My customised Frazer Price Palette Box

As an avowed bargain hunter, I take great pleasure in browsing the rich and varied offerings of the local charity shops. Sadly it’s something I rarely have the time or opportunity to do much of these days (which is probably no bad thing!). I did, however, have a few spare moments the other day and found myself immersed in a small stack of old copies of the Leisure Painter. I was leafing through them in a slightly aimless fashion, mainly paying note to any of the cover headlines to see if any artists that I’m particularly interested in were featured. This November 1996 issue caught my eye because it had John Yardley’s name on the cover.

Leisure Painter cover, November 1996
Leisure Painter cover, November 1996

On leafing through this, what caught my eye was not the John Yardley feature, but some of the small ads.

Surprisingly, one of the most visited pages or posts on this site is from when I purchased my first  Frazer Price Palette Box. The reason I think it’s so well visited is that when someone uncovers or inherits one of these relative rarities, who may often have no interest in painting, they google the name to find out a little more and I think my blog post comes up on the search results. Or, if someone sees one advertised for sale, they do the same and end up finding my post. For as many queries that appear in the comments section, I’ve had just as many ‘private’ enquiries – more often than not seeking advice or thoughts on how much it might be worth!

There’s even one listed on ebay right now that actually quotes brushes with watercolour in the description! (please note that this link may cease to work after the auction has ended!)

So it was this original advert for the Frazer Price Palette Box in the Leisure Painter that particularly caught my eye:

Original 1996 advert for the Frazer Price Palette Box
Original 1996 advert for the Frazer Price Palette Box

I think I did mention this in my previous post but, as this is something I find quite fascinating, here it is again! This was originally sold for £35. Using the Bank of England online inflation calculator – the equivalent cost for this in 2016 would have been £60.29 (or approx $79). While I have seen these change hands on ebay for much more than this – I’ve also seen some snapped up for not much more than the price of 20 years of inflation!

In the same issue, there was another add for the much coveted Craig Young Paint Box.

Original 1996 advert for the Craig Young Paint Box
Original 1996 advert for the Craig Young Paint Box

As you can see, back in 1996 these were available for £150. In today’s currency, that now equates to £258.39. To buy a new one direct, based on current prices, would cost £280. While this is still a whole lot of money to spend on a watercolour palette, it’s only just above the inflation price of 20 years ago, which I think really puts it into perspective.

As for my Frazer Price Palette Box – it’s still much loved, but little used! I still tend to use my Holbein 500 palette for most of my painting. That’s not to say however that I haven’t used the Frazer Price Box at all! In fact, I’ve customised it a little just to suit my own personal preferences a little more!

Originally, in the main left hand compartment, there was a mini water container that had a couple of recesses on it for washes, and a couple of small wells for water for washing brushes in.

My Frazer Price Palette Box showing the water bottle with recessed mixing wells and the small water wells
My Frazer Price Palette Box showing the water bottle with recessed mixing wells and the small water wells
My customised Frazer Price Palette Box with new deeper mixing wells and a hanging water container
My customised Frazer Price Palette Box with new deeper mixing wells and a hanging water container

I found that both of these were a little too small for my needs, so I have removed these and replaced them with some more generous / deep compartments for mixing paint in, and I bought a water container (that came as part of a set of three from Jacksons Art Supplies) that hangs perfectly on the side of the palette box and enables me to work with much more water.

Even seeing this photo makes me want to use this more! Happily, I’ll be off on my summer vacation in the next few weeks and this will definitely be coming with me!

Are there any other Frazer Price devotees out there? What’s your palette of choice? Who knows, it’s never too late to add another one to my collection!

Thoughts on My customised Frazer Price Palette Box

33 thoughts on “My customised Frazer Price Palette Box”

  1. I have the Frasier-Price palette and discovered that a common soy sauce dish that measures 2.5″ x 4″ x 1″ is an almost perfect fit, and is made of white porcelain. The dish I have was manufactured by Cordon Bleu, made in China. An adhesive magnetic layer under it will keep it securely in place.

    1. Many thanks for this and I’ve already passed this on to someone else that was looking for a similar solution! I think that porcelain is so much nicer to mix on than plastic so thanks very much for this helpful tip! (I’ve not put an enamel dish into mine which I’m really enjoying painting with!)

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  4. Hi all.
    I am very fortunate to have had one of these
    Pallette boxes from their first launch .
    Beautiful piece of design and utility .
    I never go away without it but am amazed
    To see them selling at £200.00 + .
    I also have the very beautiful Rowney 1795
    Repro mahogany box . But the one that
    travels is the Frazer Price !

    1. Hi Tony and thanks for getting in touch – always a pleasure to meet another Frazer Price fan! Great too to know that they can obviously stand the test of time too – sounds like yours have had a fair bit of use since you first bought it!?

  5. John, I didn’t know you had this too. But love the customization. I have the same palette from Daniel Smith (25 yrs old!) as well as the water container which I will now put together, thanks to you!


    1. Hi Shari and thanks for this! So delighted to learn that you have one of these too – really hope that the water container works for you! (I only wish I could wield mine as brilliantly as you do!)

  6. I love how you’ve customized it. I have that three compartment water container. In the U.S. it’s put out by Guerrilla painter and is available on Amazon and from Judson’s Outfitters. I think either Blick’s or Jerry’s Artarama also carry them. I get some of my supplies from Jackson’s in the U.K and they also might carry it.

    I also was curious about the mixing wells you had in there but read how you bought some plastic ones and cut them up. I’ll have to look into that. I might be able to find one in the stores rather than having to order online for such an inexpensive item. Unfortunately the ones I have that are similar are all ceramic.

    I’ll have to get out my set of three water containers and my F-P box and see if I can fit two of them on there so I’d have one for dirty and one for clean water. Now another trick I’ve tried, albeit not with this box, is bird cage feeders. There are some little half circle bowls that clip on to bird cages that I’ve used for water. Not as deep but might fit better. I’ll have to experiment.

    Whatever modifications I make, I want everything to still fit inside the box and have it lock closed.

    1. I got the three tier water containers from Jacksons for not much at all, and the plastic palettes that I cut to size were cheap to buy too. So far I’ve only used one of the water containers on the palette, I’m not sure if it two will fit, plus, once you’ve got water in them, I think it may start to have an adverse effect on the balance of the palette in your hand. So far I’ve found that having a much more generous water container allows me to work wetter (which is my preferred style) and also to keep my washes cleaner too. I haven’t used mine for a while but reading and replying to these comments is making me miss it!

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      1. Thx John! The Bijou is worth what it costs, but I am going to move to a fukl size Roberson next year. I wanted a flexible pocket box, and the Bijou washes can do a full sheet, but in the end being able to keep a bunch of washes going at the same time and have more base colors is probably worth carrying a full size box. One of the uses for wells, btw is … for water, but on the Bijou that means you lose one of two wells. Anyway the Bijou is actually so large that carrying it in a pocket is not feasible in summer clothes 🙂


        1. Thanks Ed – I think I’ve got my sights set on the palette box as it looks most similar to the Holbein 500 and Holbein 1000 palettes that I currently use. Still some way though as I can’t quite equate the investment to any likely improvement! (Although even this little exchange is daring me to bite the bullet!) 😁

      2. John,

        There’s definitely value for money from Craig, but you might look at the usual suspects IBACO, House of Hoffmann, Classic Paintbox and of course … John Hurtley, in the sense of finding or having the craftsman make a box which matches your brush movement and painting style. I am a palette addict, but I avoid bidding for Frazer Price boxes precisely because they don’t match my usage. When I draw nature I always take an old used-buy 24 set of Schmincke paints that match the matte and earthy natural palette, but I must say that while the paints are right, the use of the long box and the absence of deep wash areas is torture.


        1. Wow Ed – first off, apologies for taking so long to reply to this (my holiday prevented me from keeping up to date with correspondence!) – and secondly, thanks for the mouth watering list of palette suppliers! I’m familiar with some that you mentioned, but some were new to me too! I think it’ll be a while before I make the leap to this level of palette (I’ve already stockpiled quite a supply of my current favourite Holbein palettes), although I do like the idea of treating myself to something really special – but this will totally depend on future sales!

      3. Hi I have the Frazer Price palette and I would like to custumised it the same way you did. Would you be kind enough to tell me where to find the deep compartment mixing parts. Thank you kindly

        1. Hi Josette – nice to meet another Frazer Price fan!! I can’t recall exactly where I got mine from, somewhere on ebay I think but I think it’s a pretty standard palette. Here’s a link to a similar example but you may just need to check the dimensions:
          As it was so cheap, I just took a chance with mine. I think I had to use a small hacksaw to cut it down in size but I basically had to cut it in half (to give to two sets of three wells) and then cut off all of the edges so they’d fit into the palette. I then glued the two bits together so that they’d sit level in the palette. If you send me your email address via the contact page, I can send you a couple of pictures to that might make this clear! I then used a bit of sandpaper just to tidy up the edges. Hope that this is of some help Josette but drop me your email if you want me to send through a few pics.

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    1. Hmm tricky to advise really! I’d say my hands are on medium size but you don’t have to use the thumb hole. You can hold it in a variety of ways and as the two main mixing areas are self-supporting, you just need to find a comfortable hold on the main compartment (if that makes any sense at all!)

    1. Sorry to hear that David. I think they originally made around 5,000 of these. Most of those that I’ve seen have been in the U.K. but I’m sure some will have made it to the States!

    2. Keep trying. I had that happen twice but eventually won two. When it rains it pours. There were two on auction and I placed bids on both. Don’t do that unless you are really sure you want a box. You may end up with both of them. But I’m not complaining. BTW don’t pay attention to what eBay says. Sometimes if you contact the seller they will agree to ship to the U.S. if you agree to pay extra for shipping. In my case, I had a friend in the U.K. that was willing to have one of the boxes sent to her and she forwarded it to me. I sent her Euros to cover the cost as I had no pounds.

      1. Quite agree with this advice. I did the same the other way round, where I bought a vintage palette in the states and contacted the seller to plead with them to ship it over if I won it. Often people need to know you’re genuine before they’ll be willing to go that little extra and I quite understand that.

    1. Good luck! There’s been a little flurry of them cropping up on eBay recently. If I remember correctly, the final prices have ranged from around £55 to £115 – so quite a variance! Let me know if you’re successful.

        1. Haha – don’t worry – I won’t publish all three! Reviewing the comments just helps me filter out some of the spam that slips through the WordPress filtering process!

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