Monday, November 17, 2014

Your DIY Pochade Easel Designs

Last month after sharing my own lightweight sketch easel design, I put out a call to all you Do-It-Yourselfers to share your home-built sketch easels, and you came through with some extraordinary innovations.

I promised to pick my favorite entry, but I couldn’t narrow the field down to one, so I picked seven. Each of the following submissions will win an official GurneyJourney “Department of Art” patch.

I’ll also award a D of A patch to the best FB share of this blog post.

Bryan Coombes
Bryan Coombes says: “I’m in the Vancouver BC area, been painting for about 5 years in oil and acrylic. I LOVE painting and now- thanks to you, I love painting in watercolour. I’m looking forward to trying out casein next."

Here’s Bryan Coombes’ design fully deployed.

Bryan improves my design in various ways, including by having a place to attach the pencil sharpener, and a pencil- or brush-holding groove on the front. Good point about the silicone for attaching stuff to the plastic cups. The rest of the notes speak for themselves.

ERC sent me photos of two ideas that he and his friends came up with.

The first is a folding drawing horse. It looks like a big wooden briefcase — with storage inside — but it folds out to a stable and sturdy drawing bench that you can take to any sketch group.

ERC’s second design rolls on skateboard wheels like a modern suitcase. Or you can carry it like a backpack to a painting location. Then the legs fold out to a wide tripod stance, holding any size canvas and a double-wide palette.

Jason Peck
Jason says, “Here is my most recent lightweight watercolor palette. I had a friend cut and drill the wood pieces for me." 

"All I had to do was glue it all together, and stain it. It measures 9X10 inches, and weighs less than one pound. I’m still using the old hinges that you used on your first pochade rig, but I will be swapping them for the Southco adjustable torque hinges soon.”

“This palette is lightweight and easy to pack and carry, but I have one more idea for an even lighter palette. I’m thinking of making one from old clipboards. My plan is to polyurethane the clipboards to waterproof them.”


Steve says: "My casein mixing tray that I already had happens to be made out of aluminum, so magnets will have to be replaced with Velcro, not my favorite choice. Maybe I'll glue sheet metal strips on the bottom."

"I've found the easel kind of evolves as you go along. Because of the tension hinge thickness I couldn't get it to fold completely flat, so I came up with the water cup hole/piano hinge/spacer idea."

Randall Cogburn
Randall Cogburn of Texas uses his lightweight sketch easel for various media.

Here it is in oil mode.

He has also adapted it for use with gouache. “This is the first time I used gouache and loving it,” he says.


Nancy Vance made this easel from an old checkerboard. The boxlike interior, once used for holding the game pieces, forms a tray to keep brushes and cups from falling off.

It stays open as far as you want it to with a length of chain looped over a cup hook. If you want to paint on the right side of the book, you could mount the chain on the left side of the box.

Jeff Allen

Jeff Allen says, “I made this box for a trip to Hawaii. It was designed to fit into a USPS "if it fits it ships" box." 

"That way I could ship all my painting equipment to the post office in Kauai where I could pick it up when I arrived. At the time it was $7.00 per box for shipping to Hawaii! It was constructed in oak with a standard thread for a tripod and saw a lot of use in Hawaii. It will hold 6 x 8 to 12 x 16 panels. The pallete is removable for cleaning.”
Thanks to everyone who entered, and sorry I couldn’t include all of them. I'm glad we can keep this all open-source to benefit the entire maker community.

To the seven winners, please email me your mailing address with the subject line "ART PATCH," and I'll send an embroidered "DEPARTMENT OF ART" patch out to you.
Video Tutorial
The HD download of "How to Make a Sketch Easel" is more than an hour long and costs only $14.95.
It's available now from Gumroad, and I'll upload it to Sellfy and Cubebrush later today.
The DVD version is available for $24.50, and it includes a slide show. The DVD is also available on Amazon

More Links
My original Lightweight Sketch Easel.
Earlier post on Your DIY Watercolor Easels.
More info on my easels and watercolor materials


Carole Pivarnik said...

Despite having way too much gear already, that I mostly love and use a lot, I want to build a rig based on these ideas. I think this is a special kind of sickness... :P

Jason Peck said...

Thank you James for this post, there are some really great lightweight easel designs here! I really like Bryan Coombes easel and silicone tip. Awesome, Thanks Bryan, Ill have to give the silicone a try.


krystal said...

These are FANTASTIC! Thanks for sharing and congrats to everyone!More making ! :)

René PleinAir said...

Ooow hoqw I love these kind of postings, makes your mind bubble from ideas!!

Thanks for posting and starting this.

Warren JB said...

Unreal. The handiwork here is amazing. Makes me jealous even before I look at the paintings they support.
I've got a little wooden case here that I've been meaning to convert to a pochade for far too long. I may blow the dust off it again, after this.

Jtoritto said...

J, I have a good tripod to use. What can I use to connect tripod to the case I build? Pics if possible please!

Thanks, Joshua Toritto

James Gurney said...

Joshua, you'll just need to drill a hole and use a 1/4 20 T-nut.

Journal Art Pages with Elena said...

Anyone can sugest where I can buy Adjustable friction hinges in Canada? I can't seem to find them anywhere. Many thanks!I live in Toronto and would really love to make a portable easel like that! Armella

Journal Art Pages with Elena said...

Please help find adjustable hinges in Canada. Also, where would I find a bar for the camera attachment, James? Many many thanks! Armella

Nudge said...

James. Thanks for your great posts and being so open with your knowledge. I've started a plein air box project out of a cigar box I bought on Kijiji. I'm waiting for parts I ordered on Amazon, but I'll post a picture when it's done.

Unknown said...

Hello, so my girlfriend is really into painting and wants and easel. I would like to make her first easel as in to build it for her. does anyone have any links on how to build a easel?

James Gurney said...

To Unknown: I added a link at the end of the post so you can find my video tutorial on how to make a sketch easel. Good luck with the build.