Jeremy Sams Art Blog

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Homemade Pochade Box

First of all...what is a "pochade box"? In a nutshell, it's a small portable easel used to paint in the open air. It comes from the French word for "pocket". Since I've started painting in plein air, I've noticed the weight and bulkiness of my french easel while carrying it around. I have nothing against that's pretty cool with all the features on hand. But, why paint a small painting on a large easel if it's not necessary?

So, I did a little research and found a site with great instructions by Jim Serrett. Here's my finished product...well, almost finished:

Basically, all you need is some materials like this:

Lowe's Home Improvement supplied me with all the necessary hardware. I went with the 1/4 " birch plywood. You can buy it in sheets of 2'x4' and they will cut it for you there at the store. It was a little over $8. per sheet. I had my 2 main pieces cut to 11x14". You may have to do some sanding on the edges if the guy cutting your pieces is in a hurry and doesn't quite cut it the right size...I didn't realize just how strenuous it was for a young fellow to cut birch (sarcasm greatly implied). Maybe he was having a bad day, so, I'll let it slide.

This will come in handy for cutting your square dowels which I found at the back of the store where the moulding is located. If you don't have one, a handsaw will work fine.

Here's the backside stained with a Minwax stain I had laying around the house and 3 coats of gloss polycrylic that I had left over from a previous mural or faux finish. You can see the bungee strap which is what holds the canvas panel to the easel. The pallette will lay in the bottom tray.

One modification that I did was to install 2 friction lid supports with a clamping knob installed instead of the standard screw. The friction lid supports were $2.77 per piece and the clamping knobs were $2.82 per piece. I probably could've gotten by with just one but, I wanted to be safe and keep the box balanced so I installed 2.
You will have to do some minor modification to make the friction lid support work. I had to bend the end with a pair of pliers to be able to mount it flush against the side of the box. It's designed to go on the inside of a box, but the box has to be much deeper than the pochade box here.

Here's the bottom of the box where the tripod mount will be mounted. I have yet to do this until I get a tripod. I'd hate to install something that wouldn't, I'll wait.

You can see the brass nail brads on the edge. I think they were a nice touch to match the brass friction lid supports and the brass hinges.
Here's the semi-completed box in its closed position:

I need to make some sort of handle for carrying, and will probably install some latch assembly to keep it closed. I also need to install an eye hook (possibly?) to hold my water for washing my brushes.

Overall, this pochade box was very easy to build and you don't have to be a cabinet maker to do it. Thanks Jim!

Be sure to check out the updated pochade box here


  1. Jeremy, Very nice !
    Always interesting to see another artists modification to the ever increasing world
    famous Serrett Box. Lol
    I hope it delivers some great work to you, now get out there and dirty that
    pretty thing up.

  2. Thanks Jim for a great design. It works perfectly!

  3. Hey Jeremy, Thanks. You have a very nice box too. I like the knob you putted on. Very nice touch! I only have a wing nut on mine. :(
    Hey I think if you reverse or adjust the position of your lid suport hardware, you wont have them sticking out on when the lid is in the close position. And I looooove that painting you have on the box! Cheers, Josef

  4. Hey Jeremy, I posted some pictures and explanation of the lid support position. Cheers, Josef.

  5. I updated my pochade box, check it out here:

  6. Thanks so much for these post. I just made my own pochade box, with a few modifications. check it out on my painting blog: