Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Industrial Options

-By Dan dos Santos

In my experience, most quality furniture that is specifically designed for artists tends to be VERY expensive. Even the simplest of art carts can often run several hundred dollars. This is due to the fact that it's a relatively niche market, and low production numbers means high costs. I can appreciate quality workmanship and am willing to pay extra for it (literally all of my studio furniture is solid oak), but whenever I browse the furniture at an art store, I always feel let down. The quality of the product rarely warrants the exorbitant costs, in my opinion.

Take for example this very simple Dick Blick taboret. Now, I love Dick Blick, are I can personal attest to the quality of their furniture, but I can not fathom what artist would think that this piece of furniture is actually worth the MSRP of $659?!

This Dick Blick taboret is currently 50% off, and is still $316! (MSRP $659)

If you're looking for a new piece of studio equipment, there are quite a few unconventional options you should consider before you purchase something at an art store. Many of these options are of lower cost, and of higher quality than more traditional artist's furniture. Not all of them are pretty, but most are built to stand up to serious abuse and are much easier to clean.

I found all of these products on Amazon, but once you know what you're looking for, I suspect local hardware and automotive stores may actually be an easier and less expensive option.




$95


This is a very common kitchen cart. You can find these at just about any Walmart or Target store. They are very inexpensive, and make wonderful taborets. I like that they have a paper towel holder, making it easy to reach for a rag when working. There is a also a large compartment spacious enough for unsightly trash cans. For the money, I think this is one of the most cost effective options for studio equipment.




$150


Here is a Portable Tool Tray (used often in automotive work). This would make a wonderful taboret to keep next to your easel. You could place a sheet of glass on the work surface to make a palette, and the adjustable height makes it convenient for both standing and sitting work.




$250


Here is piece of equipment I've seen a lot of artists use as a taboret, including Paolo Rivera. These rolling tool chests usually consist of 2 parts, a large bottom half, and stackable top half with a lid. I like this version because it is a single piece and MUCH shorter that more tool chests, which makes it more practical to mix paint on. This option also has the useful feature of a lid. This means you could mix large amounts of paint, and simply close the lid when you're done, preventing the paint from drying too quickly or collecting dust.





$400


Here is a slightly larger version of tool chest above. In addition to having more storage and an extra work surface on top, It also has a socket/screwdriver holder on the side that I bet would hold paintbrushes quite well!




$700


This storage/work table definitely isn't cheap, but man is it beautiful! It's actually marketed as both a workshop table, and a kitchen cart. Like most of the options I've shared here, the entire body is stainless steel and all the drawers are on glides. The butcher block top is both durable and classy. And even though $700 may seem expensive, I challenge you to find a similar sized 'artist's' workbench for less than a $1000.



Industrial options doesn't just extend to furniture. Even simple things like rags, large brushes and color balanced light bulbs are much less expensive to buy at your local hardware store than they are the hobby shop. So look around, try to find unique solutions to your studio problems, or consider making your own!

14 comments:

  1. Fabulous - thanks Dan!
    Now, how about a nice, cheap, metal easel...? :-)

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  2. When I was in college, I needed a workspace beside my table and had little money- I stumbled on one of those adjustable laptop tables at walmart, which fit plastic storage drawers snugly underneath. You could even tilt the table, which was great for my palette!

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    1. Ha! I used the exact same thing for a while.

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  3. Absolutely... I have outfitted my studio with either vintage pieces found at yard-sales or Craigslist (which needed a little TLC or refinishing), or with furniture that I have built myself.

    This started some 10 years ago when I wanted to buy a quality wood split-top drafting table and found the starting price somewhere north of $1200. A couple weeks of research, planning, building, and with about $200 of new and re-purposed wood, I have a lovely Mahogany desk that I use to this day...

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    Replies
    1. I've gone much the same route, and have either modified our have built from scratch just about every piece of furniture in my studio. I typically scour CL for anything made of solid wood that costs less than what I can buy the wood for.

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  4. Oh man, these options are amazing. I'll keep these in mind next time I need to replace some furniture.

    I actually upgraded an old IKEA drawer I had for ages that I used as a taboret - it was about the width and depth of that dick blick option, and as I started to paint more the space wasn't large enough to be of much use. Ended up buying a bunch of wood and some casters from the hardware store and doubled the size of it, now I've got drawers and some shelves that I store rags and mediums, and plenty of space to keep a palette/brushes/etc on top!

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  5. Nice! Thanks so much for posting those. Artists are ripped off on studio equipment for no reason I can see except greed...

    I second Astroluc's Craigslist recommendation. I picked up a very nice drafting table from the industrial era for $80. Fully adjustable, letting me sit or stand to paint, or lies completely flat for cutting mats, etc.

    I also picked up a used hospital bed tray holder for $30. While it doesn't have storage I like the height adjustability so I can bring my palette "with me" with I stand and paint: http://tinyurl.com/hcnhd89

    Harbor Freight is also another good source for tool carts, esp. when you watch for sales or their flyer coupons.

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  6. We just moved and as I was getting settled into my new studio I realized I needed more storage and working space. I just picked up one of these from Home Depot - $150. Tons of space and a wood top! http://www.homedepot.com/p/Husky-39-in-3-Drawer-Mobile-Workbench-Black-HMT-303MWB/206432846

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  7. I got a Seville cart that is about half the size of the one pictured in your post for about $200 at Sam's Club a few months back. I love it! I even splurged and had a piece of glass cut to fit the top. It's not as pretty as some of the elegant wooden taborets I've seen, but it looks fine and the price was so much better. On a related note, do you have any awesome ideas for sturdy easels that will hold large canvases and not cost the earth?

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  9. I bought that exact Winsome kitchen cart to use as a movable workbench with storage. It is surprisingly solid for the price and I really like it. Assembly is a little more advanced than typical though.

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  10. I have been using old metal tool cabinets from garage sales and estate sales as studio furniture. Never paid more than $20 for grandads old tool chest, people will buy the tools and trash the chest, Its a nice feeling that I can honor the spirit of the departed tool-user. I never thought to cut glass for a paint palette before, though- duh...so obvious.

    I use one with shallow drawers for colored pencils, some corrugated cardboard- with the covering sheet torn away to reveal the corrugation- acts as the liner, it really keeps the pencils from rolling around in there.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I have been using old metal tool cabinets from garage sales and estate sales as studio furniture. Never paid more than $20 for grandads old tool chest, people will buy the tools and trash the chest, Its a nice feeling that I can honor the spirit of the departed tool-user. I never thought to cut glass for a paint palette before, though- duh...so obvious.

    I use one with shallow drawers for colored pencils, some corrugated cardboard- with the covering sheet torn away to reveal the corrugation- acts as the liner, it really keeps the pencils from rolling around in there.

    ReplyDelete