Pochade Box

DIY Pochade Box

Lately I’ve been making this pochade box, which is a box made to both store art supplies and to be an easel. Often these can be mounted on a normal camera tripod, as seen here, and can be carried in a backpack.

This one is made entirely of poplar wood, because it was cheap, but may not have been the best choice because there were a few times that the wood split while drilling a hole. Next time I’ll probably use oak. It’s also a bit thin, but reducing the total weight of the box was important for keeping the weight of a backpack down.

DIY Pochade Box

The way this is used as an easel is that a paper or canvas will be clipped to the inside of the lid, which stays open at a certain angle while you work. This way the entire storage and work area is contained in one small box.

At the back of the box is a porcelain palette, which is actually a dish of some sort that I got at a discount store. Because it was the largest object there, and I wanted it to fit exactly, the box was literally built around that palette at the beginning. It fits snuggly and doesn’t move even if the box is turned upside down, but can still be pulled out easily enough.

In front of that are two watertight 2oz (60ml) Nalgene bottles, one for rinse water and one for clean water. The small basswood box next to them holds the paint tubes. The tops of the box and bottles are level with the inside of the lid when it’s closed, so the lid for the whole pochade box also keeps the tubes and bottles from moving. The height of the bottles was what determined the height of the box.

At the very front is a bamboo brush-holding roll with sleeves in it. I had to trim off some of it with wire cutters so it’d fit because the box wasn’t quite wide enough. It can hold a few brushes and keep their tips safe from being bent by keeping them from pressing into the side of the box.

DIY Pochade Box

This hing was a bit of a struggle to figure out, as there were several styles that I tried first that didn’t work like I wanted or that broke while making them. It was important that the hing securely hold the lid open at the correct angle, because that’s the whole point of a pochade box. This final style works very well and is unobtrusive, which makes it convenient for placing the box in a backpack without the hing snagging on anything.

I’m not a carpenter and don’t know the right words for all these things, but I was going to insert a pin or piece of wood in the center of the sliding area to prevent the thing that slides from sliding too far so the lid would stay at the angle I want, but the position of the bottom part of the hing actually stops the lid from opening any further anyways. Fortunately it stopped right about where I wanted it. I’m a little worried that the lowest part of the hing is just held by one small brass screw and the entire design depends on that holding well. If there’s a problem then that one part will just get modified.

DIY Pochade Box

A little behind the center of the box, under the porcelain palette, is a T-nut (or tee nut). It’s a hollow tube with screw threads on the inside and at one end are prongs that sink into the wood. By drilling a hole in the bottom of the box and gently hammering that nut into place, a camera quick release plate can be screwed onto the bottom of the box that allows it to be placed on the tripod. The plate can always be removed and the box will have a completely flat bottom, allowing it to also used on a table or desk.

Pochade Box 1e

Although the basswood box I glued together wasn’t my original idea for how the paint would be stored, it does hold a good amount of paint in a compact area. From left to right they are Payne’s grey, indanthrene blue, French ultramarine, cerulean blue gouache, green apatite, golden (cadmium) yellow gouache, gold ochre, Italian dark ochre, Pozzuoli red (red ochre), perylene maroon, and Italian raw umber. The bottom row has Chinese (zinc) white, ivory black, and buff titanium. The big drawback to putting all of these in that little box, besides being disorganized, is that I had to be careful to leave a little extra room, because otherwise every time I put the tubes back in I’d have to arrange them perfectly so everything would fit. Eventually I might get a smaller porcelain palette to give more room for the paints to be laid out.

Overall it was an enjoyable, if longer than expected, project that’ll also be useful in the future. The best part was being able to custom make every aspect of it myself to fit my own needs.


7 thoughts on “Pochade Box

  1. Yes, I agree, ’tis very clever of you, for a non-carpenter. Great finish to it.
    So, can I presume that the overall size of the box is the equivalent to my 10.1-inch laptop? ‘cos I was thinking, if you’re using the lid as the easel on which to paint, you’ll end up with a very sore back very quickly from back muscle strain, whereas my laptop-size would be ideal and no problem at all!

    1. I finally measured it and it turns out to be a hair under 11″ wide and 2.5″ tall when closed, and exactly 9″ deep. It’s about the same size as my 13″ laptop, but with a little different proportions and obviously taller. So far I’ve just used it on a desk and it seems to work, though I haven’t used it for long periods. 🙂

  2. Holy mackerel ! I am super impressed at your resourcefulness, craftsmanship, patience, and have box envy now. Love it! Enjoy. It will be most useful and may it serve you well.

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