This project is a simple tabletop artist's easel. My wife asked me to build this for my daughter.
As I worked on this I realized that it makes for an excellent beginner's project. The construction is quite simple, and does not require a lot of tools
But at the end I step it up a notch with a creative paint splatter finish.
Step 1: Optional Video Build
If you would prefer, you can watch a video of this project build. Otherwise, read on!
Step 2: Plans
Even though this is a simple project, I still like to start in Sketchup by drawing a 3D model of the easel. This helps me sort out lengths and dimensions, and lets me play with different ideas of how to put things together.
Step 3: Choose Your Wood
Now, I stated that this would make a good beginner project, and I stand by that statement. You could build this using easily available 1x2 project wood (pine or hardwood) which you can find at the local big box hardware/home store. (at least it's common in North America, which is what I am familiar with!)
Nevertheless, as I've been in this hobby for a long time, you can see in the photo that I have built up a sizeable stash of "scrap" lumber, as well as a bunch of tools, which I will be using for my version of this project. However, you could build this using a handsaw and some 1x2 pine. (and some other basic tools and hardware.)
I'm using some 1x2 oak for most of the project. (The actual dimensions are 3/4" thick by 1-1/2" wide, which is the same as 1x2 stock from the home centre)
Step 4: Support Shelf + Legs
For the Artwork Support Shelf, I'm using a thicker piece of wood -- 1-1/4" thick. I'm then taking progressive cuts on a table saw to create a 1/4"x1/4" lip along the front of the shelf. I'm not sure it is totally necessary, but I thought that it would help keep the artwork in place on the easel.
If you are working with 1x2 stock from the home center, you could achieve similar results by stacking a 1x3 on top of a 1x2 board.
I added a ten-degree bevel on the bottom ends of the three legs. I don't think this is critical, but I thought it would help the legs sit well on the table, since the easel is usually tipped back for use.
Step 5: How It Goes Together
Here (First Photo) I'm showing how the pieces will later go together. There are two legs, and two crosspieces. The bottom crosspiece is positioned about 5" from the bottom of the legs. The centre support is then attached to the two crosspieces. Finally, the Artwork Support Shelf will be attached with a bolt to the center support.
To make the Artwork Support Shelf adjustable, I drilled a 1/4" hole in the center of it. I also drilled a series of 1/4" holes in the centre support column every three inches. This allows us to move the shelf up or down, bolting it at a desired height.
I have a kit of jig parts. So I used a bolt and knob from that kit to attach the Artwork Support Shelf to the Centre Column. You could also just use a regular bolt and wing nut for this.
Step 6: Widening the Back Leg
I had a spare door hinge laying around (lower-left corner of the photo) so I glued and clamped some extra blocks around the top of the rear leg to make it large enough to use that hinge. If I had needed to buy a hinge I would have just gotten a small hinge to fit the leg. This is a lightweight application and the rugged door hinge is overkill. But it was free, so I used it!
Step 7: Assembly Time
I assembled the easel with glue and nails. I have a nail gun, so I used it. But you could also just use glue and clamps, or use glue and screws, or just use a nail and hammer. (If you use hardwood, I would recommend pre-drilling before using screws. If you used a softwood like pine, then a nail and hammer would work fine.)
In my original plans I only had the legs and the centre support. However, as I was building the project I felt that the gap was too large. So I added some 3/4" x 3/4" extra support posts between the legs and the Centre Support column. This is another example of how I only see plans as "guidelines" and not something to be rigidly followed. (Though I did later update my plans to include these!)
I used skinny stock, but if you are using 1x2 stock from the home centre, just use 1x2s in place of the 3/4" wide extra supports.
Step 8: Back Leg Clamp
I wanted the easel to stand very firmly. It would be easy to use a chain or piece of cord to attach the rear leg to the body of the easel, but I decided to make a wooden brace. This is a 1"x18" piece of maple and I used a router to cut a 1/4" slot in it.
I mounted a 1-1/2" square block behind the lower crosspiece, centred. I then drilled a hole in that block and screwed the lower brace to that block. The screw was left loose so that the brace could swing up and down. The screw is acting like a cheap and simple hinge. (I didn't feel like going out to buy a hinge when this worked fine!)
Then on the rear leg I drilled a hole and fitted in a threaded insert. This is another piece from the kit of jig parts. A knob can now be threaded into the insert to lock the brace in place.
Step 9: Almost But Not Quite Finished
And here is the finished(?) easel. I took it out to the garage and applied a few coats of spray lacquer as a finish. This is a suitable stopping point for this project, but I didn't stop.
Step 10: Splatter Time!
An easel is a tool. And as a tool it is going to get used, and banged around, and splattered with paint. This was going through my head as I designed and planned the project, so I thought it would be neat to "pre-splatter" the easel with paint. I thought that might make for a neat design touch.
So I got out some acrylic paints, practised on some paper and scrap wood, and then started splattering paint on the front of the easel. I was a bit nervous about this at first, as I was afraid that I would "ruin" the project. But I was quite happy with the results. I tried to not overdo it.
I tried a combination of techniques. For the yellow I would flick the brush, to get a long splatter. For the green I would just shake the brush up and down, trying to get drips. For the red I actually was "mashing" the brush onto the easel to get visible dabs. And so on... Again, I tried not to overdo it! I stopped several times and contemplated things before decided whether to continue or stop.
After the paint dried, I applied a few more coats of spray lacquer as a protective coating.
Step 11: Finished Photos
And here is the now finished easel. I think it turned out great. I like how the colourful plant splatters look on the pale maple of the centre column. Even the oak has a fairly light finish, and I like how the paint looks there also.
As a bonus... I kind of liked the test piece where I was trying out my splatter technique so I ended up mounting and framing it, as shown in the last photo.
For anyone interested in the jig parts that I used here are some links:
- https://goo.gl/AwL6rG -- 149 piece 1/4-20 Jig Parts Kit (Lee
Valley, non affiliate link)
https://amzn.to/2HNBTA2 -- 1/4 x 20 jig hardware kit (Looks the same as the Lee Valley Kit, but from Amazon)