Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My Paintbox

A painter friend was looking at my paintbox and asked if I would give him the specs on it. I photographed it and sent him the dimensions. I thought you might like to see the box also.

I am a very messy painter and my box is covered with paint, I also wear old painting garb so that I don't have to worry about getting paint on that.

The paintboxes sold at the art supply store are flimsy and made of light weight pine and the fittings are made of such thin metal that they quickly become bent and unserviceable. After chewing up way too many of these I decided I would make my own box. Here it is.

The box is 18 inches by 21 inches wide, closed it is 43/4 inch's deep. I made the sides of the box from oak picture frame moulding the sort the use on modern art the is sort of L shaped.

The top and bottom are luan plywood glued and then screwed to the square frame made from the oak moldings. The dividers keep things from flopping about when I haul it around. The center divided are holds my palette knives and a collapsible mahl stick.There is a little box shaped area up at the top to hold the pegs for my easel. You can see I carry nothing but the large tubes which I fill myself. This rig is heavy but I have everything I need in it and it opens out on my Gloucester easel to the size of a small card table. If you look closely at the sides you can see the rabbet that holds my palette. Here is the box with the palette in place.

The palette I made from a sheet of luan that I pumped liquin and linseed oil into until it would absorb no more. Its important to do that, as a thirsty palette will suck the oil right out of your paint. Notice the amount of paint I have on that palette. If I make another palette I don't think I will put a thumbhole in it . I thought I would use hold it on my arm, or at least want that capability, but in practice I never do, and I lose mixing space to the hole. I will put in some kind of a notch at the side so I can lift it out of the box easily. If you go to my sidebar you can hunt back and find posts on what colors I use on my palette. I also don't have the brass arm shaped devices on the sides of my box that they usually come from the art supply store with, so I can open it out flat.

Here is the rear view showing the piano hinge that runs all the way across the box. It is a simple hardware store item, cut to the right length with a hack saw. The wooden device on the top of the box is made to allow two panels having one dimension of 14 inches to slide in for transport wet or dry. I carry 11 by 14s or, 14 by 18s in there. All of the fittings on the box are commonly available but far beefier than those you get on a store bought unit. The Grateful Dead sticker on the top has a protective layer of wide plastic packing tape over it to protect it from the elements and abrasion. This is the second box it has been on. I think it is really handsome and provides a degree of attitude that might be obtained in no other way I can think of. Tomorrow I will start a whole series of posts on passages in painting and the elements they contain.


Jonathan said...

Again what a beautiful site!! I really agree with you, that the stuff that is sold in stores are just too flimsy and not sustainable through time, its to generic. I take my hat off to you for building your own box!!!! I got my Plein Air box at www.openboxm.com/index.html . It has been just a dream to paint on this box and very reliable too.
Thanks for posting these pics, its fun too see on what you create those wonderful paintings! Take care!

Unknown said...


I would have guessed you as a hendrix guy instead of a deadhead.

jeff said...

I found a nice old oak paint box that at one time was made by Permanent Pigments on EBay for $15 or so last year. It's interesting that paint companies uses to make real nice solid wood boxes.

I have 2 more old boxes that I found on EBay for under $20 plus shipping. I use for storing paint and drawing materials.

It's good place to look for old paint boxes.

It's true they do not make them like they use to.

Jesse said...

Very cool paint box! Making your own equipment is very satisfying.

So when you paint on location, you just carry that box and your easel? I've got a good setup to paint small, but I'd like to get something portable for larger stuff. It seems like you have no problems painting larger in the field. Maybe I should hire a sherpa?

Unknown said...

Thanks for the plan, I will have to build one of these.

Stapleton Kearns said...


I suspect your open box M is a pochade box. I have one of those too. My is an Easy-L though. I did a post on pochade boxes some time ago.The box I have shown here is for use with my Gloucester easel. It would break your tripod it is HEAVY.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I am a rock and Roll aficionado. I saw Hendrix play.When I tell other painters what my influences are I cite Hibbard, Metcalf, and Hendrix.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I collect old leather attache cases for storing paint. They look old timey and they are a good size.I had one of those permanent pigment boxes in the late Pleistocene era.

Stapleton Kearns said...


You will probably need a table saw.
For $4,600.00 I would be willing to mail you mine, let me know.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Besides the box I have my Gloucester easel and a backpack.I carry the canvas in my other hand. This is a heavy kit. If I am going a long way I would take a pochade box. But in practice I like my Gloucester easel so I drag it wherever. It is a great rig. I would be willing to work as a Sherpa. I get $4,600.00

Unknown said...


What I like about your palette design is that when its open it shades the palette, which can be a problem with the anderson style easels. The palette I use opens to the sides which lets sun hit it so I improvise with a car shade or cardboard. I like yours better.

"Well I stand up next to a mountain...chop it down with the edge of my hand"

Stapleton Kearns said...


Some people put the back of their open box vertical against the back leg of their easel. I don't mind the sun on my palette. I have always worked with it that way.

look for awhile at the China Cat Sunflower
proud-walking jingle in the midnight sun
Copper-dome Bodhi drip a silver kimono
like a crazy-quilt stargown
through a dream night wind

Krazy Kat peeking through a lace bandana
like a one-eyed Cheshire
like a diamond-eye Jack
A leaf of all colors plays
a golden string fiddle
to a double-e waterfall over my back

Jenny Ross said...

The paintboxes sold at the art supply store are flimsy and made of light weight pine and the fittings are made of such thin metal that they quickly become bent and custom picture framing mats nyc, ed heck art. Thanks!