need plans for homebuilt theodolite

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CAP rocketeer

New Member
Sep 14, 2009
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I would like to know if anyone has plans for a homebuilt theodolite. We used 2 surveyor theodolites for our last launch, and the magnification was so high we ended up sighting over the top of the tube.

You know what would really work well is one of those WW2 battleship AA gun mounts with the open iron sights and the hand crank turret :):)

anyway, if anyone has experience with tracking via 2 theodolites please share your experience. I am in a CAP squadron and we don't have the $$ to buy altimeters for the rockets, so manual track is the best option (besides which it teaches math skills).

this is my first post, I would like to thank AK for getting me in here (been trying for 2 weeks now).

their is a few options you have.

first you can download the one from this C.A.P Site

another is take a ruler and attach to it at its center a standard protractor centered. use a thumb tack and attach a 5" string to it with a small waight to it. add two nails as sights on the ends and your all set. just remember to hold the string at your peek altitude.

or if you have a copy of the model rocketry handbook their is a great one in their.

I will look in my files for one you can print out
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thanks for your reply. What the CAP data shows is a device for tracking the altitude (or more precisely the vertical angle). I am after something for tracking a horizontal angle as well as the vertical angle. I have surveyor's theodolites I can use, but with the high magnification they end up being impractical, so I was hoping to find plans to make something homebuilt.

thanks, that is closer to what I am after. never thought to use camera tripods, I'll have to look into that.
You might also talk to your local NAR club. The page has a directory. Most of them have theodolites available for altitude competitions. You can probably also borrow an altimeter from somebody there, too. Are you doing TARC? Or an independent project?
where are yo guys located? If close enough I would love to offer some altimeter assitance. Weve got some older MAWDS we might be able to donate.

Ben heart!

We are in NW Montana (Kalispell, near Glacier park).

I am going to hold my breath until I hear where you are from...

<please be close please be close please be close please be close........>
The Handbook of Model Rocketry (7th edition) by G. Harry Stine has a good description of Altitude determination techniques in chapter 17 (the entire chapter) and has plans for building a "triple tracker" theodolite included in Appendix V. If you don't already have this book, it's well worth getting. Your local library might have this as well. heart!

We are in NW Montana (Kalispell, near Glacier park).

I am going to hold my breath until I hear where you are from...

<please be close please be close please be close please be close........>

To bad to hear how far out you are!! Maybe I can ask my dad if hes up for some donating :)


THAT is EXACTLY what I am after! thanks so much! that will make a great project for the winter.

One note on the Trip Barber Triple Tracker plans in the Handbook--they're excellent, but a bit outdated calling out some materials that are a little harder to come by today. At NARAM-50, Jeff Graham and Randy Boadway did a research project on theodolites with more modern-day materials. If you aren't into buying the R & D proceedings CD from NARTS, you could try reaching them through SMASH's site

--Chan Stevens
I don't have a drawn plan for these Heavy duty Theodolites but the photos show just about everything. except the 6foot heavy duty surveyors Tri-pods that support these heads. Narhams has used these in place of your original Centuri Theodolites since the early 90's with great success, they sure make it easier for the Trackers being a good bit higher off the ground the most i've seen.
If you need additional info I'd be happy to help. Let me know. I also have a bit larger photos if you really need a look at a particular part. it's just easier to up load the page worth then ask for the pic you need.

HD Theodolite-08a_8 pic Page-1_04-96.jpg

HD Theodolite-08b_5 pic Page-2_04-96.jpg