Building a Pochade Box
Pochade boxes are wonderful little tools for artists, especially for landscape
artists. The box is a tiny, portable studio. Usually they are sized to
use a 5x7 or 6x8 painting panel, and as well as the panel, they hold everything
you need to paint: colors, palette, brushes, mediums, solvents. They are
small, so that you can take them anywhere and paint unobtrusively. Most
commercially availably boxes are quite expensive - from $250 to $300! But
you can make a wonderful little box out of a cigar box. Here's a picture
of one that I made recently.
Note the panel (tinted orange) that is held in the cigar-box cover, and
the palette that also serves as a cover for the lower part of the box,
where the paints and brushes are kept. Here's a picture of the same box
with the palette removed.
So, how can you make one of these? Here's how. First, you'll have to
visit your local tobacco shops - now more common since the cigar craze.
I found mine at a liquor store that also sells cigars. The kind of box
to look for is one with a recessed cover. Many have a flat cover, and are
not as suitable for transforming into pochade boxes. The one used is a
brand called "Te Amo". (Not bad having a pochade box that tells you it
loves you, too...) The best size is the "Presidente" (named after the famous
cigar-smoking, bearded Fidel, I'm told). The "Churchill" size is just slightly
larger, Here's what it looks like.
Transforming the cigar box into
a pochade box
Upgrade the hardware.
All the cigar boxes I've seen - even from the priciest cigars
- have cheapo hardware that falls apart almost immediately. So I replaced
the hinges and added a new latch to the front. You can find these small
hinges and latches in hobby and craft stores or in a good hardware store.
Since the wood is fairly thin on these boxes, it's a good idea to drill
holes first before placing the screws for the hinges and the latch.
Make a panel holder
This cigar box, like many others I've seen, has small fillets of wood
that extend up from the lower part of the box into the cover. For this
size box, the 5x7 panel fits the cover exactly horizontally, and these
wood fillets keep the panel in place when the box is closed. To be sure
that the panel doesn't move while I'm painting, I use some double-faced
Make a support for the cover.
Since your painting panel will be resting in the cover of the box,
you'll want some way to make the cover strong enough to hold in place while
you are painting. I constructed a support with two small pieces of metal
- also from the hardware store. Here's a diagram of what this looks like.
You will have to cut a palette to fit your box. Measure the inside
of the box, and cut a piece of wood, or masonite, or plexiglass to fit.
(For a box I made for acrylics, I had my local hardware store cut me a
piece of acrylic. When the palette gets too loaded with paint, I let it
sit in a tub of water for a while, and then the paint lifts off more easily.)
Your palette will have to have some support to keep it steady while
you are painting, and also so that it will lie flat and cover the paints
and other items in the lower part of the box. I used the same sort of lath
that I use for nailed-on informal frames for paintings. This wood is 1
1/8 x 3/16, and I cut 2 lengths of it to fit the inside of the box. These
pieces of lath are placed flat against the front and the back sides of
the box, and form a thin shelf on which the palette rests. You can see
the one in the back in the second picture; it's that white piece of wood
at the back of the box.
OK, now you have a box with a compartment and a palette, but if you
used it as is, your palette would bounce around when you picked up the
box, and would get paint all over your lovely painting. So, the next thing
to do is to construct something to keep the palette in place when the box
is closed. (This was the hardest part of figuring out this whole scheme!)
I found exactly the right thing in the local hardware store - again. If
you look at the two pictures, you'll see that there are little cubes of
wood attached to the inside of the cover. These are cedar blocks that are
actually sold as fresheners for bureau drawers, but it turned out they
are exactly the right size that I needed for holding the palette in place.
(Ain't life amazing??) I glued them to the box so that the 5x7 panel can
nestle between them either in an upright or a horizontal position. When
the box is closed, the palette is held in place from the bottom by the
wood lath, and from the top by these wood blocks. So, voila! There it is!
Here's a list of the costs for these pieces:
So, total cost is under $15.00. Only other expense was that I bought some
short handled brushes to fit into the box.
cigar box - $2.00
hinges - $1.39
latch - $1.99
cover support - $2.99
cedar blocks - $1.99 for bag of 25
lath - free; scraps I had hanging around (cheap if you buy it too)
palette - I cut this from an old wood palette. The plexiglass one I had
cut at the hardware store cost about $2.00
Box for Carrying Wet Panels
Here's a box that will hold 10 5x7" panels. It will keeps the panels safe
while they dry; they won't smudge each other, they won't get smudged by
anything else, and they won't get paint on your clothes, your car, your
dog... that expensive hotel room.
Here's the view from the top; you can see the grooves that hold the
panels in place.
The box was made from
a piece of 1/2" x 4" pine board, two pieces of plexiglass, two hinges and
a latch. I first cut a 22" piece of board, and cut the grooves in it with
a table saw. The grooves are about 3/8" deep. After the grooves were cut,
I cut the board into two 11" lengths to form the two sides of the box.
(Cutting the grooves before cutting the board into these two lengths ensures
that the grooves line up on each side of the box.) After these boards are
cut, you wil need to cut the pieces for the top and the bottom of the box.
To figure out how long they should be, you can use a panel as a guide.
Take the two cut sides and stand them up on end, on another piece of the
1/2" stock you used for the sides, with the grooved sides facing each other.
Then place a panel between the two pieces, and position them so that the
panel fits somewhat loosely between them. (Too snug a fit and you'll have
to struggle to get the panels in and out of the box.) Once you've determined
this distance, mark it on the board they are standing on. Cut two pieces
that size, and you have the top and the bottom of your box. Attach the
bottom with wire nails and glue.
You now have a U-shaped construction. The front and back of the box
that I made are of plexiglass. I had this cut at the local hardware store.
I chose plexiglass because it is lightweight, and because I liked the look
of it, but you could also use thin wood. Measure the width and the height
of your U-shaped box carefully, and then have two pieces of whatever you
chose cut to this size. Attach it to the front and back with small screws,
first drilling holes so that you don't split the wood or the plexiglass.
I found it particularly easy to attach the plexiglass because I was able
to see just where I was putting the pilot holes snd the screws - always
troubling when you are attaching something to a thin edge of wood.
After the front and back are attached, you can attach the cover
with hinges on one end and a latch on the other. I also added a handle
on the top (a drawer pull) to make the box easier to carry.