My wife likes to paint, and I like to make, thus we have an art room in our house. However it has been mostly used a staging room and not a display room. My wife thought it would be better used as both, and asked me to hang some of her painting. I wanted to make her something that would be adjustable so that she could display canvas of different sizes. I also wanted to make her something that would hold pulled canvas, canvas board, and/or framed works. I thus designed these adjustable wall easels.
Step 1: Recycling
At the end of last year, I bought three new 8 foot fence panels to replace sections that had started to rot through. However, after replacing those sections, I realized that quiet a few posts on my fence had rotted through as well. I decided to replace the entire fence. Unfortunately, the new fence didn't match the new panels. However, the three panels I bought were less than a year old, and I kept them in case they would be usable later for something.
I stripped off a few of the cross beams to one of the panels for the wood for this project. To do this, I used a small crow bar and a mallet. Most of the fence slats pulled off pretty well as well. I thought I would use the fence slats to create some cabinets in my workshop, but that's a different project.
Once I had stripped the cross beams, I took a hammer and pulled out any remaining nails in the wood.
Step 2: Materials
For this project, I used:
A table saw
1/4 inch dowel, 3/8 inch dowel
Step 3: Milling
I took the two 8 foot slats from the fencing, which were about 2 by 3.5 inches, and "milled" them through my table saw to trim off the outside layers of the wood, and as many of the holes from the nails as possible. Most of the nail holes, luckily, were near the top edge of the slats. I milled out two almost 8 foot sections of 3/4 by 2.5 inch boards that were relatively nice looking.
I then took each 8 foot section and them in half along the 3/4 inch edge.
Step 5: Cutting the Backdrop
To make the long back bones to the easels, I first trimmed one edge of each slat one my table saw to make sure that it was a true 90 degree angle. Then I cut four sections out of the slats to 46 inches, and two sections to 40 inches.
I then took two of the 46 inch sections, and one of the 40 inch sections and cut them in half lengthwise on my table saw to make 4 46 inch sections of slat about about 3/4 of an inch wide, and 2 40 inch sections about 3/4 of an inch wide.
Step 7: Grouping for the Easels
Each easel was constructed with 2 thinner slats, on each side of the wider slat, and will eventually be spaced out to allow the top of the each to slide up and down to hold different sized canvas.
Note: I had originally designed the three easels to have two longer easels, each able to hold 2 canvas, on each side of one central easel only able to hold one canvas, but a larger one that the other easels could hold. Once they were all complete, I think I would have like to have made the central easel a little shorter to highlight the staggered sizing. This would really just be for visual effect, but I think if was to make another groups of them, the center easel would only be 36 inches, not 40. The longest canvas that we have thus far is also only about 24 inches, so it was not as dramatic an effect as I would have liked.
Step 8: Sanding and Smoothing
As I had "milled" and cut every edge of the wood slats, there were some rough areas in the wood. To smooth them out, I took a sanding block and ran it lengthwise (always sand with the grain of the wood) along all four edges of each slat section. I first used 100 grit sandpaper and then 150 grit to smooth it further, then ended with 180 grit. I did not intend to stain this in finishing, so I did not think that higher grit papers would be necessary.
If you try this project and would like to get a sleeker look, and stain the wood, I would recommend sanding into the higher grains of paper to remove all scratches and dents, and to have a nice smooth and clean wood surface.
Note: even with lots of sanding, and especially reusing wood that had weathered for a year, at this stage you should inspect the wood and decide which surface will be the face. Any defects still remaining in the wood (including knots), if possible should be turned to the back of the easel so that they will not be visible from the front.
Step 9: Making the Wall Brackets
As I designed the easels to have a sliding section of the, which would have a backing, I need to make a bracket to space the easel slats off the wall by about 3/4 of an inch. In order to make the wall mounts, I took the remaining usable wood from the fencing as well as wood scraps from prior projects, and ran them through my table saw so that they were all uniformly 2.5 inches wide. I then cut the wood into 8 six inch sections, two section for the middle easel, and 3 each for the other two sections.
Step 10: Routing the Front Edge
I then took each 6 inch section and lightly routed all four "face" edges for each 6 inch sections.
Note: there are only six sections in the pictures. I forgot to make the final two until later.
Step 11: Connecting the Spine to the Wall Braces
Once the wall sections were done, I took the center wider slat for each easel and centered the end of each slat onto one brace. Once centered, I lightly marked each side with pencil marking. I removed the slat and put a light coating of wood glue between the markings.
I then clamped the slat end back down on the wall brace to hold it in place while the glue dried. I repeated this at each end of each wider center slat for each easel. I then put them aside to dry.
Once I had glued the center slate to each wall brace, I went back to the first one I glued and started gluing the thinner slats on each side of the center slat. I put a little bit of glue at the end of the thinner slats, and also clamped them down to dry. I knew that I be using a 1/4 inch dowel as the pegs for the sliding pieces of the easel, so I took a 1/4 inch dowel and used it to space the separation between the wider and thinner slats.
Step 14: Center Wall Brace
For the longer easels, I designed them to hold 2 canvas each, once larger and one smaller. I took each 46 inch easel and put them on scrap wood to raise them off the bench.
I then marked a point 30 inches from the bottom end of each easel. I put a little glue on the third wall brace and slid it under the spine with the center of the brace at the 30 inch mark. I made sure that the brace was centered width-wise as well, and I then used clamps to hold the braces in place.
Step 16: Making the Backing to the Sliding Section
While the wall braces were drying, I cut the back pieces of wood to the sliding section of the easels.
I took left over wood from the thinner (3/4 inch) slats and cut them on a my table saw.
The total width of the each slats was about 3.5 inches wide. I did not want these visible from the front, so I cut each back piece at a width of about 3.25 inches.
Step 17: Making the Bottom Shelves to the Easels
To make the bottom shelves on which each canvas will rest, I took more scrap wood, and cut 1 by 3 inch sections into the following lengths: I made 2 eight inch sections, 2 six inches sections, and 1 eleven and a half inch section. There are 5 total sections because the two longer easels will hold two canvas each.
Step 18: The Lip
I added a lip to each bottom shelf by running each section through my table saw, about 1/8 inch from on edge (about the width of the saw blade). As you can see from the pictures, the saw blade was not the full length of the wood. The blade came to about 1/4 inch from the top edge.
Step 20: Making the Sliding Top Shelf
In order to make the top sliding sections, I took leftover wood from the wider slats, which was about 1/2 inch thick. I cut one section to 8 inches, 2 sections at 6 inches, and 2 sections to 4.5 inches. For aesthetics I put a 60 degree angled cut at each end.
Note: if I was to do this project again, I would make the top sliding section less wide. They are about 1.25 inches wide, but a canvas is only about 1/2 inch wide. I would probably make them about 3/4 inches next time.
Step 22: Adding a Lip
Just like with the bottom Shelf, I added a lip by trimming a blade's wide of wood from one side of each section.
Be very careful as the blade comes almost to the top of the wood slat. Make sure to use something other than you hand to put the wood through.
Step 23: Connecting the Bottom Shelf to the Easel
I went back to the easels as they had dried enough. I turned them over and marked the back of each wall brace about 1/3 inch from the top edge, in the center of each slat.
Note: I put the markings so close to the top edge to leave room at the bottom for a screw hole to attach the easel to a wall.
I then clamped the lower shelf in place, centered to the spine. For the longer easels, I used the 8 inch lower shelves for the bottom shelves. I used the 11.5 inch shelf at the bottom of the smaller easel. I then drilled a pilot hole at each marking with a 1/16 inch thick drill bit, through the wall brace, through the slats, and into (but not through) the lower shelf.
I took a 3/8 inch forstner bit and drilled about an eight of inch down at the point of each pilot hole.
I then screwed 1.5 inch screws into each pilot hole.
I sank each screw into the brace so that the brace would be flush against the wall once hung on the wall.
I also added screws to the top of each easel wall bracket. I did this in the same way I just explained for the bottom shelves, except that there was no shelf. Thus I had to use smaller screws (about 1/2 inch) to avoid screwing through the slats.
Step 28: Second Top Shelves
I also repeated this to add a second shelf to each longer easel. I screwed them into the third wall brace at the 30 inch marking.
Step 29: Prepping the Holes to Screw to the Wall
At this point, I marked the center of the thicker slat of each easel at the bottom, below the bottom shelf, and at the top centered to the wall bracket. I then used the same forstner bit to drill down about 1/8 inch.
Step 30: Attaching the Sliding Top Sections
In order to attached the sliding top section of each easel I first centered each piece against the easel spine and marked the center of each spacing between the slats.
I then centered each backing piece to the spine and also marked the center of each spacing.
I used a screw to press down one the marked spots for a guiding mark to drill into.
I then drilled a pilot hole into each spot with a very thin drill bit (about 1/16 inch thick). Once the pile holes were drilled I drilled through with a 1/4 inch drill bit as well. This was done on the backing pieces and and sliding shelves.
I then cut 10 sections of 1/4 inch dowel of about 1.5 inches in length. I glued each section into the drilled holes of each sliding shelf section.
I then held the sliding section so that the 1/4 inch dowel was sticking out of the back of the easel spine through the space between the slats. I took a backing piece and pushed the down into the drilled holes to hold the sliding piece on the easel.
I did not press the pieces together too tight so that it would slide pretty easily.
Step 36: Plugging the Brace Holes
At this point I hung each easel to the wall of art room. I used a stud finder to make sure that I screwed each wall brace into wood.
I then took a 3/8 inch dowel and cut small sections from one end about 1/8 inch long. I made 6 of these "plugs."
I then pressed one plug into the screw hole at each end of each hung easel.
Step 38: The Final Product
The final result was as seen in the pictures. The wall easels are designed to hold 5 differently sized easels. My wife was pretty happy.
I hung them relatively high on the was as these are really for displaying art. However, if they were lower they could be used as painting easels as well.
The entire project took about 4 hours, including installation to the wall. It cost about 97 cents as it was almost entirely made of recycled fencing and left over scraps of wood and screws. The only thing I had to buy was the 3/8 inch dowel for the plugs. Happy building!