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The Sorg Easel

(The David Sorg Signature Easel)

Fixes, Mods, Tuning

This page is for those of you who already own a Sorg Easel. If you purchased it directly from me, some of this is material you are already familiar with. But if you got yours from Jerry's or used, there may be some helpful information here for you.

Get a Grip

Holding your canvas securely is the first order of business; below are a couple mods toward that end. One of the advantages of the flat profile of the upper and lower canvas holders is that there are no pre-cut grooves and pre-spaced ledges that might interfere with the type of flat panel or stretched canvas profiles that you prefer. It's easy to project the front surface of your canvas from the canvas holders both to eliminate the typical upper shadow line that's cast onto the canvas, and for ease in painting right to the edge and being able to pull your brush off the edge of the canvas without getting stuck into a projecting ledge of wood.

The canvas holders are covered with a sandpaper-like surface. If your painting style is such that these eventually become built up with paint, it's easy to pull it off and replace it with a peel and stick product that is generally sold by the lineal foot as "safety tread" or "anti-slip tape" at hardware stores and building centers.

If you paint on standard depth stretcher bars (3/4") but like to pull it forward of the front edge of the canvas holders, this simple mod helps get a good bite on the canvas edge to keep it from slipping backward. Simply drill two appropriately sized holes through the upper canvas holder and screw in a pointed head style screw such as a standard drywall screw until it projects through about 1/8" or so. These will pierce the canvas into the stretcher and hold it very firmly.

 art easel mod

If you occasionally do final painting in a frame, it's a simple matter to back the screws off until they're below the level of the wood so they don't mar your frame. Although this mod does a great job of biting your canvas, it can bite you, too, if you forget about them (as I have once or twice...) And finally, if you like to paint very large canvases in a very vigorous style, consider lining your upper and lower canvas holder with pieces of carpet tack strip. This is basically like a wooden yardstick with tacks sticking out every couple of inches. It does a great job, won't get clogged up with paint, but will tear you up pretty good if you don't give it the respect it commands :) Keep some yoga mat strips around to cover this up when you don't want the tacks, or instead of nailing the tack strip to your canvas holders, use screws so you can simply unscrew the tack strips when you're working with a framed canvas.

Panel Hooks

 Artist Easel hooksIf you paint on panels, even occasionally, installing panel hooks makes a great difference in holding your panels securely to the easel. In fact, you don't even have to tighten the upper canvas holder at all when using these; just the weight of the canvas holder and gravity hold it all in place.

The hooks, usually sold as "Screw Hooks," are available from the hardware store or building center. Install them by drilling appropriate sized holes; one in the center of the upper canvas holder, two in the lower canvas holder. I would suggest experimenting on a scrap of wood to get the right size drill bit. You want the hook to be able to screw in and out by hand to adjust the depth from say 1/8" thick panels to 1/4" panels. If the hole drilled is too small, it will be too hard to twist the hooks without a pliers. If the hole drilled is too large the threads of the hooks will strip out the wood and just flop around or even fall out.

Space the bottom two hooks about equidistant from the center point of the bottom canvas holder. The further apart you set them, the more stable the support for larger panels, but it will allow smaller panels to fall through. For most people, try the hooks spaced 3 1/2" out from the center which would give you a 7" spacing and support an 8x10 or larger canvas. If you paint tiny (5x7) through large (30x40) panels, you could install four hooks on the lower canvas holder; you have to be a bit more precise here, placing the closer pair a little lower down on the edge of holder or else on a precise line. Otherwise a large canvas could rest on one of the closer in hooks instead of the outer placed hooks and it would at worst "rock" between an outer hook and an inner one. At best, the outer hook would not be supporting the panel at all and so why bother installing it?

 studio easel hook

 artist's easel hook

 artist's easel panel

Knob replacement

The most common issue to arise with the easel, and many others I've seen, is for the upper canvas holder knob to strip from either long use or (more likely) over-tightening. The over tightening happens, I think, because it's thought that tightening the knob will exert more downward pressure on the canvas to hold it in place when it's wiggling around. Of course it just tightens the upper canvas holder tighter to the center mast while really doing nothing to get a better downward force on the canvas.

The knob is generally sold by woodworking supply stores as a "jig" knob. You're looking for a 1" stud by 1/4" -20 thread, or its metric equivalent. I get them currently from Rockler (rockler.com) where they are sold as "Rockler Easy-to-Grip 4-Star Knobs, Male Threading" I'm not putting in a link as it's sure to change and be one more thing for me to keep up with :) The knob is inexpensive; it's the shipping that won't be fun, so it might be worth looking locally. Alternatively you can also get a bunch of them from Amazon under "POWERTEC QNB3006-P2 5-Star Stud Knob, 1/4"-20, 10 PK"

If you replace the knob, you must also replace the nut so that the threads match. In the case of the above knob, you would get a 1/4-20 nut from the hardware store.

To install the knob, begin by removing the upper canvas holder from the center mast, and prying off the brass plate on the back side. Then, remove the existing nut. It might be easiest to thread the old knob in from the front and tap the knob with a hammer to pop out the nut, or to thread the old knob in from the back and pull on it with a pliers.

You will see that the nut for the new knob is a little bigger than the old nut, so you have to enlarge the hole that the old nut was sitting in. A hobby knife is probably the easiest way; just roughly carve each facet of the hole by a shaving or two.

Tap the new nut into the enlarged hole. If you have trouble "seating" it into the hole, screw the new knob in through the front of the canvas holder, into the new nut, and keep tightening until you "pull" the nut into the hole. Then back the knob out until the threads of the knob are below the level of the back side of the canvas holder. Pop the little brass piece back on and re-install the canvas holder back on the center mast. It should only take you a couple of minutes.

Paint Canisters and Brushwasher Screens

Rarely does anything go wrong with the canisters, but I do get occasional requests about replacements. These can be found from commercial restaurant supply houses where they are sold as a 1 1/4 liter or 1 1/4 quart bain-marie (plural bains-marie). They are usually offered with a separate lid. I don't know why but the price of a bain marie seems to vary widely from various online retailers, so it's worth a few minutes of research to get the best deal. Try a search for BAM-1.25 for a popular brand sold through multiple outlets.

 Artist Easel clothThe brushwashers do wear out after a while, and if you can handle a little do-it-yourself you can home-make a better brushwasher than the ones that are supplied with the easel originally.

They start with a piece of "1/4" hardware cloth" which is sold in hardware stores by the lineal foot from a roll of material. Even buying one foot will give you plenty of material. With a tin snips or heavy scissors cut a piece about 7" by 7". Then trim it into a cruciform shape similar to the picture with each leg being about two inches.

Next, find yourself a can with a diameter of about 4 inches. Some one quart paint cans are right. Or take a ruler with you to the grocery next time. You could get a large can of vegetables. Or peanuts, most peanut cans are around 4 inches and tastier than the vegetables. Use your hands and then a hammer to bend the screen over and around the can. The result doesn't look real pretty, but it will hold the screen off the bottom of the canister allowing sludge to accumulate while the brush scrubbing portion of the screen remains above the sludge in "clean" solvent.

 Artist Easel cloth

 Artist Easel brushwasher

 Artist Easel great brushwasher

Tune Up

The easel will work best when it's straight, square, and slippery. Every once in awhile, depending on how often you roll it around, fold it up, or just plain use it, you'll want to tune it. Remove the weight from the hook. Take a 10mm socket wrench or adjustable wrench and loosen all the nuts on the back side of the easel, especially the twelve nuts on the top pieces and the wing nut on the top of the center mast. Use the tilt adjustment knobs to bring the easel into a vertical position; no tilt forward or backward. Go to the front of the easel and make sure it's plumb, straight up and down. You can use a level to be sure it's plumb in both planes (side-to-side, and front-to-back) or a plumb bob or even your eye if you trust it. Then re-tighten all of the nuts to snug. Some of the earliest production models did not use a washer under the nut, and these nuts sometimes want to start digging into the wood when you tighten them. For those you should pick up some flat washers from the hardware store.

Add a drop of oil or WD-40 to the pulleys, maybe inspect the rope while you're there. If you bought the easel from me originally you received a stick of wood lube to rub on all parts of the easel where wood slides past wood. Using this makes the easel more slippery. Re-hang the 25 pound weight, make sure the paint tray knobs are loose, and run it up and down a couple of times; it shouldn't take more than a couple of fingers pressure to put the easel exactly where you want it.

Easel Modifications

Over the years artist's have made various tweaks and mods to their easel to make it work better for their particular application. In the near future, I'll post up some pics of these that people have sent me. If you have joined this club yourself, please email a picture or two of the changes you made.

Beginners (and anyone else), if you would like some ideas and opinions of what to look for and what to avoid in any studio easel you are contemplating, here is a short article that will appear in another window.

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David Sorg's Artists Easel is for artists in oil, acrylic, or pastel.