One fine morning, I was perusing the Internet as one does and I found this beauty:

 

Yes, I thought wow this is such a cool idea and the kids would love this! What do I do? I click on the link and it is $300!!! No shade if you want to purchase that for $300, but it is very basic and I thought I could probably make it easily. Before committing to a project, I did some online research of other outdoor easels–all very pricey as well, but adorable and wonderful and I JUST HAD TO HAVE IT! Ha!

After going down the rabbit hole of outdoor, see-through easels that were expensive, I was sold on my original idea of trying to make it.  So what should I use for the frame?  I thought I could build it from wood and then I looked into metal poles and metal ladders and step stools and then it dawned on me:  A sawhorse!  I took a peek on Facebook Marketplace and found one for $15 dollars.  My next plan was to shop for acrylic at the hardware store.  Now I’ve never bought this material so I wasn’t sure what to expect on cost and whoa yep, it’s expensive.  I’m not sure if it is because of the current demand due to coronavirus, but it’s quite a bit more expensive than glass.

I finally settled on an acrylic from Lowe’s after looking on many many MANY sites for the best deal with the best thickness and the proper size for my frame.  I was really pleased with the acrylic I purchased.  It was easy to fasten to the wood and did not crack.  It is thick enough that is not going to bend or break if someone touches (hits) it too hard.

So let’s get to the steps of how I recreated this super sweet outdoor easel!

Step 1:  You need to figure out what your frame is going to be made out of.  You could use a sawhorse like I did.  I also thought about buying a used easel on Facebook Marketplace, but since I have two kids I thought it would be difficult for one of them to access it on the alternate side.  And, ahem, let’s be real–they don’t share all that well.  Other ideas included making my own wooden frame with lumber or a step ladder.

This is what I decided to use:

 

This sawhorse required a great deal of sanding so I used a belt sander using a coarse and fine grit sandpaper. You could use another sander, but this is what I had available to me. After going over it a few times it was smooth and ready for the next steps.

Step 2: I wanted to deepen the color a bit. I figured well, I’m spending all this time on this easel so I might as well make it lovely! Again, I had on hand some wood stain so I decided to use it to give the sawhorse a nice color. I used Minwax in the color special walnut. I dig it! Not too dark, not too light…Goldilocks approves!

 

Step 3: I then used a water sealer on the sawhorse. Since this was going to be an outdoor tool, I thought it would be best to give it a bit of water seal protection. I used this spray sealer.

 

Step 4: This next part required some additional hands. My husband helped me hold the acrylic sheets so that we could drill pilot holes through the sheets and the wood at the same time. Then we took 2 inch screws and used a screwdriver to secure the acrylic sheets. We put in two holes on the top, two in the middle and two at the bottom so that it would be very securely attached to the sawhorse. Then we repeated these steps on the other side. I guess if you just wanted a one sided easel you could skip the second side. We have two kids and they always want to do things at the same time–two sides is a necessity in this house :)

*Note* I did read somewhere that you should leave the plastic film on the acrylic when drilling, but we found it was unnecessary for our particular acrylic. We left it on in the beginning, but it was hard to remove once the screws went in so we peeled it off the next time.

Step 5:  This is where I had to get creative in how I wanted to add shelves and water and paint cups.  After many hours of searching on Amazon, Home Depot and Lowes and other rando sites, I finally decided that IKEA had all that I needed.  I purchased two of the Hultarp containers and two of the Nereby shelves (I did end up using water sealer on these too since they are made of wood).  I bought the Hultarp holders because I thought they would attach to the shelves, but they didn’t so I came up with a different idea using metal hooks and a dowel rod, which I secured at the top of the sawhorse frame.  To insert the hooks I drilled a small pilot hole on either side of the top piece of wood and then used my hand to tighten the hooks into the wood.  I then slid the dowel rod through the hooks and added the Hultarp holder.  Super easy!  This will serve as the water cup.  The kids will use this to clean their brushes.

 

Next I added the wall shelves. I will be honest, it was at this point that I smacked myself in the head (Homer Simpson style), sat on the driveway for about 3 minutes staring at the shelf and thinking yo, Rachael you clearly didn’t think this through. The stinking shelf doesn’t have a back on it so the kids’ paint cups would fall off if they pushed too hard! We know that will happen at some point! After some searching and repurposing I decided to use old paint sticks. I sawed them off at the correct length and hot glued them to the back of the shelf. It’s really a seamless look and I’m impressed with my Macgyver skills (pats self on the back).

Here are photos of all of the things I bought from IKEA. I also purchased some of the Kalas kids plastic cups, which are a very affordable option for a paint cup.

Again, I repeated this step on the other side.  After the other side was done, the easel was done!  Woohoo!

Here is the finished product–gleaming in the sunlight!

 

The kids really love it and got very messy. I’d suggest this as more of a summer activity so they can paint in swimsuits and rinse off, but they tried this out in the spring and it was still chilly. I’m not that attached to any of their clothes they wear on a daily basis so I let them get messy and try my best to stain remove dirt and art messes. My method: Any gel stain stick with Oxy Clean sprinkled over top. Works almost every time!

So what was my grand total?  I spent a little over 100 dollars on this easel.  I thought I’d be able to make it for a little less, but still it’s about a 200 dollar savings and I got to use my creative skills.  I love projects!  Have you ever thought about recreating something you’ve seen in stores?  I’d love to hear about it.