A client came to me with this picture (right) that he had found on the internet. An artist's easel had been converted into a TV stand for a flat screen TV. The easel in the photo was obviously relatively new. The wood had not begun to oxidize to that silver-grey color of old wood. Moreover, take a close look at the paint splattering.
Anyone who has done any artistic painting can tell you that, when they get paint on their easel, it doesn’t look anything like this – unless you are Jackson Pollock, and he didn’t use an easel.
My client described what he wanted - he’d prefer wood with a nice patina, so he wondered about getting an old easel and modifying it.
As he described what he wanted, I started to think about my godfather and his own easel, which had not been used in a long while.
My godfather’s name is Steve Quinana III. Back in the 70’s, when he lived in New York, he had been a professional artist, who had painted album covers for Fania Records (specializing in Latin music)—albums like Charlie Palmieri's Gigante Hits, Joe Battan's Salsoul, the Fania All Stars Tribute to Tito Rodriguez, Toña La Negra's La Vida de Toña La Negra, and many others.
After talking with him to make sure he was willing to part with the easel, I photographed it in it’s actual state and showed the pictures to my client, who fell in love with it immediately.
The next step was to check out what the repurposing would actually involve. The easel had been stored in a basement that had flooded multiple times. Pretty much any part made of steel was rusted. The casters, hinges, bolts, and screws all had to be replaced. The aluminum brackets needed cleaning, but were reusable; the brace holding the easel upright was questionable.
That said, for the most part all of the wood was in surprisingly decent shape. There was a small split at one end and the screw holes for the new hinges were too close to the original holes to provide adequate strength. But replacing the board was easy. The easel was made of pine, and a standard 1 x 3, with a little trimmed off the width, made a perfect replacement. But it would have to be stained to match the rest of the easel’s color.
I began by roughing up the surface with a wire brush, to mimic the wood fibers lost to natural aging. I then applied a solution of white vinegar in which I had left a wad of steel wool for several days. The vinegar attacks the iron in the steel, creating a solution that reacts with the tannins in wood, giving it a coloration that looks aged.
This is particularly true for woods like oak or cherry, which are high in tannins, and undergo a dramatic color change. Pine, not so much. In this case, the wood took on a muddy gray tone that is difficult to match with stains. It was a simple way to lighten the color, but it was also time to break out the wood stains and mix up a custom color.
I started with an ebony-colored stain and added a brownish one in small amounts until I found a color that matched the easel. If you look at the piece closely, you can tell it’s not weathered the same as the original (but only when you look closely).
I had some nice round ball casters that I wanted to use, so I decided to get some spray paint that was a very close color match to them. I sprayed all of the metal hardware so that all of the non-wood parts match and also so that their color was not in stark contrast to the wood.
To mount the TV to the easel, I attached a tilting wall mount to the easel’s frame. But we still needed to attach the speaker. I wonder how well it would fit into that shelf. Turns out it was a perfect fit! Couldn’t have planned that better if I’d tried.
Oh, one last bit to show how this project just seemed to be karmic from beginning to end. It turns out that my clients happened to be into album art and already had several album covers displayed in a part of their house I hadn’t known about until the day I delivered the easel!