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DIY Vintage Telescope


This is a DIY tutorial on changing the appearance of a 40-year old telescope into a vintage-looking 400-year old telescope of tarnished brass.  

Bushnell telescope - the "before"

This telescope had been in my parent's basement for 30 years. It was an inexpensive 1970's era Bushnell telescope that was purchased at a garage sale for a couple of dollars in the late 1970s.  As I am prone to do, when my parents were throwing it away a couple of years ago, I said, "I'll take it....I can make something out of it."

It took a couple of years until I started, but I just finished it and it looks exactly how I had imagined it.  Upon close inspection, it won't be mistaken for a museum piece, but for the studio, it certainly fits the bill.

Disaswembled telescope

After disassembling the entire telescope, I used gold leafing to cover the telescope tube and any other parts that were larger in size.  Follow the manufacturer's directions for the leafing that you use. And don't go cheap on the adhesive....use the adhesive sizing recommended for the gold leaf.

Gold leafing

For the smaller parts, I used craft paint in a couple of colors that resembled tarnished brass.  Don't be too careful while painting the smaller parts, I ended up dabbing the paint on with a large paint are not going for a clean look on these pieces.

Gold paint

When all the pieces were covered, I sprayed anything that was covered in gold leaf with a spray polyurethane in a matte finish.  This protects the leafing from handling. The gold leaf is somewhat fragile even after dry and can get scraped off easily.  Use a matte finish spray, because tarnished brash does not have a glossy look.



For the aging and distressing of the pieces, I used brown paint mixed with an extender that both thins the paint and retards the drying process.  I applied the thinned paint with a damp paper towel, dabbing it onto the parts of the telescope that I wanted to look older.  Don't apply too much paint at pays to be patient and layer the paint on until you get the look you want.

Above you can see the start of the application of the brown paint on the main tube of the telescope, compared to the shiny gold-leafed lens barrel that has not been aged yet.

Before and After