The two easels Mindy and David Jamieson built

David Jamieson and his wife, Mindy, wanted their own easels (they usually just grab one from the school they run, Vitruvian Studio, in Chicago). But they didn’t want to buy a flimsy one or an easel with too many complicated bells and whistles, so they built their own. How’d it go?

In a lengthy blog post, Jamieson fully explained the steps they took to build their dream easels. “I’m hard to please, apparently, because although there are dozens of options to choose from out there, I’ve not quite found ‘the one’ — the easel with such a compelling combination of features and aesthetics that I just have to own it,” Jamieson writes in the post. “Nearly all the candidates I’ve seen, despite their many strengths, make tradeoffs and compromises that inevitably disappoint.”

Jamieson acknowledges that while form follows function, he did want an easel that had some style. He says that all the easels he looked at failed in one of three ways: 1) too cheap/cheaply made, 2) well made, perhaps, but too complicated (and expensive, often), and 3) “almost, but not quite.” He wanted an easel that could handle large paintings (so a counterweight would be nice) but flexible enough to allow an artist to work on a small piece while seated.

Some of the materials used in the build

Then he found a website that had plans for easels, and, though he and his wife have modest woodworking skills, they chose one style — the Cadmium Easel. The plans cost Jamieson $35, and he estimates that the wood and hardware for the build cost $500 for both easels, and points out that the easel plan’s author says a Cadmium Easel can be made for as little as $150.

A view of the back of a Cadmium Easel, as built by the Jamiesons

Building the easels can be done with ordinary household tools, but Jamieson says the use of a nail gun and a table saw makes the process much easier. Also, the cuts on the wood have to be very precise for the mechanics of the easel to work smoothly. The results? Jamieson says the easels are “beasts” that look “beautiful.” He also says the response to the blog post has been strong.

“This appears to be a pain-point for a lot of artists out there,” says Jamieson. “Most of our students and many of our blog readers seem to identify with the easel conundrum: affordable options are under-built, while more robust offerings are expensive and often overly complex. Our online students frequently ask me what easel to buy, and it’s always a tough question to answer. There’s just no single slam-dunk solution — if there were, we wouldn’t have resorted to building our own.

“I can also say that having had the chance to use the easels now for a few weeks, we’re still really happy with them. They’re solid like no other easels we’ve owned.”

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