LXD55 Tripod

Build a "quick and dirty" super strength wooden tripod for your Meade LXD55 mount. This project uses common materials, hand tools, no special skills and requires a minimum of cutting.  This is intended to be a (fun!) one evening project that will run you about $50 or less if you have to buy everything. I have sacrificed "looks" for ease of construction. The result is a very sturdy wooden tripod that might not look great, but will be VERY stable. The most difficult parts of this project are that there are some holes to drill, and a drill press would help. The hardest part for the beginner would be tapping (threading) the required holes. You could easily modify the design to not require this. I've made a note on how to tap (thread) a hole in the notes section below.


The finished tripod. (not yet varnished though)

Tools needed:

* wood saw

* Hacksaw with metal cutting blade.

* Hammer

* screwdrivers

* wrench

* 1/4 -20 tap

* dill and bits. You will need 15/64 inch or 3/16, and 5/16 inch, plus a small bit to pilot holes for screws

* pencil and yardstick.

* A vice is going to make this a lot easier.

* A sheet of rough Sandpaper.


Materials list:

You can get all this stuff at your favorite hardware store, with maybe the exception of the sliding lower part of the legs which I got at Home Depot.


* A length of Red Oak 1"x2". You will need six 36" pieces, so figure accordingly. The exact length isn't critical, you can make them 34" or 38" if you want to. (Note that although lumber is specified as 1"x2", it is actually 0.75" by 1.5"). Oak is recommended because it is so hard.  


* 3 treated lumber deck rails from Home Depot. These are 42" long, and have a beveled end that is just right for your tripod. They are about 1 1/4" square. These are about one dollar each, so they make an economical choice.


* An 8 foot piece of 1/8" thick by 1" wide aluminum bar. You are going to need about 6.5 feet of it. This will cost about $12.

* A 4 foot piece of 1/4" thick by 1" aluminum bar. You are going to use about 18" of it. Maybe you can find a 2 foot piece, but my local store only had it in 4 foot length. This is the stuff that all hardware stores (Ace, Home Depot) have in racks.

* a 2 foot length of threaded rod, 1/4 inch by 20 threads per inch (1/4-20).

* Six 1/4-20 wing nuts.

* Three 3.5" long 1/4-20 hex bolts

* Three 1/5" 1/4-20 bolts, any kind of head is OK

* About 24 "6x3/4" steel wood screws.

* Nine 1" washers for 1/4" bolts

* Three 2.5" 1/4-20 bolts

* Three 1/4-20 lock nuts.

* Some varnish if you want to treat this. Note that you can't varnish the treated wood section.


Note that none of the dimentions are really critical. You can do everything by "eye" if you want to. Don't get hung up on measuring.


* Prepare the six side legs. Cut them to 36" long. and drill a 5/16 inch hole in the top of each one about 7/8 inch from the top in the center.

* Prepare the center lower sliding part of the legs by drilling a 5/16" hole through the top of the legs 1/2 inch from the top. Note that the legs already have a bevel cut on the end that is going to go on the ground (this is a deck railing). The longest part of the leg will sit on the outside, so drill in from that face.

Leg clamps:

* Cut three 4" lengths of the 1/4-20 threaded rod. Rub the ends on the sandpaper to smooth them. I cut by just jamming it in the viee and using the hacksaw.

* Cut three 3" pieces of the 1/4 inch aluminum bar. Drill a hole in the center 3/8" from each end using the 15/64" bit. Tap these holes with the 1/4-20 bit. The 3.5" hex bolts and threaded rod pieces are going in there. (see below). You are making the top bar in both shots below.

* Cut three 3" pieces of the 1/4 inch aluminum bar. Drill a 5/16" hole near the ends, using the pieces you made above as a template to mark them. The threaded rod and hex bolt will pass through these.

* Assemble the leg clamps as shown below.

A leg clamp

Sliding leg top brace:

* Cut three 3" pieces of the 1/8" aluminum bar. Drill a 5/16 inch hole in the center of each bar. Put the 2.5" bolts through the bar, then put a washer on the bar, then put the bolt through the sliding center leg with the brace on the outside of the leg. This makes the brace stand off the center leg by the thickness of the leg. Put a washer and a locking 1/4-20 nut on the other side. This is shown below, but note that I didn't use a bolt, I used a piece of threaded rod because I didn't have the right size bolt. That is why you see a nut in the picture instead of the top of the bolt.

Leg top brace, front and back view.

Leg  braces:

* These are the brass pieces shown on the overall photo of the tripod above. I happened to use brass because I had it, but you can use the aluminum to save money.

* Note that there is a brace on the outside and the inside (not visible in the photo) of each leg.

* Cut six 3" pieces of the 1/8" bar. Drill some holes in the corners of each piece large enough to pass the wood screws.

* Put the center leg in. You can attach the tops of the outside legs to the mount at this time. Note that this arrangement uses the original LXD55 bolts for the leg attachment.

* IMPORTANT! * put a penny or a washer between the center leg and the outer leg for this next step (attaching the braces) If you don't, the center legs may be too tight and you may not be able to move them later. Take the penny out later.

* Position the outside brace 20" from the top. Make a little mark with a pencil at one corner hole. Take the brace off, and drill out the hole with a small bit. Put the brace back on and screw it on with the 6 x 3/4 screws. Then drill out the other holes and put in the screws. Repeat for the other two outside braces.

* There is a brace on the inside of each leg too. (not visible on the photo). I positioned these slightly offset from the outer braces for strength. I put the inner braces top even with the bottom of the outer brace.

* Mark and attach the inner braces the same way.

* Take the penny out ;)

Cross brace system:

* cut three 3 inch pieces of the 1/8" bar stock. These will be the supporting brackets shown on the right below.

* Drill and tap a 1/4-20 hold 3/8 of an inch from the end in the center.

* Note how the brackets are flush with one side of the outer legs. Drill two holes for screws in these braces as shown below by eye.

* Using a vice, bend the bracket in the center at about a 60 degree angle. You can put a cloth over it and hit it with a hammer to get it to bend. It does NOT have to be perfect.

* Attach these brackets so that the top of the bracket is 15" from the top of the outside legs as shown below. Note that part of the bracket does stick out over the center leg; this is good, and it is a safety feature.

* Thread a 1.5" bolt into the bracket as shown below.

Cross brace system

* Now cut three 16" lengths of the 1/8 inch stock as show below.

* Drill a 5/16 inch hole in two of the corners (not the center) as shown below. Again, don't worry about the exact position.

* Put the bars on the bolts sticking up, put on some wing nuts, you are done!


A cross brace bar.

Accessory tray:

If you want to, you can cut out an accessory tray from plywood as shown in the overall photo. Mine just sits there on the cross pieces, there isn't really any need to attach it. Mine is a triangle larger than the cross pieces with the corners cut off.


* Note that you can't varnish or paint the treated wood legs. Also note that you should not eat or breath the dust from the treated wood. Fortunately, all you have to do for this design is drill one hole in each part, no cutting is required. I'd vacuum up the resulting sawdust from the drilling. Don't eat the dust or the wood, and wash your hands.

* Note on cutting the aluminum bar. This is actually an aluminum copper alloy, and is easy to cut. I make a mark on the bar, then put it in the vice gripping it by the thin sides. Then work your hacksaw over it to get the cut started on both sides. After you cut the bars, rub them on the sandpaper to remove the rough edges so that they don't "get" you some dark night. Didn't come out even, who cares? Don't worry about it.

* Note on tapping the holes. All "tapping" means is drilling a hole a little smaller than you want, then screwing a "tap" into the hole to cut the threads. You can just buy the one 1/4-20 tap if you like (it will come in handy, this is the same thread used by camera tripods, for example). You will use a 15/64 (or in a pinch a 3/16 inch) drill bit for the 1/4" holes. Taps are usually used in a special handle, but you don't really need it. To tap the hole, drill it out. Then put a drop of oil in the hole  and put the tap in. Twist the tap in hard using a pliers or crescent wrench until it bites in. Press hard to get a good bite. Then twist the tap in. Don't stop when the tap comes out the other side, thread it in all the way and then turn it back out. This makes the threads nice and clean.

You can see that if you don't want to tap any of the holes, you could probably substitute bolts and nuts.

* Note on the size of the mount. I have the refractor version, so I want a nice tall mount. As built, the mount will be 38" between the ground and the very bottom of the equitorial head when fully collapsed. Fully extended the mount will be 51" to the bottom of the head, or about 5.5 feet to the telescope cradle. If you want to get another 6" (you would have to be really tall!) you can move the leg braces down a few inches. As it is, with the legs fully extended, the mount will JUST fit through a standard doorway with the cradle attached. If you are building the for the SN series, you might want to cut it down a little bit, I don't have that scope so I'm not sure what size would be best.

* Note on moving the mount. To move or store the mount, you can either just take one wing nut off the leg cross braces and fold one leg in, or take off all three nuts and fold all the legs in. It isn't THAT heavy, I carry the mount with the cradle attache (no tube) and one leg folded in with ease.

* Note on the cross braces. You can reduce the angle that the mount stands at by cutting shorter cross brace bars (they are 16" now). As it is, the the refractor can point almost to the zenith, so I'm not sure that you need to do this, but you could experiment if you like.

* Improvements:

   Well, you could attach the leg clamps to the outside legs. I don't find that it is necessary, but you might.