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a cheap tripod alternative January 4, 2010

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, Galileoscope, MichiganAstro, telescope beginners guide.
Tags: , , ,

Cardboard box mount

So you’ve just spent $15 on a new Galileoscope and need something to mount it on. Or maybe you just picked up your third used camera off eBay for $25 and you now have more optics than tripods. But you just can’t bring yourself to spend 3x more money on the mount than you spent on the optics.

Well you’re in luck. Here’s a cheap and easy solution: a cardboard box mount. This is a very basic alt-az style mount for any lightweight optics, and it really shouldn’t cost you more than a few cents to put it together. It may not be the most elegant mount, but it works.  And it doubles as a storage container!

Things you need for a cardboard box mount.

Here’s what you need:

  • Something to mount;
  • a cardboard box with some stuff in it to balance the optics;
  • a 1/4-20 threaded thumb screw (a bolt will also work, but it is less convenient),
  • 2 washers.

You’ll also need a pencil or pen and something pointy to put a hole in the cardboard box. The smallest screwdriver on a leatherman works realy well, though it is a bit smaller than the thread of the screw.Other good options include a small pocket knife, an ice pick, cork screw or  something along those lines.

How to assemble the mount:

  1. Empty the box and open it up.

    Taping the flaps will add to the strength of the box.

    • You will want it open while you are using it as a mount, so if it is a box with flap lids, you’ll have to decide what to do with one of the flaps, especially if you want to use it for storage.
      • Folding the flap down will add more stability to the hole and more support for the telescope.
      • It is best to tape the flaps down to keep them out of your way while observing, but not if you want to close the box to store stuff.
      • After repeated use, the flap will tend to fall in and become useless as part of the box top, or it may tear off.
    • If your box is lidded, remove the lid and set it aside.
  2. Mark the location with a pen.

    Mark the position for the thumbscrew at least 1" from any edge or corner.

    • The short side is better, since  that will make it easier to balance the telescope.
    • You want to to be a high as possible for a telescope, so if you are using something like a paper box, you may  want to stand the box on end and put the hole in the bottom.
    • Put the hole close to an edge to make it easier to get your head up next to the eyepiece. Make sure it is at least an inch (~2 cm) from any edge or corner so there is enough room to use the thumbscrew.
  3. Punch a hole roughly the diameter of the 1/4-20 thumbscrew. If you decide to go with something like a  kitchen knife be very careful not to make the hole too big. Big holes may not have enough support for your optics.

    punch a hole just big enough for the thumbscrew.

  4. Place a washer on the thumbscrew and push the screw through the hole from the inside of the box.  Place the other washer over the screw.
  5. Place a washer on the screw and insert it into the hole

  6. Attach your telescope/camera. Tighten the thumbscrew just enough to hold it in place. Too tight will wear out the box.

    Attach the telescope

  7. If you can’t tighten it enough to hold the telescope in place, you may need to add a couple spacers.

    Add a spacer (or a few) to make the box thick enough to tighten the screw.

  8. Add stuff to the box to act as a counterweight to the telescope. Load the side farthest from the telescope first.

Using the Mount

A Galileoscope on a cardboard box mount

  1. To adjust the altitude (up and down), lossen the thumbscrew slightly, adjust your telescope, then tighten it down.  Moving it without loosening the thumbscrew will wear out the box.
  2. To adjust azimuth (side to side), rotate the whole box.
  3. Be sure to check the hole and the area around the washers frequently, or at least before every observing session, since there’s nothing worse than having your telescope fall off in the middle of an observing session. If the hole does wear out, simply make a new one at least an inch from the old one.

When your box wears out, or if you decide it wasn’t a very good box, you can simply move the hardware to another box. If you plan to use the box for storage, I recommend storing the hardware in a plastic zipper style bag in the box rather than leaving your telescope mounted to it.

Some tips for choosing a box:

  1. A huge box may take up too much space and be inconvenient if you want to transport it somewhere.
  2. A short box may not have enough clearance for high objects and long telescopes.
  3. A tall skinny box may be to top-heavy to support a ‘scope or heavy camera.


1. The Galileoscope - Hands-On Learning For All Ages - Universe Today - April 26, 2016

[…] Somewhere at some point in time I had run across a clever idea where a person had used a sturdy Galileoscope Cardboard Box Mount as a simple alt-az configuration. Just weigh down the bottom of the box and pass the quarter twenty […]

2. pineapple01 - June 21, 2012

Thank you for an idea it can be used for point and shot cameras too.

aquillam - June 21, 2012

I’m not as fond of it for a camera mount because it means the pictures are always vertical. You can turn the box so the camera is on top, but then you loose the altitude adjustment.

3. fidel - March 3, 2010

I had not thought of this… thank you…!!!!!!!!!!!!

aquillam - March 3, 2010

I didn’t actually think of it either. Someone suggested it at the 2008 AAS/ASP meeting at the session where they were first talking about the Galileoscope. Wish I could rememebr who it was who mentioned it now…

4. aquillam - February 12, 2010

A couple people have pointed out to me that you could also use a more permanant box, like a plastic one for this. The box will cost you something, but with careful selection, you may be able to store your ‘scope, guidebooks, eyepieces, binoculars, or whatever else you might want to take with you. So you’d have an inexpensive mount and traveling storage solution. Just make sure there’s a good spot on the container where there won’t be a lip or indentation or anything to interfere with the telescope motion.

5. Rhodney - February 5, 2010

I am going to receive my gallileioscop on monday and was really worried about the tripod stand cause i dont want to spend money on it. your technique is great and thanks for the great tip you just saved me a lot of money

6. Leeuw - January 28, 2010

Great idea ! Due to financial restrictions I haven’t been able to buy a tripod yet, and thus have not been able to do some observing with my proud new scope. I do think I can afford a thumbscrew-bolt (or maybe I have one laying about), so I will definitely give this a try. Thanx for the idea, wich, like any great idea is so simple I could have thought of it myself, so why haven’t I …?…

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