I seem to have been working on a lot of bespoke commissions recently, from bureau desks, dressers to full sized wardrobes. But one of my favourite ones I've recently worked on was a commission from one of our regular customers, who wanted a really special kids easel for her daughters birthday. She'd looked all over but couldn't quite find anything to fit what she wanted. So she thought she'd give me a shout and see if I could help.
After batting a few ideas around we came up with a design that she was happy with. She wanted the easel to have both a blackboard and a magnetic porcelain whiteboard, removable paint pot holder, a shelf, and for the boards to be height adjustable. The easel needed to be able to fold away when not in use and of course be made from wonderful solid oak.
I love a challenge especially when it comes to woodworking and this was right up my street. It had a few issues to overcome, the first being how to make the easel height adjustable. After trying a few different mock ups in the workshop I decided on using a system that was based on traditional pegged mortise and tenon joinery, but the difference being it could be be taken apart and put back at different increments on the easel frame.
I made the legs for the easel and then put a groove along the front edge of each leg, starting from the lowest point that the boards would sit, to the highest point. I then put in a series of holes at different points up the inside of the easel legs for the pegs to sit in (this is in effect the mortise and peg part of the system). I then made the parts that would sit within the grooves and hold the boards in place, they too had holes in so the pegs would hold them in place (the tenon part). I then made some pegs (from really straight grained oak for extra strength) on the lathe with handles for easy use. The pegs are what holds the whole system together.
The pegs from the back (left) and the supports that hold the boards to the easel (right)
In total there's four supports and pegs for each board, two for the bottom to take the weight of the boards, and two for the top to stop the boards from falling forward (they are very heavy so needed to be held in place well!). The system worked really well and it meant that our customers daughter would be able to grow with the easel as she got taller, and more importantly it's really strong and secure.
The other big problem to over come for this make was sourcing the whiteboard material. Our customer wanted a certain type of whiteboard that was free from certain chemicals so I had to use a porcelain based whiteboard. After hunting the internet for what I needed and finding nothing that was quite right, I eventually found a company in Germany that produced magnetic porcelain whiteboards to the size that I needed. As they made their products to order due to bespoke sizes it did slow down the process slightly, however it was worth the wait. The material was really nice and worked perfectly for the job. I then laminated the material (3mm thick) to the oak boards and then put the oak frame around it. The end result was brilliant and will last for years to come.
My high tech method of laminating the whiteboard to the oak boards!
The rest of the make was fairly straight forward. The easel frame was put together with good old fashioned mortise and tenons. And the removable paint pot holders used a sort of L shaped joint that sat in a groove on the support shelf. The support shelf was fully removable and had lips that sat over the easel frame so it would stop the frame from spreading and falling down.
tenon's ready for glue up after a dry fit (left) easel frame being glued up in clamps (right)
As I said I really enjoyed this make, it was quite different from the usual furniture, and the end result not only looked good it worked really well too, but most importantly our customer was over the moon with it, which is so satisfying for me.
Here's the end result...
I hope you like it too. And if you have any ideas for a bespoke item then please get in touch no matter how weird and wonderful it may be we're always ready for a challenge and to help.
Thanks for reading!