Setting up a new studio is fun and exciting. You have full control on how to organize your inventory, the overall layout and your work space zones. In a faux finish design studio, one of the most important fixtures is your easel. For me, making sample boards, trying new products and creating finishes are all done on my easel. No bending over & crouching on the floor, dropping brushes and knocking over paint buckets or making a big mess… A sturdy easel, placed in an open, defined area of your studio will serve you well for any project and years to come!
Make or Buy?
Not being an experienced ‘wood-crafter’, I thought I would just Google ‘easels’ and buy one. It sounded so simple that I didn’t think much of it. Well, that was an eye opener! The sample boards and wood pieces I use are large and heavy so easels made for art canvases or drawing tablets wasn’t going to work. I needed a heavy-duty easel for wood boards and large sample sheets without breaking the bank (or the easel itself.)
My Easel Criteria
- Heavy construction to hold samples (up to 10 lbs.) by top & side clamps with no easel movement when using trowels & other tools
- Collapsible for easy adjustments and storage
- Table-top design, no legs
- Oversized to accommodate large sample boards
In my search, I didn’t find many options that met my criteria. The few I did find were quite expense, upwards of hundreds of dollars and that didn’t even include shipping. After a lengthy search, I threw in the ‘trowel’ and told myself, “If you want the perfect easel, just make it yourself!” And so I did!
Check the tool shed
I spent time studying at the Faux Finish School in Kentucky. Their teaching studio had the best easels and wished I could have taken one home. I took pictures when I was in class and had a few good shots of the easels positioned on the work tables. I looked online for more images to get as many angles of the easels’ design as I could. The basic construction seemed pretty simple and after a little study, I dissected it down into the different pieces/parts and felt I was ready to start building.
One of my founding principles at the nluv Studio is to reuse and re-purpose anything I can. Before heading to the store to buy supplies, I hunted around my studio and in the yard to see what materials we had. I found some extra subfloor panels, an old can of primer and a few useful tools… I had almost everything I needed.
- Random sized 1/2″ OSB subfloor panels (left over from another project). Total 16 sq. ft needed – See actual piece dimensions in the step-by-step instructions below.
- 4 heavy duty Hinges
- 3 heavy duty 3-screw L-brackets
- Zinsser Smart-Prime primer
- Life Paint Hybrid Alkyd Gloss Enamel paint
- Paint brush
- Wood screws
- Table or saw horses to cut wood on
- Circular saw
- Pencil to mark lines
- Drill with bits (to pre-drill screw holes & use as screwdriver)
I am not a professional easel builder, but I am so happy with the end result (and actually surprised myself in the process!) The finished product is just what I needed and is perfect for my studio. The size and weight of the easel is whatever you specifically need for your craft. The general building principle stays the same but you can swap out the construction materials and size to suit your own requirements.
Cut OSB boards down to size and sand the edges smooth. The total is 6 pieces in the following dimensions:
- Front face (FF) – 1 qty; 26″W x 31 1/2″L
- Back (BA) – 1 qty; 26″W x 26″L
- Bottom (BO) – 1 qty; 26″W x 22″L
- Skinny Front plate (SF) – 1 qty; 26″W x 4 1/2″L
- Bottom strips (BS) – 2 qty; 26″W x at least 2″L (for screws to not split the wood)
Paint all the pieces
- 2 coats of primer for full coverage
- 1 final coat of Hybrid Alkyd for easy cleanup of paint and other mediums on the easel
Start by attaching the Skinny Front plate (SF) to the Bottom (BO) using the L-brackets. I positioned BO to the center of the SF so I had good overhang on my table and enough at the top of the SF to later attach the easel Front face (FF).
Next, attach the Front face (FF) using 2 hinges to the Skinny Front face (SF), which is already attached to the Bottom (BO) from the prior step.
Now it’s time to attach the Back (BA) using hinges to the top portion of the Front face (FF). I attached it 6 inches from the top, giving me the perfect angle on the front work surface.
- The last part is to screw the 2 Bottom strips (BS) to the Bottom (BO), where the easel’s back panel will sit to hold it upright. It’s important to get the angle right so stand up the easel and determine the angle you’ll want to work at before you screw down the 2 BS.
- Once you find the angle you want, screw the 2 Bottom strips (BS) to the Bottom (BO), creating a space between the two strips for your back panel to sit in between. For me that was a little over 1/2″, as that is the width of the OSB. THAT’S IT!
Stand back and enjoy your work!
It took me two days to complete the easel mainly because of the dry time between paint coats.
- Day 1 was cutting the panels, mapping out where the brackets and hinges were going to pre-drill the holes and both coats of primer.
- Day 2 was the final coat of hybrid alkyd to seal the surface and then assembly.
I won’t be going into the easel business, but I am pleased with how it turned out. By reusing materials and tools I already had, the easel cost was a little elbow-grease and less then $40 in new materials!
If you’re in need of an easel and can’t find what you are looking for, consider building it yourself. If you do, I’d love to see what you came up with. Looking for more pictures or details? Let me know so I can help. Happy building!