One of the first objects I viewed through my new scope was M13, a large gobular cluster in the constellation Hercules. This time of year, M13 is almost directly overhead, meaning the eyepiece of my 12.5″ F/5 was at it’s highest point, which meant I nearly had to stand on tip-toes to reach it, not a comfortable viewing position by any means. A little later in the evening, Jupiter appeared just above the horizon, and to view it my scope was nearly horizontal, putting the eyepiece below the level I could comfortably reach sitting on a chair, so I kneeled on the ground. Again, not a comfortable viewing position.
I started searching the net, looking for a low-cost solution to both problems. I wanted something extremely portable, reasonably sized, adjustable to both upper and lower eyepiece limits and easy to build, ’cause time I have, money not so much. Finding one that met all the criteria took a little time, and I eliminated several along the way.
I found several reviews of the Catsperch Pro (my final choice) before I found the company’s actual web site. They sell fully completed chairs, in various sizes, unfinished kits consisting of all wooden parts and hardware, and (what interested me most) complete plans including full-sized templates. The reviews were very consistent whether customers ordered plans, kits or finished units, they raved about the company and the quality of the product. This review is no different – I purchased the plans and had absolutely no trouble building the chair. It’s a great design, does exactly what I built it to do and should last as long as I do. What else can one ask?
Some of the reviews of the product were so detailed, I was tempted to take measurements off the pictures, and draw my own plans. Although I have built several useful things that way, there are some pitfalls, and the $25 cost of the plans was well worth it to virtually guarantee success. The cost of the kit for this model is $188, and the completed chair was $313. No doubt worth it, but more then I could afford to spend on it. My total out-of-pocket cost, including the plans and spar varnish was under $100, and could have been lower but I elected to purchase dressed lumber rather then rough five-quarter.
The material is red oak, with a finish of spar varnish to protect it. The locking mechanism for the seat and footrest is very simple, and was easy to make. I don’t have a band saw so the curves were produced with a saber saw, followed by sanding with a drum on my drill press. The corners were all rounded on the router table, and of course I used a table saw, but other then a hand drill, those were the only tools used.
The hardest thing to find was the drop-leaf hinge. I had to order it as I couldn’t find it locally. The chair manufacturer sells a “hardware kit” that includes the hinge and all the rest of the hardware for a reasonable price. I had all the screws, bolts, etc. that were required, but if you don’t, I would recommend the hardware kit.
As I mentioned, the locking mechanism is simple, just tilt the seat or footrest, slide it to another notch and you’re done. It was easier to make then you might think. The drilled rails in the back are clamped together, marked and drilled together with the drill on the seam between the boards. The instructions that came with the plans suggested that method, and it works just fine.
Interesting story (to me anyway) about the non-skid strips on the footrest. My father bought a roll of the stuff to do the back porch on his house thirty years ago, and the roll was still in his tool cabinet when I moved it to NC from CT. I was prepared to use contact cement to fasten it, but the adhesive on the back of the tape was still strong enough to fasten the strips without cement!
To transport the chair, you remove the seat and footrest, fold the leg into the front and if necessary, remove the front foot that is fastened with wing nuts. The whole thing weighs just a few pounds, and lies flat in your car or truck.
For scale, below is a picture of a human being on the chair. My wife is making a foam cushion for the seat, and with that, I will need to go just two or three notches higher to comfortably reach the eyepiece of my scope even at zenith.
I have another use for the seat, which I really didn’t think about before I built it. I am starting to build model ships from kits, on my workbench, and the chair will come in handy for that hobby as well, as none of my stools are quite high enough to be comfortable for long sessions at the bench.
You know what? I look at all those “extra” notches and wonder how big a scope I would need to build next to max out the chair. Perhaps in Mexico……