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View Full Version : Built a plein air pastel box...


Marc Hanson
04-17-2005, 11:28 AM
It rained this weekend, so I decided to tackle a project that has been on my mind for awhile. I had a need for a pastel easel/box that I could haul into the sticks. This is what I came up with. It's lightweight, carries a piece safely when finished, fits into my backpack, and will carry a workable number of pastels. The panel that the paper is attached to is 12x16, the box measures about 13x17 and is about 2.5" deep when closed. I'm guessing it will carry close to 90 to 100 pieces of pastel when I fill it up. After the finish is applied, I'll line the bottom with foam, put in pastels, the put another piece of foam on top of them. The slide in board that the paper attaches to will hold them in place.

What I really like about this is the ability to raise the board up away from the pastels in the drawer. 2 small spring clamps were the best way to do that. I considered a more permanent holder, but this way I can adjust the height as needed. The whole thing is incredibly sturdy. I'll post photos when I get the finish on. Total time 6 hours + finishing time, still to do. Total cost about $30.00 for all wood and hardware. The stock is all poplar, and the top is a very lightweight knotty pine furniture grade plywood, and bottom is birch plywood. The birch is a little stronger and I thought it made more sense to use it at the place of support, and the pine is very light weight and is used on top where there isn't any stress involved. I beefed it up by using 1/2"x3/4" poplar trim to frame it.

1-Front and right side closed
2-Back side showing piano hinge. Used this for more lid stability.
3-Left side w/hinge. I used a brass table leg brace that snaps into a locked position.
4-Box with lid open showing the pull out backing board with Wallis paper attached.
5-Box ready to go...except for the final finishing.

Tony Perrotta
04-17-2005, 12:05 PM
Hey Marc, Cool box, that's what I should do too. Having worked a little with wood myself I have to say great craftmanship :)

Tony

jackiesimmonds
04-17-2005, 01:32 PM
Marc ... one word of warning from someone who got very excited to receive an easel with a wee tray to clip on the front to hold my "palette" of pastels.

Within a few minutes, all my pastel sticks in the tray were COVERED in pastel dust which had fallen down onto them from my painting. When I picked up a pastel to use, it was horrible, all grimy and dusty. I was so frustrated.

It is possible that with your box, the pastel dust will collect on the edge of the box (alongside the hinge), it might be wide enough ... but you will need to get rid of it before you close the box again, or it will spill all over your pastels. Perhaps, if you are really careful, you could slide the wooden board back into the box, and THEN tip it to one side to allow the crumbs to fall away.

I recommend that you create some kind of (paper?) "lip" under your Wallis paper to catch the pastel dust, or you may be as frustrated as I was! My tray has been consigned to the back of a drawer and I am back to holding a pastic veggies tray with my "palette" of sticks in it - well away from my painting!

Jackie

Marc Hanson
04-17-2005, 01:36 PM
Marc ... one word of warning from someone who got very excited to receive an easel with a wee tray to clip on the front to hold my "palette" of pastels.

Within a few minutes, all my pastel sticks in the tray were COVERED in pastel dust which had fallen down onto them from my painting. When I picked up a pastel to use, it was horrible, all grimy and dusty. I was so frustrated.

I recommend that you create some kind of "lip" under your paper to catch the pastel dust, or you will begin to hate your box quite quickly! My tray has been consigned to the back of a drawer and I am back to holding a pastic veggies tray with my "palette" of sticks in it - well away from my painting!

Jackie

Tony, thanks.

Jackie, I know what you mean. I use a wrapping paper cardboard tube that's cut lengthwise in half making a 'half' tube that's the width of my palette. Then I tape that onto the board as a trough just under the paper and it catches all of the dust that falls.

Bill Foehringer
04-18-2005, 11:45 AM
Very nice work Marc. I've been using the 12x16 G-box and it's a little on the heavy side but it has room inside for lots of stuff. I made a gizmo to hold the work piece up and it has a wide lip that catches most of the droppings. BillF

jimb
04-18-2005, 12:27 PM
Thanks Marc!

You've inspired me to build one of my own. I've been wanting to do plein air in pastel (which I do a little bit better than oils) but I haven't been happy with any thing I've seen to transport them.

I like your half cardboard tube idea too. I might try that, or a half piece of plastic pipe.

I'll give this a shot.
Thanks again! :)

Marc Hanson
04-21-2005, 03:00 PM
Here's an update on my box. Applied 2 coats of Marine Spar Varnish, tough and easy to take care of. Then cut the foam liners (top and bottom pieces), and spent the good part of yesterday assembling the pastels into the box. I have at least 200 different pieces of pastel in there. Most all of what was in my larger box, but I discovered duplicates in it and now have one of each.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/21-Apr-2005/37743-3-pastel-b.jpg

This is the cardboard trough that I tape on. You could use plastic or some other material, but this is so light that it only takes some masking tape to hold it on. Also, it's thin so it is tight up against the surface, not allowing dust to fall inbetween it and the back. Not sure this image is loading so I'm going to post it separately.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/21-Apr-2005/37743-4-pastel-b.jpg

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/21-Apr-2005/37743-1-pastel-b.jpg

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/21-Apr-2005/37743-2-pastel-b.jpg

Marc Hanson
04-21-2005, 03:26 PM
Hope this one shows. The trough.

jackiesimmonds
04-23-2005, 04:06 AM
what a great box. Love the trough idea. I want one.

ps why is there a depression in the OUTSIDE of the lid?

Jackie

Marc Hanson
04-23-2005, 12:22 PM
what a great box. Love the trough idea. I want one.

ps why is there a depression in the OUTSIDE of the lid?

Jackie
Well, I wanted to use lightweight ply to hold down the over all weight of the box. But to do that it had to be reinforced with a molding to hold the hinge. So it made sense to me(that's always a clue to take a hard look at what I've done...:D), to put it on the outside so that I had a flat surface on the inside to either clamp or tape paper to as the easel surface.

This is still developing, but I may use that space on the outside to add a hinged lid with clasps. Then I can store sheets of paper in there making carrying it even more self contained.

JamieWG
04-23-2005, 03:44 PM
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/21-Apr-2005/37743-3-pastel-b.jpg


My gosh, Marc, this picture makes me drool uncontrollably! I just love looking at open pastel boxes! The setup looks great. I don't recall seeing in your description that there is any kind of a tripod mount. (Did I miss that?) What will you set the box on, or do you plan to install a mount?

Jamie

Marc Hanson
04-23-2005, 04:00 PM
My gosh, Marc, this picture makes me drool uncontrollably! I just love looking at open pastel boxes! The setup looks great. I don't recall seeing in your description that there is any kind of a tripod mount. (Did I miss that?) What will you set the box on, or do you plan to install a mount?

Jamie
Jamie,
Yes there's a T-nut installed, actually 2. I put one centered towards the back edge at first. That was not the best spot for balance, it's front heavy in that regard. So there's now one centered in the bottom of the box. I recently upgraded my tripod to a Bogen/Manfrotto with a ball head and it's solid as a rock on that.
See all of those dark Giraults along the top edge? I'm thankful. :wink2:

Here's a closeup of the T-nut on the back edge. Unfortunately, I didn't take a photo of the centered one. Even after having to remove all of the pastels to install it. I'm not likely to remove them again...at least not voluntarily!!!

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/23-Apr-2005/37743-pb5-lid-w-paper-detail.jpg

2tcreative
12-02-2005, 10:41 AM
Marc, just curious how your pastel pochade has worked for you now. It has been a few months so you should have some good feedback concerning what you built, what you like and what you would change. I am about to build a simular box, although I plan to build a seperate arrangement to hold the pastel panel and another to hold the pastel pallette. I plan to use a plastic wallpaper glue tray as the 'catch' tray for the pastel dust. I just attach it with velcro. Made a simple arrangement to work from in my home using the tripod and a 1/2 inch oak 2' x 2' panel and it worked well. Now I am going to reduce the weight and make it more flexible to take in the field.

Sorry to ramble but hope you might give us an update!

Marc Hanson
12-03-2005, 11:23 AM
Marc, just curious how your pastel pochade has worked for you now. It has been a few months so you should have some good feedback concerning what you built, what you like and what you would change. I am about to build a simular box, although I plan to build a seperate arrangement to hold the pastel panel and another to hold the pastel pallette. I plan to use a plastic wallpaper glue tray as the 'catch' tray for the pastel dust. I just attach it with velcro. Made a simple arrangement to work from in my home using the tripod and a 1/2 inch oak 2' x 2' panel and it worked well. Now I am going to reduce the weight and make it more flexible to take in the field.

Sorry to ramble but hope you might give us an update!
No problem, got your other note too.
It works very well, I'm not sure of anything I'd change about size, materials or design with a couple of exceptions.

I'd(and am going to) make the lid angle at set up adjustable. Mine is at 90 degrees and sometimes I'd like a more 'opened', or obtuse angle than that. Or at least the option to choose depending on the situation.

Another is not to have a 'lip' along the inside edge of the box where the pastels are. They get underneath and are hard to fish out.

One more concerns the tripod and box. I have a medium weight ballhead on my Bogen/Manfrotto that is like a tank for any other paint box like the Open Box M. However, this pastel box with all the wood and pastels in it is heavy and I get a little wobble due, I think, to the post on the ball head. It does not move in the ball, or at the attachment point on the box. It's just physics I guess, it's an inch or so high and like a sky scraper that is 50 stories high, it is flexible and moves.
The solution to this would probably be a pan head, so that the box is right down on the top of the tripod and attached to it there. But those don't allow as much adjustment so it'a trade off.
It's not unmanageable, just a little annoyance that I've noticed.

coh
12-03-2005, 01:56 PM
I've just about finished building a box very similar to Marc's - I made it
slightly smaller. Haven't used it yet so I don't know how well it will work, but
it looks pretty nice! I'll post some pictures soon.

I used the same locking brace to hold up the back, but adjusted it's position
so the back tilts slightly back when locked into place. I don't know if it will
be enough, but should be better than perfectly vertical. Marc, one question
I had was, have there been any problems with the screws coming loose - the
ones that attach the brace on both ends? I could see that becoming a
potential problem with repeated use. Did you put washers on both sides
of the brace or only on the outside?

Marc had also mentioned putting a cover over the top to allow storage of
paper in that area. I want to do that also, but I want there to be enough
space to store both extra paper and a complete painting (attached to a board).
That way one could complete and transport 2 paintings at a time. However,
I did not plan well and should have made the space in that area a little deeper.
I did make a lid that extends the depth a bit (this is hard to describe, so I
will post pics) but I'm still trying to figure out if the extra size and weight
is a worthwhile trade off. Maybe I'll just wait till I build version 2 eventually.

As for the pastels getting under the "lip", I saw that as a potential issue...was
thinking about just stuffing some foam under there to avoid that.

chewie
01-04-2006, 10:12 PM
i am just beginning to surf this forum, and work solely in pastel so this was an interesting thread. WOW, that is a beautiful box, marc!! lovely job on it, and if you'd ever wanna quit the day job, i bet i know what you could do!!