When Winsor and Newton started putting their artist pans and half-pans in plastic boxes I felt a deep sense of disappointment. An era was ending. An era where craftsmanship and durability was paramount, was giving way to one of mercantile flexibility and sales. The Winsor and Newton Metal box is a classic. The box is made of sold metal. It has deep wells for mixing washes and holds the pans perfectly in place. With its black enamel cover, it reminds one of the days when everything built in England was of the highest quality.
Recently, I was able to acquire an old abused Winsor and Newton box. The place holders for the pans were rusted and broken off, and the base of the box was also rusted and uninviting, but it was still as solid as the day it was built and the outside of the box was as good as new. I needed to find a way to cover the base and a means to hold the paint pans in place.
After taking measurements of my box, I went to the local hardware store and walked the isles thinking it through before I finally got it. I bought a white peal and stick tile, a length of shelf edging (3/4") and some large staple gun staples. That was all that I needed.
I began by cutting a piece of the tile to fit in the box. These tiles are flexible and can be easily cut with strong scissors. Next I cut three pieces of the shelf edging to the size of the box length as well. Because the staple gun will not drive a staple through the plastic of the edging or the core of the tile piece, I had to drill very small holes in the edging and the tile to fit the heavy staples in. With that done, I held the edging in place and threaded the staple through the edging and the tile. I folded the ends and pressed them firmly in place with pliers. Once I was done placing the three lines of edging on the tile, I slid the tile in place in the box. I could have pealed the bottom of the tile off and stuck it to the base of the box, but I decided not to do that. I could then easily remove the whole thing and clean the box when needed.
Once I had the tile in place, I put the half pans in the shelf edging. The half pans fit snugly in there and don't move. It is as if the shelf edging was made for them. Now I had an excellent paint box functional in every way and I had saved a well used Winsor and Newton Metal box and gave it a new life.
It is a shame that Watercolor boxes are not in common use in North America as
they are in Europe. I strongly urge the reader to try them. Maybe if more people
start using them on this side of the pond, better material will start getting
marketed here. Contrary to popular belief, one can get very strong colors from
pans, all one needs to do is wet the pans and let them stand for a minute or two
and the result will be colors as strong as freshly squeezed colors from a tube.