Portable Child's Paint-on Window/Easel

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This was a birthday present for my 3 year old niece. I got the idea from my wife and a craft blog, but I made enough improvements I figure I can call it my own. There are not a lot of pictures because the project is dead simple and if you have any familiarity with wood working you shouldn’t need the ones I’ve got.

This project took me 6-7 hours and cost around $60. Half that money was for the plexiglass. The tools used were a chop saw/miter saw, a speed square, a way to drive finishing nails, and a way to drive screws. I used glue on all the flat connections and varnished the pieces with polyurethane, both of which I had on hand. And of course I also had assorted nails and screws on hand. I am assuming that you know how to do a 45 degree miter cut on a piece of quarter round to make a “picture frame”. If not buy, a couple extra feet of molding, look at the pictures and practice; it’s mainly about paying attention and changing the saw position a lot. It looks like you should be able to just flip the wood around, but that doesn’t work. Measure and cut carefully.

Step 1: Materials Not Already Mentioned

The materials to buy are:

  • 2ea 10ft- 1x3 very straight boards
  • 1ea 2ft- ½ x 6 board
  • 18ft 1in quarter round
  • 2ea 3/8 x 5 coarse thread eyebolts
  • 2ea 3/8 coarse thread wingnuts
  • 4ea 3/8 hole fender washers
  • 1ea 18 x 24 Plexiglas

I bought this stuff in US, so all measurements are in inches and feet. If you need millimeters Google is your friend.

Step 2: Cut

First, cut the 1 x 3 boards up identically, one piece 36 inches long, 1 piece 18 &1/16th inches long, and two pieces 21 inches long; yielding a total of 2x36 in, 2x18 in, 4x21 in.

Step 3: Bottom Tray

Cut the 2ft 1/2x6 (in) down to 17&3/4 inches long.

Center the board longways on one of the 18(&1/16th) inch pieces with about 4 inches showing over the edge to form a small shelf. Apply glue and attach to the bottom with 1 inch screws. Use the miter saw to cut three pieces of quarter round to form a lip on the top of the shelf, and attach with glue and finishing nails.

On the top side, and the opposite edge from the shelf, attach a piece of 18 & 1/16th inch long mitered quarter round along the edge with the flat facing the shelf, using glue and nails. Cut an identical piece of Quarter round and, using the Plexiglas as a spacer, glue, position and nail it down, leaving enough space for an snug, but sliding fit for the Plexi. When talking about mitered cuts, I give the longest length, thus an 18 & 1/16th inch piece is that length along the face that gets glued to the board and shorter across the top. The extra 1/16th inch is to allow for movement and sloppy cutting.

Step 4: Top Piece

Using two more pieces of 18 & 1/16th mitered corner round repeat the last part of the previous build. Attach one piece of quarter round along the edge of the board and then use a spacer to position the facing piece before attaching it. This technique helps insure the moldings are positioned properly and have consistent position and gaps.

Step 5: Side Pieces

Cut the remaining molding into 24 inch lengths.

Note that when working on the previous pieces you have not had to worry about which edge you attached the quarter round to. That is no longer true. The side pieces are “handed”, which means they need to be constructed differently depending on which side of the easel they will be on. Also, the position of the top and bottom boards matter. It is probably best to lay the whole thing out on the floor with the boards on edge and in the correct position so that you can see the relationships without any trouble.

Leave 3/4ths inch from the top of the side(36in) boards (for insetting and attaching the top board) and attach the quarter round to the back edge of the side boards, then use the spacer to attach the facing molding. At this point I let all the glue dry over morning. (I had started this project at midnight the night before the party.) The next morning I varnished everything and went out to buy hardware while it dried.

Step 6: Leg Locking Bolt

The hardware goes together as shown. This makes for an easy to turn unit for locking the legs in place when assembled.

Step 7: Prep the Leg Assembly

Take 2 of the 21 inch leg pieces and stack them so the edges match. Measure one inch down from the center of one short edge and drill a 3/8ths inch hole through the two pieces. Repeat for the other two pieces so you have four identical legs.

Take one leg and position it so the hole is centered and about 5 inches below the end of the molding on a side piece(this is to allow space for the bottom board and the movement of the legs). (If you look closely at the pictures you may notice that the holes are only 2-3 inches below the molding. This is because I made a mistake and had to drill new holes later.) Once you have this hole, take the other side piece, match the two pieces back to back and use the first hole as a guide to drill the second so they are positioned identically. At this point I said “Hey, Instructable!” and took some pictures.

Step 8: Assemble the Window

Assemble the 2 sides and the bottom piece. I used a speed square to make sure everything lined up and 2 inch deck screws for sturdiness. Next, remove the protective coating from the Plexiglas and slide it into place. Put the top piece into place as well and attach. One last coat of varnish covers the screw heads and any splits that were caused by the screws.

Step 9: Finish

When the varnish dries, position the one leg on either side of each vertical side piece and use the eyebolt and washer assembly through the holes to hold it all together. The washers, obviously, go on the outside of the wood to aid with compression, not in between the boards to aid with slippage. Add finger-paint and window markers. The result is weather resistant, adjustable for height and uneven surfaces and was the hit of the party. It also folds flat for storage.

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    Discussions

    This sounds like an interesting idea. You will be able to get a very different and interesting perspective with light and all that and I'm sure that the kids will really enjoy having a new outlet for their creativity after you've built this! I'd be careful with storage though! You need to be careful keeping glass items of course!