Simple but effective observing chair
Tuesday, 24 January 2012 | Stephen
Delivery was an acceptable 3 working days from placement of order.
The chair comes disassembled in two parts: the frame and the seat assemblies. Assembly is intuitive and took eight minutes (I time these things), after which I found the assembly instructions in the package. It would probably have taken me longer had I used the instructions, #4 of which invites me to, “Remove the screws in the seat via a cross screwdriver.” Even ignoring the fact that all of my screwdrivers are mild-mannered, the only “screws in the seat” are those that secure the padded seat part to its sliding supports, and you most certainly do not need to remove those, particularly as there is no instruction to replace them! What #4 should say is “Remove the nut and washer from the screw in the unattached end of the spring.,” before moving onto #5, which says, “Connect the spring on the support with the seat.” It should add, “...and put a drop of CA into the thread to prevent the nut from working loose,” but I did that anyway.
Skywatcher has apparently learned its lesson from the reported problems with the previous incarnation of this chair. There is a page of safety precautions, that tells you (inter alia) that you cannot use the chair on open ground (danger of sinking and instability), that you must use special care and a torch at night to ensure that you are safely seated, how to sit (“in a slow, deliberate manner, keeping a central centre of gravity”) and stand, (“do not attempt to stand up whilst leaning back”) and that you must be “physically fit” to use this chair. I kid you not!
I weigh in at a bit over 100kg. The chair has a maximum weight capacity of 90kg. I knew this when I bought it. And I'm not physically fit either – I have damaged knees and use a stick to walk while I'm waiting for surgery.
Undaunted, I lugged the chair into the garden (open ground, and pretty soft – my ironing stool (previous observing seat) gradually embeds itself in the lawn. I opened it up, checked it for stability, adjusted the seat to a convenient height, and plonked myself onto it in a decidedly non-deliberate manner. Comfortable; in fact, the cushioning is a little sifter than I prefer (but then, I prefer hard lab stools). It has a slight forward slant, which I like on any stool; it forces my back healthily straight. I bounced on it a few times, leaned over to either side to test its stability, stood up (not leaning back as I did so!) and collapsed heavily onto it. It made not one squeal of complaint, but maybe did give a sly smirk at the over-cautious safety instructions.
In fact, apart from the softness of the seat, I find it more comfortable than my office chair, and I am seated on it as I type this review. I might get another one, whose seating foam I would replace, to use at my desk.
This is a pretty basic, but sturdy, bit of kit. The seat height is infinitely adjustable from 32 to 84cm (measured – the blurb says 30-82, which must allow for 2cm of padding compression), sufficient to range from the height I need to use the polar-scope on my Vixen GP, to the height I like to set my parallelogram-mounted binocular at. As I've indicated above, it is stable in any use I am likely to put it to whilst observing – the “anti-tipping foot design for balance” certainly does its job. It has a few rough edges (literally!): for example, two of the plastic tube plugs were not fully inserted and popped out. Bolts across the tune prevented their insertion, but that was easily remedied with a sharp craft knife and a few drops of CA.
The seat is held in place by the observer's body-weight; you need to lift the front of the seat to enable it to slide on the frame. There were concerns with the previous incarnation that the seat could accidentally lift and slip down the frame, causing back injury. Skywatcher has addressed this with a spring on a slider (the spring mentioned in #5 above); this spring is under permanent tension. I haven't yet been able to devise a way that I can cause it to accidentally slip in anything even remotely like the conditions it would meet in normal use. Believe me, I've tried! I've even tried bulldog-clipping the back of my trouser legs to the front of the seat so I can lift the front of the seat while leaning back and standing (requires a walking stick in each hand to lift me into semi-limbo-dance pose), then dropping my buttocks onto the chair. The safety spring wins every time. It may possibly be that I am insufficiently imaginative and that some determined imbecile may be able to concoct a way to overcome this safety feature, but I think Skywatcher has cracked this problem, at least for normal users.
The castors on the back of the frame make it easy to drag around, especially if I have my walking stick in the other hand. It might even double as a trolley for lighter kit, but I wouldn't want to put too much stress on the castors.
I have only one complaint about this chair: the seat cannot be folded flat – this has implications for storage and transport. Apart from that, it is just about everything I want in an observing chair. Nice one, Skywatcher!