What to Do With An Old Telescope - Restoring A Telescope

What To Do With An Old Telescope?

Discovering an old telescope can spark curiosity and excitement as you ponder the potential of bringing it back to life. Whether you found it in your attic, inherited it from a family member, or stumbled upon it at a flea market, you may be wondering if it’s worth the effort to restore it.

Apart from the usual solution which would be trying to restore the telescope, you can consider donating it, selling it, using it as a decorative piece, and much more.

Instead of letting it gather dust in a corner, there are several practical options available to make the most of your old telescope, and I am going to explore that today. This comprehensive guide will help you navigate the process of assessing, repairing, and enhancing your old telescope to unlock its full potential.

Assess the Condition of the Old Telescope

The usual obvious answer to, “What to do with an old telescope?” is generally restoring it. But, before diving into the restoration process, it’s important to evaluate the overall condition of your old telescope. Here are some factors to consider when determining the viability of your telescope:

1) Optics

The quality of the telescope’s optics is crucial for its performance. Check the objective lens or mirror for any visible damage, like scratches, dents, or cracks. Also, make sure there is no aperture-blocking ring immediately behind the main lens, as this would render the telescope useless. If the optics appear to be intact and clean, your telescope has potential for restoration.

2) Mechanics

Examine the telescope’s mechanical components, such as the focuser, mount, and tripod legs. Look for any signs of damage or missing parts that may hinder the telescope’s functionality. If the mechanics are in good working order, your telescope is more likely to be worth the effort to restore.

3) Accessories

Check if the telescope has all the necessary accessories, such as eyepieces, diagonals, and finder scopes. If some items are missing, you may need to purchase replacements, which could impact the overall cost and effort of the restoration process.

4) Brand and Model

Some old telescope brands, such as Unitron, Zeiss, or Takahashi, are known for their high-quality instruments. If your telescope is from a reputable manufacturer, it may be worth investing in its restoration.

How to Restore an Old Telescope?

What to Do With An Old Telescope - How to Restore an Old Telescope

Once you’ve assessed the telescope’s condition and determined that it’s worth restoring, it’s time to tackle the restoration process. Follow this guide to do it the right way:

1) Cleaning the Optics

Dust and grime can accumulate on the telescope’s optics over time, leading to a decreased performance. To clean the optics, use a rubber blower bulb to remove any loose dust particles. For more stubborn grime, use a suitable optics cleaning fluid and lens cleaning tissues to gently wipe the lens or mirror clean. Avoid using household cleaning products or tissues, as they may damage the optics and their coatings.

2) Repairing or Replacing Parts

If your telescope has damaged or missing parts, you may need to repair or replace them to restore its functionality. Some common parts that may need replacement include:


Eyepieces are essential for the telescope to work and are often missing from old telescopes. Depending on the eyepiece size (0.965″ or 1.25″), you may need to purchase new eyepieces or use an adapter to accommodate more common eyepiece sizes.


Diagonals may be missing or damaged in old telescopes. Similar to eyepieces, diagonals come in different sizes and may require an adapter if your telescope uses a less common size.

Finder Scopes

A missing finder scope can make your telescope much harder to use. Consider purchasing a more modern LED reflex finder or repurposing an eyepiece from a broken pair of binoculars to serve as a finder scope.

Dust Caps

Missing dust caps can lead to dust and grime accumulation on your telescope’s optics. If you cannot find suitable replacements, improvise a solution with a clean cloth and a rubber band to protect your telescope during storage.

3) Enhancing the Telescope’s Performance

With the telescope restored, you may want to explore ways to further enhance its performance and overall user experience. Some helpful upgrades include:

Upgrading Eyepieces

Investing in better quality eyepieces can significantly improve your telescope’s viewing experience. Avoid using overly high magnification eyepieces that came with the original telescope and instead opt for lower-power eyepieces with better optical designs.

Installing a Better Finder

As mentioned earlier, upgrading to a modern LED reflex finder or repurposing a binocular eyepiece can make it much easier to locate and center objects in your telescope’s field of view.

Adding Slow Motion Controls

If your telescope’s mount doesn’t have slow motion controls, consider adding them to improve the ease of tracking and centering objects during your observing sessions.

Exploring Other Uses for Old Telescope

What to Do With An Old Telescope - Telescope Decoratives

If you’ve decided not to restore your old telescope, there are still other ways to put it to good use. Here are some alternative ideas for repurposing your old telescope:

Donate to a Conservation or Educational Project

Organizations like the RSPB and local educational institutions may be able to use your old telescope for various conservation or educational projects. Contact these organizations to see if they can benefit from your donation.

Use as a Decorative Piece

A vintage telescope can make for an interesting conversation piece in your home. Clean it up and display it as a decorative item, showcasing its unique design and history. Transform your old telescope into a unique decorative item or incorporate its components into artistic projects.

●     Steampunk-inspired Lamp: Use the lens and other parts of the telescope to create a captivating steampunk-inspired lamp. Combine it with vintage elements and soft lighting for an intriguing and functional decorative piece.

●     Art Projects: Let your imagination soar and incorporate the telescope’s parts into your artistic endeavors. Use them in mixed-media collages, sculptures, or even as unique elements in a painting. The possibilities are endless!

Salvage Parts for Other Projects

If your telescope is beyond repair, consider salvaging its parts for other DIY projects. The lenses, mirrors, and other components may be useful for creating other optical devices or artistic creations.

Recycle Responsibly

If your old telescope is beyond repair or reuse, consider recycling it to minimize environmental impact.

●     Local Recycling Centers: Check with your local recycling center to see if they accept telescopes for recycling. They will have the proper facilities and knowledge to dispose of the telescope or salvage its recyclable components responsibly.

●     Electronics Recycling Facilities: Some specialized electronics recycling facilities may also accept telescopes. Contact them to inquire about their procedures for recycling telescopes or electronic devices.

Knowing When to Move On

In some cases, restoring an old telescope may not be worth the effort or cost. If the telescope’s optics, mechanics, or accessories are beyond repair or replacement, it might be time to consider investing in a new telescope instead. While it can be disappointing to let go of a potential restoration project, remember that there are many affordable and high-quality telescopes available on the market today that can offer a better viewing experience.

Learning from the Restoration Process

What to Do With An Old Telescope - Telescope Restoration

Regardless of the outcome, the process of assessing, restoring, and enhancing an old telescope can be a valuable learning experience. It provides an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of telescope mechanics, optics, and maintenance, which can be useful when selecting and caring for a new telescope in the future. In fact, this experience can add value to your life in ways more than one.

Share Your Experience

Join online forums and communities, such as Reddit’s r/telescopes, to share your experience with restoring an old telescope. This can be a great way to connect with fellow amateur astronomers, learn new tips and tricks, and help others who may be embarking on their own telescope restoration journey.

Invest in a New Telescope

If you’ve decided to invest in a new telescope after restoring your old one, take the time to research and select a model that best suits your needs and budget. With a wide range of options available, from beginner-friendly refractors to advanced computerized mounts, there’s a telescope out there for every aspiring astronomer.

Continuing Your Astronomical Journey

With your old telescope restored or a new one in hand, continue exploring the wonders of the night sky. Join local astronomy clubs, attend star parties, and engage with the astronomical community to further your knowledge and passion for the cosmos.

Ending Notes

With these five practical solutions, you can find a suitable path for what to do with an old telescope. Whether you choose to restore it, donate it to educational institutions, sell it to enthusiasts, repurpose it for creative endeavors, or recycle it responsibly, you can ensure that your old telescope continues to bring joy and fascination to others.

Reviving an old telescope can be a rewarding and educational endeavor. By assessing its condition, restoring and enhancing its components, and exploring alternative uses or investing in a new telescope, you can unlock the potential of your old telescope and continue your astronomical journey with renewed enthusiasm.

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