My second solution to help my polar alignment was to take a blank CD, cut it to size, and sandwich it between my tripod and equatorial mount. This had the advantage of being immune to dirt, humidity (a constant problem in Texas) and offered a low friction surface for the mount to rotate on. Success! I no longer feared the friction that came between my tripod and my mount. I was quite happy with this solution. That is, until the weight of the mount and telescope shattered the CD. I thought that there had to be a better way. As it turns out, there was!
Polar alignment with my equatorial mount was never easy. I had fought for months with the friction between the tripod and the mount. I had feared that sometimes when adjusting the azimuth knobs on my CGEM during polar alignment, that I would break the post on the tripod! Something had to be done, and I was determined to solve this problem.
My first thought was that the painted surfaces of the mount cause so much friction, that I can’t do delicate adjustments with the azimuth knobs. I could fix this with some lithium grease. This actually worked well for about a week. Dirt, grit, and moisture became a problem, and I had to clean the old grease off, and apply new grease often. I thought that there had to be a better way. As it turns out, there was!
My third attempt at turning the polar alignment nightmare into pure bliss was an evolution of the blank CD idea. Instead of using a rigid piece of plastic, I wanted something that would be a bit less brittle. While researching ideas online, I came across one that involved a bit of Delrin cut into a washer shape that was then placed between the tripod and the mount. I didn’t have access to Delrin, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on an experiment, so I looked for a suitable alternative. I decided to use a gallon jug for water as my material. This material was slick, like Delrin is. It’s also tough, but flexible. These qualities gave me confidence that this solution would work. I cut out a washer that fit between the mount and the tripod, and tried it out that night. Success! This worked even better than the CD did! I used this washer for months, and never ran into any issues with friction while doing a polar alignment.
This washer solution did, however, come with a few inherent flaws. The thin, malleable plastic was prone to deformation when I would move the azimuth knobs. This deforming action would cause the mount head to ‘float’ when I was making an adjustment. Star movements would become unpredictable as I twisted the azimuth knobs. Large movements were fine, but it was the smaller movements that were becoming a hassle. For months I accepted that being within 30 arcmin of the NCP was good enough. For months I never knew the real potential of my mount. For months I thought that there had to be a better way. Then I found a way to eliminate the friction in an equatorial mount.
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