An old Unitron Telescope in need of TLC

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  • Member since
    May, 2005
An old Unitron Telescope in need of TLC
Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, January 10, 2007 11:33 PM
Hello all, I'm new to these forums, but have been dabbling in astronomy since college (three years ago). I'm not an expert by any means, so thought I'd turn here for some help with an old Unitron telescope I've acquired. A little background first: My grandfather passed away the year I was born (1979) and I never knew him, but he was also an amateur astronomer. After talking with my grandma, I found out that she still had his old equipment, and after a search through a storage garage we found it. Turns out he had two Unitron telescopes from 1956! One 60mm and one 1200mm, with all the gear that game with them. Heck, I even found two near-mint Unitron catalogs from 1956 in the boxes. The problem is that they haven't been used in decades. There is a small amount of mold in the box, and the telescopes really need to be cleaned both inside and out. So, my question is: How do I go about refurbishing/cleaning these old gems? Not only are they really nice telescopes, but they have sentimental value as well, so I don't want to ruin them. Any help at all would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, January 11, 2007 12:36 AM

Hi, and welcome.

I'm sorry to see you haven't received any response on this issue. I wish I could offer some advice. I have an affinity for old equipment of just about any kind, and I hope you can find what you need to renew your grandfather's scopes. That sounds like a special find you have there.

I'm just thinking out loud here, I suppose I would at least move into an environmentally controlled space to stop the growth of mold. Is there mold on the inside of the tubes? What have you done so far?

You did mean to say 120mm and not 1200, right? That would be like a 48" scope! 

I see on the web that Untiron is still in business: http://www.unitronusa.com/ 

  • Member since
    May, 2005
Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, January 11, 2007 1:18 AM

Woops, yeah 1200mm is a mistake, it's a 75mm scope.  Wonder how I typed that...

Now everything is in my house, and I'm taking care to clean it as best I can, so at least it won't get any worse.  I do think there is some dirt and debris inside the scopes, which worries me more than anything.

I did email Unitron about it, but no reply yet.  If it comes down to it, I may just call their 800 number and see if I can't get ahold of someone.

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  • From: Texas
Posted by chipdatajeffB on Thursday, January 11, 2007 10:28 AM

Generally it's better not to disturb the optics in a refractor.

Dust on the outside of the objective can be left alone if it doesn't cause reflection or light scatter. If it's bad, then try using a squeeze bulb to waft it off the surface of the lens.

You do not want to remove the lens. It has two different glass elements, with an air space between them. If dust or mold is between these elements, you want professional help.

The mold in the box is a problem. It can get into the microscopic pits in the glass surfaces and is almost impossible to get out. You don't want to store glass elements in the box if it has mold in it. So, for now, wrap the scopes in bubble wrap and store away from the box. If there is a lot of mold, then you need a professional cleaner to advise you on whether it's safe to keep. If it's just a little mildew, then spray on some mildew killer and let the box dry in the sun.

Unitron had cardboard boxes and wooden ones. If these are cardboard and the mold is bad, you may be out of luck. If they are wood, a professioinal cleaner can kill the mold and then after scraping it out a light sanding and a coat of clear polyurethane should fix it up.

Avoid using a liquid cleaner of any sort on the scopes. Those cans of compressed air you see at electronics stores can be a problem, too. Most of them are freon-based or have other liquid propellants. You don't want any of those to land on the optics or, worse, to get between the lens elements.

So, the best approach is a light and careful general dusting, an inspection to see if the glass elements need attention, and getting rid of anything that is mold-infested.

I'm a refractor-monkey, myself, and have seen many of the old Unitron instruments. If these are in good shape other than being a bit dusty, they are quite valuable and you don't want inadvertent damage during cleaning to decrease that.

Feel free to email me any more specific questions. I'd love to help see these are treated well and put back into use! If there is any way you can make photographs of the affected areas, that would help us help you better.

The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it's stranger than we CAN imagine. --- JBS Haldane

Come visit me at Comanche Springs Astronomy Campus (we're on Google Maps) in Texas.

www.3rf.org

  • Member since
    May, 2005
Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, January 11, 2007 2:43 PM

Wow thanks for the advice!

Here's a little update.  I had this morning off from work, so I went over everything with a fine-toothed comb and found out some good things.

First, in the sheaf of paper my grandpa had in the box (and it is a wooden box, really nice work.  There's a big wooden box for the tripod too) and found the scope's manual.  It's only seven or eight pages of typed material stapled together but it's pretty cool.  According to that, the scopes are from 1954.  I believe the 75mm one is a model 152, but I'm not exactly sure.  The manual is for four different models.

After a really close examination of the tubes, I think they're clean.  The only part that really needs cleaning is the objective lens.  Both scopes had caps on the end, but it looks like a good deal of dust settled on them anyway.

So, from what I can tell, the only parts that really need cleaning are the eyepieces that were left in the scopes.  There is a separate wooden box with five different eyepieces that are all clean.  So, some TLC should be enough to get them in good condition again.  Here's to hoping.

I'll take a few pics later on and let you guys see what I'm all excited about.

  • Member since
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, January 11, 2007 2:55 PM

Found an old eBay auction that is the exact one I have, check it out:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=220041961001&indexURL=0&photoDisplayType=2#ebayphotohosting

The only difference is that mine has a 60mm scope included, and the wooden box is larger to fit the extra scope. 

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Posted by chipdatajeffB on Thursday, January 11, 2007 3:12 PM

You are right to be excited. These are rare and wonderful scopes!

Here's how you clean the eyepieces:

Get yourself two bottles of standard isopropyl alcohol at the drugstore. Liter size for one and half that or smaller for the other. You will also need a small box of cotton swabs (maker sure they have no lotion on the tips).

In the large bottle, put a single drop of liquid dishwashing soap in the bottle cap (that way if you get more than a drop, you can wash it out and try again). Screw on the bottle cap, invert the bottle, and shake until it's well mixed. It might help to pour an ounce or so of the alcohol out first, if there's not much empty space at the top of the bottle. This will be your cleaning solution. The small bottle will be your rinsing fluid.

Set the cleaning solution aside, capped, until the foam settles out.

When you clean eyepieces you do not want any solution to get down inside, between the glass elements. So you will clean them "upside down" to let gravity keep the fluid out, as much as possible.

For each eyepiece in turn, turn it upside down and dab a cotton swab wetted with cleaner on the eye side of the lens. Don't rub, just dab or pat.

Repeat this process with a swab wetted with rinsing fluid, then set aside on a paper towel (still upside down) until dry.

Once the eyepiece dries, hold it up to the light and check for streaks on the eye lens.

If you see dirt or sediment, repeat the cleaning procedure.

If you see streaks, then repeat the rinsing procedure until they're gone.

The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it's stranger than we CAN imagine. --- JBS Haldane

Come visit me at Comanche Springs Astronomy Campus (we're on Google Maps) in Texas.

www.3rf.org

  • Member since
    May, 2005
Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, January 13, 2007 9:30 PM

Here's two images of the scopes.  The first is both the 60mm and 75mm in the original wooden box they came in, along with all the accessories.  The second is the top of the manual that came with them, dated 1954! 

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  • From: Texas
Posted by chipdatajeffB on Sunday, January 14, 2007 10:49 AM

The photos help! (as does the eBay link)

You have the same mount and tripod?

If so, and I had these, I wouldn't sell them for twice what the guy is asking on eBay.

I note you also have the solar projection screen. I have that same one. If you decide to use this scope, be sure to cover the front objective of the finder andthe 60mm scope if it's piggybacked on the 75mm one. And do not use the Unitron eyepieces for solar projection ... extended use of solar projection can damage the eyepieces. Buy yourself a cheap Plossl eyepiece to use for solar projection.

I only see one photo. From that one it appears you have the white projection screen, but I don't see the blade shade screen (Has a 2" or 3" hole in the center) or the chromed rod that extends out behind the scope to hold the screens. Do you have those?

Are you familiar with the TV show The Antiques Roadshow? If so, then you'll know why I'd advise you to insure this setup for $3,500. I'll do a little Web research and see what I can turn up for a street value, but I wouldn't insure it for less. Regular homeowner's insurance won't help you unless you add a rider and list the specifics of this setup. In the event of loss, your homeowner's policy will devalue this kit greatly due to its age. It is a genuine antique (over 50 years old) and should be treated accordingly. For the same reason, do not attempt any restoration.

What I would check next is the chromed metal parts, like the screws. Look for rust or chrome flaking. If you do not see that, you are truly golden. If you do, then don't attempt to remove the chrome flaking ... just leave as-is. Rust can be removed with very light brushing (use a toothbrush, no kidding) and an extremely light touch of lightweight oil. A good oil to use is whetstone oil, like used for sharpening knives. Be sure to use a good mineral-oil-based oil, not a synthetic. Some synthetic whetstone oils include water and/or alchohol.

I'll post again when I find a better idea of the actual value.

If it were me, I'd keep this setup until Hell froze over ... Smile,Wink, & Grin [swg]

Your grandfather was cool.

The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it's stranger than we CAN imagine. --- JBS Haldane

Come visit me at Comanche Springs Astronomy Campus (we're on Google Maps) in Texas.

www.3rf.org

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  • Member since
    July, 2002
  • From: Texas
Posted by chipdatajeffB on Sunday, January 14, 2007 12:38 PM

OK, a little scrounging around on the antique refractor sites shows this as of 2006 activity:

  • 60mm OTA only ~$300
  • 75mm OTA only ~800 - $1,000
  • eyepieces: ~$30 ea, depending (some go for much more)
  • solar projection setup ~$60 complete, but perfect condition is rare
  • Box: missing or battered in many cases, so it's a big plus
  • Mount: depends which one. If yours is exactly the same as shown in the eBay ad, and is in excellent condition, it could go for as much as $1,400 (a manual EQ mount did last year). If it is the weight-driven clock drive it's priceless. If it has been upgraded to motor drive, then it varies widely. Safe to assume $500 to $1,000. Includes tripod.
  • The catalogs have some value, too: ~$25-$50 each auction value

So I think we're talking a package value of from $1,800 to $2,300 and you want to double that for insurance purposes. The condition is the thing. Just judging from your description and the one photo, an appraiser would deem these "as-new" and that counts for a lot in an appraisal.

I'm not an appraiser, just a refractor junkie with a 40-plus-year interest in these scopes ...

These are among the more common 1956 to 1976 Unitrons seen on the market. That said, however, they appear to be in rare condition and they only surface on average about once a month on the used equipment market.

If you want to improve on the value the accessory to acquire would be the Unihex rotary diagonal/eyepiece holder, especially if you can find one in its original wooden box. A good place to look for one would be the classified section at www.astromart.com.

The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it's stranger than we CAN imagine. --- JBS Haldane

Come visit me at Comanche Springs Astronomy Campus (we're on Google Maps) in Texas.

www.3rf.org

  • Member since
    May, 2005
Posted by Anonymous on Friday, September 14, 2007 2:20 PM

Star Geezer

You are knowlegeable on these telescopes:

I am searching for either parts, an altazimuth mounting or even an equatorial mounting for my old 3" model 114. I bought it new in about 1974...have unihex, various lenses, sun screen, duetron fortwo person simultaneous viewing, box, literature etc. My fine tuning adjustment has been damaged. Otherwise the scope has rarely been used. Any ideas?

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