Voyage of the Captain Kirk Floating Arms Keyboard Chair

When we moved last month we let go of a great many things in order to compress our household and Luann’s studio into a set of ABF U-Pack containers. At one point we planned to shed all our (mostly second-hand) furniture, figuring it’d be cheaper to replace than to ship cross-country. But since Luann had acquired all that furniture, it was much harder for her to let go of it than me. So to put a bit more of my own skin into the game I sacrificed my beloved Captain Kirk chair with Floating Arms keyboard.

The idea was to preserve the essential one-of-a-kind keyboard and replace the commodity chair. Which was foolish, Bodybilt chair’s don’t come cheap. But I was in the grip of an obsession to lighten our load, and there was no time left to sell it, so off to the curb it went. My friend John Washer and I immortalized the moment.

Then, happily, fate intervened. First another friend, George Ponzini, sensibly picked up the chair and took it home. Then we decided to use our reserve fourth U-Pack container to bring a sofa, some living room chairs, and other stuff we thought we’d leave behind. Now there was room for the Captain Kirk chair to come along on our voyage. George kindly brought it back, I packed it, and off to California we went.

Weeks later we unpacked our household containers in our rented home in Santa Rosa. When I set the chair down in my office, the hydraulic lifter broke. Not a disaster, I could live with it at the lowest setting until I could replace the lifter. But then, as we emptied box after box, I began to worry. The Floating Arms keyboard wasn’t showing up. Disaster!

Then, finally, it turned up. Joy!

But when I tried to reattach it to the chair, two crucial parts — the rods that connect the arms of the chair to the custom keyboard — were inexplicably missing. Disaster!

Eventually it dawned on me. This wasn’t the Floating Arms keyboard I’d been using for the past 15 years. It was the original prototype that I’d reviewed for BYTE, and that Workplace Designs had replaced with the production model. I’d had a backup Floating Arms keyboard all this time, forgotten in a box up in the attic. So now I could recreate my setup. I just needed to replace the connector rods and the hydraulic lifter. Joy! Maybe! If those parts were still available!

I called The Human Solution and spoke to the very friendly and helpful Jonan Gardner. He took down the serial number on the chair, asked for photos of the broken hydraulic lifter and the arms into which the missing connector rods needed to fit, and promised to get back to me.

The next day the missing Floating Arms keyboard turned up in the bottom of a bag of shoes. More joy! I hooked it up to my broken-but-still-functional chair and got to work. The first order of business was to contact Jonah and let him know I didn’t need those connector rods, they were attached to the missing-but-now-found keyboard. “You’re lucky,” he said. “We couldn’t have replaced those. But the lifter is still available for your chair, and you can order it.” So I did.

The lifter arrived today. It wasn’t immediately obvious how to extract the old one in order to replace it. There were no fasteners. Do you just need to pound on it with a sledgehammer? I wrote to Jonah and he responded with this video and these instructions:

Someone will need to use a 3-4 pound, short handle, steel-head sledge hammer. Timidity will not get the old cylinder out so do not be afraid to HIT the mechanism. After 20 some-odd years, they are going to have to HIT the mechanism.

That’s just what I needed to know. And he wasn’t kidding about the weight of the hammer. I didn’t have a sledgehammer handy, and a regular hammer didn’t work, so I improvised:

And that did the trick. I HIT the cylinder a bunch of times, it popped out, I popped the new one in, and I’m back in business.

Thank you, Workplace Designs, for inventing the best ergonomic keyboard ever. Thank you, Jonah, for helping me bring it back to life. Thank you, World Wide Web, for enabling Bodybilt to share a video show exactly how hard to HIT when replacing a hydraulic lifter. And thank you, Captain Kirk Floating Arms Keyboard Chair, for being with me all these years. I’m sorry I threatened to abandon you. It’ll never happen again.

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