Thursday, August 26, 2010

World's most modified paint box

I own a paint box.

Not a "pochade box" or to keep it strictly Frenchified, 'case de pochade.'

What I have is a paint box. It was so named when it was new and never shall 'pochade' roll from my lips (or, more Frenchy, nose).

If you're not familiar with all this terminology, some time in the late 1990s or early 2000s, painters stopped using "paint boxes" and they stopped painting "outside." From that point, they use a "pochade" (po-SHAAAD) box and paint "en plein air" (enhhh plehhh I-errrrh). Well, let me tell you, Winslow Homer used a paint box, so I'm using one. He also painted outside. Some of the Hudson river school and later did paint "on location," which is a French loan word, but we don't say "ennnh lo-cah-see-OHHHN."

But back to the point.

The box was free from our local Freecycle group and had belonged to the donor's wife's uncle, a commercial artist from the 1930s to 1970 or so. The box is probably from the early 1960s or maybe earlier, and measures a little over 16 inches wide by 14 inches high by 5 1/2 inches deep. A decent size.

It appears to be a commercially-made box, but not mass-produced -- at least, it has generic (and historic) clasps, a cheap (and historic) solid plastic suitcase handle, and standard hold-opens like you used to see on some console record players of the 50s, the really cheap ones.

It has a couple of old Jamaica stickers on it:
The original owner did some modifications himself... replaced the totally inadequate small hinges between top and bottom with a sturdy, full-length piano hinge, and tore out some of the interior dividers (you can see their shadow on the interior shot above).

I began by re-asserting the assembly of the box by driving in extra screws in the frame, sides, top and bottom. It has no fancy joints and it was coming apart. Then I designed some needed alterations.

First, I had to do something about the panel slots. The originals were for 15 1/2 inch wide panels. If that was ever a standard size, it is no longer.

So I made an additional, movable slot dingus and set it up so that I could use it for 8 x 10, 9 x 12, and 12 x 14 panels. After arranging it for 8 x 10, I discovered that I could add slot-y bits to the other side of the divider and it would hold 5 x 7 inch panels on the side opposite as well. (This second set of slots becomes too small once you move the new divider further right to set it up for 9 x 12 or 12 x 14.)

Here's the new slot thingy:
And here are some 8 x 10s and 5 x 7s, stowed:

Fully armed, then, I can pack four 8 x 10 panels and four 5 x 7 panels -- or four 9 x 12 or four 12 x 14. This is plenty for me, because right now I'm good for at most two paintings outside -- 'en plein air.'

So, I'm more than set, until I build up my outside-painting stamina. Or, if you prefer, 'l'endurance pour la peinture à plein air.'

I added a tripod mount to the bottom after I obtained a beautiful old, 1950s, all-metal, REALLY sturdy Whitehall Traveler tripod by Quick-Set, also free from the local Freesource group.
Here, it's set up, but stubby -- haven't extended the tripod legs. The whole thing reaches high enough for me to work standing up, and I'm 6' 3".

You'll see some more additions in that last picture.

I added a palette, made from the bottom of a wine display rack being discarded by a local wine store (it was a very useful neutral gray-green color):
Here it is, stowed. The hole is not for the usual palette-on-the-arm -- it's just a way to lift the thing out of the stowed position in the box.

Then I discovered there was no way to hold panels while being painted. So I added a perfboard panel holder. It's fitted with two pins that slip into mounting points.

And a sophisticated doohickey holds the top steady:
On it, I mounted a removable panel hold-down:
Yes, that's a tongue depressor (AKA "craft stick").

The dinguses on the bottom of the panel holder on which the painting panel rests are nothing more than those beautiful Allen-head cap screws:
(You're looking from the top down toward the bottom here. The one screw out of place here goes into a hole in the top and becomes the handle for pulling the stowed panel out of the box.

The perfboard was -- as you might guess --  free, from the local Freecycle group.

For the interior, I made a custom cardboard box to hold paint tubes, so I could lift the whole thing out, place the tubes on the ground, and, hopefully, not step on them. Inside that is a sophisticated clear plastic divider, which helps keep the tubes separate. It's from a Fig Newton package.

See any trends here?

My total expenditure was around $4 for screws, plus a lot of time. Oh, and $3.99 for the Fig Newtons.

1 comment:

  1. great post on "homemade"
    not sure if you get more money for a "plein air" pc. or one done outside LOL
    see you (with your new invention) in october!