How to Build a Kid's Art Easel

Perfect for the budding artist, this easel has a magnetic play surface, a tray to hold art supplies and it folds flat for easy storage.

By: Carla Wiking

Tools and Materials

  • 1x3 x 24’ wood
  • 1/4” x 1-1/8” x 10' wood trim
  • 24” x 36” x 1/4” sanded plywood
  • (2) 2” hinges
  • (4) 4” T straps
  • (2) 4” flat straps
  • (4) 4” flat L straps
  • 3/4” screws
  • 2-1/2” finish screws
  • 8” right and left locking support hinges
  • 24” x 24” piece of 26-gauge galvanized steel
  • 5/16” x 24” wood dowel
  • (2) 5/16” x 1” eye bolts with nuts (make sure wood dowel fits through eyelets)
  • (2) #10 x 1” machine screws with wing nuts
  • paintable filler
  • paintbrush
  • paint
  • sandpaper
  • painter’s tape
  • tape measure
  • circular saw with finish blade
  • drill with 5/32”, 1/8”, and 5/16” wood/metal bits and screw bit
  • tin snips

This handmade children’s easel has everything. Sheet metal adds an extra play surface perfect for magnets and washable markers, which wipe off easily. A mounted paper roll means your little artist will have endless space to draw and paint. The built-in tray holds all the artist's materials in one convenient, easy-to-access spot. And top-mount hinges mean that the whole thing folds flat for easy storage, but it remains sturdy when open.

Step 1: Cut Frame Pieces

Measure and cut the 1x3 into four 48” pieces and five 19” pieces.

Step 2: Build Back Frame

Lay two of the 48” pieces flat on the ground and parallel to each other, and then lay a 19” piece between them perpendicularly at the very top. Add another 19” piece 8” from the bottom edge. At the top, attach the pieces together using the metal L straps and 3/4" screws. At the bottom, use T straps and 3/4" screws. Make sure to predrill the holes to prevent the wood from splitting.

Step 3: Build Front Frame

Repeat step 2 to build the other frame using the remaining cut pieces of 1x3. Place the additional 19” piece 21-1/2” from the bottom of the 48” piece. Attach this extra piece with the flat straps and 3/4" screws.

Step 4: Attach Hinges

Lay the two frames top edge to top edge with a 1/8” gap in between and the metal straps facing up. Place the hinges between each frame in the upper corners. Predrill and attach the hinges with the provided screws.

Step 5: Add Plywood

Measure and cut the plywood so that you have a piece measuring 24” x 26 1/2”. Attach it to the front frame so that it is flush with the top edge, predrill and screw about eight 3/4” screws around the edge.

Step 6: Install Sheet Metal

Mark a square on the sheet metal measuring 23” x 23”. Carefully cut the metal to size using tin snips (make sure to wear heavy-duty gloves). Attach the metal to the plywood 1/2” from the top edge by predrilling and installing eight 3/4” screws around the perimeter.

Step 7: Frame Metal

Cut the 1/4” trim into two 24” lengths and two 21-3/4” lengths. Predrill and attach a 24” piece along the top edge of the plywood with 3/4” screws. Next, attach the two 21-3/4” pieces along the left and right edges. Finally, place the last 24” piece along the bottom, leaving a 2-1/2” x 24” strip of plywood open for the tray.

Step 8: Build Tray

Measure and cut the remaining 1x3 into one 22-1/2” piece (tray front) and one 8-1/2” piece (tray sides). Cut a piece of plywood to 4-1/4” x 24” (tray bottom). The two sides pieces will need to be slightly angled. To make those pieces, on the 8-1/2” piece, measure and mark 4” along the top edge and 4-1/2” along the bottom edge, draw a line between the two points, and cut the piece in half along that line. Using 2-1/2” finish screws, predrill and screw the right-angled edges of the short pieces to either side of the 22-1/2” piece making sure that the back angles line up. Place this tray frame with the 4” side facing up and lay the plywood over it in line with the front edges of the frame. Predrill and screw the plywood down, leaving a 1/4” lip off the back edge of the shelf. Finally, place the shelf right side up with the 1/4” lip resting under the plywood already attached to the easel. Predrill and screw the shelf in from the back of the easel frame with 2-1/2” finish screws.

Step 9: Add Side Hinge Brackets

Open and set up the easel in a sturdy position, with the legs spread about 24” apart. Hold up the left and right hinge brackets until they fit tightly on either side of the easel frame. Mark the screw holes, predrill, and attach the brackets to the inside edge of each leg.

Step 10: Install Paper Holder

On the back of the easel, measure 5” down from the top of the frame and drill a 5/16” hole in the center of each of the vertical legs. Insert the eyelet bolts and attach with two 5/16” nuts. Drill 1/8” holes through the center of the dowel 3/4” in from each end of the dowel, slide the dowel through the 5/16” eyelets with the paper roll in between and insert the machine screws and wing nuts to keep the dowel in place.

Step 11: Paint

Cover the screws in the frame and shelf with paintable filler. Give the whole frame a light sanding. Cover the sheet metal with painter’s tape and paint the easel in your little one’s favorite color.

Step 12: Fill and Enjoy

The tray is perfect for holding magnets and cups of washable paint and markers. Washable markers easily wipe clean on sheet metal, as will dry-erase markers. Magnets are great fun and also come in handy for holding the paper in place.

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