When a colleague comes back from a seaside trip to Dorset with a couple of high definition snapshots of some old telescopes in a shop window, and one of the sales tickets on a long wooden scope body is visible – saying “Ramsden – needing renovation” – this is quite an event. So the shop phone number was also visible, and first thing Monday the guy confirms that it works OK, and is happy to take a phone order and post it off.
The single draw and tapered wooden barrel of this design set the style apart from other Ramsden telescopes in the collection – it was obviously earlier in date than 1790, and intended for naval use. In fact the design could perhaps be seen as the fore-runner to the Worthington and Allen scope described earlier in 2018, on this blog: they were the successors to the Ramsden business in the mid 1800s. The W+A unit is bigger diameter, heavy, solid – reflecting the Victorian approach to such things, maybe!
The wood condition looked good, and the need for a coat of wood varnish would easily be satisfied. On arrival the scope was even better than the pics: very light, really easy to use hand-held. The engraving on the first draw – actually the right way round, ie the modern way, compared to the ‘younger’ Ramsden (1790s) and Berge (1800) units in the collection – has possibly been worn down by frequent polishing over the years, and it is difficult to see on the photos.
Renovation so far has involved sanding off the barrel to gain an even pure wood colour, and then coating with French polish: the black tape round the brass fittings is to prevent the French polish affecting the brass. Actually all the external brass was fairly well polished. The photos of the single draw, with the two cartridges, each holding two of the four lenses in the eyepiece construction inside this draw, show the darker patches at the end normally inside the wooden barrel, and on the rear side of the mounting slider: the draw itself is fine.
The screws holding the two brass fittings to the barrel look original, and are really stubborn – there is no way these will unscrew. This currently gives a problem, in that the rear face of the objective needs cleaning and the lens holder itself does not want to unscrew. The final cleaning option will have to be a cloth attached to the end of a broomstick! OK, so I used the sophisticated variant, with an optical lens wipe on the end of a broomstick, but it worked well…..
Subsequently, the brass end pieces on the barrel were carefully machine buffed with polish, which removed some old varnish and new varnish spatters., and the brass shone much brighter. New pics below –
The wooden barrel is about 24.5″ long, and the wood is probably a medium European hardwood, possibly oak, and not as fine grained as mahogany. The single draw, 27mm diameter, adds another 6″ to the overall length. Max diameter at the objective is 2″/50mm. The engraving says merely Ramsden, London, in script, which is typical. What is worrying is that the engraving is on the left side of the telescope, when other Ramsden scopes I have seen have it on the right hand side! This raises the question as to whether it is a fake Ramsden. The general construction suggests it was built in the right era, around 1800, and it works well, and is light, so is still a really useful telescope.
Lovely telescope, and I believe quite unusual for a Ramsden: now restored, it is on sale for £300.