day I've had on the observatory in a long time. Not only did I get hours of precious time, but I also trialled a couple of new tools. 

One was a flap disk to fit the angle grinder. It's a round disk covered in overlaying sections of very coarse abrasive. I used it to strip the bark off the wood I am using for the balusters. 

The other is a rotary chisel. This is also a round blade for the angle grinder, but it has only three teeth in it. It takes of massive amounts of wood in a single pass and is also very dangerous.

Finally, instead of trying to manoeuvre the belt-sander all over the wood, I turned it upside down on the saw-horse and clamped it down. Now I can move the smaller and lighter pieces of wood over the belt sander with ease. The trick now is to watch the knuckles as I de-skinned two until I got a good technique.

I got the top of the stairs (top floor) cut to match the vertical line of the stringers, plus dressed the hole with some big pine. The stringers are all bolted in and I made a start on the hand-rails and balusters.

Finished the handrails and balusters and started making templates with cardboard for the treads. Each piece of wood will be traced onto cardboard, then placed in position and marked where to cut to shape. I'll then put the cardboard template back on the wood and trace it on for cutting. This is the very best way to do it because the wood is worth a fortune and I can't afford to make a cutting mistake.

Finally I've made a start on the treads. The first one was the hardest, just working out how best to mark the template and deciding if I was going to go flush with the outer wall or take the tread right into the wall.

It worked out a lot more secure to go into the wall, fastening supporting timber inside the steel studs. Now I've got two treads in, custom cut to fit exactly. As I showed my wife and bragged about my superior craftsmanship, I jumped hard on both treads - SOLID AS A ROCK!

I'm well pleased. The second tread was a lot faster than the first, so now that I have a technique worked out, I should be able to get around three in every hour I get in there.

Ready for oil!

Well.... nearly...

I have one tread at the top of the stairs left to cut and install. It's a bit tricky because it is surrounded on two sides by thick steel and some bolts, lips, edges etc - lots to custom-cut around to make it fit.

The insulation is back in the walls with every nook and cranny stuffed to keep the temperatures out/in and also a bit of soundproofing.

The bulk of the work is done but there are a couple of gaps that I want to fill and tidy up. Now the wall-panelling can be cut for the stairs and fitted on the walls.

Big hole!

As soon as the stairs are dressed, there's the issue of the long drop from the top floor. A bannister needs to be constructed with a gate at the top of the stairs. 

Stay tuned for the updates as I get to the task.

The banister 

I spent today building the upstairs banister out of steel. The thing is rock-steady!

Soon I will bolt in some thick board behind it, which gives me three functions.... it blocks some light from below, (even though later there will be drop-hatches over the hole anyway).... it stops my young toddler from crawling through gaps when he's chillin' up there with me..... and finally, it gives me something to put some charts and space photos/posters on. 

There will be a gate on the end (left of photo) to stop folks from accidentally falling down the stairs.

Downstairs, I cut one more dead tree down to provide the final post on the far left. I also cut the wall-panelling for the stairs. 

The wall above the stairs is filled, now to put in the panelling for the wall underneath them.


I can almost taste completion! The banister is looking great now filled in, painted, gate on one end and a big thick natural timber handrail to dress it all off.

Upstairs the only big job left is to lay the carpet properly then instal the lighting. That will conclude the upstairs construction and fitout.

Up is down!

I found a spare few dollars this week so I could afford the last two sheets of plasterboard for the ceiling downstairs.

This afternoon, it was a race for the light as the sun set after work. I lay all eight pieces down, built a new compass and drew the radius out to fit inside the round building.

As I ran out of light, I managed to score the paper then used a plasterboard hand-saw to cut one sheet to size.

Oils ain't oils

All I wanted to do today was apply paintbrush to timber. Unfortunately for my impatience, preparation prolonged my agony for an excruciating hour and a half before I could even wet the brush.

There was the bottom floor to clear of construction tools and materials, then peel up the temporary carpet and underlay. I gave the handrails and treads a final sanding then a meticulous vacuum of all surfaces.

The mix of mineral turpentine and boiled linseed oil was a 50/50 ratio, penetrating the wood deeper and hopefully causing the oil to set harder.

A few minutes after oiling the top couple of treads and stringers, the mix began to release aromas from the Cypress and Eucalypt. Unlike painting with paint, (which is a pain in the butt) oiling wood is a real pleasure. The speed at which the transformation occurs is gratifying and the colour change is stunning - it's richness paralleled only by the smell, which is akin to walking into an antique furniture shop.

Finishing up.

If someone at church this weekend asks me, "How was your week? I would have to begin by saying, "WELL... WHERE DO I START - HOW MUCH TIME HAVE YOU GOT!?

I got some BIG NEWS last week that I can't yet let on about, but needless to say I have a very short time to get everything finished.

I've had a couple of friends over every day and every night working until late at night painting, plastering fixing wall-joiners and preparing for the carpet layers.

To add to our tight deadline, I have mysteriously injured my shoulder and am unable to lift anything heavy. It's been totally weird in that if I keep moving it feels ok, but if I stop and sit still I'm in agony.

anyway, one of my mates from work has been an absolute champion painting for me, even popping by at lunch time for half an hour on a work day to get things done. 

We gave the inside of the dome a second coat of flat black paint, re-oiled the stairs and woodwork upstairs again and painted the plasterboard ceiling downstairs. At least I got to use my left arm a bit with the paint-brush and cut in the edges ahead of my friend with the roller.

My family electrician friend is away on holidays for a month, presenting me with the difficulty of finding another who can understand the wiring already routed and then finish the job - for the right price too!

The carpet layers arrived this morning, bringing with them WAAAAAY better carpet and underlay than the old stuff I had found second-hand.

These two guys were like magicians. They worked tirelessly throughout the day to lay, cut-in and join the carpets both upstairs on the observation deck and downstairs in the lounge area. Their skills were amazing to watch in action.

I couldn't believe how beautiful it turned out upstairs. The room is completely transformed. I was still reeling with pleasure when I saw the finished result downstairs! Wow. 

With a final vacuum and a couple of Italian chairs tactically positioned, it looks good enough to live in.

Tomorrow I have a hardware tradie coming in to help me fix the two dome doors that roll sideways. The sliders I have used are not coping and have popped all their roller bearings all over the lawn below.  Over the next few days I'll bring in the rest of the furniture and reinstall the telescopes and computer. The wiring leading from the house is not yet heavy duty enough to run heaters, kettle, toaster, fridge and everything else, so I will just get the lighting and power-points installed then upgrade the feed line later. I have to dig up the original 600mm deep trench and put in a thicker conduit plus add a data cable.

Electric dream!

Through trials and tribulations, false starts and disappointments, many things seemed to conspire to come against getting the electricity done, especially on my non-exsistant budget.

I had to remind myself of the amount of times things have come against the different stages of this project and the subsequent amount of times when God's timing has been absolutely perfect to kick it off again. Nothing has happened before I was ready for it. 

Finally, a qualified and experienced electrician donated a full Saturday to connect all the cabling that had already been run by another sparky. He translated all the cables, connected all the fittings and even donated a couple of his own to get the job finished. All this for a couple of cups of good coffee, a BBQ lunch cooked by my lovely wife and some home made hot-buttered banana cake baked by mum.

He switched the mains back on and PRESTO!!!! It all worked perfectly first go!

Givers gonna give

Not only that, but as the electricity was finalised last night, in perfect timing again, I got a phone call today from a friend asking if I needed a very large flat screen television.

He arrived this afternoon with the shiny black beauty which I plugged into a DVD player and away it went.

Apparently this thing was destined for the skip bin! It works perfectly and looks fantastic!

Now to just get the sucker mounted to the wall!


For a bit of balance in the room, I got the idea to make some wooden furniture in the form of a coffee table in front of the TV and also one in between the chairs for a lamp and remotes etc.

We cut down a very large dead eucalypt last week and one of the guys was good enough to cut me a couple of slabs off the base of the trunk as I have an injury at the moment that prevents me from overdoing it for a while. It was so big it lay in the tray of my ute for a few days before one of the boys dropped around to unload it for me. The top slab must weigh over 200 kilograms.

At lunch-time today I planed, sanded and de-barked them then hit them with a coat of boiled linseed oil. 

My next door neighbour helped me roll them off the driveway, across the lawn and into the observatory.

Below: some pensive moments and a short-black coffee are often required after a sawdust shower.


After 30 hours of cutting, drilling, bolting and painting, ASIGN Observatory II is now sporting a very stylish pergola and banister over the front entrance.

Nearly done.

Upstairs - motorising of dome.

Suppliers: Steel - One Steel Metaland Hume. Nuts, bolts and screws - Specialty Fasteners Fyshwick. Framing - CSR Fyshwick. Roll-forming - Hadofen Roll-forming Queanbeyan. Freight - Barnetts transport Hume. Wall sheet - Stratco Fyshwick. Roof sheet - Still Standing Sheetmetal Queanbeyan. Insulation - Fletcher Insulation Hume. Internal wall cladding - Amerind Fyshwick. Central tree-trunk -  ACT Government (Donated).

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