Refractor Telescope Kit

For those wanting to learn how to make and use a “Small, Simple, Beginner’s Telescope Anyone Can Build.” Adults—Youngsters—Class Projects

This is NOT a kit of parts that you assemble—you make everything from the telescope lenses to the tripod.

NOTE: Very limited quantities—PLEASE READ the statement below in RED.

Alan Binder, Ph.D. and Ken Graun have created a basic telescope kit for anyone wanting to try their hand at building a simple refractor telescope and explore the heavens.

The kit includes the basic materials to grind and polish a 1.75 inch diameter refractor lens (with a clear aperture of 1.5 inches) along with two eyepieces that yield 30x and 60x. A few of the basic telescope components are also included, like the cells for the objective lens and eyepieces. But, the materials for the tube and tripod are to be purchased and constructed by the telescope maker.

The intent of this kit and instructions is to provide a means to build and learn the fundamentals of telescope making—to go through the whole process from start to finish. Additionally, the manual contains a plethora of celestial objects that can be observed with the telescope. We hope to incourage individuals to learn and enjoy telescope making and observational astronomy.


Review this page, the manual and the videos on YouTube, to see if this is the type of project that interests you. See the yellow box lower on this page for links and email addresses. Email us with questions.

Email Ken Graun at or call 520-743-3200 (Leave a message if you get a recording.) Credit cards accepted.
$20 for the kit plus $6 for shipping, totalling $26

Although this kit sells for just $20, the cost of this kit is well below our actual cost. And, it is very time consuming for us to create all the pieces provided in each kit. For this reason, we ask that your purchase of the kit be a serious consideration. Additionally, we cannot provide kits for whole classrooms, so we ask teachers to purchase one kit and make it a class project. As a class project, every student should be able to find some aspect that he or she can contibute towards the completion of the telescope.


The completed 1.5 inch diameter refractor.


Questions & Answers

What does the kit contain?
This kit contains the the materials to make the objective lens and two eyepieces, as well as completed wooden "cells" to hold the lenses
(see picture to the right and below).

What type of telescope would be made?
This telescope is a simple Keplerian refractor. It has a single objective lens (the front lens) and two, single lens eyepieces. All of the lenses have plano-convex surfaces (flat on one side and convex on the other side). The 60-inch focal length of the objective is very long to greatly reduces optical abberations. You can definitely purchase a commercial telescope with superior optics, but this project is a learning project, to introduce you to telescope making.

What does this project entail?
You will grind and polish three lenses—the materials are provided in the kit—see pictures to the right. You will then purchase cardboard tubes, wood, nuts and bolts to assemble the telescope and construct the tripod.

What tools will I need?
The major tools are a variable-speed hand drill (best if corded) with a "stand," drill bits, hand saw, miter box and other basic tools including screwdrivers and wrenches. We realize that the stand for the hand drill is an item that most people do not own, however it will be an investment and something that can be used indefinitely. This drill stand must be the type that allows the drill to be reversed in the stand, so it can point upwards. Or, you can build one—see plans in the yellow box.

What instructions are provided?
There are three instructional sources.

1) Very comprehensive instructional manual, with pictures and drawings, that can be downloaded from this page (to the right at the top of the yellow box).

2) Videos on YouTube showing the various stages of making the lenses and other construction. Links are in the yellow box to the right.

3) Dr. Alan Binder and Ken Graun are available to answer questions.

What is the purpose of this kit?
The kit contains the essential materials to grind and polish lenses—materials that would be difficult to find. It is to serve as a stepping stone for learning the basic techniques of making lenses, assembling a telescope and constructing a tripod. We hope that this project will inspire individuals to start observing the heavens, to make more telescopes, and then help others with a desire to do the same. A logical step after making this telescope would be to make a Newtonian reflector telescope.

This telescope kit was conceived by Alan Binder, Ph.D., one of the world's leading lunar and planetary scientists, whose spacecraft, Lunar Prospector, orbited the Moon from 1998 through 1999. Dr. Binder has made several telescopes, including his favorite, a 17-foot long, 2.8 inch diameter refractor patterned after a late 1600s telescope similar to one used by Johannes Hevelius. Dr. Binder wrote the manual to build this refractor. Ken Graun worked with Dr. Binder in the development of this project and has also made several telescopes.


Grinding the front objective lens.


Project Resources

Instructional Manual (PDF)


Instructional Videos on YouTube — click on each

Video 1 • Introduction by Alan & Ken

Video 2 • Contents of Kit

Video 3 • Grinding & polishing the plano side of the objective lens. Working with pitch for polishing.

Video 4 • Grinding the objective lens convex

Video 5 • Measuring the focal length of the objective.

Video 6 • Grinding the eyepieces.

Video 7 • Assembling the telescope.

Video 8 • Making the mount and tripod.

Plans to make a stand for the electric hand drill


Dr. Alan Binder

Ken Graun


Kit contents. Includes lens blanks to make the objective and two eyepieces (bottom row), grit, polishing compound and pitch to grind and polish the lenses (top row & cup on right), drill spindles to attach lenses for the grinding and polishing process (2nd row from top), wooden objective cell and two wooden eyepiece barrels (2nd & 3rd rows from bottom).The pieces of paper with 1" and 2" written on them have curves cut in them and serve as templates when grinding the eyepieces.

Pictures of the Process
PitchPouring PitchChannels FocalLength2

Measuring the focal length of the objective using the concave tool as a "mirror."

Pouring pitch to make a pitch lap which is used to polish the lenses.

Cutting a channel in the pitch lap which ensures better polishing.

Eyepiececurve Telescopetube AimingtheScope

The progress of grinding the curvature in an eyepiece lens is determined by using the straight edge of a tape measure.

The tubes used to assemble the actual telescope.

Aiming the telescope is accomplished by sighting along the tube.

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