An old brass refractor.

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  • #611202
    Paul Leyland
    Participant

    Last autumn, at a family gathering in Somerset, I picked up an antique brass refractor. Just the OTA, no mounting to speak of. I thought folk here might find it at least slightly interesting. It has been in a cupboard until today when I started renovating it.

    It has a 50mm (or, more likely) a 2 inch objective and a low power eyepiece which contains a cross-hair graticule, of unknown focal length, giving an erect image. The telescope appears to be about f/12 or f/13. The exterior lenses are a bit grubby but the optical train appears completely clear. Not yet had chance to perform a star test but have no reason to believe it won’t perform well.

    The brass tube has a century of patina which polishes off nicely. It is also extremely heavy, at 6.1kg, because it is made of 5mm (1/4 inch) brass. This is mil-spec construction! Not surprising, perhaps, as it was built as a gun sight for a First World War artillery piece.

    Far too heavy for a finder but it will be fun mounting it and putting it to use. A couple of pictures follow.

    #611228

    Hi Paul.

    That looks very nice and very old.

    Will you be restoring it? And have you a clue who made it.

    #611246
    Alan Thomas
    Participant

    Paul
    Does it have any maker’s marks? Presumably not. W.Ottway & Co were major manufacturers of gunsights for the military, so it could be one of them.
    Alan

    #611247
    Paul Leyland
    Participant

    Hi Paul & Alan,

    I will be restoring it though it may take me some time to clean and remount it.

    There are a few inscriptions, the easiest to read being “TURN TO CHANGE POWER” and “TURN TO FOCUS”. Part of the latter is visible in the image above. Neither of these give much clue to the provenance.

    You are quite correct at suggesting Ottway & Co. however, It is fairly easy to read, though the black paint needs renovation, “GUNSIGHTING PATENT V.P. <illegible> W. OTTWAY & CO. LTD EALING 1912”. Another inscription is “PATT. G328Y” and a series of numbers “5 7 9 11 13 15” which are undoubtedly the magnifications available. The only other inscription is “W A/T” where the W is twice the height of the A and the T, which themselves are spaced vertically with a horizontal bar.

    It is possible than <illegible> may become readable with some careful photography under oblique lighting and with image processing of the result.

    Now to track down the Patent number …

    #611248
    Paul Leyland
    Participant

    Now to track down the Patent number …

    I have not yet found the patent in the WIPO database but this link turned up

    https://www.grelly.uk/itm/genuine-27-inch-antique-w-ottway-1917-gunsighting-ships-navy-marine-telescope-142854086185

    Looks like my telescope may well be from the Royal Navy. If so, it would be nice to find out which ship to which it was fitted.

    #611249
    Alan Thomas
    Participant

    Paul
    I am in touch with Dr Michael Ottway, the last member of the family to have worked for the company. If you like, I could ask him if he can provide any further information on the instrument.
    Alan

    #611251
    Paul Leyland
    Participant

    Alan, please do!

    Paul

    #611260
    Daryl Dobbs
    Participant

    Contacting the family is probably the easiest route, the WIPO database (Patentescope) only has GB patents from 1900, other search engines in the public domain like Espacenet (EIPO) won’t find it either, this also applies to search engines used by IP professionals ( I used to work for an IP consultancy). But knowing the IPO many will have slipped through their process, as I know only too well when conducting searches.

    Assuming the number G328Y is the full application or publication number it’s likely this patent dates back to the 1800’s, perhaps earlier, this is where things get tricky, the patents prior to 1900 are in the National Archives, the link below explains how to find it.

    https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/research-guides/patents-of-invention/

    However several problems now rear their head;

    The old IPO records are frankly in a mess and many haven’t been cataloged or cataloged incorrectly.

    Modern patents are supposed to contain enough information for an expert in the field to go and make it, however back in the early 20th century and earlier things get interesting as details were left out or even altered to make the invention useless. This was to stop IP theft.

    The inventor according to the IPO around the time of WW1 was Kenneth Ottway, he’s the only one listed as inventor during this time.

    Ottway Engineering in Chandlers Ford was registered in companies house in December 1968, W Ottway & Co Ltd started in 1630 until 1964, I wonder if the current company is connected in anyway with the old one and what happened to it’s archives.

    One observation I have is G328Y is very short unless it’s a very old patent, the earliest patent that I know of was registered in 1617. Even though patents do expire after 20 years, once they are published, (not necessarily granted) it prevents anyone applying for a patent which infringes the prior art, even if the prior art is extremely old.

    1912 is probably the date it was made, however taking the above information into account the patent could be considerably older, I have come across several cases where the patent number is incorrect, that’s usually to frighten off anyone thinking of copying it or to prevent them seeing exactly what was patented.

    Patents in the UK are prefixed by GB, just the G is unusual and could be an early English patent circa 16xx-1800.

    In a nut shell it’s dealing with the national records office.

    Good Luck
    Daryl

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by Daryl Dobbs.
    #611268
    Alan Thomas
    Participant

    You can find more information about Ottways in my article here:
    British Astronomical Association, Historical Section Newsletter No. 23 Spring 2021
    W. Ottway & Co., Ltd, Optical & Scientific Instrument Makers
    Alan

    #611269
    Paul Leyland
    Participant

    Thanks Alan.

    Is it on-line or on-paper only?
    I will go looking for it.

    Paul

    Added in edit: found it on-line.

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by Paul Leyland.
    #611274
    Daryl Dobbs
    Participant

    Very interesting article from the Historical section, at least it establishes the date of the Ealing factory when it was built. Below is a link to Patentscope as the IPO claim all patents from 1900 are now on WIPO’s Patentescope, however past experience with the IPO does tend to make me believe that not all may have made it to WIPO’s system as the IPO has quite a backlog and shortly I suspect things might get worse there as there are rumored up to 40% job cuts.

    https://patentscope.wipo.int/search/en/detail.jsf?docId=GB137211095&_cid=P20-L586LC-70772-2

    As you will notice the application number and publication number is longer than G328Y and prefixed with GB. If G328Y refers to the patent classification the problem is even more weird. There was (now superseded) a G classification for instrumentation, optics are one of the subsections under G, but there isn’t/wasn’t a subsection which bears any resemblance to G328Y

    https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ukgwa/20140603095608/http://www.ipo.gov.uk/pro-types/pro-patent/p-class/p-class-ukc.htm

    The Patentscope entries for Ottway only fill up 3 pages

    https://patentscope.wipo.int/search/en/result.jsf?_vid=P20-L587CK-97814

    Of course the G328Y if it is a patent number could predate the Ealing factory, since they put this on their gunsights it would be interesting if the origin of G328Y comes to light.

    The link below is a guide to finding GB patents from 1617 (GB1) to 1899, after 1899 in theory the patent should be found via Patentscope

    https://www.bl.uk/help/find-early-british-patents

    Good luck
    Daryl

    #611393
    David Arditti
    Participant

    I wonder if there is any link here with A A Common, famous astronomer of Ealing and early member of the BAA. He was involved with the Ottway company and patented devices for sighting naval guns around 1900. Here is a partial listing of patents in his name; they are mostly around this subject. Note the patent numbers are nothing like that quoted, and are much longer. This doesn’t look like a correct patent number.

    In the obituary of Common by F W Dyson in MNRAS (1903) it is stated that according to a Captain Percy Scott, RN, ‘The great strides made by the British Navy [in gunnery] lately was entirely due to Dr Common…. He had produced a telescopic gun sight that would, when properly used, quadruple the fighting efficiency of our battle-ships.’

    I also have a similar gun sight in my collection. Ottways must have made a great many of them. I got mine from the workshop of telescope maker Irvings (Teddington) when they closed down.

    David

    #611395
    Daryl Dobbs
    Participant

    There has been a number of these gunsights listed in the various auction houses, interestingly PATT.G328Y is nothing to do with a patent number as David and myself mentioned it’s too short, also the abbreviation for a patent only has 1 T.

    Patt.G328Y refers to a pattern number, the picture which I have hopefully uploaded shows a case in which the instrument was kept, stenciled on the inside of the lid is the pattern number.

    Daryl

    Attachments:
    #611399
    David Arditti
    Participant

    Here’s pictures of the military sighting gadgets I have here. The shorter one is a black-painted brass tube with both a helical focus and a moveable rack-and-pinion adjusted objective, for some reason. Gives an inverted image. No maker name. The other is by REL, Canada, dated 1942. It is a unity power telescope with an extendable objective shield and reticle, gives an erect image, and is a bit lighter than the other one. It looks exactly like a brass bicycle pump.

    These gadgets always tend to be too heavy for their optical power to be of any use for astronomy.

    #611402
    David Arditti
    Participant

    Seems it’s only possible to post one image per thread in this forum system. Even when I tried to post again with another image it din’t allow it. I’ll have to ask the webmasters about that.

    #611413
    Paul Leyland
    Participant

    I found that but haven’t reported it. Earlier today I found some broken image links, which I have reported. You may wish to check the links in your own pages.

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