Setting up an arts & crafts space is fun and exciting, especially if it’s a dedicated place you don’t have to clean up all the time. The ultimate control on how to organize your supplies, and the layout of your different crafting zones. In any artistic space, one of the most important fixtures is a collapsible easel. For me with nluv Studio, I make a lot of sample boards while trying out new products and art supplies. And I do it all on my easel. No bending over or crouching on the floor, dropping brushes and knocking over paint buckets or making a big mess. A sturdy collapsible easel, placed in an open area of your art space will serve you well for any project and years to come. And since it collapses and is portable, when you don’t need it, you can free up more space to craft.
Should You Make or Buy A Collapsible Easel?
Not being an experienced wood-crafter, I figured I’d just Google easels, select one, and buy it. 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 can be large and heavy so easels made for art canvases or drawing tablets wasn’t going to work. I needed a heavy-duty easel without breaking the bank (or the easel itself.)
My Easel Criteria
- Heavy construction to hold samples (up to 10 lb.) by top or side clamps with no easel movement when using painting tools
- Collapsible for easy adjustments and folds flat for storage
- Table-top design with no legs and table height for working while standing
- 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 in price 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
Long ago, 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 for nluv Studio is to reuse and re-purpose anything I can. Renewable and recycled materials are definitely my thing. Before heading to the store to buy supplies, I hunted around the studio and in the backyard to see what 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’m pretty 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 needs. 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. You can lighten the load considerably with a lighter wood choice.
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 then 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 collapsible 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 find yourself liking the design, but are more of an oil/acrylic canvas painter, or even watercolor or pastel artist, all you need to do is add a small lip or shelf onto the front of the easel face to rest your canvas or art book upon. An old piece of moulding could easily do the trick!