The Art of French Easel Maintenance

I own quite a few easels but the ones that get the most use are my French box easels. I have an Italian French easel made by Mabef and a French one by Jullian. The easel in these pictures is my Jullian half box and it is about 18 months old. It has to put up with a lot as it is in use everyday – often in the rain one day and in the baking sun or freezing cold the next, so I think is is important to maintain it regularly. Looking after your easel need not be too much of a chore and should ensure you get the most from it.

It can be surprising how much sand will stick to your easel if you paint at the beach. If you don’t remove it the sand will wear away at the threads so brush it off and oil the thread. I use 3in1 oil. You should really do this after each beach trip but I sometimes forget – until I feel the sand crunching in the threads!

easel-1

Recently the front panel had started to pull apart from the rest of the box. To fix this I applied a few drops of wood glue to the dovetail joints and gently tapped it back together, then wiped off the excess glue and left it to dry overnight.

easel-2 easel-3

One problem with these easels is that the screws holding the hinges at the front of the box work loose and the top of the easel wobbles about when you are trying to paint. I keep a small screw driver in the kit to fix this but recently the screws no longer tightened up at all. The solution was to remove the hinges and pack the over-sized holes with thin strips of wood and wood glue. I let it dry overnight then cut off the excess wood flush with the sides of the box and re-drilled the holes. I replaced the screws with larger ones and this seems to have done the trick.

easel-4

easel-5

An addition that I have made to both of my French easels is the screw shown by the arrow in the picture below. This strengthens a joint that seems prone to coming apart, especially if you accidentally close the top with the drawer slightly open. Add one at each end of the cross piece.

easel-6a

French easels are usually made from oiled beech. To preserve the weather proofing of the wood simply wipe it with linseed oil once a year. And don’t forget to clean the palette occassionally.

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5 Responses to The Art of French Easel Maintenance

  1. Noel Garner says:

    Roy, how I sympathise on french easel maintenance. The worst damage comes when you close it with the drawer slightly open! There is a lot of leverage there on those poor little screws.

  2. Phil Holt says:

    Roy,
    I really appreciate your tips on easel maintenance.
    Have you looked at the Easyl by Art Essentials http://www.artworkessentials.com? I have had mine for several years and really like it. The blox is light weight and mounts to a camera tripod. My box fits in to a back pack and I strap the tripod to the bottom of the pack.
    Phil

  3. Sorry but once a year oiling it isn’t just enough when using it under those conditions.

    Better is it to oil it regularly with thinned down linseed oil and when used every day a good thing is to oil the screws and nuts as well, they become a little sticky that way and prevent that the screws and nuts will loosen up during transport. I use thinned down linseed with a little liquine added as well to make it even a little more water repellent.

    Nice, very nice blog btw.!

  4. Roy says:

    Rene, I think you are right. The manufacturers, Jullian, recommend oiling the wood once a year but I don’t think they expect their easels to be used every day. I regularly use a 3in1 light machine oil on the screw threads to stop them seizing up.

  5. AndyD says:

    So, after ten years of use do you think I should oil my easel? 🙂

    I purchased a fairly cheap easel as I couldn’t justify a Marbef when I started painting. I always thought the loose screws and split timber were the price I was paying for paying the price I paid. Maybe my easel deserves a little more credit, and TLC, than I’d been giving it.

    Thanks for this.

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