This weekend David helped me build a cheapie pochade box so I can continue my artistic car camping (AKA plein air painting) adventures.

  • We bought a couple of boxes from the cigar store ($4 ea.) I decided to use one that’s 9.5″ x 9.5″ x 1.5″ to accommodate large canvas panels and palette, but I might end up regretting its lack of depth.
  • We hit the hardware store for a 1/4-20 (1/4″ diameter, 20 threads per inch) T-nut to allow the cigar box to screw onto a camera tripod. (Somehow, David magically knew that this size would fit a tripod.)
  • David cut a piece of Masonite to fit the inside of the box and drilled a hole (a wee bit bigger than 1/4″) through it and the bottom of the cigar box. He seated the T-nut through both from the inside of the box, so that tightening the nut will pull it into the box, not out. (The Masonite is there to help distribute the load so the nut will be less apt to bust through the bottom of the box.)
  • We cut a piece of Plexi to fit the inside of the box as a palette. (We didn’t provide storage space below the palette because this cigar box was too shallow. But if there’s a next time, I might get a deeper cigar box and glue wine corks in the corners to create a palette shelf, under which to store paints.)
  • We came up with several ideas to brace the lid in an open position for painting. I decided to try mounting plastic cord clips to hold a straight brace that goes down the lid and the back of the box. (A 90-degree open angle seemed OK for my purposes, and the flat box lid would have been tricky to attach a hinged brace to.)
  • We used two paint stirrers as strips of wood to amend the box.
    –One strip creates a shelf that helps support a canvas panel. (This is optional…maybe not really needed)
    –The other strip makes the back of the box flush with the lid when open, so the wire clips line up.
  • David had some hollow, rigid plastic rods in various diameters (I don’t know what they’re actually for) and one fit perfectly into the wire clips to brace the box open. I bet a pen or pencil, or even a paintbrush, would also work. The brace rides inside the box when not in use.
  • I made a closure for the box out of adhesive Velcro. (I’ll probably end up reinforcing the flimsy paper box hinges with Velcro too.)
  • For now, I’m using binder clips to attach a tea canister as a brush holder and an Altoid tin as a palette cup holder.
  • I’m also using a binder clip to attach the canvas panel to the lid. The panel shown in the photos is 9×12″.

We agreed that we probably should have put the T-nut a little further back, rather than centered, because most of the weight is toward the back when a canvas panel is attached. We’ll see how it goes…

Now I get to try it out!

Update: I took it out for a test-drive and nothing fell apart, so I have to call it a success. There was a little bit of wiggle (about 1/4″) in the back brace, so maybe this design needs some fine tuning, but not bad for under $10!

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