Monday, October 22, 2012

A French Companion

A homemade French Companion I built and use a lot!

About a year ago I decided to build a French Companion for my French Easel. I was tired of using just the provided palette that came with the easel. Everytime I folded the beast up I'd end up with paint on me plus I had to remember to keep the paint flat enough on the palette to not hit the frame when closing the door to fold it all up. As for the difference between a French Mistress and a French Companion all I could tell is one is larger than the other and the spelling:)
A Companion made sense since it not only gave me a larger mixing surface but it kept the paint away from my clothes, was easy to carry and gave me two side panels to sit things on like brushes, turps containers, knives and the mandatory cup of coffee that I like to paint with. The only problem was the price of a store bought one....wasn't insanely high but I just didn't want to paint that much money for something I'm going to slop paint all over not to mention banging around in the truck when heading to painting locations. I'd build one! I'm cheap labor.

Building the companion was easy. The companion is just 3 flat boxes tied together with brass piano hinges. I used flat pieces of scrap thin Luan ply from that I had bought at home depot for another project. The frame was just a 2x4 cut down to size. Brass piano hinge from Home Depot too. Slapped some orange oil on it and that's it. No tricky cuts, no varnished finish, no oak or cherry....I'm just going to ruin it eventually with paint all over it. It probably cost me all of maybe $10 to build. I love working with wood so it was a lot of fun for me building it, (thanks Mr Danielson, my Blair High Woods teacher for 4 years of fun).

Of all my painting gear I love this one the best. Works great, looks fine and does exactly what it was built for....keeps my clothes paint free and holds my coffee too! I like it so much I use it in the studio to mix on when working on my French Easel or my big easel. I just set it on a small metal table that I keep paint taboret. It has wheels so I can roll it around from easel to easel. When I'm finished painting for the day I just fold it up and slide it in the fridge to keep the paint from drying up. When I take it on locatiuon I just wrap a bungee cord around it to keep the tops closed....I could make a latch to do that but why bother, it works just fine with a bungee cord. If you don't have one of these build one and give it a try.


Jim Serrett said...

Ah yes,
It is the simple things in life.
Enjoy your coffee.

Ron Guthrie said...

Hi Jim! Funny, I am enjoying a cup right now:)I just had a good time enjoying reading about your plein air painting from a kayak on your blog Jim...very cool experience there. I like the paintings you did out there as well. Good work!

Dianne said...

Great idea on the make-your-own French companion. It gives me an idea about converting an old flat box about the right shape and size. It looks like mounting the piano hinges inside makes it stronger and sit open better. Did you add a strip along the front and back edges to "shim" the difference when it closes?
I found a Miello grey palette that happens to fit in the box, which makes the clean-up easier. When I set the palette cups inside it keeps the palette from shifting during transport.
Now I'll get 2 piano hinges, screws, drill, screw driver and some glue! Working with wood is very satisfying! Thanks for posting the pictures.

Ron Guthrie said...

Hi Dianne,
Yes, I just glued in 2 strips of flat wood to shim the gap when the sides are closed. Sounds like you just about have everything you need to have yours working soon.

I almost put in a piece of plexiglass to ease clean up of the palette but that would raise the level of the paints so I left it out. Glass would work too but that adds weight. If you paint the undersides of either with a neutral grey it really helps with color mixing.

Dianne said...

Hi, yes, that's what I like about the Miello, it's medium grey, some sort of plastic, so it's light weight and won't shatter. I see what you mean about needing "headroom" for the paint, you's have to find really thin plexiglass.
Have a great Open Studio!

Ron Guthrie said...

Thanks Dianne, I hope it goes well this year. I've never had the paint up that high yet, so far so good. Thanks!

Mick Carney said...

I just wish I had the confidence to attempt something like this or maybe I'm just making excuses. Great tip for the woodwork literate, the cost of this sort of thing gets higher all the time.

As to the cup of coffee habit, I had to put a stop to that after dipping my brush into it instead of the turps pot. Too risky.

Christine Brallier said...

Oh what a great talent, to work with wood! I think I like you even more if that's possible, hahaha. Sooooo, a side business maybe? If I were a painter, I'd buy one from you!

Ron Guthrie said...

Hi Mick,
You could build one of these blindfolded. I have faith in you brother! Too funny about the coffee and turps:) I used to set my coffee on the ground before I had this but kicked a few cups over which is really bad for the mood thing.

Hi Christine,
If you were a painter I'd sell you one! :) Naw, they are easy to make and fun building. There are so many things I would love to build but the price of wood is insane. Just this morning I was at the lumber yard here in town, 6"x3/4" oak is about $3 a linear foot. So if you were building a picket fence each piece would cost you about $ picket fences made from oak!

Unknown said...

Jim are you painting right off the wood surface? Did you prepare it before putting down your paint? Linseed oil into the wood? Do you scrape it clean after a painting and wipe it clean with turpentine? Anything?