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Enterprising Nicholasville man builds Capt. Kirk's chair

NICHOLASVILLE — Clark Bradshaw is approaching the final frontier of home décor.

As fans eagerly await Friday's opening (and Thursday night's sneak previews) of the new Star Trek movie, Bradshaw is putting the finishing touches on his version of Capt. Kirk's chair from the original 1960s TV series.

When he completes it later this summer, the former barber shop chair will have armrest consoles with lights and switches. And it will move from Bradshaw's garage into his home office, where the walls are already decorated with three Star Wars light sabers and four Star Trek phasers.

"For years, you couldn't really be into this stuff openly and get a date," Bradshaw said. "So for years, I just kind of acted like I was too cool to be into that stuff.

"And now I'm older and married and it's OK," he said. "I've got friends that tell me, 'You've got to embrace your inner geek.'"

The chair swivels but is not for play. Bradshaw, 36, doesn't sit in it and bark "Ahead, Warp Factor 6!" or order the firing of photon torpedoes.

But the graphic artist and animator for Kentucky Educational Television said the chair does instill a sense of Starfleet gravitas.

"When you sit in it — and I don't know if it's the chair or just from watching Star Trek for so long — I do get in there and strike the Capt. Kirk pose, where he's there with his chin on his fist or up on the edge of the seat," Bradshaw said.

In March, The New York Times featured Bradshaw in a story about guys who have built Capt. Kirk chairs on their own or from kits. Some of these Star Trek acolytes obsess over paint color and controls, and seek to exactly duplicate the original chair.

Bradshaw is not so fixated. He doesn't refer to the chair as a replica, preferring instead to call it "a fair approximation." And he doesn't care if Star Trek purists find fault with its differences from the original.

"My intention was to make it comfortable and durable so I could sit in it and enjoy it," he said.

The chair has been an off-and-on project for Bradshaw over the past 15 years. He came across it as a student at Eastern Kentucky University in the mid-1990s, when he and a friend found it abandoned in a Richmond apartment they leased.

One day the friend suggested that the chair could be turned into a mock-up of Kirk's command chair. "That started my wheels turning," Bradshaw said.

He took some Masonite scraps and screwed them to the sides so that the chair had the boxy look of that iconic seat from the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise. But after college, the chair was relegated to his parents' basement.

When Bradshaw learned that there were others building their own Kirk chairs, he got in touch with them. Those communications led him to begin reworking his chair. He ripped off the Masonite scraps and replaced them with plywood. He reupholstered the vinyl, giving the seat a nice cushion.

For the record, the chair is surprisingly comfortable. It has good lumbar support for those with aching lower backs. And while a Maryland company sells ready-made Star Trek chairs for a jaw-dropping $2,700 each, Bradshaw takes pride that he has put no more than $300 into his custom creation.

"It's my favorite chair," he said.

His wife is less enthusiastic.

While Amy Bradshaw is glad that her husband has a hobby, she acknowledges that a Star Trek chair is, well, "just not my thing."

"He has so much talent with building things," she said. "The bookcases he made are beautiful. That's what I would rather he work on: more bookcases and shelves."

Sons Mac, 9, and Kyle, 7, also want dad to finish it so they can pretend to take the helm. And even a friend, C.J. Kendrick of Richmond, who flies model rockets, wants to see the finished product.

"Everybody's got to have a hobby," Kendrick said. "The level of obsession is a little much, but I can understand it."

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