Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A very special paint box

Gearhead warning! I'm the proud owner of a brand new custom-made antique-hardwood paintbox/sketchbox that a friend of mine crafted for me.

Longtime followers may recall that some time ago I found a palette in the attic of the farm house we live in that my wife Anna's great-grandparents built in 1872. The palette could only have been Hilda's (Anna's grandmother). It's a beautiful tool - a small, thin slice of hardwood (not plywood) in an unusual shape, light as a feather, and seasoned to beat the band. 

I asked Michael Ready, a Lowell friend and master woodworker, if he could build a paintbox around it. I acquired a reclaimed barn board of 400 year-old chestnut at a local lumberers and Michael worked his magic. It took a while, but last week the prophecies were fulfilled, the skies parted, and my newly inseparable companion arrived to the fanfare of heavenly trumpets and angelic choirs and trailing clouds of glory.

Michael secured the box with a precise solid brass English latch and attached a vintage oxblood leather handle I'd been saving for just such a use.
To finish it, he didn't stain or varnish - he rubbed the wood with linseed oil and wax to bring out the natural luster. The grain is gorgeous!

Here it is open. You can see Hilda's palette is secured with a little wooden turn-latch and thus perfectly housed (serendipitously, it matches the wood's color, too). 

The palette comes down and rests on supports so I can pop a canvas into the lid and go to work. 

Here it is filled with my painting supplies.

I added a crimson liner to the bottom using some found fabric. It looks big, but it's only 11 inches across - perfect for the 8" x 8" and 8" x 10" panel studies I do in the studio and at home.

I also added a matching detachable leather shoulder strap.
I got the hardware for the shoulder strap from an old French easel.
Gorgeous ain't it? It's always with me, so I'm always ready to paint. It comes with me to the studio in the morning and travels back home with me at night. They say you have to love your tools, your materials, your instrument, so that you always want to play it. I certainly feel that way about this little number. Many thanks to "Mr. WorksWood," aka Michael Ready, for bringing such beauty into my life!


  1. yay! looks awesome. she would be honored! (ps: it was my great great grandparents who built this house) .. :)

  2. It's a pleasure to take pleasure in beautiful well-crafted things, especially those objects which are in service to higher things like art itself. Thank you.

  3. Wow...that is a truly remarkable paint Box....a beautiful work of art itself....couldn't have found a better home...
    keep of the Great work...Take Care

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