Making a Full Sized Folding Double Plein Air Palette for Portraits by Deborah Chapin

Since I am having a slight delay in building the Taboret…. I decided to take care of another issue in equipment.    For year’s I have been frustrated by the equipment one can buy for artist work.  One of those has been a palette.   I would buy a new french easel and every one had to be remade with new hardware.   It got to the point I would just revamp the hardware pretty much out of the box. I would change the hinges for window locks epoxied in with heavy brass screws and re-wrap the flimsy metal blocks on the legs. Wax the wing nuts and locking screws on the slides etc… but the Palette was built for someone who was working in ideal conditions with loads of time which I found was not me.  I even had one that is so thin it split in half.  You can see how inconsistent they are both in size and shape and I wanted double that space for portrait work on location simply because of the process of creating a portrait … but now I am thinking why didn’t I do this before… life would have been so much easier.

TIP : one can easily layout the paint on the palette before hand, take a piece of peel and stick and cover the paint before putting it into the easel so you are ready to go on location.

Regular Plein Air Palettes that come with French Easel
Regular Plein Air Palettes that come with French Easel
Thickness of various palettes and overlapping size of various palettes
Thickness of various palettes and overlapping size


Doing lots of paintings next to the ocean where wind whipped around like it was channeled by high rises I had bent my thumb back till it was out of joint once teaching me never to hold my palette again.   Still when you jammed the palette into the location under the cover it cut off a significant portion of the palette mixing space… so years later, when I actually had some of the tools, ho ho ho, I decided since I knew all this I was going to make my own full double size folding palette so that I would have plenty of room to mix but not have it held in anyway.

I bought a piece of 1/4″ birch hardwood, made a pattern where the palette could slide under the cover easily and rest securely on top of the drawer.   I’m adding bungy cord as well to the back to wrap around the drawer.

The hinge I have purchased will fold out only 180 degrees so the palette lays flat and the paint blobs can be on the top palette when it folds back in half…. at any rate, I’m waiting on the 180 degree brass hinges.  My next thing is to apply a clear gesso finish for the mixing surface so I can see the wood ( which I like) but which will prevent leaching of oil paints into the wood, making it harder to clean.  Thus having a smooth mixing surface like glass.  Incidentally I found that there is something called spray on glass but I have been unable to find out how to obtain it here in the States… I’m doing some more sanding but I’m thrilled so far and tried out the fit this morning. Will post an update when it is complete.  I’m making another one as well for a laptop table.  If you would like for me to make you one I can do this, once I finalize the supply chains…  you can pre-order here: I’m also offering the instructions on how to build it yourself.

You see how bit by bit I’m getting more organized…

Double sized Folding Palette for Plein Air Portraits by Deborah Chapin
Full Double sized Folding Palette for Plein Air Portraits by Deborah Chapin

Progress Report

Well the début of the Water Portraits last month went very well with 1,036 pages viewed.  Thanks for all the support and encouragement everyone.  I am busy working on new pieces and continuing my series on the book of water at the same time working on revamping the house and studio and raising the funds with auctioning off some of my work for building a new studio.  It is a very exciting time and going well so in general the new beginnings are going as hoped.

Now I know that I had planned to order my materials for the taboret this month, however slight SNAFU, my large printer gave up the ghost so I had to buy a new one.  I was very disappointed in Canon’s service they promised much more than they delivered and they charged an arm and leg for it.  Moral of that story is go online, find a maintenance manual and check out the error codes yourself because Canon is going to go for the option which makes money for them.  Don’t be guided by a salesmen in technical support clothing.   In theory a new one will be here mid-May but then they said it would be here last month also.   At any rate the budget took a hit because of it, so this postponed the Taboret.    Since I will be working a while longer with the setup that I have a took some time to reorganize the space

to make it into something that would work a little better.    It won’t win house and garden award but it works.

The Making of a Taboret ~ Debbie’s Folly Part I

Ok I decided since I am doing a portfolio of studio paintings as well as the plein air paintings and a combination there of I wanted to upgrade and organize my minuscule studio space with a Taboret workbench.   So I went about shopping to see what I could find.  The price tag sort of put me into a deep funk for a minute or two until I started really looking at them and saying “hey I built my own workbench so I can do this too” .  Now granted my Taboret is going to be more of the functional front line type rather than the Thomas Moser fine furniture variety.  I decided that I could use 8 set of sterilite drawers for the drawers for supplies under the palette area and create storage and a very functional piece for my use with just a little time and effort on my part and 2×4’s, 3/4 ” plywood etc.  I can stain the end results and hand rub with  Minwax wipe on Poly  and maybe I wouldn’t win a furniture exhibition award but I would have a very functional and strong work table/taboret for my purpose.  This is the beginning of a series on this construction project.

The first step is to come up with a plan of construction.  Using my existing workbench as a guide I decided to basically construct it at the same height of 33″ since that works well for me.  I also decided that the strength and stability which my workbench has is largely due to the platform base that it is built on rather than putting annoying brackets to brace the bench.  Also since I’ll want to move this Taboret,  the platform has to be removable so that the table can be moved separately to go out the door.

Taboret Construction - Layout and Start of Project
Taboret Construction – Layout and Start of Project

The top of the Taboret is basically like building a crate but with legs and accounting for the drop for the various compartments, then putting in two braces into the box so that you can mount a platform on top for a palette area and then building a base to add stability then plopping in all the various dividers etc for storage.  You can always attach a drop leaf out of nice wood that you could cover over the work area in case you have clients into your studio later.  So I’m drafting up and outline:

Taboret draft outline - Deborah Chapin
Taboret draft outline – Deborah Chapin

I have a few things that I have to correct on the measurements but that I’ll do on my printout i.e. the interior height of the studs will be 25″ length  instead of 23″  so there will be other modifications along the way, also this drawing was done free hand on my computer so don’t hold that against me, I’ve not used that tool much.

Business Card ~ Deborah Chapin

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