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Making an easel

RJ _ , Jun 13, 2004; 02:45 p.m.

I am contemplating buying a Saunders four blade easel. However, I wonder whether there is a simpler and less expensive solution. I want to print only two sizes, 8x10 and 16x20. The 8x10 prints will all have the same size border and the 16x20 prints will all have the same size border. In both cases, the borders will be larger than what I can get with a one-size easel or two-blade easel.

Is there a way that I can make an easel for a specific size of paper and for a specific border without buying a four bladed easel? From time to time, there have been suggestions on Photo.net that this can be done by purchasing mat board (either black or paint it black) the same size as the paper, cutting out a hole to achieve the desired border and placing the mat board over the paper. Does this actually work in practice? I'm skeptical that it will keep the paper flat.


Donald Qualls , Jun 13, 2004; 03:13 p.m.

If the mat board isn't heavy enough to hold the paper flat, you could cover it with a (very clean) sheet of glass, projecting the image through the glass, or you could weight the board with a couple pieces of steel or brass bar stock (hot rolled steel is very inexpensive at the local home improvement store; you can buy three feet and a hacksaw to cut it to length for under $15) to improve the flatness.

Jim Rock , Jun 13, 2004; 03:37 p.m.

You can make a mask with mat board. I would suggest using black mat board that is black all the way through (black archival 100 percent rag mat is black all the way through) cut on a beveled angle. You can use weights to hold down the mat board, such as those used for sewing. You will need to construct some kind of guide for proper placement of the paper.

However, unless cost is really a problem, buy a four bladed easel. No need to Mickey Mouse with your equipment when a good investment will serve you for years to come.

Robert Davis , Jun 13, 2004; 04:33 p.m.

If the base of the easel you build is magnetic you could get magnets to hold the mat board down. I can't see this holding the paper worse then any of my easels. OTOH you can buy a used easel for not a great deal of money. I'd suggest getting an easel just because it would be a pain to deal with the home made one. OTOH if I was going to make an easel I think I'd use plywood and not mat board. Put a hinge on one end. Maybe cover the inside with some felt to stop any damage to the paper.

Louie Powell , Jun 13, 2004; 04:38 p.m.

Improvising would be fine for an easle that won't be used very often. A mat-board mask (cut bevel opening for maximum "edge control"), with something provide additional weight. Perhaps a sheet of plywood with an opening an inch or so larger than the print size, and with the mat board attached as a mask.

I made a borderless easle - a sheet of plywood with one side covered in formica, with double stick masking tape to hold the paper down.

But for the easle that I am going to be using most of the time, I think I would want something less fiddley - and I bought the Saunders 4-blade.

Jim Vanson , Jun 13, 2004; 04:49 p.m.

I have a saying that you live by the easel & you die by the easel: I can't print the way that I want without a good easel as I crop and expose many different (odd) sizes of paper.

Some of the features a good easel must have are 90 degree corners, sides running parallel with each other and sharp edges between the print & it's borders.

Ease of use: opening, loading & closing the easel plus moving of the blades must be practical with one hand. Paper centering grooves and a sensible measuring guide are also necessary.

The easel has gotta be heavy enough (with non-slip foot pads) to not move around if you give it a small bump. The top has gotta hold the paper down flat -- no small feat with some double thick fiber paper.

Matt board may work but you will probably never be happy with it.

Pablo Coronel , Jun 13, 2004; 05:04 p.m.

If you are serious about printing get a 4 bladed easel, I got one 11x14 @ebay (not new but in good shape) and I'm happy with it

Also you can have one "easel" made using a plate or iron/stainless cut to the diemnsion of the image you want and place it on top of plywood.

Conrad Hoffman , Jun 13, 2004; 07:14 p.m.

I finally bit the bullet and bought a Saunders a few years back. There's no substitute for a decent easel, and I never should have waited so long. The problem you have is a need to print 16x20. I went with 11x14 because it's not so big as to be a problem for smaller prints. What you really need are two easels, and the 16x20 won't be cheap. You can probably make something very servicable out of mat board, and you'll just have to replace it when it gets worn or dinged up. Definitely go for weights, maybe some masonite would be sufficient- iron bars seem like overkill!

Stuart Grant , Jun 14, 2004; 03:30 a.m.

When printing on 10x8 paper, not cropping images and so printing full frame or printing enlargements with same ratio (35:24) as full frame, I use a cardboard "easel" I made myself. Basically it is a cardboard mount with a hole the same size as I want the print. Along one short edge, protuding beyond the card is a margin of masking tape (folded over on its self) . I tape this margin top and bottom to the enlarger baseboard so it acts like a hinge. I can then lift the hinged board, place the paper underneath (the frame is only slightly bigeer than the paper so its easy to align) and then tape the two opposite (unhinged) corners to the baseboard to hold things tight. This holds the paper firm for the exposure. I also have the cutout from the hole from the frame, and have made this slightly smaller than the hole. I place this rectangle in the hole and without the negative holder make an exposure to give a narrow black border around the print. The rest of the border remains white.

Hope this is understandable. It all acts as very good cheap easel and produces very effective borders. I have also made a similar mask that allows me to make an narrow black border, surrounded by a narrow white border with the rest being black (but that is too difficult to explain without pictures!)

Graham Morriss , Jun 14, 2004; 07:37 p.m.

Hi RJ heres my twopence worth i made myself a 16x20 easel as follows....ingredients..2 pieces of MDF one cut to 16x20 and one cut to 12x16,4 steel rules and 4 strong bulldog clips. Method...using "no nails"stick the two pieces together placing the 12x16 onto the back of the 16x20 then when dry "no nail" it to the wall,then affix the paper using the 4 steel rules and the bulldog clips and crop by moving the enlarger back and forwards (my enlarger is on a small table)a crude method I agree but it works for me. Admittedley i generally print 16x12's for which i use a LPL 14x17 2 blade easel but for the odd 16x20 my method suffices. Good luck Graham. (forgot to add..this will only work if your enlarger allows you to flip it and project horizontaly)

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