Easel Does It

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Project by Calmudgeon posted 11-27-2021 10:30 PM 857 views 3 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My wife recently began taking classes in sketching and drawing and asked if I might make her a tabletop/laptop easel. She rarely asks for things for herself, so I was happy to comply, and to be fair to her, what she actually asked for was two pieces of plywood connected with a piano hinge. I had some other ideas.

I had some elm from a limb pruning (fifth picture) that had been drying for several years, and I thought this might be about the right size project for it. I was nervous that the limb wood might be iffy, but it actually turned out to be surprisingly stable.

My vision was a wooden suitcase that could house art supplies and open up to be an easel. Given that these were small pieces of elm, I had to embrace the imperfections and revel in the sapwood, pin knots and minor spalting. The panels are birch ply, and I supplemented with maple for structural components because I didn’t quite trust the strength of the elm for these.

I struggled to find suitable hardware, both in quality and size, so part way through the project I decided to make the hinges and handle from maple. This was my first time doing wooden hinges. To reduce the clunkiness of their appearance, I partially mortised them into the case. This also allowed the small feet to create some clearance so the case didn’t rest on the hinges when placed upright. I toyed with the idea of wooden clasps but in the end I chickened out on that and used the metal ones I’d bought.

A sleeve recessed into the lid provides storage for paper or sketchbooks, and two removable pencil cases can accommodate lead and coloured pencils. The bungee corded area is for unspecified, random loose items. When the lid is closed, the sketchbook envelope keeps the pencil cases from falling out (~ 1/16” clearance).

I normally don’t do mockups, but with the moving parts and 3-dimensional geometry, I decided to throw together a prototype made from 15mm Baltic Birch, assembled with butt joints and dowels (pictured below). It turned out surprisingly well, and my wife would have been more than happy with that (and in fact used it while I worked on the elm version), but I forged ahead anyway.

For those interested, the elm mills well, with very little splintering. Some softer areas can get a bit fuzzy when machined, and it has a tendency to burn if not careful about feed rates and bit speeds. It doesn’t smell great, but the smell doesn’t linger as long as red oak, let’s say.

As always, comments and constructive criticism are welcome.

-- "As are the things we make, so are we ourselves." - Lin Yutang

14 comments so far

View therealSteveN's profile


9383 posts in 1907 days

#1 posted 11-27-2021 11:14 PM

I’m betting you earned bonus points for this build. BTW bonus points are usually a good thing with your Spouse. :-)

Nice build.

-- Think safe, be safe

View Andre's profile


4998 posts in 3139 days

#2 posted 11-27-2021 11:34 PM

Purity darn nice:)

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View splintergroup's profile


6330 posts in 2555 days

#3 posted 11-27-2021 11:53 PM

Clever! Lots of great design and functionality.

+1 on the spousal bonus points, but beware of the “after asks”, it can snowball 8^)

View BB1's profile


2813 posts in 2181 days

#4 posted 11-28-2021 12:41 AM

This is a work of art…to allow for creation of more works of art!! I’m guessing if others in her class see this that you will have more requests!! Very nice job.

View SuperJoe's profile


85 posts in 113 days

#5 posted 11-28-2021 01:17 AM

If she has the colored pencils she can color me impressed. Well thought out, & well executed. You may have some mentoring ahead of you with some of her art friends husbands. Can you hear: “Yes it is beautiful, my husband made it for me”.

-- Some of my most creative moments have been when I've had to cover up an error in my woodworking.

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

9309 posts in 1915 days

#6 posted 11-28-2021 03:02 AM

Very nice easel / briefcase!

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View MrLaughingbrook's profile


287 posts in 3300 days

#7 posted 11-28-2021 11:08 AM

Excellent! Thanks.

-- MrLaughingbrook

View oldrivers's profile


2919 posts in 2899 days

#8 posted 11-28-2021 01:39 PM

That is a splendid case looks great, functional design and great workmanship

-- Soli Deo gloria!

View Calmudgeon's profile


586 posts in 2760 days

#9 posted 11-28-2021 01:43 PM

Thanks for the kind comments, folks. I do appreciate them.

-- "As are the things we make, so are we ourselves." - Lin Yutang

View swirt's profile


7092 posts in 4305 days

#10 posted 11-28-2021 03:26 PM

That came out great. Love that you pulled it off with limb wood from your yard.

-- Galootish log blog,

View sras's profile


6515 posts in 4462 days

#11 posted 11-28-2021 07:13 PM

Very nice!

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View 489tad's profile


4115 posts in 4344 days

#12 posted 11-28-2021 08:04 PM

That’s a great project. Very nice.

-- Dan, Naperville IL, I.G.N.

View mtnwild's profile


4723 posts in 4860 days

#13 posted 11-28-2021 09:30 PM

NICE! I know how she will enjoy that…Great design and well built…Super project…

-- mtnwild (Jack), It's not what you see, it's how you see it.

View Grizz01's profile


100 posts in 119 days

#14 posted 11-28-2021 10:12 PM

Excellent build!

-- Pain is temporary, quitting is forever.

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