I have set myself a challenge to paint more oil paintings, in fact at least one a week. Although I have painted in oils before I am not confident with the medium. I found it took too long complete a painting, the kit was cumbersome and medium was messy.
As most of my paintings are plein air I decided to start with a small format similar to my little watercolour painting kit I love. Looking through a friend’s book, Oil painting Pure and Simple by Trevor Chamberlain, he describes his pochade box and its use. I set about looking at the boxes available to buy and then decided to make my own.
It was to take two 6” x 8” board, the palette to slide out on the left, recessed deep enough for the wet oil paint and the wet painting not to touch when closed, to take all that was needed for short painting session. The box should be a thing of beauty and pleasure to use. It did not need a thumb hole or any other complications.
Having the right quality wood and the fittings could have been an issue. Fortunately I am a bit of a hoarder. The main box sides are made of mahogany which once part of a map draws, the top and bottom came from the sounding board of an old upright piano, and the palette was from a dressing table draw base, still scented with perfume from one of its distant owners. Decent hinges were impossible to find, I had some fine ones but only after giving up and using bulkier ones did I find the ones I really wanted use.
To construct the box, I decided it was time to try my hand at dovetails joints. Having watch YouTube experts woodworkers cut dovetails, in my mind I was now one too. Unfortunately stupidity and ignorance go hand in hand, I realised it takes more than just watching an expert, however perseverance came to my rescue. All the groves were cut by hand as the plane was too big for the small box.
Box was completed and then sawn in two, making the top and bottom sections. Hinges which were a bit big were filed to a better size and then fitted. The palette was slimmed to take the dipper.
The design of the box needed a strap to hold the lid at the right angle which I made out of sheet brass using a pattern from another box I have. For the catch I decided to make my own, again out of a scrap of brass.
With the box completed, sanded, and then the pine top and bottom dyed to match the hardwood. Still to do, fit side D rings for a carrying strap, a tripod mount on the base and of course 51 more oil paintings.