View Full Version : Soltek Easel and Dakota Pastel boxes made for the Soltek

Paula Ford
03-23-2010, 06:53 PM
This is not an advertisement in any way and I am not being paid for this.
I just wanted to show everybody what I use in the field and wanted the folks who use soft pastels to know the Soltek is the perfect easel for them too!

#1 – The Soltek laying on the floor (for picture taking) at my feet with the shoulder strap. My husband isn’t home so I couldn’t take photos of it on my shoulder.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_e1_P_yO4ba4/S6kys4FsxRI/AAAAAAAAA8o/rj5sQT6Ijo4/s400/Soltek-1.JPG (http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_e1_P_yO4ba4/S6kys4FsxRI/AAAAAAAAA8o/rj5sQT6Ijo4/s1600-h/Soltek-1.JPG)

#2 – Pull the legs out. You can also just pull the legs out the legs while the easel is over your shoulder. You don’t have to put it down to pull out the legs.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_e1_P_yO4ba4/S6kyuaKIl2I/AAAAAAAAA8w/lLpC5jt8CdU/s400/Soltek-2.JPG (http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_e1_P_yO4ba4/S6kyuaKIl2I/AAAAAAAAA8w/lLpC5jt8CdU/s1600-h/Soltek-2.JPG)

#3 Spread the legs out and place on the ground (you can also do this while it’s on your shoulder also).

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_e1_P_yO4ba4/S6kyvpkRynI/AAAAAAAAA84/BYqtIx7RIlY/s400/Soltek-3.JPG (http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_e1_P_yO4ba4/S6kyvpkRynI/AAAAAAAAA84/BYqtIx7RIlY/s1600-h/Soltek-3.JPG)

#4 – Pull the box up. (That is my kitten “Happy” checking things out.)

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_e1_P_yO4ba4/S6kyxIkBUmI/AAAAAAAAA9A/wy9yYX1AeTs/s400/Soltek-4.JPG (http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_e1_P_yO4ba4/S6kyxIkBUmI/AAAAAAAAA9A/wy9yYX1AeTs/s1600-h/Soltek-4.JPG)

#5 – Open up the two compartments and lift the mast up (the mast will hold your surface). The compartments hold 4 Dakota boxes specifically made for the Soltek to hold soft pastels. As you can see, the 2 compartments flap open, thus making room for 4 Dakota boxes, but I only use 3 that are full of pastels.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_e1_P_yO4ba4/S6kyykAcbwI/AAAAAAAAA9I/NMCoPMteRkM/s400/Soltek-5.JPG (http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_e1_P_yO4ba4/S6kyykAcbwI/AAAAAAAAA9I/NMCoPMteRkM/s1600-h/Soltek-5.JPG)

#6 – Here is the first Dakota box open. I just put the tops aside while doing plein air.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_e1_P_yO4ba4/S6kzSPe9yuI/AAAAAAAAA9Q/Vqd9E8n9_jM/s400/Soltek-6.JPG (http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_e1_P_yO4ba4/S6kzSPe9yuI/AAAAAAAAA9Q/Vqd9E8n9_jM/s1600-h/Soltek-6.JPG)
#7 - Looking straight down on the open box, all 3 boxes are open and I leave the left surface open for pencils, charcoal, viewfinder, a bristle brush to brush off my mistakes

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_e1_P_yO4ba4/S6kzlK5h9eI/AAAAAAAAA9Y/8p-86-CaOnA/s400/Soltek-7.JPG (http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_e1_P_yO4ba4/S6kzlK5h9eI/AAAAAAAAA9Y/8p-86-CaOnA/s1600-h/Soltek-7.JPG)

#8 – the mast is up and holding an Ampersand Pastelbord.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_e1_P_yO4ba4/S6kztFS0TuI/AAAAAAAAA9g/VX23vALGG2A/s400/Soltek-8.JPG (http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_e1_P_yO4ba4/S6kztFS0TuI/AAAAAAAAA9g/VX23vALGG2A/s1600-h/Soltek-8.JPG)
#9 – Here is one of the things that holds on to the surface you paint on. You’ll see its movement in the next photo.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_e1_P_yO4ba4/S6kz2TIRvhI/AAAAAAAAA9o/sWOHXMfiiq4/s320/Soltek-9.JPG (http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_e1_P_yO4ba4/S6kz2TIRvhI/AAAAAAAAA9o/sWOHXMfiiq4/s1600-h/Soltek-9.JPG)

#10 – You can tighten these things with the wrench that comes with the Soltek. You can see it in #7, up in the upper left corner, taped to the container.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_e1_P_yO4ba4/S6k0DRxMxtI/AAAAAAAAA9w/KAGHAGrBUDA/s400/Soltek-10.JPG (http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_e1_P_yO4ba4/S6k0DRxMxtI/AAAAAAAAA9w/KAGHAGrBUDA/s1600-h/Soltek-10.JPG)


Paula Ford
03-23-2010, 06:58 PM
#11 – Here is the mast in its up position. It expands to fit any media size.


#12 – Here is the mast in an almost closed state.


#13 – I’m ready to close everything back up again. Put the tops on the boxes. On the right side there are 2 boxes stacked, and on the left there is one box with a few accessories on top of it.


#14 – Both compartments closed.


#15 – The mast almost down into a closed position.


#16 – The mast in fully closed position.


#17 – All that needs to be done now is to collapse the legs and put them in their closed position at the sides of the easel. There are buttons at the bottom of the legs to get the legs to close.

See step 2 and then step 1.

And that’s it! It only takes about 30 seconds to set up this easel. Time definitely matters when working out in nature!

Paula Ford
03-23-2010, 07:04 PM
On Post #1 above, if you click on the photos, a larger photo pops up in another window. It's strange because I copied the first half from my blog, and the second half I had to actually upload the photos again :confused:

Kathryn Wilson
03-23-2010, 07:42 PM
Is the price still in the $400 range? It looks great to set up, but it might be a bit expensive for most folks. Easy up and easy down is definitely the way to go.

How big can you go paper or board-wise? Is there the typical rock bag available?

Paula Ford
03-23-2010, 07:51 PM
Yes it is, and I understand not everyone will want to spend that much, but I wanted to give everyone a chance to see what my setup is.

It can go hold a board or canvas up to 30" high.

I'm sorry, but I don't know what a rock bag is. Is it like a backpack bag? If so, there used to be one, but I can't find it for sale anymore.

Adriana Meiss
03-23-2010, 07:52 PM
Thank you for posting the photos. They are really helpful!
How heavy is it? Is it easy to carry half a mile without getting out of breath or having to stop often? Is it stable on high wind?
I also wanted to know how large can you go on supports but Kathryn beat me to it.

Kathryn Wilson
03-23-2010, 07:53 PM
Rock bag - most plein air easels come with one. It's like a sling underneath the easel that you put rocks in (or something heavy) to prevent the easel and board from tipping over in the wind.

Paula Ford
03-23-2010, 07:59 PM
Oh, gosh, I've never heard of one :lol:

No, it doesn't. It is wind resistant, and has an extremely wide leg stance. That's probably why they don't make one for it.

So sorry Adriana, I didn't see your post.

It is 9lbs without anything in it, so I'd say it's 15lbs with all the pastels. It's really easy to carry. You just carry it on your shoulder!

Paula Ford
03-23-2010, 08:01 PM
We were out doing plein air one day and it was REALLY windy. It didn't move!

Kathryn Wilson
03-23-2010, 08:02 PM
Some people make their own - probably a safe idea when working on big canvasses/boards.

Paula Ford
03-23-2010, 08:04 PM
That would be a good idea. I guess I never thought about it because I use up to 11x14 when out doing plein air.

03-23-2010, 08:56 PM
This looks so sweet. I have been tempted by this or the Anderson swivel easel for a long long time. I love the idea of a French easel -- everything all in one thing that turns out to be the easel. But those dang things weigh 20lbs empty. So basically my choices boil down to the Soltek or the Anderson Swivel.

The Soltek costs more, by about three hundred dollars or more, most places I've seen it. I noticed that the box sticks straight out. I'm a little concerned that if I leaned on it wrong while painting, whoosh, it would go back down and pastels all over the place. Or if there was too much weight in it. How is it supported when it's ratcheted up to that open position, how stable is it?

Paula Ford
03-23-2010, 09:04 PM
You sure wouldn't want to lean on it Robert! It has no support in the box at all. It is so tight, it just doesn't fall down. I've had 4 boxes of pastels in it and it still didn't budge. I only use 3 just because I don't want to have to carry that many pastels.

03-23-2010, 10:28 PM
It looks so sleek and tempting. I might do better with the Anderson Swivel one though, since I could push the box to the side and eliminate the tendency to rest my wrists on it. Still, those Dakota boxes look great for keeping the pastels in good order and foam-protected too.

It'll have to wait for quite a while though, that's something it would take my saving up for. I've got a non sketchbox field easel that only weighs three pounds, might do better getting something like a very lightweight stool or folding table to put the box of pastels on next to it.

03-23-2010, 10:45 PM
Paula and all:

I've seen on the Fine Art Store website that they recommend getting a support leg for the front of the box (closest to you when standing painting). They say that those kind of legs are readily available at hardware stores. I have thought about this easel so many times, but I don't think I could limit myself to only 4 boxes of pastels. I have the medium Heilman box and I'd still like more pastels with me than that can hold http://wetcanvas.com/forums/images/smilies/smile.gif The amount of weight the Heilman would add to the box simply by laying it on top would, I think, necessitate the additional leg. The mast part of the easel looks so easy to use and so sturdy ... going to have to re-think this again for PA.

Thanks so much for such a great thread and all your photos!!! Very instructive.

03-23-2010, 10:46 PM
How embarrassing - my smiley face didn't show up!!

03-23-2010, 11:16 PM
Thanks so much, Paula. I picked your brain several months ago. Your visuals really help. I have the easel, just need to buy the boxes. I wish I could find some other boxes, but I can't. Dakota's $29 feels steep. Tell me they're worth it! Do they come with the foam already?

In an A HA! moment, I see how you have your strap secured to the easel. Makes so much more sense than doing it the short way.

Paula Ford
03-23-2010, 11:34 PM
Thanks you guys!

Bonnie, I know what you mean about the cost of the boxes. I thought the same way. But, since I've got them, I'm so glad I did. They fit perfectly and yes they came with the foam. I put rubber bands around the boxes while they are in the easel just to make them a bit more secure.

03-24-2010, 08:05 AM
Paula, thank you so much for doing this! These are *the* best photos I've seen on the net! You show clearly you can get quite a lot of pastels into that box, for me it would be entirely sufficient. Empty, it weighs about 4 kg, and 30" seems to me to be 76cm, which means it would hold a full sheet of Colourfix or Fisher, with the paper in vertical, 'portrait', orientation. While I'd not paint that big PA, the easel would certainly work as a studio easel too!


Thank you so much, Paula!


03-24-2010, 10:51 AM
Forgot to say that it works well as a table easel. You can either work with the trays/storage toward you or away from you.

The only thing I think I don't like is that it doesn't hold 5x7 or smaller. If anyone has that figured out, please let me know! I suspect mounting them on something larger would be the only option.

03-24-2010, 10:57 AM
Lyndidj - The medium Heilman may be too much for it but I do know a couple of Artist that rest the backapck size on top.

I'm curious about and haven't seen the Pro model yet. The original seems a little short for me.

03-24-2010, 11:02 AM
For reference, I'm 5'5" and the regular one seems a bit tall, although it's adjustable both with the legs and the tray. The DVD says how much taller the Pro is - seems like it was about 5" or so? With the angle of the tray adjusting so easily, that makes up for height, too.

Paula Ford
03-24-2010, 12:27 PM
This is the Pro model Mike. The legs extend WAY out. I'm only 5'4" tall. For this demonstration, I just extended them a little bit.

You're so welcome Charlie!!

True Bonnie. I forgot about the fact that those things that hold the support only adjust about an inch or so, so you can't make them spread wider if needed, or smaller if needed. Good point.

03-24-2010, 01:25 PM
I purchased some pastel samplers from Dakota, a few years back, and the boxes that the samples were packed in were a perfect fit for the Soltek.

Since then I have purchased a Heilman Backpacker and plan to use that this season with my Soltek. I have an adjustable cane that is left over from my recent broken leg, so I thought I would try that as an extra support. If I don't feel it is secure, I won't use it. I have witnessed Solteks taking to the air. Generally speaking they are pretty stable and very versatile and I have never regretted the expense.

I have used a bulldog clip to secure the smaller panels to a larger panel or foamcore, when painting indoors, but recently read somewhere about someone who was using just half of the easel support (top & bottom) to secure the smaller panels. Bear in mind, I have not tried this. If I am going to carry equipment out to the field to paint, I prefer to paint larger.

Nice demo, Paula. It gives folks a good feel for how that set up works. It's very kind of you to take the time. I know it's a lot of work to stop and take a photo.


Paula Ford
03-24-2010, 01:32 PM
You're very welcome Sue!

Would you explain a little more about this? about someone who was using just half of the easel support (top & bottom) to secure the smaller panels. Bear in mind, I have not tried this.

03-24-2010, 02:20 PM
Ok, Paula. I'm glad you asked. Otherwise I may not have even tried it. It works! And I am a very heavy handed painter, so I think it would be ok. Let me see if I can upload these two photos. The uploader always challenges me so I don't usually post many paintings. The painting is a 6 X 8 and the other is 5 x 7, positioned as a vertical.




03-24-2010, 02:41 PM
Well, wonders never cease. Thanks, Sue. I learned something there.

Paula Ford
03-24-2010, 02:53 PM
Oh, I see! Thank you so much! I would have never thought of that.

03-24-2010, 03:17 PM
Well I am so happy the subject came up. I really wish I could remember where I read it so I could give that artist the credit. Actually, I kind of feel silly that I have had this easel so many years and never thought to try a panel that way. Duh! Happy to pass it along to you guys.

Potoma, you are welcome.

Paula, thanks again for starting this thread!

03-24-2010, 03:23 PM
Hey Mike - yes I know people do use the smaller Heilman boxes, but I really like my medium size!! Every person is comfortable with different things, and it seems to hold most everything I need in there. Someone uses the medium size with a 1/2 french easel - less weight there than a full french but the Soltek is so easy to set up as we have seen on this great thread, and is also very stable.

Paula - I know you like the Pastelboard - have you ever seen the Raymar panel carriers for out in the field? They are awesome and really protect your work. You can fit 6 panels in one carrier - 2 back to back in each of 3 slots - and easily carry your work without glassine or any of the other hassles. They are, of course, on-line at Raymar.com under wet panel carriers (also can be used for oil paintings). Just an FYI.


03-24-2010, 06:17 PM
Cheap joes makes a new easel that is like a french easel but weighs less and looks like it works even better. And the cost is maybe $150.00? Not sure about that but I thik it might even have four legs for stability.


03-25-2010, 02:25 AM
I made my pastel boxes for the Soltek out of black Unison boxes using an exacto knife and masking tape. One thing to remember about the Soltek is to always take some small plastic bags and rubber bands along for sand or water, the legs do not close well after exposure to sand. The Soltek comes with a small wrench to tighten all movable parts, so the "tray" part can be tightened so it's very secure when open. What I like about the Soltek is that it can be used in all kinds of configurations, the panel holders can be used the way previously illustrated and also on the backside of the post so you can put your surface on the other side and paint from that direction also, and the post can be moved flat for watercolor.

Paula Ford
03-25-2010, 06:48 AM
Thanks for the info Dru! I would have never thought to protect the feet/legs from sand.

03-25-2010, 09:22 AM
I've used mine in sand and wiped them down, but little boots would be a good idea.

Paula, Soltek was getting a bad wrap b/c the legs were sticking when actually it was more of a hygiene issue.

03-25-2010, 10:30 AM
Finger cots work well too.