Monday 22 February 2010

Easels & Stools

Returning to a previous topic(s) here are photographs of the Swedish walkstool and carry bag. This is the smallest Swedish-made version of which there are three, and two budget versions made in China.

The Swedish Walkstool 18" version

This is the carry bag - 14" long

The Walkstool weighs 18 ounces and will take a person weighing up to 300lbs! Mine is the smallest version, see my previous post for details of the range. I think it's fabulous if on the expensive side. Just the job for the plein air painter.
We now move on to easels. I bought several (!) before arriving at my present position. At the moment my choice is split  between  the Don Glynn easel and either the Ken Bromley or Charles Reid version, whichever it should be designated. Should you want a studio easel then a larger stronger one probably fits the bill.

 Don Glynn easel broken down

Assembled - 1 minute! Lift with one finger!

Charles Reid's System

MDF 6mm Board with attached Ken Bromley Camera Tripod Bracket

I have described the `Don Glynn' previously so refer to that post. If you go to EPC Art courses in Catalonia, run  by a charming lady called Angela Barbi - Don Glynn is non-executive manager - you can reserve one of these easels plus a chair prior to going. I strongly recommend this. I did not and subsequently regretted not doing so, especially as I was obliged to travel by Ryanair. The easel is basic and on the expensive side but  is ideal for outside painting and travel and there is nothing available commercially to compete with it. It takes either a board, up to half sheet size, with taped paper or a block,  held between the two movable brackets.

The other easel is an interesting one. It is Charles Reid's preferred travelling choice and in  `The Natural Way to Paint'  1994, incidentally one of my favourite books, he attributes it as being devised by his friend Young Wo. I didn't examine Charles easel in detail when on his courses but the principal is identical to Ken Bromley's, using a similar type of bracket on the back of a board. Being curious as to where the idea originated I contacted Richard Bromley, son of the late Ken Bromley, who now runs Ken Bromley Art Supplies, and asked him if he could tell me the origin of the camera tripod bracket. This is the reply:

" Dear Peter

Thanks for the e-mail.

Ken Bromley, my father, invented the Perfect Paper stretcher board in the 1940's. He made and sold the stretcher boards since the 80's. He always used stretcher boards when he painted but did not like the portable wooden easels. I think it was in the late 1980's he got an engineering company to make the tripod bracket. Ken was a keen photographer and wanted to utilise the lightweight tripod to support the stretcher board.
The tripod bracket worked very well indeed and he then started to sell the bracket as an additional add-on to the paper stretcher. The scews fixing the tripod to the paper stretcher were designed to work  with the stretcher board. It can also be used with drawing boards.
Later in the 90's he found Arches blocks worked well with the camera tripod bracket. he used a bostic adhesive to stick the bracket to the centre of the block without using the screws. This works very well and when the block was used up he would knock the bracket off with a screwdriver and hammer and re-use the bracklet. is a link to the stretcher board video which shows the bracket in a couple of shots.

Hope this information is of use.

Best wishes

Richard Bromley"

There you have it, possibly a case of parallel development which happens with so many good ideas.To describe how I handled mine I carefully marked out the position for the bracket on the back of the board and initially taped it. This didn't work well although it might if I had used a strong adhesive. When attempting to screw it to the board, using 6mm MDF, I found the screws protruded slightly at the front. I then got a thin piece of backing card, the sort that is used in photo frames, and cut a piece exactly to the size of the bracket then stuck it to the board. I screwed the bracket through this and into the board. It seems very firm. I initially bought two brackets and have two boards made up, the larger being 20" x 16" and the smaller "17 x 13". My normal routine is to tape paper to the board with masking tape. I don't stretch paper although I have done in the past. You can if you wish put a shelf of sorts on one edge to support a block or use clips for sheets of paper. My camera tripod is a Jessops TP220, not expensive, which I bought on special offer at the Bath shop. You can use many camera tripods as there is a huge choice but it needs to be a screw top, although I think you can get accessories to convert other sorts into screw tops. I did read that screw sizes can vary on cameras but I've had no problem with that. Check with the camera shop and take the bracket with you is my advice to avoid any hiccups. I did buy a small stretcher board some years ago but didn't get on with it  and don't use it. Obviously many people do. Just to finish off you will note that two flat black brackets are attached to the board, one at each end, with large `S' clips to which your water container and brush/pencil container hang from. This is what Charles Reid does. The one downside is that there is no shelf for palettes, pens etc. Is this a major problem? I don't think so, and it is a very flexible system because the angle of the board is so easy to vary. The bracket, very well engineered, is available from Ken Bromley and costs £10.49 plus postage.


Robert P. Armas said...

This a great article.I enjoyed very much the reviews of the Walkstool and the two easel.I'll buy one of these stools as soon as I can afford it,it will help to un-clutter space since I don't have a proper space for studio.Same as for the easel.I like the Charles version more than the other one,I'm working in the design of one very similar,but with Gatorborad and some additions.As soon as is finished I'll post a picture.

Peter Ward said...

Of the two I am inclined to favour the Charles Reid system Robert. It is very flexible and not expensive to put together. The board is easy to move around to just the angle you desire. Better to buy a reasonable tripod, screw top type, but it's not necessary to spend a fortune on it, a decent budget model will do.