Observing is an activity best performed while seated. Sitting provides a great deal of stability, which in turn leads to seeing more through the scope, as well as comfort, which allows one to oserve longer with less strain. The only problem is, there are very few scopes that have an eyepiece at a constant height. With most scopes, the height of the EP varies significantly with the altitude of the object being observed. With a standard stool, one most either lean over or stretch up in an uncomfortable way to see objects that are not placed so conveniently for your stool.
Enter the Observing Chair.
The concept of an observing chair is simple - it is a stool or chair with adjustable height, so that the backyard astronomer can sit comfortably while observing anywhere in the sky. There are many designs of observing chair, from the simple LYBAR or Denver chairs, to the elegant Cat's Perch chair, to finished commercial products. There is even a discussion forum devoted entirely to observing chairs.
I just had to have one, and of course, I had to make it myself. Cheaply.
I had a bunch or 1" dowel lying around, so that seemed like an obvious choice of material. As for the rest of the wood, nothing I had lying around seemed suitable, so I had to actually buy some. Of course, this meant I could design it any way I wanted, rather than being constrained by available lumber. Trying to achieve a combination of light weight, ease of construction, and economy is not always easy, but I hink I managed it with this design. I used 1/2" birch plywood for the back and support leg, and 1x4 pine for the supports. I used small blocks of oak on the feet, where I figured it would take the most abuse. The 1" dowel used in several spots is hardwood.
In order to save on materials (Budget Astronomer, remember?), I designed the supports to be cut from a single length of 1x4 clear pine. I also laid out the back and leg for the chair to fit on a single 2'x4' piece of 1/2" plywood. I decided that I wanted some extra thickness on the seat supports, so I picked up an extra piece of ply for making the supports and the seat. I used the 1" dowel at the top, as a handle, on the seat to brace it, and as a pivot for the leg. Nine 1" notches up the back side of the support allow a the seat to be positioned from about 13" at the lowest to just over 3' at the highest. There are two additional notches lower that are not usable for the seat, but are the result of the way I cut the pine. I may also consider making a footrest sometime in the future.
The seat supports are perhaps overengineered - I laminated 3 pieces of 1/2" ply (actually 12mm ply, close enough) together. I am 6'4" tall and weight over 200 lb, I wanted to make sure they wouldn't snap! The leg brace is on a hinge and drops onto a pin mounted on the inside of the leg, an arrangement that allows for easy opening and closing of the chair. A groove in the brace fits the pin when it is closed.
Somehow I managed to make this thing so that when it is closed, even though it is over 4' tall and only 3" thick, it stands on its own.
So far, the chair has held my weight, and proven to be both comfortable and convenient. If you are thinking of a DIY project, this is not a bad place to start!
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