Choosing an Observing Chair
Joel Frazier, Webmaster & Newsletter Editor
Recently, I decided it was time for a new observing chair. As many of you know, I've been using a Denver Observing Chair which I built four years ago. Since my Denver Observing Chair is in need of a little maintenance, I decided it was either time to get to work on it, or buy another chair. With a 16 month old baby at home, I don't have much extra time on my hands anymore, so I decided to buy another chair. I also decided that I wanted something more comfortable and with more height adjustment than my Denver Observing Chair. I considered the Starbound Observing Chair, the Kendrick Observing Chair, the Atinatech Observing Chair and the CATSPERCH Observing Chair. Below, I'll give a brief review of the pros and cons of all of these as well as the Denver Observing Chair.
The Denver Observing Chair is a very nice chair that can be built by someone with very modest woodworking abilities and tools. The plans for the chair are detailed and quite complete. It can be built in an afternoon, with staining or sealing done later. It's a small chair and folds nicely for quick and easy transporting to your favorite observing site. The chair can be built for about $35. The negatives I've found with the chair are the hard wood seat, and it's short adjustment height, which is about 29" tall. When I use the chair with my 12.5 Starmaster, it is just too short for the majority of the sky that I observe. Therefore, I find myself standing more than sitting. Observing should be a comfortable and relaxing experience (Ed note: It shouldn't require that we put on athletic gear or bicycling apparel. That's why we enjoy this hobby as much as we do). The more you can sit while observing, the better. Besides these two limitations, it is a wonderful and inexpensive chair to consider.
Starbound Observing Chair
The Starbound Observing Chair is a very nice chair, quite comfortable, very well made and not terribly expensive. You can find it for $149 to $159. It comes in white or black, depending on your preference. I strongly recommend white because it is much easier to see in the dark than it's black counterpart. This chair adjusts to a height of 32", which allows it to be used more often than the Denver Observing Chair when your scope is pointed higher in the sky. If you're short like me, I'm 5'9", you won't be able to actually use the chair at this height, because your feet won't touch the ground. Therefore, there's no way to actually get up on the seat at this height, unless you care to jump; not advisable. By removing the seat, a task that is very quickly and easily done, the chair folds flat for easy transportation. As mentioned earlier, the chair is exceptionally well made. It is made from steel, so it is a bit heavy to lug around. If you don't need height adjustment above 32" and you're tall enough to use it at this adjustment, this may be the chair for you. John Karaffa has one, and loves it.
Kendrick Observing Chair
The Kendrick Observing Chair is very similar to the Denver Observing Chair. The chair is very well made and has a height adjustment of 30". It folds flat for easy transportation, is light weight with a convenient handle for carrying or moving the chair around, and is relatively inexpensive. It can be bought with or without a folding accessory tray, a nice option. It costs $169 with the accessory tray or $139 without. The only thing I don't like about this chair is the fabric that attaches to the bottom of the chair to keep the legs from spreading apart. The problem with this, is that every time you pick up the chair to move it around, the legs will collapse together. I'll tell you from experience, you'll move an observing chair quite often and this will be very annoying. For me, this chair really didn't solve the two complaints that I have about my Denver Observing Chair. It has a hard wood seat and only adjust 1" taller than my Denver Observing Chair. Therefore, this was not the chair for me. Otherwise, this is a very nice and well built chair.
Atinatech Observing Chair
Let me say right up front, the Atinatech chair is a piece of junk, in my humble opinion. It looks good in the ad, but it is poorly and cheaply made. There is no craftsmanship what so ever. The design is basically a good idea, but they just don't deliver on the product. They offer a 30 day money back guarantee, but they don't like to abide by it. I got my money back, but it took many, many phone calls, and assistance from my bank. I do not recommend this chair at all, or the company offering it. Stay away.
CATSPERCH Observing Chair
Here it is, the chair I selected for my next observing chair, the CATSPERCH. It took five months to have it built and cost me $352, but I must say, I couldn't be more pleased or impressed. The craftsmanship of this chair is absolutely incredible. It is a truly stunning chair! It almost looks too good to take observing.
I had the builder, Jim Fly, custom build this chair for me with a few modifications from his standard design, which added about $50 to the final cost. Instead of having a short rear support leg, like the one on his standard design, I had Jim make the rear leg extend to near the top of the chair as seen in the photos below. The chair on the left is the standard design, and the chair on the right is my customized CATSPERCH. Jim was quite accommodating and great to work with.
The reason I had this modification done was to make it easier and more convenient to adjust the chair. When I'm observing, my scope is pointed all over the sky, requiring constant adjustment of the seat for varying heights. If you'll notice in the photo above, Jim's standard design requires removing the seat and footrest while adjusting above or below the rear leg and rear leg support, something I didn't want to mess with while observing. As you can see in the photo on the right, the modification to my custom built CATSPERCH eliminates this problem entirely.
Okay, now for the other reasons that I selected this as the perfect and best observing chair on the market, BAR NONE!! This chair adjusts to a height of 42", that's right 42". That's 13" taller than my Denver Observing Chair, and yes Doug, it is extremely stable at this height. Because, of its height adjustment, the chair is quite large, but it is not very heavy. In fact, it is not as heavy as the much smaller Starbound Observing Chair. Using my 12.5" Starmaster Dob sitting on an Osypowski Equatorial Platform, I can set my CATSPERCH at a height adjustment of 36.5" and observe while my scope is pointed at the zenith (straight up). This can't be done with any of the other chairs. To get on the seat at this height, Jim includes a footrest for climbing onto the seat and for comfort. To my knowledge, no other chair offers a footrest either. The footrest is absolutely required if you are going to use a chair that adjusts to this sort of height, otherwise, as I indicated earlier, you simply will have no way to get up on the seat. Jim also offers a seat pad as an option, to solve the problem of sitting on a hard wood seat, something I highly recommend.
I haven't had an opportunity to actually use the chair while observing yet, but I have played around with it quite a bit in my backyard. In my opinion, I definitely made the right choice. There simply isn't a better, more versatile chair on the market. The chair is a bit pricey if you have it finished completely and modified like mine, but I think it was well worth the price for comfort. In addition to a completed chair, Jim also offers the chair in an unfinished kit form for only $128 or assembled and unfinished for $169. The optional seat pad costs $45, and is a must in my view.
Before you buy an observing chair, give serious consideration to the CATSPERCH, but have Jim make the changes that he made for my chair to make it more user friendly in the field.
I used my CATSPERCH for the first time last night, and can confirm all the good things I've written in the review above. This is truly an amazing chair which I believe every avid astronomer should own. Practically all of my observing was done in a seated position using the INCREDIBLE CATSPERCH!!!! I'm still in awe when I sit to observe with my 12.5 Starmaster pointed at Zenith; what a neat feeling. I can't tell you what a pleasure it was to observe for 4 hours seated instead of standing. My observing buddies can tell you, that I'm forever complaining about my aching feet, due to standing so much while observing. It was certainly fun to finish a 4 hour observing session without pain. I suspect my buddies were happy that I wasn't complaining all night about my feet as well.
The long and short of it. Buy a CATSPERCH!! What are you waiting for? If you are serious about observing, you must be comfortable, and that means CATSPERCH. This chair has everything the others offer, and much, much more. Don't even consider the others, just go for the gold, get the CATSPERCH. You won't be disappointed