My pochade box, two years later

The box when I finished it. Follow this link for step by step instructions.

The box when I finished it. Follow this link for step by step instructions.

Recently I received this email from a reader asking about the cheap, light and easy pochade box I made at the start of my 2014 painting season:

I came across your posting describing the making of your lightweight pochade, and would like to make one.  I’m not sure how long it’s been since you made yours, so am wondering how it’s holding up, especially if there’s any wind.  The other thing I’d really like to know is how it stays open without a hinge mechanism.  It seems as though it would just close shut in a breeze.  And advice/observations you might have, I’d love to hear it.

After two seasons, the thing is holding up surprisingly well. I’ve used it in all sorts of weather conditions, and it’s now my go-to plein air easel, although I think I might move to a different set up if I were working bigger than 12X16.

My former student Bella wrestling with easels in a blowing wind.

My student Bella wrestling with easels in a blowing wind.

The carbon fiber tripod I bought to go with it plays a big part in reducing the weight. Most of us balk at the price; however, I bought it for half price on ebay, and I think it was worth every penny. (At $163.43, it was more than 75% of the total cost.) Even if you doubt the wisdom of making a pochade box like mine, the easel can be used with any system; just add the appropriate quick-release head.

I agree that the box would work better with a sliding hinge. I usually compensate by hanging something from the back of my panel with an S-hook. That acts as a counterweight. I haven’t yet been in a situation where it has failed because of wind, but I have been in situations where wind has caused the aluminum to flex.

However, the whole kit is so light that my umbrella can send it flying on a windy day. I compensate for that by using the stone bag from my Guerrilla Painter tripod.

The box in action at 2014 Castine Plein Air. You knew it wasn't going to stay clean for long.

The box in action at 2014 Castine Plein Air. You knew it wasn’t going to stay clean for long.

The other wind-related problem is that the head swings on the tripod. I irritably bat it back into place, but it might be nice to figure out how other boxes incorporate stops into the disconnect mechanisms.

Jamie Williams Grossman suggested I buy a cheap backpack to replace the heavier frame pack I’d been using. I did, and it reduced the total weight even more. I can backpack this kit as far as I ever need to. A younger person could probably climb mountains with it.

I recently had to ship it forward while I traveled by air, and I was pleasantly surprised at how little it cost to mail. I have no intention of moving to a different system anytime soon.

One of my students, after admiring the box, took parsimony one step further and made the box out of two small aluminum baking sheets from the Dollar Store, with duct tape as a hinge. I’ve waiting all summer for it to come apart. As of yet, it hasn’t. It cost her all of $2 since she already had the tape.

Carol Douglas

About Carol Douglas

Carol L. Douglas is a painter who lives, works and teaches in Rockport, ME. Her annual workshop will again be held on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park, from August 6-11, 2017. Visit for more information.