Less is more...Presentation is everything. What is one to do when your bare walls scream to be covered by monumental paintings, but go mental when miniature paintings start trying to fill up the space instead? Your miniature, highly detailed, design focused work deserves a place to be admired. With this simple jig you can easily create a purposeful industry specific viewing opportunity and get your walls jealous of your countertops.
Don't stop there, use these easels to display anything: business cards, notes, gift cards, or even Garbage Pail Kids. Or make hundreds and sell them to raise money for any organization, with community artists donating a miniature work in their style, "free publicity."
- Tablesaw or Jigsaw
- Handsaw (dovetail)
- Drill w/ 1/8" drill bit
- Drill press (optional)
- Miter saw (optional)
- X-acto knife and blade (optional)
- Hammer (helpful)
- wood glue
- 3/4" x 2' x 2' Birch plywood: Lowes (#6209)
- 1" x 3" x 6' Poplar board: Lowes (#1082)
- 1/8" Poplar dowel: Lowes (#19375)
- masking tape
- bright paint and marker (important not crucial)
*If you don't have a table saw get pre-dimensioned wood
- 1/4" x 36" Poplar square dowel: Lowes (#27546)
- 1/2" x 36" Oak square dowel: Woodcraft (#851130)
Step 1: Jig: Cutting Base
This project begins with making the jig so you can make hundreds of easels that are consistently identical. Start by getting a piece of sheet goods and cut it down to 16" x 6". I used 3/4" birch plywood to assure durability and less movement due to the shrinking and swelling of the wood over time. You can use a jig saw to cut this out, but I set my fence to 6" and ripped it on the table saw. Taking it to the miter saw and measuring the wood to 16" it was cut to length.
Step 2: Jig: Cutting Holding Strips
Taking a piece of hard wood (oak, maple, cherry) that is at least 1" x 1" x 16" long cut TWO strips of wood that are 1" x 3/8" x 16". These dimensions are best if you have a table saw and can create dado cuts for the next step. If you do not have a table saw, I would recommend getting a pre-dimensioned 1/2" x 1/2" x 36" Oak square dowel rod from Woodcraft (#851130) and cutting them down to 16" in length. The reason I use a hardwood is so it holds up over time with constant sawing being done through them and affixing wood against it.
Step 3: Jig: Cutting Groves
Setting the blade on the table saw to a height of roughly 1/4" deep and setting your fence 1" away, make the first cut (see image 1). Continue slowly moving your fence to the right and make cuts until one of the holding strips will fit into the groove the 3/8" thickness side. When the first one fits move the fence from the last set position a 1/2" to the right. Finish by making more cuts and slowly moving your fence until the second hold strip fits into groove. See images as you work through this step.
* If you do not have a table saw skip to the next step of gluing down the pieces.
Step 4: Jig: Sanding
Before permanently gluing down the strips go ahead and sand all three pieces. I usually start at about 100 grit and move to 180.
Step 5: Jig: Gluing/ Clamping
Adding a small stream of glue down each groove and on the long skinny side of the hold strip go ahead and fit the strip into each groove. With clamps on either side and in the middle clamp down the wood and allow it to cook for a few hours.
*Again if no table saw is available: Measure a 1" down from the top and secure your 1/2" oak square dowel then measure a 1/2" down from that strip and glue the second piece down. Be sure you have a 1/2" space between the two pieces.
Step 6: Jig: Measuring for Guide Cuts
Now it is time to make some measurements that are critical to the repeatable cuts you will make for this easel. I have uploaded the measurement file again for your reference. Placing the jig in front of you with the 16" side closet to you and the two holding strips furthest away from you we can begin making the measurements.
1: on the top strip measure 5 5/8" from left and make a mark
2: on the bottom strip measure 3 1/4" from the left and make a mark
* with a ruler connect those two marks with a pencil
3: on the top strip measure 6 7/8" from the right and make a mark
4: on the bottom strip measure 1 7/8" from the right and make a mark
* now, with a ruler connect those two marks with a pencil
Step 7: Jig: Cutting Guide Cuts
With the measurements made and lines drawn it is time to create the grooves to guide our repeatable cuts for the easels. To guide the saw teeth a little easier, I took an X-acto blade and I scored the line many times. I even cut a second line the same thickness of the handsaw blade and removed a little of the wood in between. Now with a hand saw follow those two lines or groove and cut through the holding strips down to the base wood. Clamping the board to a table may make this step easier. You will cut into the based wood, that will not alter the jig in anyway (other than its look).
Step 8: Jig: Marking Easel Parts
There are a couple added feature I place on the jig before it is ready. These additions help me remember which side creates what piece. Also, this helps anyone using the jig remember what is needed and how many of each piece you need.
*all location is going to be told on the basis that the 16" side is nearest to you and the two holding strip are furthest away.
1: Strongly suggest painting the top bar a bright color. This jig can accommodate many different sizes of wood, therefore when cutting each piece you MUST hold the wood to the top bar. Painting it simply helps remind people to position the wood in the jig properly.
2. Below the bottom strip measure 2 3/4" from the left and from the right. Do the same measurement at the very bottom of the board too. The two marks will allow you to line them up and draw a vertical line. This is the cross piece (where your work will lay on the easel). Mark the line with a sharpie and also write Cross (1) on both side to indicate piece.
3. Lastly, above the top strip on the left label Flat (1) and on the right label Upright (2). The numbers indicate how many you will need. Flat and Upright will be explained in the step 10. *if you use 1/2" precut square dowels the wording won't matter, but the numbers will.
Step 9: Jig: Shaping Wedge
The last step for the jig is create a wedge. This wedge will be used to secure your wood while cutting and also keep the wood again the red top strip. All that is needed is to take a scrap piece of wood and sand it down so it tapers from very thin to roughly 1/4". I used a disc sander to accomplish this. You could also do it by hand, use an orbital sander, or possible a pre made shim from Lowes would work too.
* Typically, I paint a section of the wedge and label it so it is not mixed with other wood and accidentally cut.
Step 10: Easel: Cutting Wood Strips
Time to make the Easel! Cutting the wood strips is the first step. Using a 1" x 3" x 6' piece of poplar, set the fence on the table saw to 1/4" and cut a couple strips. Then, move your fence to 3/8" and cut the strips. Looking at the last image you can see the multiple sizes that are created, (left to right) original, first cut, waste, final size.
*Again, with no table saw use 1/4" square poplar dowels.
Step 11: Easel: Cutting Legs
Now, look at the first image and you will see the way flat and upright are explained. Flat is with the wood placed 3/8" width down. Upright is with the wood placed 1/4" width down. This will aid in the cutting of your pieces.
1. Place a strip of poplar wood between the holding strip (oak) wood. Cutting the Flat piece first place the 3/8" side down and flush the piece to the left side. Using the small side of the wedge, secure the piece of wood up against the top (red) bar and make the cut. Only 1 Flat piece is needed
2. Place another piece of wood between the holding strip (oak) wood. Cutting the Upright pieces place the 1/4" side down and flush the piece to the right side. Using the wider side of the wedge secure the piece of wood up against the top (red) bar and make the cut. Two (2) Upright pieces are needed. So make it easy and take the piece you just cut and the scrap piece it was cut from and line the top of the bevels up. Make a length mark and cut a straight cut to make the second piece. (look at images for assistance)
Step 12: Easel: Cutting Cross Piece
Last easel piece is the cross piece. Line up the end of your wood to the line drawn on the jig. Secure the piece against the bottom holding strip and allow your saw blade to be supported by the ends and make your final cut using the jig.
Step 13: Easel: Sanding
Before it is all assembled take 80 grit paper and smooth down the rough angled cuts. Moving to 100 grit sand all sides and smooth off the edges. Lastly, with 150 or 180 grit do a final sanding to your liking.
Step 14: Easel: Pre-assemble (for Drilling)
Time to prep for drilling the hole that will take the 1/8" dowel rod. This is an essential step for the easel to stay together and last long. Take a 4 inch piece of masking tape and lay it sticky side up. Place the middle Flat piece down with the top lined up with the top of the piece of tape and with the bevel cut up. Next, place an Upright piece on either side of the middle flat piece. Be sure that the tops of all pieces are lined up. Wrap the tape around the top of the easel. Be sure that it is tight and the three pieces are taped to a point and no gaps between them. With your thumb locate the bottom of the bevel of the middle piece. Draw a line all the way across the piece that is in line with the bottom of the bevel of the middle piece. Allow the line to wrap over the side. We will be drilling the 1/8" hole through the side. With the line drawn on the side draw a small dot in the middle of this line. This is precisely where your hole will be drilled.
Step 15: Easel: Drilling
With either a drill press or a hand drill, drill an 1/8' hole all the way through all three pieces. Locate the dot you placed on the side in the last step and drill a hole that is perpendicular to the center piece. To make it easier I set the table on my drill press at an angle. The angle was set by eye, with the easel reseting on the table adjust the angle until the middle piece is perpendicular to the drill bit.
Step 16: Easel: Adding Pin
Taking the 1/8" dowel rod, measure it to be roughly 1 1/4" and cut it with scissors, x-acto knife, or pliers. Before inserting the pin take 100 grit sandpaper and sand the edges where it was just cut. Take the tape off the three pieces and begin inserting the pin through the hole(s). Be sure they are arranged in the correct order. If it is a little tough to push through use the table or slightly tap with a hammer.
Step 17: Easel: Gluing
Almost there! Place the easel on the table making sure the middle piece has the bevel facing up. Now place the cross piece at the bottom of the easel perpendicular to the middle leg. Adjust the height to what looks good to you or the size of the piece it will be holding. I then make a mark above the piece to realign after glue is placed. Taking wood glue add a dot of glue on the two outside legs under the drawn line. Place the cross piece back on and lay something heavy onto the cross bars to act as a weight. Let it cook for a couple hours. Clamping or placing tape around the pieces can be used, but often times moves the pieces around to much and is difficult to align.
Step 18: Display Your Mini-masterpieces
Tedious but always tremendous results when all together. With Jig and extra easel wood left over...make another or make a hundred more. Start displaying your tiny masterpieces for all to see.
*I often recommend painting the easel too. This creates a whole different look. Enjoy and Explore!