Friday, May 22, 2009

Home Made Masonite Panels

Attached are some Masonite panel layouts that I drew up several years ago so that I had some idea of the number of various standard sized panels from one 4'x8' Masonite sheet. With some effort and around $7-$8 for a 4'x8' piece of 1/8" Masonite you can get 10 to 30 home made panels. The 3/16" thickness is $3 or $4 dollars more per sheet.

The actual cut sizes will depend upon the width of the saw blade used to make the cuts. I usually have the lumber yard cut the 4'x8' sheets into two or three manageable sizes (to fit into the back of my car). Sometimes the "big box" stores charge for more than two cuts and they aren't always as accurate as I hope they could be. But, then, neither am I! :-)

When I do not plan to make "canvas panels" (see below), I put on two or three coats of gesso (usually tinted) on the large pieces when I get them home. I use a foam "rubber" paint rollers to apply the gesso. After the gesso has dried I use a clamped straight edge and a fine-toothed jigsaw or a fine-toothed circular saw to cut the large Masonite panels to the sizes I want. There is some "waste" on two of the drawings but those could be used for small (REALLY small) studies?

"Canvas Panels"
Before I apply gesso to the Masonite, and I feel like having some "canvas panels" to paint on, I glue canvas to the panels after they are cut to size. I apply tinted gesso after the glue has dried and the fabric has been trimmed.
There are articles on the web that explain the process better than I can. These are the first three I saw after I Googled "how to make canvas panels". There are MANY more articles out there!

I hope this helps somebody cut the cost of their painting supplies.

Ken B.

30 Panels #5

15 each 9"x12"
15 each 12"x16"
WASTE - 3 each 3"x12"

24 Panels #4
24 each 12"x16"


 31 Panels
16 each 9"x12"
15 each 12"x16"

18 Panels
9 each 12"x20"
9 each 12"x16"

10 Panels
each 18"x24"
WASTE - 2 each 6"x24"


  1. Hi "R". Thanks for looking. I think that I made these diagrams to convince myself that cutting up Masonite was cost effective. I was surprised to actually "see" the number of panels I could cut from one sheet of Masonite. I usually clamp two sheets together then make the cuts. I also had to learn how to cut a straight line! :-)

    Talk to you later.
    Ken B.

  2. Hi Ken, when I used to use masonite, I was taught a 'score and snap' technique. Score with a utility knife against a thick straightedge; place board against the edge of your work table and then snap down. Keeps it pretty straight, but you method sounds easier.

    Curious, when you clamp together, do you get any slippage?

  3. Well, I don't know if sawing is BETTER, it's the only way I knew at the time. I'll try scoring & snapping and try not to cut my fingers off! :-)

    I clamp with multiple "C" clamps and maybe LARGE (i.e. strong) spring clamps. It depends on the length of the cut. But I DO try to cut two layers at a time. (I'm basically a lazy guy)

    Talk to you later.
    Ken B.

  4. THANK YOU SO MUCH for the chart of sizes. That sort of thing is so daunting to me that it has kept me from doing panels myself. Your charts have given me exactly what I needed. Do I understand correctly that you gesso before cutting into smaller pieces? If so, do you then go back and seal the cut edges after you cut? I don't have the equipment to make the cuts myself, but at least now I can tell someone else how I want it cut.

    I did try the score and snap technique today on two paintings I wanted to crop and it worked OK, though I had trouble getting both sides scored exactly the same so had weird edges. I didn't clamp the strait edge though and that's probably why.
    THANKS! Jana

  5. Hi, Jana. I’m happy that my masonite charts were useful to you. I’m a visual person and need pencil & paper whenever I talk about anything conceptual! :-)

    Yes, I DO gesso the large (your definition of large) pieces then cut into smaller pieces. And I “usually” try to seal the edges although I confess that sometimes (most of the time?) I don’t. I also need to touch up the edges where the saw might create chips and I touch up the painting surface where/if necessary.

    I gave up on the score-snap concept. I seemed to always have an uneven edge with jagged edges either protruding or undercutting the painting surface. I don’t know that it matters all that much, it just bothered me. :-)

    As to the equipment – I used a handsaw before I tried a hand-held electric jig saw then graduated to a table saw when I had the room. The hand saw worked well but needed to be sharpened more often as masonite is hard on saw blades. I found some people with power tools wouldn’t cut my masonite cause it would “dull their blade”. Well, DUH, I’d offer to buy a blade for cutting my masonite.


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