BIG RED! She's got a ten inch mirror, and she's been signed by John Dobson himself! She's about all the scope that one average size guy in an average size car with an average size astronomy budget would care to own.... I acquired mine in 1989 (see image of scope at OSP '89 on Steens Mountain). My supplier for the scope was a purist old-fashioned "Dob" company called Coulter Optical (see image below). In the history of modern astronomy, the founder of Coulter, James Braginton of Idyllwild, California, was a pioneer who looms very large. He was first to design/market affordable "light bucket" types of scopes, thus making astronomy so much more accessible to all of us. Big Red is a member of Coulter's "Odyssey" line, which was marketed from about 1980 to 1995.... Mr. Braginton was directly inspired by his friend John Dobson's original San Francisco street designs-- plate glass mirrors, press-board rocker box, and indestructible, dirt-cheap cardboard tubes. Leave 'em set up all night in the worst part of town, and don't worry about them drawing thieves! Click here for a story about my "Midnight Encounter with John Dobson."

John Dobson himself signed mine at the Table Mountain Star Party in 1993. Only thing was, the truth was that I had sold Big Red to my friend Brian that year and he had taken it to TMSP. Table Mountain is the Northwest's largest annual Star Party, usually drawing around 1,000 participants at its 6,200 ft. high site just north of Ellensberg, WA. As you can see below, the limiting magnitude of such a scope is 15.0, quite respectable and capable of bringing in those "dim fuzzies." The strange items attached to the rear of Big Red are rocks and balls, really. The striped rock helps counterbalance the top-heavy scope, and the two round lead weights were needed once I switched to a two-inch focuser and some heavy Naglers. Yeah, I can see the joke coming, "Does your scope have balls?" I swear, it wasn't intentional. 2014 UPDATE: RIP John L. Dobson, 1915-2014: sadly, John Dobson passed away this year. Guy Pirro posted in AstroMart: "...John Dobson, the self-taught stargazer who designed the powerful, inexpensive Dobsonian telescope, died January 15, 2014 at a hospital in Burbank, California. He was 98."


The Telrad finder, Many of us at OSP have the Telrad Reflex finder mounted on their scope. This zero-power "red dot" finder was invented by Brent Stephen Kufeld in Huntington Beach, California. The first ones were sold in the early 1980s. After Mr. Kufeld passed away in1997, one of his employees Rhonda Cummings and her husband Wes were able to buy the company and continue to this day. Mr. Cummings told me that well over a quarter million have been sold. See part of a Telrad mounting base in the picture of Dobson's signature at page top. You can also see a mounting base on the picture of the full telescope, up near the focuser. Note: the Telrad is technically not a "red dot" finder because instead of a red dot projected against the sky you get concentric rings of red light, the smallest of which covers 1/2 degree, the size of a full moon.

Telrad's website:

Pictures taken April 2006. Big Red is now owned by Rose City Astronomers, and is an honored member of the telescope lending library, which is based at OMSI and easily accessible!

Classic OSP Steens and Ochocos stickers on Big Red!

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Visit my 46 page section about "The History of Gear," (backpacking & climbing gear, including Oregon-based originators)

Steve Swayze mirror-building services is no longer in service; Steve passed away a couple years ago

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Last revised 3/14/2023