Paper Pikon with 1000mm Focal Length

Pikon Telescope made from poster board

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I had trouble sourcing a tube for my Pikon telescope so I just used some poster board and good old white glue to make one myself. Uses the same diameter as the Pikon (120mm), but overall length is 1meter. To control this size of telescope I'm building motion system using commodity and 3d printable parts.

First I was inspired by other Pikon projects:


..and like most strikes of inspiration I went straight to amazon and bought stuff.  Also like most of my frenzied purchases I had neglected to notice that the mirror I purchased was 1000mm focal (instead of the 500mm per the standard Pikon plans).  I also neglected to notice that the Pikon plans call for a metric tube size, which turns out to be quite difficult to source here in the US.  Naturally by this point I had already printed all the parts and worse of all...  I committed the cardinal sin. I told my wife and kinds that I was building a telescope!  A full eight months later I finally had a telescope.

The first set of instructions is mostly about building the telescope itself out of poster board.  However, this project has quickly morphed into a motion control system about how to control the telescope.

Special thanks to the people who made the OpenSCAD pulleys and gears:  - Pulleys - Focus Gears


V1 Gearing Plate - Print 2

Standard Tesselated Geometry - 67.07 kB - 01/20/2019 at 14:29



100 Tooth GT2 -2mm pitch Pulley

Standard Tesselated Geometry - 1.89 MB - 01/20/2019 at 14:28



25 Tooth GT2 -2mm pitch Pulley

Standard Tesselated Geometry - 520.13 kB - 01/20/2019 at 14:28



20 Tooth GT2 -2mm pitch Pulley

Standard Tesselated Geometry - 416.97 kB - 01/20/2019 at 14:28



100 Tooth GT2 -2mm pitch Pulley - SCAD

scad - 18.22 kB - 01/20/2019 at 14:28


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  • Mounting Rabbit Hole

    Nathan Brown10/03/2019 at 18:27 0 comments

    I've run into a problem with my drive design after considering building an equatorial mount.  It sent me down a rabbit hole trying to design.  I was a little over zealous in thinking I could devote that much time to it.  So I am back to a simple Alt-Az mount and my pulley based "gearbox".

    I do think it would be awesome if we could design up an open source printable / cnc'able equatorial mounting system.  This is a little bit of a grad undertaking, so I think I'll take this on AFTER I have a totally working telescope.

  • Long Time Hard Progress

    Nathan Brown08/13/2019 at 12:17 0 comments

    Summer is not the right time to work on a paper telescope in Florida, but...

    The motion system is getting a new redesign to build an encapsulated belt drive "motor" that I can use to turn the two axis. 

    Also, I'm in the process of building an equatorial mount.

    Some progress is still progress...

  • Drive Progress

    Nathan Brown01/21/2019 at 14:51 0 comments

    Happy super blood wolf moon!   I'll post pictures from this very telescope tonight!

    The drive system is progressing...  I've hooked up the reduction box Mark I to the telescope and with the help of 32x micro-stepping I don't really need to have as much reduction.  But the design of this reduction box is that I can change up the gears (add / remove) if I needed to.

    Here is the Mark I setup:

    Couple things to point out:

    The Mark I box doesn't have any attachment points yet; it is more just for testing.  I'm printing Mark II now that I can screw down.

    The large belt (the one on the telescope) is just clipped together.  I need to find the right point to clip it so that I have full movement of the telescope.

    It would be nice if I could incorporate some kind of clutch that would allow me to move the telescope manually.

    I should build in a "main belt" tension system into the pulley box.  That might have to wait until Mark III.

    The wine is important here...

    I'm just using a DIRT simple arduino setup.  Just a pololu style stepper driver breakout, a couple buttons, and an Arduino Nano.  I'll add those to the parts list when I get a little closer, but the goal is for this to be connected to the PI and have full control over the network just like Pate's.

    Finally to the point...

    This setup with two reduction pulleys (20 -> 100 + 20 -> 100 + 30 -> 300)  or ( 5 * 5 * 10) * 32X microsteping =  8000!  I'm all set.  Using just push button to move up and down works well and I'm able to track nicely and the motion is silky smooth.  There doesn't seem to be too much backlash, but I'll need to tension the main belt a little better before I can say for sure.

    At this point I'm at least confident that I can make this whole thing work.

  • 3D Printed Pulleys

    Nathan Brown01/18/2019 at 17:21 0 comments

    So the last log was about determining that I would need a 6480:1 reduction to get a 1ars-second resolution from a 1.8 degree stepper motor.  As other have pointed out (see Backlash section here), gears can be a little problematic, so the next obvious choice is timing belts.  While not 100% backlash free they are a very inexpensive way to make a "reduced" backlash system.

    So lets create ourselves a GT2 (2mm pitch) timing belt system to get us to that reduction.  But first some goals:

    • Target of at least 6480:1 reduction
    • Flexible enough that I can add or remove reduction if I need to
    • By printable on my ~210mm print area (which would include the box housing)

    I happen to live close enough to drive to my favorite on-line supply shop MPJA.COM.  They happen to carry a good variety of GT2 belt loops in the "standard" 6mm width used by most 3d printers.  The belt sizes that they stock are 158, 188, 200, 260, 280, 400, 610, & 852mm.  So if I want to make a reasonably sized reduction box I should probably not have anything too big, but on the other hand it would be nice if I could make the box flexible enough that I could add some extra stages (add more reduction) if I needed to.

    Wait... why am I starting with the belt sizes instead of doing the math first?  Well... there are a couple of things about GT2 belt systems that we know.  First, for 2mm pitch belts any pulley < 20 tooth does not really have enough engagement with the belt so we will limit out small size pulley to 20 tooth.  Next, we don't want to deal with an overly sized reduction box.  To make use of the 400mm belt above we would have to use a 150+ tool pulley which would be ~100mm in diameter which kind of make the this a little too large.  So the next size down is 280mm belt.  Lets just see if we can make something that works out to some nice round number?

    Well it just so happens that for GT2 2mm pitch if you use a 20 tooth small pulley and a 100 tooth large and space them out a nice even 75mm apart then it just to happens to fit a 280mm belt perfectly.  Try it yourself here.  I happen to know this because I'm played with these sizes before.  I'll try to dig up the math that I used to calculate this, but the above calculator is great tool!  When using that tool be sure to check out the "Teeth in Mesh" calculation.  Anything less than 6 is just too small.  The 20:100 combo leaves 7 in mesh which is respectable considering there won't really be much force.

    So now I have a 1:5 reduction set, but we also need one large pulley for the "main" drive pulley on the telescope itself.  The largest GT2 that I can print is about 300 tooth.  You want your largest pulley on the telescope so you have the both the largest belt engagement but also the largest final reduction.   So lets print one of those up and slap it on...

    So now I have 300, it is time to work backwards a quick setup is:


    Stage Output Input Ratio : 1 ArcS/Step
    5 300 30 10 6250 1.0368
    4 100 20 5 625 10.368
    3 100 20 5 125 51.84
    2 100 20 5 25 259.2
    1100 20 5 5 1296
    1 1 6480

    So I will have a whopping 5 stage reduction.  It will consist of four 100 tooth + 20 tooth pulleys compound pulleys plus one 100 tooth + 30 tooth.  All of which can be easily printed...  Here is what it looks like so far:

    I just have to print up another two stages and I'll be all set.  Then I just have to make the final connection from the final 30 tooth pulley to the big 300 tooth.  For  that I'm going to just make my own belt and clamp it together.  Since the telescope is not going to turn in a full circle I don't have to worry about the joint. 

    Once I get the box finalized I'll post the STLs and the OpenScad files for the pulleys.

  • Thoughts on Angular Resolution

    Nathan Brown01/17/2019 at 17:20 0 comments

    This is the first telescope that I have ever owned.  In fact, this is the first telescope that I have ever "looked" through (not counting images from Hubble, and yes I'm not actually even looking through this one either).  Anyhow, I don't know what I'm doing...  So much so that it took me a good 15 minutes to even find the Moon with this telescope.  I have no spotting scope, I was just sighting along the barrel and I had trouble.

    The problems boiled down to:

    1. Vibration / Stability - The whole setup shook while moving it by hand, not because it was unstable, by just because my hand vibrates enough to cause problems.  Also I had difficulty focusing because that would move or jiggle the whole thing.  In reality I am going to have a hard time making a rigid telescope out of paper.
    2. Positional Resolution / Repeat-ability - It was very difficult to move the telescope in only one axis or be sure that I was "scooting" it just a little bit and not to much to overshoot my target.
    3. Inexperience - I didn't know what I was doing or even how large my view of the moon would be

    A little homework was in order...  First, I've been using this site: to find the size of the objects that I was interesting in seeing.  On the first day 11 - Dec My telescope was giving me a field of view of about a third of the Moon which was 1770 arc-seconds in size. So my field of view (FOV) is in the neighborhood of 600 arc-seconds.  I'm using the 8MP Raspberry PI Camera v2 (native res of 3280 X 2464).  Rather than do actual math, I figures that I start with some napkin math.  I'm going to consider the my horizontal as equal to the 600 arc-second FOV and just round down a little so 3000 / 600 = somewhere 5 pixels per Arc Second.

    Next, I went back to and found the sizes of some other things that I wanted to see:

    ArcSeconds Pixels
    Min Min Min Min
    Mars 24 3 120 15
    Saturn 18 15 90 75
    Jupiter 44 30 220 150

    So a day is 23:56:04 or 86,164 seconds to turn a total of 1,296,000 arc seconds in a circle or, 15 arc seconds per second.  Thus, during a one-second exposure Saturn would move 15 pixels (1/5 of its size).  That would be a pretty blurry image!

    I will limited to 1/30 of second exposures if I want to limit my blurry to sub-pixel size, but that may be pushing the ISO limits of the camera.  This will be my first experiment.

    It would be better if I could move the telescope to keep up with the earth's rotation (like the big boys do).  To do this I would need to be able to generate smooth motion at about 1/120 of a second of earth's rotation (I just made that number up).  So 15/120 that give me 0.125 arc seconds "steps" or 10,368,000 steps per revolution.

    A quick google search did not turn up any 9.645 * 10^-8 deg stepper motors.  I think a little reduction is going to be in order.  Likely 1/120 of an arc-second is probably an exaggeration of what I will likely need so to give myself a fighting chance, I'm going to aim for a 1 step per arc-second resolution (not to be confused with accuracy).

    That works out to a 6480:1 reduction (3,600 arc-seconds per degree * 1.8 degree stepper motor = 6480).  You can also think about it as 1,296,000 arc-seconds per revolution / 200 steps per revolution stepper = 6480 reduction.

    6,480 is the magic number.

  • Catch up...

    Nathan Brown01/17/2019 at 15:25 0 comments

    So I have a little to catch up on so here is a quick timeline of activities.

    Nov '17 - First read about the Pikon

    March '18 - Purchased mirror from Amazon

    March '18 - 3D Printed all the parts

    April '18 - Moped about trying to source a tube

    September '18 - Started watch Eric Strebel

    Oct '18 - "Hey I should be able to make this whole this out of cardboard!"

    Nov '18 - Built my tube... and realized that my mirror was 1000mm and not 500mm

    Nov '18 - Extended my tube to 1000mm and took first pictures of daytime objects

    Dec '18 - Moon was in good position so I got first clear pictures

    Next post will be in the instructions and dimensions on my cardboard tube and construction method.

    I am currently working to get the movement system built so that I can actually point with some degree of accuracy.

View all 6 project logs

  • 1
    3D Print Some Parts

    I suggest starting by printed some parts.  You'll need most, if not all, of the parts from the original Pikon:

    To build this out of paper I would exclude the Tripod mount & Raspberry Pi mount.  Instead you're going to need to print a few extra parts (See attached files):

    TubeSupportRing.stl - Support ring to help in building and supporting (3 or 4)

    TubeSupportJoint.stl - Used to support the junction points between paper and for each end (1 to 3)

    I printed everything out of PLA and bumped up the perimeters to 3 or 4 to give some additional radial strength on the rings.

    You certainly don't have to print everything before building the tube, but you will need the support rings above and I would be sure to print the Base & the Spider so you can be sure to make the tube the right size.

  • 2
    Build Tube

    First, I would suggest if you are not comfortable bending poster board then pick up one technique from Eric Strebel in this video.

    The standard Pikon diameter is 125mm Inner Diameter (ID) and 610mm long.  My paper was 0.7mm thick so this results in a ~395mm diameter (125 + 0.7) * pi. This roughs in at 16in X 24in so it fits well in an easy to source sheet of poster board (which is 22" X 28" where I am).  BE SURE TO GET BLACK such as this so you won't have to paint it.

    To make the tube, bend the paper without wrinkling it and glue it with some reinforcement strips that you cut from the scraps.  As Eric suggests, standard white glue it great choice for this.  To help glue the joint I did you two meter sticks to help clamp.  I also use rubber bands to and the printed support rings to keep it together until the glue dried.  Be sure not to glue the rings in place yet.  Also make sure the Spider and Base fit into the ends.

    To make it longer you may need to get multiple sections and glue them together.  In my case I made one tube with the exact dimensions above.  Then I made another 395mm diameter and 500mm long as an extension tube for my 1000mm focal length (so if you got a 750mm FL mirror then you would just need to add a 250mm long section).

    I used all the scraps from poster board to make additional support sections in the middle.  I just curved them a bit, clued them on and used rubber bands for clamps.

    You can see below the sections where I added some reinforcement with the scraps.

  • 3
    Finish off the Telescope portion

    Follow the rest of the instructions from the standard for the standard Pikon here.  But, please read the rest of this post before final gluing anything.

    Once you have that together then you'll need to put on the Pivot Clamp in the center of gravity and then build some kind of base to hold the thing.  Before you do this you may want to plan out a little bit where you want to go with this whole build.

    For the most stable build you want the pivot point at the center of gravity, but if you are going to add ANYTHING else to the telescope then you'll either have to add weight to the other end or move this clamp.  You will need to at least account for the Raspberry Pi, but if you want to have a dust cap, focus knob, focus motor, etc. you should think about that now and make it possible to move your center clamp as needed.  So don't glue any support rings in the center area until you are really ready to lock things down.

    Next, I built a simple stand out of some 2X sticks that I had around and a piece of 3/4" plywood.  I suggest starting with something that may not be 100% permanent to start with until you decide if you want to build a motion system.

    At this point you should have something that might look like this:

    You can see the construction of my base from here.  It is not too fancy because I'm still designing the motion system.  It was helpful to get to this point then start dialing in the telescope.  Next steps:

    Pick software for the PI

    Focus the back mirror

    Design your Motion System

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Nathan Brown wrote 01/18/2019 at 21:00 point

cogs are all 3D Printed.  I'll be posting them shortly.  I'm still finishing up the reduction box.  I'll post the links to the belts right now.  I got the threaded rod at my local hardware store.

I'm still in the processes of catching up this project page with all things I have done thus far so more is coming.

  Are you sure? yes | no

salmanisheikh wrote 01/17/2019 at 15:01 point

so where did you get the cog, belt and thread for the build. 

  Are you sure? yes | no

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