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Bring An Old Chairlift Back To Life
Last summer, I was fortunate enough to get one of the original chairlifts from the ski area where I teach. The lift had been in use from 1961 until about 2006. The chairlift that I got my hands on is an old Riblet chair and was made of both wood and steel. It was in extremely rough shape when I got it! All of the wood had rotted and the metal was quite rusty but overall still pretty solid. I wish I had taken some "before" pictures. Anyway, I wanted to share with you how we transformed this pile of junk into quite the conversation piece that now sits in my yard.
After loading up the chair in the back of a pick-up truck, our first stop was to the local quarter car wash. I think we went through about $4 in change. This helped to get rid of most of the peeling paint on the metal as well as all of the moss that had been growing on the wood slats from the seat and back of the chair. Once back home, we removed all of the old wood and bolts that were on the seat and back of the chair and headed to Home Depot. They had the perfect size wood slats that were pre-sanded on the edges. They were 8' long so we were able to get away with just 5 to fit the 4' chair. I knew I was going to paint the wood, so I just bought inexpensive wood slats. They did have oak available, but the chair is down by the lake and will be getting wet all of the time, so I opted for the cheap stuff that I can replace frequently.
Getting the chair ready for paint was a lot of work. I went through a ton of sandpaper and elbow grease, but it was well worth it, because it was a smooth as a babies butt when I was done. We just used Rustoleum spray paint on everything. The metal covered great with just a couple of coats and the wood slats covered just as nicely. After one long Michigan winter, it still looks like I just painted it.
Deciding how to hang the chairlift was a little difficult. I originally wanted to hang it on a candy cane type of metal structure, but nothing was long enough to support the chair. Home Depot had a sewer pipe that was the perfect shape, but it was only 12' long. The chairlift is 10' from the seat to the top of the pole so I figured we had to have the pole buried at least 3 feet in the ground to make it stable. If we were going to mount it to a deck, the 12' would have probably been o.k. We got lucky and found a 14' long pole in the scrap pile at the concrete plant that my husband manages. The pole is 3" x 3" square and was used to hold the cement mixer to the truck. Free always works better! :D
The chairlift has a hollow tube that is mounted to the top of the pole. If we could have strung a cable from a couple of trees, that would have been perfect, but that wasn't an option, so we had to fabricate something. Luckily, my husband's friend is a very handy guy, and was able to weld a cross beam onto the top of the 14' tower, and then weld a connection to the underside of the cross beam that we could place a bolt through to support the chairlift. This worked out great, because the chair has a really nice swing to it. It also will be very easy to take the chair down when it needs paint again. One added note about hanging up a riblet chairlift (the type that I have) is that because they are designed to swing out; when there is no weight on the chair, it doesn't sit completely level. It tips inward to the left (towards the tower). As soon as somebody sits on it, it swings out and sits level. This bugged me at first when we first installed it, but now I think it makes it look more authentic.
I'm amazed at how great my chairlift turned out. I've wanted one for a long time, and it was worth the wait. My little girl and I swing on the chair all of the time. In fact, when I took her skiing this past winter at age 18mos. she couldn't wait to go on the "swing" with me!
There are more "Bears with Chairs" on Epic who have done similar things with old chairlifts. Pete No. Idaho, Slider, BOOTech. Inc. and Midwest Pete all have them.
Pete No. Idaho's
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