Make Your Own “Vixen” Dovetail
A few years ago I bought an AstroTech 66mm apo refractor. This neat little scope came with a “mounting foot” instead of rings. The foot has a 1/4X20 threaded hole for mounting to a camera tripod. It also has the “Vixen dovetail” shape that easily allows mounting to the popular Vixen dovetail saddle plates that comes on more and more telescopes these days.
I wanted to use this scope on my ancient Unitron alt-az mount. It was not difficult to simply bolt the scope to a wood plate on the mount. But it still looked like a Vixen dovetail saddle plate would be a better alternative.
It took only a few minutes on the internet to determine there were plenty of these plates available...at a price. Surely I could make them myself but I am a woodworker, not a metal worker. Even red oak will split along the grain if enough pressure is applied. Then the thought occurred, why not a hybrid of metal and wood?
I measured the width and angles on the Vixen mounting foot. The sides were angled at 15°. I took a piece of solid red oak and trimmed the sides at a 15° angle with a table saw. Two short strips of 1/8-inch thick aluminum were trimmed from longer bar stock. Before cutting the aluminum to final size I drilled and tapped 1/4X20 holes to accept thumbscrews. Also I drilled and countersunk some holes that would allow DeckMate screws (some really tough exterior grade deck building screws that do not break or “cam out” when installed) to be used to attach the aluminum to the red oak. Pilot holes in the wood for the screws were drilled and some Goop adhesive was placed between the wood and metal to add extra bonding strength.
I made dovetail plates for both the Unitron and a HD alt-az mount. I liked the ease of attaching scopes to these two mounts so much that I also made Vixen style mounting feet for a couple of other scopes. On these smaller scopes I did not bother to attach aluminum plates to the mounting feet as their weight was so small I felt this was not necessary.
It is obvious why the Vixen dovetail system is so popular. Scopes are easy to mount without tools. If the Vixen foot and /or saddle are long enough balancing becomes easier too. If you have access to a saw that can cut at a 15° bevel you too can make your own Vixen style mounting system.
About the Author:
Terry Alford has been an avid amateur astronomer since 1979. He is currently a member of two astro clubs: Bays Mountain Astronomy Club (founding member) and Bristol Astronomy Club. Since 2001 Terry has taught Astronomy Labs at East TN State University. His first ATM project was in 1979 and was an equatorial pipe mount for an 8-in reflector. His woodworking shop also turns out toys for grandkids.