Tools needed: a small hammer, pliers, scissors or knife, an adjustable wrench, or better, a 10mm wrench or socket wrench.
Start by removing the weight plates and the four boxes from the main carton. Open the box that contains the casters and some carriage bolts and wing nuts, the solvent canisters with lids and brushwasher screens, and the weight hook. Remove the center mast with its upper and lower canvas holders which is tucked in with the easel. Loosen the canvas holders and slide them off the center mast.
Install the casters: Pull the easel out of the crate, and flip it over, perhaps resting the easel on the crate. This is the only heavy part of the whole process where it may help to have a friend handy. Thread the four casters into the holes on the bottom of the easel base. NOTE: Two of the casters are plain, the other two are locking (they have lever mechanisms attached). The locking casters go to the front of the easel, the plain ones to the back. It's harder to tell front and back with the whole thing upside down and folded up, but the back crossbrace is the one with two dowels or pegs sticking up (currently sticking down since it's upside down).
The casters come with a small wrench of their own to use. The threads will work a bit more easily if you rub a little of the wood lubricant (included if you purchased the easel from me), or candle wax on them. You don't have to thread them to the last little bit, just be sure all four have about the same amount of insertion so the easel won't wobble on a flat floor. Flip the easel right side up and rest it on the floor.
The tilt adjustment legs (they're like the skinny side support legs with slots in the upper half) are not attached to the top of the easel. Loosen the two knobs on each leg and slide the upper leg up to the hole that's next to the hook on the back side of the main uprights and attach them with the two short carriage bolts and wing nuts. These bolts should only be snug, not tight.
Raise the easel: Make sure the four side support knobs are loose. If you still have a friend handy, have him hold the base of the easel while you pivot the main assembly into an upright position. If you're alone, lock the front casters, and rest one foot on the back crossbrace, between the two upright dowels, and lift the assembly upright. Tighten the four side support knobs. These are the easel tilt adjustment knobs.
Install the center mast: Before installing the center mast, remove the two knobs on the front of the paint tray and the two washers. Go around to the back and pull the paint tray clamping bar off the easel. This makes it easier to install the center mast wing nuts.
The center mast has four holes drilled in the bottom end, and two at the upper end. The two at the upper end are partially countersunk on one side. These larger countersunk holes face toward the front.
You will be using one set of holes at the bottom, and one hole at the top. Which set of holes you use depends on your studio ceiling height. Using the lowermost set of holes will give you the greatest canvas height capacity, but will need a higher ceiling. The upper set of holes will continue to give you the greatest range of vertical motion, but will not accept as tall of a canvas. It only takes a few moments to change this if you find you don't have a tall enough space. A ten-foot ceiling height is about the break-even. Use the lower holes (which will make the easel taller) if you have more than ten feet.
Put two of the gold carriage bolts through the two holes on the face of the paint tray. Tap the bolts with a hammer until they are seated onto the wood. Align one of the sets of lower holes with the bolts and push the center mast onto them, adding the washers and the wing nuts. Don't tighten the wing nuts yet.
Go up to the top of the center mast and push the third carriage bolt through the counter-sunk hole and into the hole of the upper cross brace. You will probably need to tap this bolt lightly with a hammer to get it fully seated into the countersunk hole so the bolt head does not stick up above the surface of the center mast. Again, add the washer and the wing nut.
Before tightening the three wing nuts, make sure your easel is on a level surface. Adjust the tilt knobs so the easel is vertical from front to back. Face the easel and make sure that it is vertical in this plane as well (from side-to-side); that it is not "racked" out of square. If there is any side to side sway in the easel put it in the center of its range of motion. Now go around to the back and tighten the wing nuts by hand, then add a half turn or so with the pliers.
This is also the time to use a wrench to snug up the twelve locknuts you can see on the back side of all three upper cross braces.
Replace the paint tray clamping bar and its two washers and knobs. In using the easel, these knobs are tightened when you want to lock the canvas at a certain height. Leave them a little loose for now.
Hanging the counterweights: Facing the back of the easel, you will have already seen the rope and 2 pulleys. They may still be attached in their working position, but chances are they will have slipped off in shipping and be lying in a heap on your studio floor.
The rope is already attached at each end to a hook eye. At the top of the easel on each side where the side supports join the main easel body is a hook. Run the rope through your fingers from the right hook eye at the bottom up to the right hook at the top, and hang the pulley nearest your fingers on the right hook.
Do the same with the left side and you will now have the rope running up one side to a pulley, drooping down toward the center, and back up to the other pulley and down to the other side's screw eye. It forms an "M".
Now get out the weight hook from the parts you removed from the crate. It looks like an over-sized pair of fish hooks that are joined at the top. One side of the hook is longer than the other side. Hang the hook so the short side of the hook faces the front of the easel. Hang the weight hook on the rope in the approximate middle of drooping rope (it will find the exact center by itself when in use).
Hang the heaviest (25lb.) weight plate on the short side of the hook. This 25 lb. weight always remains on the easel. The longer hook of the weight plate is facing toward the rear. You'll hang additional weights there when using larger or heavier canvases.
The paint tray and main mast should now slide up and down fairly easily, aided by the counterweight. It will slide much more easily if you take the wood lubricant stick (or a candle) and rub it wherever wood rubs wood, on the face of the main supports where the paint tray overlaps it, on the slotted sliding carriage pieces, and on the back of the center mast where it slides across the upper cross braces. Put a couple of drops of oil or WD-40 on the pulleys to make them work more smoothly and quietly.
Canvas Supports: Adding the upper canvas support is easy, just slide it onto the center mast from the top of the mast. The bracket rides in the grooves, and is tightened into place with the knob.
The lower support clamps onto the center mast by removing the two knobs and washers, and pulling the rear piece of wood with its two carriage bolts apart from the main section. The main (or front) piece of the support straddles the center mast, and the rear piece, which provides the clamping action, is re-connected to the front piece with the two carriage bolts, washers, and knobs.
Yeah, you're done! Pop the canisters into their holes, re-insert the brush rests if they've fallen out (or remove the tape that's holding them), add a roll of paper towels, and you're ready to go.
Using the Easel: Tighten the lower canvas support at your preferred distance above the paint tray. For example, with a medium sized canvas, I tend to like it about 8 inches above the paint tray so that I can easily swish my brush across the brushwashing screen even when everything is lowered toward the floor. Put your canvas or panel on top of the lower support and slide the upper support down firmly and tighten the knob. That will be the last time you'll need to touch your canvas until you're finished signing your name! The whole assembly should move easily up and down as you change working positions or the part of the larger canvas you want to work on. It helps "break in" the easel if you run it fully up and down several times to distribute the wax. If you're really finicky (like I am) and don't want to wait a couple of months for it to lose all its stiffness, you can rub all the areas that you waxed with 0000 steel wool or a white nylon (Scotchbrite) pad to make it extra slippery.
If the whole assembly wants to drift downward, or is too heavy to lift, add weight to the back. If it drifts up toward the ceiling or is hard to pull down, remove some of the weight from the weight hook. You'll find that 25 pounds is right for the basic easel assembly plus the weight of a stretched canvas up to 20 x 30 or so. When your canvas is "in between" weight increments that you have on hand, you can partially tighten the paint tray knobs to create a little extra drag. And of course you can always tighten the paint tray knobs more fully to lock the canvas at any height.
The dowels on the rear of the base of the easel are for storing extra weight plates. These are cheap and easy to get at any sporting goods store. You can also hang a bucket on the weight hook and add rocks or ??? to add weight as you need it.
Questions? Call or email me if something doesn't seem right. 303-825-4040 or David@StudioEasel.com
Again, thank you, I hope the easel is just what you've been waiting for and that it helps you produce many wonderful paintings!