There are a small number of manufactures producing really nice portable reflectors with a truss tube design. Starmaster is one of them. Several folks in my observing group have purchased them and they are all very pleased with their performance.
The 18" version is my favorite of the product line. Rick Singmaster, uses oak plywood for his primary components. Other manufacturers use apple ply composed of thinner layers of laminated veniers.? Apple ply is stronger, heavier, and more expensive. For a telescope however, it seems that standard grade oak is perfectly acceptable. The rocker box and mirror cage are both constructed from this material.? Rick uses a light stain which complements the natural grains of the oak.? The new finish he is using is thicker and gives the construction a fine glossy furniture appearance.
The mirror is mounted in a sturdy metal cell which can be removed from the mirror box.? This is a life saver for one person set up. Each of the light weight plywood boxes can be easily handled and put together. Once the scope is assembled, tip it down horizontally, and slip in the mirror cell.
The upper cage assembly is constructed of two plywood rings separated by a short length of sonotube.? The sonotube is attractively finished with matte black.? The standard focuser is a very nice Crayford design.? It moves smoothly and effortlessly. The trusses come in pairs, configured in a triangle assembly.? You attach each pair on each side of the mirror box and then attach the upper cage assembly. The trusses are constructed of hardwood dowels.
For attaching the components together, you get a set of bolts with handles.? They are all the same, so you don't have to worry about which one goes where. The scope goes together very quickly.
One of the nice features about the Starmaster is that the rocker box, the mirror box, and the upper cage assembly stack together, one inside the other.? The base boxes are much larger than an Obsession, but this stacking feature allows you to take up much less space in your van for hauling your pride and joy. I've seen these scopes arrive in cars of various sizes.??
The optics are first rate.? Mirrors are supplied by Zambuto and Pegasus. I've seen various mirror brands in Starmaster scopes and they have all been very good.? Rick inspects each scope under the stars before he ships it to assure his brand's reputation.? Rick also spends time in the field with his customers.? I've run into him at local star parties and although I'm a loyal Obsession owner, he has been extremely gracious with me.
The action on the Starmaster line is stiffer than an Obsession or a Star Splitter. This isn't a good thing or a bad thing.? I prefer a one finger action but I pay the price when I put in a heavy eyepiece.? With a stiffer action, the total balance of the scope is not such an issue.? You can go from a heavy Nagler to a light weight plossl and the scope won't move when you don't want it to.
Another nice additional option you can get is the GOTO system.? Starmaster is the only company offering this option for its customers.? It performs flawlessly. I've done everything that I can do to trick it, but objects seem to pop right into the field of view every time.? The motors are quiet and make a delightful little chirping sound at the end of a slew.
I've enjoyed using the Starmaster telescopes.? I've used a 14.5", 18", and the 20".? The scopes give superb performance.? I highly recommend them. For the latest developments at Starmaster, check out their home page at: http://www.starmastertelescopes.com