4 Stars By canticles on 2016-06-27
Solid Drawing Easel With Some Quibbles
I got this Mont Marte tripod easel today. It's always a bit nerve-racking to open up a package that contains a hefty purchase based off of almost no reviews and only a few pictures to go by. So hopefully, here's a review of this product substantial enough for you to make an informed buying decision.
The first thing that might be obvious is that this is a plein air drawing easel. Since it is portable, there will be a natural comparison with the French box easel. If you are a painter, you should be looking at a French box easel, as it provides nearly all the features of this easel in addition to the box to hold painting supplies. If you, however, are mainly an artist who draws, then you may consider this easel, as it casts off the French box and saves you space and weight.
Doing a bit of research, you will see many other plein air tripod easels like this one. In fact, you will find that they fold and open the same way as this, but they will cost roughly half the price. The main design difference between this Mont Marte easel and the others are the inclusion of the carrying handle and the tool tray on this easel. So, keep in mind when you're considering buying this easel that you are paying about twice as much as another similar tripod easel for the added features of a handle and a tray. For me, the addition of the tray was worth the cost, as I would rather have my tools in front of me when I draw instead of having to rely on my art bin or a separate tray next to me. This would especially be the case if I'm working outdoors.
The tool tray, by the way, is pretty roomy, and you have enough real estate to put your charcoal, pencil, sharpening knife, chamois, eraser, and stump, with plenty of space left for other things.
The one flaw in the tray design, though, is that it's not self-contained with the folding mechanics of the easel. All other parts slide and swivel together when you need to fold up the easel, but the tray has to be detached by way of two screws and bundled together with the folded easel by a pair of Velcro strips. I was, however, surprised to find that when you put the tray on the back of the folded easel, the tray was designed to slide nicely into place among the other parts and not just sit on top of everything as though it had no business being there. So that was a very nice touch on the part of the designer, and the thoughtfulness of that idea is not taken for granted.
Once folded, the easel is a bit longer than I had anticipated. It measures about 36" in length. The carrying handle is in a good place, as the easel balances very well when picked up in its compact form. I would rather have a shoulder bag of some sort to lug it around, since an artist who draws tends to have one hand on an art bin and the other on a sketchboard. But getting a carrying bag to accommodate 36" could be pricey. So at minimum, you get an intrinsic handle to carry it.
As mentioned above, two strips of Velcro keep the easel folded together. But unlike the carrying handle, the strips of Velcro are not attached to the easel. They are separate, and when the easel is unfolded, you don't really have a place to put them. Personally, I just loop them around the carrying handle to not lose them.
The unfolding part of this easel is a bit of a challenge at first go. You probably wouldn't think it much of a struggle looking at it, but I would say it's tougher than trying to assemble a French box easel the first time around.
In concept, the tripod design is easy enough to figure out. You have to release all the parts by unscrewing the various hand knobs. One screw, for the mast, is operated by a screw with a hand lever. Once you loosen all the screws, you extend three legs and the mast. You swivel out the mast, and if you tighten everything back up, the basic setup is finished.
In practice, however, trying to get everything to balance correctly and making sure both front legs remain at the same length when you try to join them correctly to the mast is cumbersome. This easel also comes with the bonus feature of additional base clamps. The mast itself provides a base clamp to hold your canvas or board. But below that are a pair of additional base clamps that move independently from each other. If you want to secure a bigger board, you may use these secondary base clamps. But since they move independently from each other, and they sit upon the legs of the easel and are, therefore, influenced by how far you extend the legs, trying to get these base clamps balanced correctly is a chore.
These secondary base clamps are also where you attach the tool tray. And trying to get the tray leveled while everything else is moving is a bit like tinkering with a Rubik's cube through trial and error: after you get one side solved, you mess it up when you try to solve another side. Obviously, this challenge is much more forgiving, but there is that bit of frustration in setting up this easel. It took me about seven minutes to get it right on the first go, even though I managed to set up the seemingly more complicated French box easel in a couple of minutes on my first try. So, there might be a steeper learning curve to getting this easel set up than you might have guessed.
Once you have this easel unfolded, it stands at a giant 74" when extended to its fullest. The top clamp is adjustable, able to go all the way to the top of the mast. On my easel, this top clamp seems to stick, and it doesn't slide very smoothly.
In terms of canvas size, it appears the biggest canvas that will fit between the top clamp and the secondary base clamps would be about 43.5".
After a few tries at folding and unfolding this easel, I would say the key to getting it set up properly is to have conviction when you do it. When you extend the legs, you have to mean it. You have to know you want those legs extended so far, then tighten the screws to lock them into place. Then you move on to adjusting a different part. You don't really want to have all the screws loose, then try to figure everything out at once. That'll just mess you up. Set things up as though they're supposed to be that way, no matter what shape the easel is in, then start adjusting part by part.
Some people may be interested to know if this easel can double as a table top easel, and I would say no. You may possibly manipulate it enough to sit upon a flat surface, but I believe it would highly limit the canvas size. I would judge that a French box easel would make a better table top easel than this one.
A list of pros and cons below:
- Seemingly durable quality.
- Light weight.
- Fairly compact when folded, considering how big it is unfolded.
- Takes up less than half the width of a French box easel.
- Balances well when the legs are set properly.
- When unfolded, you may pick it up with one hand, by the top of the mast, and carry it around with confidence (in contrast, carrying around an unfolded French box easel can be less than stellar).
- The mast can swivel into a horizontal position for working with watercolors.
There's really one con for me about this easel, and it's a big one. In the top clamp, there is no groove in which to set your board securely in place. A lot of plein air easels have grooves in both the top and bottom clamps. This groove was originally made for the French box easel to give a space between the canvas and the easel so that when you're done painting, you may flip your oil painting around and lock it between the clamps and still have space between the surface of your still-wet painting and the surface of your easel to prevent smearing. But aside from protecting your painting from smearing, this groove in the clamp also helps lock your board in place.
Every plein air easel I've seen has had this feature. It's so ubiquitous that I figured it was just standard and didn't bother looking for it on this easel before buying it. It would be as if I had to make sure a knife I was interested in buying had a handle.
But on this easel, instead of being able to secure your board by way of locking it into a groove, you are relying on friction against a smooth wooden block. And since this is supposed to be a portable easel, I'm mystified as to why they would design the clamps this way. It's not as if it's a studio easel where once you have your canvas in place, it stays there for basically the life of its creation. With a portable easel, you may be switching out canvases or changing the orientation of your sketchboard, or going from newsprint, to colored paper, to Bristol board in a class. And each time you make a switch, you would probably want to be able to secure your board quickly with confidence that it's locked in place.
For now, I've tested the clamp with my sketchboard, and it did hold firmly on the easel. Nevertheless, I was very disappointed to find the aforementioned feature missing. If you look at every other plein air easel, literally every single one of them has grooves or an overhang in the clamps. And every other Mont Marte easel has these clamps, as far as I can see. But this one design--of all easels--does not. If you find that feature unnecessary, this won't be a problem for you, but admittedly, if I had been aware of this missing feature, I would not have purchased this easel. Since I now own it, I'll have to make do with it.
Overall, this is a nice portable drawing easel to have, with some qualifications. For those who don't focus on painting, this easel discards the French box that may be bulky or weighty, and gives the essentials of a plein air easel. In contrast to many of the other similar portable tripod easels out there, this one also offers a tool tray and an intrinsic handle. The tool tray, however, is separate from the easel and requires unscrewing in order to attach and detach the tray. I've dropped the hand knob while unscrewing the tray a few times already, so there is potential to lose a hand knob if you're outdoors. The easel folds very compactly, although unfolding it can be quite a task. Once assembled, it can handle quite a large canvas size, but the clamps have no grooves for locking in the canvas or sketchboard, and rely simply on friction. If the shortcomings are not significant to you, and you think the tray or handle is worth twice the price of other easels similar to it, then this is a solid easel to own.
5 Stars By SeedStrike on 2017-09-25
I got this easel about two weeks ago, and I am satisfied with it. Before the purchase, I've read some negative reviews about this product and I would say most of these reviews are nonsense.
Here we are. A plein air easel, it's not like a french box could put every painting stuff in the drawer but really, it's can save lots of space and money. It's portable with a black handle on the side to let you pull up the easel with no trouble.
After digging on 2DayDeliver trying to find a perfect easel for me, I made my choice of this one. Compare to others, this one has a great feature that is the tray. For me, I am willing to put some stuff on the tray and it's really saved my space.That tray is spacious, I can put lots of stuff on that, charcoal, pencil, easer, mix board, and some painting oils.
The installation is accessible; there are some screws on the each leg, the only thing you need to do is adjust the height and fasten them. For me, took me about 10 mins to make this functional. Most of the parts are spread which means you have to accommodate them one by one. The feature for the mechanism is you can place this easel on the different angle of the ground.
After folding up, the easel is in about 35" and the handle is in the good place where the easel is balanced. Haven't tried to carry it out but I think I can use one of my hand to pick it up and another hand (maybe shoulder) to carry other stuff. So overall, I like this kind of mobility.
So for the size of an unfolded easel, it can fit the biggest canvas we normally use, about 42".
In general, it's a nice easel you can have on 2DayDeliver and I would recommend to anyone.
5 Stars By Chris Ayers on 2016-12-16
fasteners and finish look great and this easel adjusts to hold every canvas she ...
This easel is exactly what I was looking for. I am giving this easel as a gift to my wife. The wood, fasteners and finish look great and this easel adjusts to hold every canvas she will paint on. I love the fact that it is easily portable and looks great too. Suntree did a fabulous job getting the easel to me earlier than I expected. I am thrilled.
5 Stars By Sandy on 2017-10-02
Super cool easel!
We bought this for our daughter who wanted a "real easel" for her birthday. She loves it. It is easy to set up for her. It is great to watch her create her masterpieces for us. It is also nice that she can adjust the legs so that she can grow with this easel.When I receive this easel, no scratches, no stains, well protected package, and very sturdy. It comes with everything it says, and in perfect condition. It is easy to store and it doesn't require assembly, just take it out of the box and done! I highly recommend it to everyone!
2 Stars By artisfire on 2017-05-12
No directions. Doesn't work properly.
I bought this a couple mths ago and never used it because there was no instructions on how to put it together anywhere in the package, as a couple of other reviews have also stated. And as I don't have a smart phone I had to look at the image on my computer and then go to my studio and try to remember what it looked like. Frustrating! And as other reviews have stated, it does not stay put no matter how much you tighten it, which really makes it impossible to use to draw with. For the money, it's really not worth it.
5 Stars By DJ C. on 2017-03-22
Exactly what I wanted!
The product is exactly what I wanted! It came assembled and was not complicated at all to set up - no instructions needed. The wood is beautiful and I love that it is adjustable to be at any height I want - sit on the floor, sit on a chair or stand up. Very sturdy and the tripod legs have rubber feet so it won't scratch the ground and don't slip. Highly recommend.
5 Stars By Marie on 2016-12-11
Very nice easel. Adjust well, holds picture well. Sturdy. Good price. Can't complain.
5 Stars By 2DayDeliver Customer on 2016-05-22
... set it up at first but the easel is great, its not shaking like i was worried it ...
it was a little confusing as to how to set it up at first but the easel is great, its not shaking like i was worried it would be and its pretty easy to adjust
5 Stars By Renee Block on 2017-04-14
Love, love, love my easel. It came quickly, easy to put together, and, it is exactly what I wanted.
1 Stars By Ashley Mielke on 2017-03-15
beat up and poor craftsmanship. Do not waste your money on this ...
The easel arrived late, broken beyond repair in 4 separate places, beat up and poor craftsmanship. Do not waste your money on this product.