Tuesday, February 21, 2012

An Easy Easel

Caution: do not set your easel up in the middle of the road!
When painting on 8" x 10" or smaller panels I use one of my pochade boxes. When painting 9" x 12" and larger I use an easel.

Don't I look fashionable?
This easel is a simple one. It's made from alder and uses metal hardware. Each of the three legs are made of two parts, both 7/8" square and 38" long. The parts that hold the painting panel are also made out 7/8" alder. The legs are joined together with a small jack chain that goes from one front leg to the back leg, then to the other front leg. Across the "V" shape formed by the chain are three pieces of coat hanger wire that form kind of a shelf. Coat hangers are a renewable resource. It doesn't matter how many I take out of my closet, there always seems to be more! Here's a picture of the chain and wire shelf:

This is where I usually put a small paintbox or palette. The brush washer and trash bag also hang from this shelf...

...and sometimes other things, as in whatever's hanging from the easel in that last photo. On occasion I've even put a small boulder on that wire-and-chain shelf to weigh the rig down on very windy days! The chain is attached to bolts by "S" hooks. The photo below on the left shows how the chain is attached to the front legs. It's adjustable here to allow the back leg to move farther out for better stability, or shortened to pull the back leg in closer when there is less space available to set up the easel. The photo on the right shows how the chain is attached to the back leg.

The legs are adjustable for height, too. The holes are two inches apart and sized for 3/16" bolts. Wing nuts and washers secure everything. This could be used to help level the easel on uneven ground, but I usually just do this:

How to Level Your Easel - Use Rocks!
The parts that hold the painting panels are held together by a single bolt and wing nut each. Finding  3/16" bolts long enough is a challenge. I had to go to a place that specializes in nuts and bolts.

The top is joined together by another hard-to-find long bolt. This bolt is long enough to allow the easel to be folded up completely for storage.

The angles for the cuts were determined by laying the parts out on the shop floor. When I thought the layout looked right, the angles were marked and cut making sure both sides were even. The wood is finished with danish oil.

I've made two other easels just like this one, except with longer legs. One is made out of alder and the other is oak. The wood was scrap that was being thrown away at a wood shop I used to work at. The parts were cut, planed, drilled and sanded on my lunch breaks or after work. The boss gave me the wood, so the only costs were for the hardware and finish. These could be made out of most any wood. If made from oak, hickory or some other tough wood the legs could be as narrow as 3/4". Pine could be used but might have to be beefed up in size. Whatever wood is used, make sure the grain is straight and knot free. Most of the bolts, wing nuts and washers I used are brass, but stainless or ordinary steel would work, too. Brass-plated acorn nuts are used on the end of the long bolts to keep them from gouging the car upholstery. Can't say that's been entirely successful. Oh, and carry extra wing nuts.

This is a light and sturdy easel. It's been carried to painting spots a mile or more from the car, and if needed, can hold painting panels up to 24" high, maybe more. There might be better easels on the market, but this one suits me just fine!

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