Artists H-Frame Easel

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Project by Don Johnson posted 11-02-2019 06:50 PM 730 views 1 time favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My artist friend – for whom I make picture frames ( – asked me if I could make her a ‘proper’ easel, so I looked around on the ‘net and ended up being impressed by The Cadmium H-Frame Easel displayed at, which I arrived at after viewing the article

After getting approval from my friend, I sent for the plans – which are supplied in printed form but nevertheless arrived here in the UK promptly from the USA – which turned out to be very clear and comprehensive, with details of everything needed. The only slight drawback was that the design was based on using 3/4 inch thick timber – which I gather is a fairly standard thickness for boards from US stores – but I could only get similarly-sized boards here in the UK which were 20.1mm (13/16 inch) thick. I did consider using my thickness planer to size the boards to 3/4 inch so as to be able to follow the design exactly, but decided I could adjust a few dimensions as necessary and use the wood unchanged. I did get a bit confused when two items cut to the specified length turned out to be too short rather than too long – as I had expected – but I worked out why in the end. Anyone working with the same material might consider shortening the 28 1/2 inch lengths to 28 3/8 inches to make up for the changed thickness.

As the destination studio is not very large, and without a high ceiling, all the vertical dimensions were reduced by 6 inches, and the central rail was shortened so it was even with the top of the inner frame. These changes, and another aspect of UK stock sizes, was that the wood cutting layout had to be re-done to suit the different lengths as well as widths, and I was grateful that I ordered one extra length over what was calculated as it proved to be very necessary to cover unexpected changes and the ‘short’ bits!

The design has a moving central frame within an outer frame, enabling the canvas being painted to be raised or lowered for ease of access to different areas. (Pic 2). To enable the central frame to be moved easily, a system of pulleys and a counterweight is employed, and I was able to use the pulleys from a bicycle storage lift that I had lying around unused, instead of the ones suggested that were of the type used on old-fashioned washing lines. (Pic 3). Because my pulleys were fixed rather than ‘floating’, and since the outer frame could be tilted backwards as required, there was a tendency for the weight cord to come out of the central pulley grooves. To counteract this, I added a guide with a metal rod inside a slot that keeps the cord in line with the pulleys, but which allows the weight to swing backwards as the frame is tilted. (Pics 5 & 6)

Regarding the weight, serendipity again came into effect as we had just replaced two uplighters from our lounge because they were becoming unreliable, and I guessed that it might be possible to make use of the heavy rubber-coated concrete weights in their bases that had kept the uplighters erect and stable. It did indeed prove to be the case, as the two pieces were easily bolted together to make a ‘bomb-like’ unit, which proved to be just the required weight needed – about 23 lbs – to act as a counterbalance. (Pic 4).

One aspect of the design was the use of metal plates in the outer frame which meshed with slots cut in the sides of the inner frame. To get the plates correctly positioned, their location has to be marked when the inner frame is placed in the completed outer frame. It is then rather tricky to cut the slots for the plates as access is very restricted. Having just watched a woodworking video on YouTube where a multi-function tool had been used, I realised that this rarely-used item tucked away under my bench was what was needed, and like in the video, I found it surprisingly accurate for the job.

I decided to use the included design for the taboret for working space to mix paints, place brushes and other artist’s tools, and, with its extendable trays at each side, this looks to be particularly useful. My only query is that if the main frame is tilted to any extent, items would slide to the back. I suppose a non-slip mat might be employed, but no doubt my artist friend will let me know how this works out in practice. She has just visited to see the finished easel, which has three coats of Danish oil applied to the pine, and I’m pleased to report that she is delighted with it. It took some effort to transport it and manoevre it into her small studio, but the application of some wax helped the inner frame slide more readily despite the Danish oil not having completely hardened. When I saw the pitiful tripod that was her old easel, I realised why she needed something more substantial, so that she can work on larger canvases without her old stand repeatedly falling over.

It was a pleasure working to good plans, knowing that I could glue and pin or screw each item as it was made, safe in the knowledge that I would not have to re-make it as I often have to do with things I design myself.

-- Don, Somerset UK,

2 comments so far

View recycle1943's profile


4961 posts in 2599 days

#1 posted 11-02-2019 07:31 PM

I must say that is one very impressive easel

I was never very good at working from a blue print, I guess I just never had the confidence in one that you have demonstrated

-- Dick, Malvern Ohio - my biggest fear is that when I die, my wife sells my toys for what I told her I paid for them

View crowie's profile


4236 posts in 2928 days

#2 posted 11-03-2019 08:26 PM

That is surely on very fancy easel….

-- Lifes good, Enjoy each new day...... Cheers from "On Top DownUnder" Crowie

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