Build a tabletop easel in two minutes for $2

23 Jul

Frames on easels With too much framed art for our walls, I wanted to be able to move any frame from the wall to a table and back again as desired. Unfortunately, frames designed to hang on the wall usually don’t come with a hinged stand because the weight of the stand makes the frame hang crooked on the wall. I looked around for small easels and found that even small, simple easels could be surprisingly expensive. I saw no point in spending $14 for an easel when my frames and art are already so cheap.

Enter my good friends at The Dollar Tree. I found laptop stands there that look like broken, two-legged easels. They’re meant to prop up your laptop from below to allow air circulation to keep things cool. The main legs on each stand are adjustable to a variety of lengths. I had a brainstorm and bought all of the black laptop stands I could find at $1 apiece.

With the addition of a few carefully-placed zip ties, a pair of laptop stands becomes an adjustable tabletop easel that can accommodate different sizes of frames and display a frame at any desired angle. That’s quite a bargain for $2 (or perhaps $3 for the first one if you need to buy zip ties). These are great if you have a lot of art and/or don’t want to put holes in your walls.

Laptop stands as raw materialsLaptop stand instructions

Clearly, no sane person needs this many laptop cooling stands. Each stand has four legs, including two adjustable-length legs with peg-like feet at the ends and two (shorter) fixed-length legs with molded feet. In their usual application, the stands resemble demented, spindly insects squashed beneath toasty laptops. Of course, we will not be using them in the usual manner at all.

First step for easel assemblyView of connected hingesAlternate view of connected hinges

To start, I stacked the two stands hinge-to-hinge and secured the hinges together loosely with a pair of zip ties. Next, I laid the bottom stand flat on the table and held the upper stand at a 45-degree angle while I tightened the zip ties. With this arrangement, the two stands are held together tightly, while the angle of the upper stand can be adjusted up and down due to the slight flex in the zip ties.

The legs on the upper stand with support the back of the frame. I used one last zip tie to secure these legs together so they could not drift apart and drop the frame. To increase the stability of the easel, I pulled the smaller, nonadjustable set of legs on the bottom stand to the inside of the hinge, where they help keep the easel balanced while remaining hidden. They aren’t meant to sit in that position, so it takes a little brute force (be grateful for cheap, flexible plastic). Clip the ends of all zip ties, and you’re finished.

Easel rear viewEasel and art

The final product is versatile, adjustable, and inexpensive while remaining discreet in appearance. Adjust the lower legs and upper legs to your liking and lock them in place at the right length for the intended frame. The adjustable legs on the stands make it easy to play with different lengths and angles for your easel. The easel is barely visible from the front, and it easily supports the weight of a picture frame, even one with real glass. Other colors of stands are available (I saw red, blue, silver), so you could even coordinate your easels with your art. Black, of course, remains a versatile and professional-looking choice. At $2 per easel, they’re quite a steal.

Space-saving hint: you can push the rear corner of the easel off the back edge of the tabletop. The weight of the frame is concentrated above the forward legs, so it will not tip over easily. This is great for maximizing the space on a dresser while still adding some modular decorations.


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  1. marybeth.fedor

    07/28/2011 at 9:53 am

    you are a genius!