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With this folding leg easel and removable art board, your child can create art anywhere! Customize it with chalkboard paint or dry-erase paint.
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Create an art studio for the kids with this easel. To make it even more versatile, construct several art boards that can be hung on your the wall to feature a drawing of the week. Apply dry-erase or chalkboard paint. You could even use a few layers of cork shelf liner for pinning up ribbons and pictures, too.
Draw the shape of the easel board (A) on a piece of 3/4-inch plywood (Project and Cutting Diagram, Drawing 1). Use a straightedge and a compass to draw the circles and straight lines. Before cutting the part to shape, mark the locations of the peg holes and the leg bracket. Use a jigsaw to cut the shape (Photo 1). Cut about 1/32 inch outside of the line and sand the edges of the parts smooth with a sanding block. Sand the face of the plywood with a finish sander and 150-grit sandpaper.
For the pegs, drill 1-inch holes 1/2 inch deep. Clamp the easel to a drill-press table and bore the holes. If you don't have a drill press, the holes can be drilled using a hand-held drill. Apply a tape flag on the 3/4-in drill bit 1/2-in from the tip to mark the final depth. Now drill a 1/8-in pilot hole through the center of the 3/4-in hole. After mounting the trough pegs, you'll use these holes to reinforce the joint with screws.
Cut two 16-inch-long blanks from 1/2-in x 3-1/2-in poplar for the spacers/pivot block (B) (Project Diagram, Cutting Diagram). Glue the two 1/2-inch-thick blanks together to form a 1-inch-thick laminated board with the ends and edges flush. When the glue has dried, cut the pivot block and leg spacers to size.
Instead of cutting 6 individual pieces to make up the pivot block and two leg spacers, it's faster and easier to glue a couple of longer boards to form a laminated block. Then you can cut the blank into the three separate parts.
Cut the legs (C) to length and glue the leg assembly (Project Diagram, Drawing 2). When dry, cut the 15-degree angle on the bottom of the leg assembly (Photo 2).
Lay out the pivot hole and the peg hole on the leg (Project Diagram, Drawing 3). Draw a line 1/2 inch from the top and 3/4 inch from the edge of the block; secure the piece in position using double-face tape (Photo 3).
Drill the 1/4-inch pivot hole through the leg and pivot block. Now remove the double-face tape and set the pivot block into the previous position. Remove the 1/4-in bit from the drill press and use the bit to center the parts based on the hole you just drilled, rotate the pivot block until the corners align (Photo 4).
Place a 1-inch forstner bit in the drill press, clamp the leg in position on your drill press, and bore the peg hole (Photo 5).
Cut the pivot peg (D) to length and secure to the leg assembly with lamp chain and a screw. (Project Diagram, Drawing 5). Apply double-face tape to the pivot block (C), and mount it to the back of the easel (A). You may need to adjust the height of the mounting block. When the leg is fully extended, the bottom should be flat on the floor (Project Diagram, Drawing 6). Once it's flat, drive the screws (Photo 6). Draw a line around the edges of the pivot block and remove the leg. Remove the double-face tape and cover the mating surfaces of the back and block with painter's tape. Leave the tape in place when you apply the finish -- this will provide a clean glue surface when you're ready for final assembly.
Cut the trough pieces -- sides (E), bottom (F), and ends (G) -- to length (Project Diagram, Drawing 7). The bottom requires an arch cut out on the front and back for the trough to rest upon. To create the arch, you could cut it with a jigsaw, but a drill will do a great job. Because the hole is only halfway into the part, the drill bit doesn't have anything to keep it registered in position as you drill; here's where you can take advantage of a drill press. Position the part against the fence, and use a block to register the end (Photo 7). Drill the first hole, flip the part end for end and drill the second hole. These new half circles will match the diameter of the pegs perfectly.
Assemble the trough, glue the bottom in position, and add the ends (Photo 8).
Cut the art board (H) to size from 3/16-inch-thick hardboard (Project Diagram, Drawing 8) and drill the 1-inch holes as shown. Use a jigsaw to complete the notches at the bottom and the handle opening.
Cut the trough pegs (I) to length and glue into the holes on the easel (A). Using the 1/8" pilot holes drilled through the trough peg holes you drilled earlier, drill pilot holes and drive the 1 1/2-in screws that reinforce the peg to easel joint.
Ease the edges of all of the parts with 180-grit sandpaper so they're soft and splinter-free.
Remove any exposed hardware to prepare for finishing the project. Apply paint to the easel and artboard. The remaining parts get a clear finish.
For the artboard, you can apply chalkboard paint or dry-erase paint. The handle makes the art board perfect for carrying anywhere your little artist feels inspired. Allow the paint for these specialty finishes to cure two weeks before use. Reattach the loose hardware and then cover the chalkboard finish with a light coat chalk and erase, this "primes" the surface for years of use.