Wanting to get out of my studio and enter the world of Plein Aire painting, yet not wanting to lug around my old French Easel I decided to try to build something on my own. If you want to build one you will need to get a large cigar box and the hardware listed at the end of this post.
Because the cigar box cover will be supporting your painting panel, you will need to be able to lock the cover into position at the desired angle.
You can make a support with two small pieces of metal called mending strips, which are easily found in a hardware store. I drilled 2 holes on each side and used two 8-32 screws to mount the mending strips to the box: one on the lid and one on the box. On the inside of the mending strip put a metal washer then a plastic washer then another metal washer together then thread the screw through them before it enters the box This helps it to open and close correctly.
Use the flat-head screw and wing-nut to hold the metal strips together while keeping the lid up at the desired angle. See picture below:
After improving the hinges by switching them out for wing-nuts and mending strips I decided to tape a disposable palette to the bottom and use the bottom of the box as my palette. Then I bought and installed a Tripod Mount and the Mighty Mite Brush Washer Jr both made by Guerrilla Painter. This was the only commercially available tripod mount I could find and at $14.99 it's a great value.
I tried keeping a small homemade brush washer in the bottom right corner of the box, I stuck it down with kneaded eraser but unfortunately the mineral spirits began dissolving the eraser on contact an left a slimy mess behind, it also was taking up too much valuable space on my palette. Short on cash and trying to find a solution I noticed some cans that hadn't been recycled yet. Using tin snips, lineman's pliers, and needle-nose pliers I cut the can down some and bent what was left of the top into a hook capable of holding the solvent cup to the side of the palette. Then I bought a can of tomato paste for 50 cents and made the top of the lid into my hook and used the can to hold brushes.
If you attempt this, which I don't recommend for the hobbyist, wear leather gloves and be EXTREMELY CAREFUL of the sharp edges. You will want to file down or crimp all the sharp edges.
Last of all I carefully cut an 8" long groove in the back of the box and put the last wing-nut and a screw in it to secure the left side of my panel (the other side is held down by the nut that holds my 8-32 screw in place). All told I spent about 30 bucks for a nice starter pochade box. For a slightly different way to build a pochade box visit emptyeasel.com I started with their design and modified it extensively.
a large wooden cigar box, one with a recessed cover. The recessed cover allows enough depth for your panel to sit. Many cigar boxes have a flat cover, which won’t work for pochade boxes.
3 wingnuts with compatible flathead screws
4 small mending strips, just ask for them at ACE Hardware
4 x 3/4" 8-32 panhead screws large enough to cover the holes in the mending strips
4 x 8-32 nuts
4 x small plastic washer that fits over 8-32 bolts
8 x small plastic washer that fits over 8-32 bolts
1 small can of tomato sauce
1 small can of tomato paste