Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Do-it-yourself lightweight watercolor easel

My new do-it-yourself easel.
The support is two pieces of corrugated plastic,
which can be taped on one side to serve
as a folder for the paper.
This post describes how my husband and I turned a small photo tripod into a light and compact watercolor easel.

I have an aluminum easel, which I find very comfortable and use it all the time at home. It, however, is quite bulky. It is long 30" (76 cm) folded and weighs 2 kg. I wouldn't carry such a thing to paint on location, unless I go there by car. Basically, it very successfully serves the purpose of being an excuse for not painting outside. I wanted a lighter and much smaller one. After seeing Alvaro's travel easel that a friend made for him from a tripod, I decided to do the same.

The easel with the new attachment, folded. The pencil is there for scale
My requirements were:
- minimum  size and weight;
- to be able to fit a quarter sheet horizontally and vertically;
- to assemble and dis-assemble easily

First, I picked a tripod. My choice was the Slik Compact II model, as it weighs only 570 g and is 36 cm long when folded. It cost me about $40 CAD (could have done better if I waited for a sale).  There are probably many other good models, I didn't spend too much time researching.

The parts
The other main part was a 4 foot aluminum L-profile, which we cut to make the two rails and the top and bottom supports. A few rivets, bolts and wing nuts finished the kit. The only weird part was an U-shaped piece that had to hold the two rails 5 mm apart and serve to attach to the bolt of the tripod's panhead. We found something that fit the purpose, so it saved us from making one ourselves. All of this, of course, depends on the materials that you find in your store. The important thing is to have 5 mm gap between the two rails, where the top and bottom horizontal supports can move and be adjusted.

There are still a few things to tune up. I need to replace the two bolts with flat-head ones and maybe add a clip to the top support.
Here is how the rail is assembled. The big round hole is for the
panhead bolt to attach to the tripod. The winged nuts allow to
move and adjust the the two pieces that hold the board from top and bottom.
The whole thing weighs 920 g. (about 2 lb) and can fold to 43 cm (17") length. This can fit in a knapsack. The other practical idea from Alvaro is his support board. He uses two pieces of corrugated plastic, cut slightly larger than the size of the paper he uses, to allow enough room to tape the paper to them. The two pieces are taped together on one side with duct-tape, which turns them into a folder to carry the paper and the paintings, once you are done. Now, I'll have no more excuses. I will have to try this easel for real!

I also like the fact that the new rail can easily be detached, and the tripod can be used for its original purpose - photography.


Rita Vaselli said...

WOW!!! I (and my husband..)love DIY !!! Thank you very much for sharing,dear Blaga.I wish you a lot of glorious plein air watercolors with your new easel !!!

Judy said...

Very clever! Now of course we expect a lot of beautiful plein air paintings from you! :)

Blaga said...

Thanks for the cheers, ladies! I love it when I can make something practical with my own hands. I'll skip testing the easel today, though, it is -15C, that's a good excuse ;)

Sadami said...

Happy New Year & Thank u for info. I have a wooden easel for an outside use since a teen age. But my own "lap" is the best easel for sketching. I try NOT to carry heavy stuff. So, today, all easels are for a studio use. Anyway, lovely to see your full of energy for 2014 painting. Let us enjoy it more!!
Best wishes, Sadami

Merce Ares said...

Hola Blaga: Muy buena la explicacion del caballete para exteriores, se ve muy útili. Deseo que lo disfrutes al máximo!! Muy Buen Año y mucho éxito!!!


very practical design .... hope you get a chance to use it soon sounds bitter

Rita Vaselli said...

My dear Blaga,I have a Blog Award for you on my blog! Have nice week end!!!