How to make your own Plein air easel

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I can’t tell you how many videos I watched to find the perfect Plein air easel. I decided on the features I’d like for my own plein air easel. I definitely liked the idea of my palette being super close to my panel. I didn’t want to have to always look down to mix my colors as I had before, because the values won’t be as accurate as it would be at the same angle as my panel and the scene I’m painting.

I didn’t want to mess around with a shelf slider, so I decided on using bungie cords to hold my panel in place. Lucky for me, I had two braced panels in my studio, about to become a Pochade box! The tricky part was figuring out how to hold the lid open. Youtube is a great resource, there are so many people with great ideas!

I had a piece of glass cut to the size of the inside of the braced pane. I’ll use Velcro to hold my glass palette in place with a tab to remove the glass palette for cleaning.

Tools and Materials:

  • Router/ Jigsaw whichever is available to you.
  • A drill and drill bits and screw driver.
  • Brush for the stain/varnish
  • 2 braced panels, the size of those panels are up to you.
  • Sanding block
  • Wood stain, any colour of your choice. I chose espresso because I wanted a colour that wouldn’t compete with my painting.
  • 2 brass Hinges
  • 4 Wing nuts
  • 1 T-nut 5/16 x1/4″
  • 8 Washers, I used rubber
  • 2 side arm hinges. Once would probably work, I went with two, maybe its overkill, I wanted stability.
  • 4 small bungie cords
  • A piece of glass cut to the inside size of the braced panel.
  • Grey Neutral value 5 Acrylic paint.
  • Sponge brush.

Instructions:

  • Sand the panels and smooth off any rough edges.
  • With a pencil and a ruler, measure where you would like the slots be to keep your painting panel in place.
  • Use a router or a jigsaw to cut the slots before you stain.
  • Dust off the braced panels and stain or varnish, whichever you prefer. I stained mine an Espresso Mahogany. Allow to dry for a couple of days.
  • Once dry, apply wax with a soft cloth, an old t-shirt will work and wait twenty minutes and then polish the waxed panels with the same cloth.
  • Drill out the fittings on the arm hinge and disassemble the parts and re-assemble as shown in the image. I eded up using a combination of metal washers with the rubber plumbers washers. You could use a different hinge system if you like.
  • Install the hinges. You could recess them if you like.
  • Pre-drill the holes for the side arm hinge and install as shown.
  • With a metal drill bit, drill 4 holes in your tripod release plate and screw it to the panel.
  • Paint 3 coats on one side of your glass palette with an acrylic neutral grey.

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Et Viola! You made your own Plein air easel you can attach to your tripod and take anywhere!

What I love about my plein air easel, I can move it anywhere in my studio. If it’s cloudy and dreary, I can move it closer to the window for more light. Next I’ll be making a shelf to attach to my tripod legs. I’ll be using this shelf for my brushes and medium and stuff. I’m also going to be making a paper towel holder. That will be in my next post! In the meantime, my painting panels have arrived and I’m going to be preparing to paint my first 5×7 panel for my daily painting challenge.

Hope you like the plein air easel, it’s not perfect and with a bit of tweaking and modifications, I’m sure you’ll be able to make one that suits your own needs.

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