By: Plein air painter from California, USA on 04/28/2011
I've taken this easel out for plein air painting twice so far, and I'm very satisfied with my purchase.
It takes the same amount of effort to set up as any other french easel, but it seems sturdier than most. Unlike other easels at this price point, it's made from beech, just like the more expensive Julian and Mabef models. The wood is beautifully finished and the drawer has dove-tail joints. One of the main reasons I choose the Craftech easel is the shelf that slides on to expand the workspace. I rest my Masterson palette box on it. If it didn't have this shelf, I would probably have had to spend extra money to buy a "handishelf" or a French mistress. The paper towel holder is a nice addition, too.
Unlike most french easels, this one does not come with a palette. That's not a problem for me because I use a paper palette in a Masterson box. Nor is the drawer metal-lined. That wasn't a deal-breaker for me, either. I put my paints and brushes in my tote bag, along with my paper towels, solvent container, Liquin, palette box, trash bag, water bottle, lunch, etc. But the drawer is large enough that I could fit my paints and brushes in it if I wanted to. The drawer is larger than a half-drawer, yet the easel doesn't weigh much more than a half-drawer easel. That's a big point in its favor, as far as I'm concerned.
One other difference between this easel and other french easels is the canvas holders. If you look closely at the picture, you'll see that this easel has plastic bumpers attached to the canves holders instead of grooves routed in the wood to hold a panel or a canvas. On the plus side, this does allow you to paint to the top and bottom edges of the panel. On the negative side, the bottom bumpers are too far apart to hold a smaller panel. So far I've worked on 11x14 panels, which fit just fine. But if I want to work on a panel that is less than 9 inches in width, I will have to jerryrig something. Craftech should have added two (shorter) bumpers inbetween to hold smaller panels. I'll probably get my husband to cut a piece of wood to rest on the bumpers when I want to use a smaller panel.
All in all, I'm very satisfied with my purchase. I was a little nervous about buying a less expensive easel instead of spending big bucks and getting a Mabef. But the quality of the Craftech Plein Air easel was much higher than I would have expected for this price. I would definitely recommend this easel and I would recommend the Craftech brand. They put some thought and craftmanship into this instead of just making a cheap knockoff of a french easel. I would also order again from Madison Art. My easel arrived within days of ordering it.