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!
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.
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.
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.
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.