This was originally a blog post of mine. I realized I was writing a lot of diy posts that were suited for making into instructables so I thought I'd republish the posts here. You can read the original posts at my blog here. The instructable have been edited slightly to include all posts on the project.
I'm poor and cheap so no way I would ever spend money on an art easel. I might make one someday, but I've never actually worked on one. I was just curious as to the experience, so yet another reason to not spend a bunch of money on something I might never use again.
Plus I have an easel looking thing, what other reason do I need to mess with my tripod?
Perhaps I shouldn't say that. No tripods were harmed in this process.
Step 1: The Mount
Now this won't work with all tripods. It depends on how the mount works, but the basic idea should work for most. Here's what my mount looks like. I was about to try to find a hex nut at the right size (it seems to be 1/2"-20 for DSLRs but don't quote me on that), but this was just easier.
Step 2: The New Mount
So basically all I had to do was cut a piece of wood at the proper angle. I measured the tripod's mount first to get the dimensions of the triangle at the sides, then because although I still have SohCahToa stuck in my head I don't like to think so I just plugged in the two measurements and a 90 degree angle into the triangle calculator. I got around 63°. That meant I had to put the saw at a 27° angle.
The piece of MDF I found laying around to use was slightly taller than the mount. This doesn't really matter. It just makes it a bit harder to determine the proper size. So I started with a slightly bigger cut then kept cutting until I got the right size +/- 2mm. Be careful with your fingers, the piece is very small!
I could probably have mathed out the distance between the sides better, but this took less time. Once I got two opposite side fitting about right. I could also just use that for the other because my mount happens to be perfectly square. I technically didn't need to angle all the sides. The mount's sides are all angles so you can change the way you orient the camera (when you flip it 90°), but there's only one angled side on the actual tripod and then the little latch that hooks in is angled as well. But well I did it anyways just in case.
After all the angles where cut as close as possible I trimmed the edges with a razor plade to make it fit. If you don't have a saw you can probably get away with doing this entire part with a handsaw or a razor blade. MDF is quite easy to cut although it feathers a bit, but for this it doesn't matter.
Step 3: Easel Part
Then for the part that actually holds the canvas/board+paper, I didn't want to do anything too complex because I don't know how much I'll like it yet. I got the same piece of MDF that was lying around and cut it into three pieces. 2 x 2cm, and a long piece around 30cm which was left over. Then I just glued everything together. I don't work on particularly large or heavy panels so I'm not too worried about it falling apart. If it does a few nails should hold it together. Also I'm a bit unsure just how big the gap should be, so if it's too small/big I can just tear it apart and change the size real quick.
Edit: I wanted to put a piece of glass on it to try something and although the glass wasn't heavy I was afraid that if it happened to give out I'd have a mess on my hand. So just in case I ended up adding two nails at the mount and two and each of the joints. The space turned out find for me the few times I used it btw.
Step 4: Finished Tripod Easel
And here are some pictures of the finished easel mount on my tripod. It's a rough proof of concept. If I like it I'll probably make a nicer one later.
The white board is just a thin piece of MDF I use as a smooth drawing surface for paper drawing/watercolors.