This will be the first of a few posts detailing some of the studio equipment I have built.  I built this painting box because I am trying to get out of my studio more and do some plein air painting as well as a good portable setup for location or portrait painting.

Pochade is a french word for “sketch” (according to Collin’s French Dictionary), so “pochade box” is literally “sketch box”.  My goal was to create something that was lightweight and easy to setup and maintain.

I am posting the plans here for two reasons.  First, with the hope that at least some of you will find it useful.  Second, I am sure that should you make your own, you will improve on my design and send me your own results so I can benefit!  You could always buy one pre made… but that isn’t much fun and I bet this will save you some money.

These plans should scale nicely.  My box is 10″ x 12″ inches but you could scale it up or down.  If you are a little handy and have a few tools (or know someone that is), this box will take you 5 or 6 hours to make and cost around $50 – $80 (the $50 end if you can get the hinges on sale, which happens from time to time).

Parts list 




  • Wood glue
  • Epoxy for magnets
  • Danish or Tung oil – This is a penetrating oil that hardens in the wood, sealing it at the same time.  Follow directions on the bottle.


  • Drill and small bits for pre-drilling holes for screws and 1/4″ bit for drilling holes for magnets 
  • Saw
  • A set of spring clamps will be really handy here
  • Screwdriver

As you can see the most expensive and also the heaviest single part of this design are the hinges, but that is also where the magic happens.  The hinges stay where you rotate them to.  No screws to tighten, you open the lid to the angle you want, and the hinges keep them there.  They are incredibly strong.  I get no shake when I paint.  Worth every penny.  I don’t know what kind of witchery is involved, but the hinges are awesome.

I will leave the screw placement up to you, as it isn’t too critical.  Just be sure that the screws are going through as much wood as possible.  I countersink the screws so they don’t catch and are flush with surface.  Pre-drill all the holes for the screws or the wood will split.

The Plans

If you want a larger box, just use the same basic layout, but change the size of your cuts.

Shot of the box closed.  You can see the draw latches here.

I included this so you could see how the rubber bands loop through the bottom eyelet screws.  Same thing for the upper piece.  I used a hand held manual old-timey drill to pre drill holes for the eyelets.  Much more control than a power-drill.  Also, you will need to cut a 1/16″ notch for the hinges so they can close flush when the lid is down.  You could use a chisel or a file here too with some patience.  I used a router.

See how the magnets are mounted on the back of the lower support.  Make sure you align the magnets so they are all attracting and not repelling.  Use the 1/4″ drill bit to create the holes for the magnets.  They are only 1/16″ thick, so the hole will be pretty shallow.  Just enough for the magnets to sit flush.  I put a little epoxy in each hole to hold the magnets in.  They will fit very snug without it, but might pull out eventually without the epoxy.

This piece is tensioned by the rubber bands run through the eyelet screws in the bottom of the piece I am holding.  The rubber bands loop through the other set of eyelets that you can see in the two pictures above this one.  Getting the rubber band looped through can be tricky.  I cut the rubber band, looped it through the upper loops and tied a string to the loose ends.  Then let the strings hand  down through the slot where the upper support will sit.  When the showed up at the bottom through the cutout, I pulled them, and then the rubber bands through and fastened them to the eyelets on the bottom.

Shot to show you how the upper support piece is sandwiched in here.  You will want to sand this piece down so that it easily slides up and down.  Also note the groove cut into the top support.  This is so that it can easily hold panels.  Same on the lower support.  I used a table saw to notch these, but there are probably another dozen ways to make this work without having to have access to a table saw.  Get creative if you don’t have one you can use.

Shot of the D-rings where I attach the canvas strap.  Be sure to mount them so the d-ring has free movement and clears the end of the box.  Also, you can see how there is now support for the hinges, they fully support the lid on their own and are rock solid.

Rear view.

Shot of the underside with a quick release adapter for my tripod.  You can also see a t-nut.  I put in two for convenience.  The quick release screws into the t-nut and then mounts on my tripod.

Shot of the box with the palette removed.  You could use a glass palette, but it will add weight and can of course shatter, but glass is tempting.  Nice for mixing and cleaning.

I notched the palette to go around the hinges, but you wouldn’t have to do this if you cut it down a little bit.

I think that is everything.  If something isn’t clear or I made a mistake, let me know and I will update the plans.

And here is a shot of a painting I did using the above box.  It works! 🙂

and a time-lapse of the painting for kicks:

If you remember from my last post, this week was supposed to be on process and technology, but I postponed it until next time.  Check in with me in two weeks for my post on the importance of process in art history and how we might use modern tech to adapt it for today’s studio.

I hope this post was useful.  Let me know!