Murray Wagnon’s improvised tripod cost him a whopping $5.

Murray Wagnon got to his plein air destination and realized he had forgotten his easel. He was far away from any art materials store. Good thing he remembered what he learned in the Boy Scouts.

Wagnon went to a hardware store he found in the nearest town in the foothills and bought three stakes made for supporting young plants in a garden. He bought a length of cord. He made his own easel.

A lashing knot Wagnon learned in Boy Scouts was the key to his improvisation.

The California artist tied the three stakes into a lashing knot: He laid the three stakes down side by side, and at one end, he tied a quick clove hitch on one stick and then wrapped the cord around all three stakes in a figure-8 pattern several times. Then he wrapped across the ropes a few times in between the stakes to act as spacers, finishing with another little clove hitch. “That knot makes it tight enough to keep it together and loose enough to move the sticks to the stance you want,” says Wagnon. He used two strong clips to form supports for the bottom of his canvas on two of the stakes, and he had an instant easel. “I always have three or four of those clips in my plein air gear bag — they serve as extra hands to secure an umbrella or other things,” Wagnon says.

Total cost: “In the $5 vicinity, plus tax.”


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