Crafting Rachel's Easel Legs
April 28th, 2022 | Back to Blog Listing
Given the litany of things I've been building over the past several months, Rachel had noted how she had really been needing an easel. Claire had a handful of them at her house and while I considered grabbing one of those for her, I thought it would be far more enjoyable to build one myself. You know, just to give it that personal touch. Plus, I love a good woodworking project. Rachel found a handful of woodworking YouTube and TikTok channels that had built standing easels. I went through a handful of them focusing on one design in particular that she really liked. Of course I've no intention of building somebody else's design and so I set out to build my own mostly using it as a reference point for the scale.

Two of the pieces of wood waiting to be joined together.
While I was using the project she found as a kind of "base idea", I generally just kind of build these kinds of projects in my head first, jot down a few brief notes, and then bring them into existence with the wood, often just figuring it out as I go along. But with any good woodworking project, first things first: selecting the wood.
I took her up to Woodcraft so that we could find the kind of wood she wanted to use. I wanted to make sure that I could help her understand some of the pros and cons to each type of wood she might like. I also wanted to make sure that we'd be able to get the wood in sufficiently large pieces.

We looked at dozens of woods. The project she liked online was built out of a nice maple. Woodcraft sells a variety of maples; my personal favorite being Ambrosia Maple. But she wanted something a little darker. We looked at teak, mahogany, cherry, cocobolo, and a handful of others. In the end, she decided that she liked the Peruvian Walnut the most. It's a little bit darker and harder than a traditional walnut and is overall a beautiful wood.

I helped her to select the pieces that we'd need as there were certain properties I was looking for (mostly dimensional, but also to do with the grain and knotting patterns).

Preparing to rip one of the walnut pieces on my table saw.

With the wood in hand, the first step was to fashion the legs. I set the table saw to just over 2" and started ripping pieces of the walnut. The wood is cut in the mill to about 1" thick so my thought was that we could glue two pieces that were 2" wide to one another thus yielding a 2" x 2" cubed rod. Given the Peruvian Walnut has a pretty high hardness to it, I had to work the table saw very slowly, but the pieces came out nicely.

Once I had the pieces cut, we chose the sides that seemed better suited for binding. I poured a generous helping of LockTite wood glue all over both sides, spread the glue with a foam paintbrush, and then put the two pieces together. Proper wood clamps are expensive. Consequently, I only have 12 adjustable DeWalt wood clamps of varying sizes. Those alone probably cost around $500, but I digress. Given that the legs to this easel are each 5'10" (177.8cm) in length and I really wanted to ensure a proper join, I needed to use all 12 clamps per piece. This wasn't a problem, but just meant that I could realistically only build one leg per day.

With the clamps firmly in place, the glue is seeping out the sides.

One of the leg pieces after having dried overnight.

I let each of the pieces dry for a full 24 hours before starting the planing process. In retrospect, one of the boards I used should have been planed before gluing. It would have ensured there were absolutely no air gaps between the wood pieces, but for the time being I'm just going with it and will try to work out any gaps with a formulation of walnut sawdust and wood glue.

After the final pieces bonded together and sat overnight, I began the process of planing the wood down. The goal is for each of the legs to be 1 7/8" (47.5mm) squared by 5'10" (177.8cm). Given there are two pieces of walnut formulating each of the legs, I also wanted to ensure that the thickness of each piece is equal. This made the planing process slightly more involved as I had to keep measuring to the center line and taking sixteenth inch bits off at a time.

A pile of walnut shavings sitting next to my planer after thinning out two of the legs

The three legs having been planed down to 1 7/8" (47.5mm) each.

I'm planning on working in some inlays to the legs next before I process them further so I'll be working on some dado cuts next. Rachel has been following along so that she can pickup some of these woodworking tricks and said that she'll do the next phase of planing for me.

The three legs planed and waiting for the next steps