Making Easels

One of the first hassles we had when looking into the idea of at art lessons, was how to source easels. If finance is not an issue, then of course one can just buy them... an old adage suddenly sprung to mind as I wrote these words: Money isn't everything... as long as you've got enough of it! 

...Well anyway, we certainly didn't have enough of it to buy ten or more commercially available easels at $100+ each, so I set myself the task of making inexpensive, but at the same time, usable, (and ideally not too shoddy looking) easels. They didn't need to be infinitely configurable as the classes would follow a consistent format, they just needed to be usable and reasonably robust. With this in mind, the specification for the easels was:

  • They should be cheap to make - if you have some old plywood knocking about and some string (as we did), the total cost comes down to about $5 - the price of a length of rough hewn fencing timber for the legs.
  • They should be easy to make - I'm definitely no carpenter!
  • And lastly, they should be reasonable sturdy as hopefully they would get a lot of use...
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Money isn't everything long as you've got enough of it!

What You'll Need

  • 1 length of fencing timber: H:1.8m, W:150mm, D:19mm. Approx. $5
  • 1 offcut of plywood: H:700mm, W:600mm, D:~3mm. (Plus an additional similar sized piece if you want to make the shelf. - A few dollars
  • Nylon braided rope: L:2m D:2.5mm. Approx. $5 for 10m - which will actually make ~4, but actually, any reasonably strong string will do.
  • 1 bulldog clip: A few dollars


  • ~13mm spade drill bit and drill
  • A table saw, (or someone with a table saw)
Easels 01

Step 1

First cut the plank into three narrower planks on your (or a friend's table saw). These will be form the legs. 

Next, cut the nylon into 5 lengths:

  1. 2 x 40mm
  2. 1 x 50mm
  3. 2 x 20mm


Step 2

Now drill two holes in each of the legs using the spade drill bit. The first needs to be about 50mm from the top, the second at about 1m from the top.

While the drill's out, you may as well drill the four holes in the plywood that will form the front board. Drill two holes about 15mm from the top and 15mm either side of centre. Then two more at the bottom corners - about 15mm in from the side and bottom. 

Easels 02
Easels 03

Step 3

Put the three legs together so that the top holes are in line and wind a piece of nylon through the holes and around and then through the holes again and around - in figure of eight, and then tie the ends together loosely. The legs should be able to spread to form a tripod.

At this stage also thread another length of nylon through the holes but leave it dangling: This will hold the front board up eventually.

Now spread the legs to form the tripod.

Step 4

With the tripod legs as far apart as you want them, thread a 2.4m length of nylon through the other holes in the legs and tie the ends together. This piece isn't strictly required, but in addition to making sure that the legs don't over spread, I found that it made quite a useful support for a platform to put painting paraphernalia on.

Easels 04
Easels 05

Step 5

Now feed the dangling nylon from Step 3 from the back through the two central holes in the front-board plywood and the ends at the back somewhere.

Use the two small lengths of nylon left over to tie the board on each side to the two front legs.

And that's pretty much it! A bulldog clip around the nylon at the top will hold your canvas board in place and and if you have some left over plywood, you can make a shelf by resting it on the nylon between the legs.

Taking it Further

You could also add a ledge to the front-board if you wanted to facilitate use of framed canvases.

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By Mark B

Mark has been drawing and painting since the late 1800s and has exhibited work in galleries and venues around the UK.