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Ad Astra

DIY folding Observing Chair w/ Plans!

30 posts in this topic

Hi Folks!

Several kind SGL'ers have shown kind interest in my DIY observer's chair, so I have decided to make a thread for it here. ;)

I was originally called on to make a chair for a fellow teacher (who is also an astronomer) when it became clear that our science department could neither afford to buy a chair for him ( $300 USD :( ), nor did we have the time to wait for the sometimes slow production of small, independent shops.

I likes the Cat's Perch chairs, but, as an engineer, they didn't seem stable enough to me! I also didn't like the fact that it disassembled into 3 separate pieces, and it wasn't really tall enough for my long refractor, and I wanted one of these for myself, too! I also wanted something that would hold at least 150 Kg - I let students and members of the public use my chair at astronomy lab and at astro-outreach events. I'd hate to see what my lawyer would say if someone fell off my chair because it was poorly built!!! :o

Mark I model (made for my friend) was in rock maple, and did not have either a removable foot, nor any storage in the seat. I decided to remedy that in the Mark II model - plans for that are attached here for downloading! Special thanks to Shane for converting it from a 10MB Word file into a MUCH smaller pdf file! :p Mark II is made of red oak (cheapest readily available hardwood in the States - available at any Home Improvement center), but any hardwood would do. The pipes that make the hinges are threaded iron pipe - used for plumbing and gas lines here in the States, available in a variety of lengths, black paint and galvanized versions, too. If you select your pipe, and then make your chair width to match - you get a very clean design that assembles and disassembles without tools - and without problems - even in the dark. :D

I have thoughts about lightening the design with circular cutouts and such. I even thought about a light version that eliminates the extra step, but I like that as a footrest at higher seat settings! I would be very interested in any improvements to the design you clever folks come up with! :)

Please help yourself to the plans and post a photo or two here as you move along with your project.

Dan

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Observer's chair plans.pdf

Edited by Ad Astra
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Here are a couple of build photos to help you along!

All the parts pre-cut and ready to assemble!

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Putting together the spine (back) of the chair. I put the screws in through the back and glued the notched rails so that there are no visible screws on the front of the chair!

The Leg is similarly "screwed and glued" together. (although this sounds like that aisle in the video shop you Mum warned you not to venture into - it is a legit woodworking technique and VERY strong!) :)

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Putting together the seat and the foot rest....

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Final product... & happy owner! Everyone who has observed with it has found it stable and very comfortable - although I have debated about adding a stadium cushion to the wooden seat! Some folks have doubts about its stability when they first see it - but no one feels uncomfortable when they are up in the observer's seat! Very sturdy and stable for any adult!

I've had this chair in use for about a year now, and it has proved very satisfactory.... although it does make for a rather, well -- controversial piece of furniture in the living room. Especially when guests come over and they try to 'guess' what it's for.

We have gotten some hilarious guesses - not all of which I can post here! :):(:o

Hope all the building photos are of some help to other DIY'ers!

Dan

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Fantastic. Nice to see a great project like this available to all. Thanks for posting.

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Dan, that is fantastic. It looks like you are very handy working with wood as your workshop looks well equiped. It is also very magnanimous of you to post the plans for all. I am not a woodworker by any means but really feel the urge to undertake this project.

Once again well done and thanks for posting

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Several people have downloaded the plans now, I hope that some of you will post comments and photos as you get on with building your own chairs!

I'm interested to see what mods people will make to the design! :)

Dan

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Thanks for sharing this Dan, it's great! :)

Two questions if i may...

What's the weight of the chair, and what are the min/max seat heights?

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Hi Talitha!

The weight of the assembled chair is about 22 lbs - this is its greatest fault - I've tried to come up with ways to make it lighter, but being a bit heavier is a big part of what makes it more stable than some other chairs. I've also been known to put a 10kg bag of sand on the back leg to add stability - especially when allowing others to use the chair, or when using the chair at its lowest setting (it can tip suddenly forward if you shift your weight too far forward as the viewing gets exciting!).

I have plans to add two eye-bolts to the side of the chair to facilitate attaching a shoulder strap to make it easier to carry. (I'm always fiddling with designs...)

Max seat height is about 43 inches, minimum height is about 16 inches (from memory, but that is pretty close). You can't get the seat any lower, because you then have all the weight beyond the front leg and the whole thing tips forward. You could go higher, but I feel that you will begin to have flexure issues at that height that will make the chair unstable without serious redesign. 3/4" red-oak stock, along with the double C-channel design of this chair, and the iron pipe used for hinges, make for a very study chair that will hold a lot of weight without any feeling of instability or flexure. I've also used stick-on felt (the kind you put on the bottom of a lamp or ashtray to stop it marking up the coffee table!) and plastic from milk jugs to make the hinges quiet and smooth. By gluing a thin layer of felt on one surface and gluing a thin plastic washer or bearing cut from a gallon milk jug on the opposing surface, you create a smooth, quiet, low friction hinge that will absorb shock and reduce wear on the wooden surface.

Let me know how you get on.

Dan

Oh my gosh, Tomahawk Wisconsin??? I have family in Trevor, Kenosha, Lake Geneva, Salem..... and many more! Tried to send my lazy little brother out to collect samples when that big meteorite airburst over southern Wisconsin last year. He didn't even know it happened, but my clever nieces both saw it. Silly brother wouldn't go out and wander around and look for samples for me!!! (I would'a done it for him!)

Edited by Ad Astra

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wow thats a great looking chair mate well done!

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Thanks Dan, the weight really isn't too bad.. i'll have to check the max seat height against what's needed for the 16" Dob.

Yep, i'm about 8 miles outside of Tomahawk. :) I was born and raised in Chicago though, and lived in Twin Lakes a while before moving up here. I remember the towns you mentioned, but most likely wouldn't recognize them anymore... the whole area's probably changed quite a bit since i left in '91. In time, it'll all be absorbed into an extended suburb of Chicago... hopefully they'll have light pollution laws by then.

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another couple of fun photos of the chair in use.

Nephew Alex is the lad with the binos in both photos. :)

The bins are 10.5 x 70 Resolux from Orion USA for those of you who just gotta know! Very nice views! The camera is a Canon 5D at 3500 iso, shots processed minimally on Picassa to adjust color temperature and bring out both the boy and the sky.

Dan

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Looks great Dan, I'm going to give it a go. Thanks for posting

Adrian

Edited by Skills

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Looks great Dan, I'm going to give it a go. Thanks for posting

Adrian

Sweet, Adrian!

Post a photo or two as you move along so I can see how you are doing!

Let me know if you have any questions about the plans! :)

Dan

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Hi Dan, I have not had the chance to use the plans you e-mailed. Looking at some other cheaper alternatives at the moment but although I am going to buy one it means just one thing, save the build for the summer when it will be a pleasure to construct during the nice light warm evenings :(

Clear Skies

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Hi Dan,

A great series of photos. Well done for putting it all up.

Regards

Chris

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WOW Proper job!!!! That is one nice chair Ad but probably too nice as I wouldn't want to take that in a muddy field.

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WOW Proper job!!!! That is one nice chair Ad but probably too nice as I wouldn't want to take that in a muddy field.

Hi Spaceboy,

No worries! I've not had any problems with mud, dust or dirt. I used a marine-urathane finish that is very rugged and durable. No problems, and any dirt or mess has easily wiped off.

I suppose you could paint it as well - they make some really excellent epoxy-based paints that are almost indestructable. My son epoxy painted his garage floor last month - he said he didn't want his garage to look like mine did after he messed up the floor repairing all his jalopy cars in there! :)

Dan

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What was I thinking :) I bet you don't even know what mud is, living in sunny California :(

Edited by spaceboy

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That looks brilliant! I have a timber supplier who delivers wood to a cutting plan, I might just have a go at that! Looks better than the shooting stick I was planning on using, for sure!

Alan

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That looks brilliant! I have a timber supplier who delivers wood to a cutting plan, I might just have a go at that! Looks better than the shooting stick I was planning on using, for sure!

Alan

Sorry, not sure what a 'shooting stick' is, but I can confirm that this design works very well. I had it out with the big frac tonight, about 50 people sat on it, as we adjusted height throughout the night as Saturn rose.

Folds up into just one piece, too.

let me know how yours goes.

Dan

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This is a shooting stick

Doubles as a walking stick, then when you fancy an elegant lean whilst gesticulating with a pipe, you fold out the handles and lean against it. Practical sort of solution.

And yes, I will let you know how my build goes. Might take a little while though, I just ordered my scope and associated stuff from FLO, am about to hit Amazon for the stuff FLO doesn't have.

Alan

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Ah, your 'shooting stick' is sold over hear as a 'golfing chair', sold to golfers who have to wait for some other old duffer (like me) to dribble the ball down the fairway (4 or 5 times) until they are out of range of a decent player. :D

Dan

This is a shooting stick

Doubles as a walking stick, then when you fancy an elegant lean whilst gesticulating with a pipe, you fold out the handles and lean against it. Practical sort of solution.

And yes, I will let you know how my build goes. Might take a little while though, I just ordered my scope and associated stuff from FLO, am about to hit Amazon for the stuff FLO doesn't have.

Alan

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