Last month I bought a beautiful, though in dire need of repair, antique easel. I’ve since been restoring it. It’s a good, sturdy old easel, and it has some unique features integrated into its design… I figured it would be worth sharing.
The new studio easel
The easel’s made of oak…I could see clearly that it was old, as it had crumbling original varnish all over the parts that hadn’t been handled for some time. Much of the wood had splintered. The casters and crank mechanism were still in good condition, though needed some oil.
Upon further inspection, I found the company’s tag that produced the easel. F. Weber (now Martin/F. Weber Co.)still makes artist materials, though nothing like this old easel. They make mostly aluminum, tabletop easels from what I’ve seen today. I hadn’t ever heard of the company other than their partnership with Bob Ross to sell art materials. *edit 4/24/12 it appears F.Weber’s sister company, Martin Universal Design now does their easel production. You can check out the site atwww.martinuniversaldesign.com for a list of their easels.
After looking a bit at their site, I understood that this easel must be from before 1919, as the company’s name changed after the death of Mr. Weber. Not a big surprise, as it takes about that long for a varnish to become as brittle and flaky as it was on the easel.
Here’s a shot of the old cast iron clamps
Today, most of the easels in the states are made with plastic fittings that strip and ruin with time and use. I was very happy to see that most of the original cast iron pieces of the easel were still intact.
Interestingly, this easel’s crank system is unlike any I’ve seen before. Most ‘crank’ easels use threaded rod to lower and raise the shelf of the easel. This easel has instead a row of pegs.
Here you can see the row of pegs and the crank
The pegs are mounted and descended by a spiral-shaped piece of cast iron.
Another view of the crank system
In the picture above you can get a sense of how the easel raises and lowers. The cast-iron crank gives a great deal of stability for working, and less tedious raising and lowering paintings than other, threaded rod crank style easels…not surprising, I suppose.
When you use an old easel, you can’t help but to be a bit curious as to who used the easel before you.
I’m also curious if anyone’s come across this particular crank system before.
I’ve gotten in touch with the good folks at Martin/F. Weber. They had a look through their old catalogues, and have told me that my easel is the Rembrandt Winding Studio Easel (either model number 17 or 18, I have elements of both, it seems). This design easel was produced from 1903 to 1919, so mine’s from somewhere in that arc of time.