This is how I prepared my latest panel: a 36x48x1/4 inch oak plywood panel.
I bought a sheet of 4x8 foot oak panel at the hardware store, cut a 36x48 inch piece from it. I mitred some pieces of select pine to "cradle" the panel. These were then glued into place around the edges, and three additional pine pieces were glued across the back for bracing.
I used a bungee cord to pull it tight at the corners (photo 1), then And it was clamped along the entire length as it was glued (photo 2), then I weighed the braces down (since I didn't have clamps wide enough to reach across the panel - photo 3.)
This photo should give you a clearer idea of how the panel was constructed.
(I have a router and several dovetail jigs, and plan to dovetail the cradling on my panels from now on.)
Gluing the four pieces of the cradle and the bracing took a couple evenings.
I had been wanting to try Gamblin's "Traditional Gesso" (titanium dioxide, gypsum, animal hide glue, marble dust) for quite some time. I had purchased some (and a double-boiler) several months ago. I decided to use it on this panel, to see how I liked it.
Last week, I mixed up one batch of the "Traditional Gesso" and applied it to the front of the panel. The gesso gets very thin and runny after heating. I ended up applying four coats, sanding with 150-grit sandpaper between the second and third coats, and 220-grit sandpaper between the third and fourth coats. Preparing the panel with gesso took three evenings.
The panel's surface is super-smooth, and very white, and has a slight "chalky" feel.
Why paint on panel? (And, why go to all this time and trouble?)
Firstl, I don't like the "give" of stretched canvas, especially when working this size. Painting on panel feels very much like painting on illustration board, which I did for many years as an airbrush artist. Second, I don't like the canvas' texture. If I want texture in my paintings, I want to put it in, myself. Otherwise, I want the surface to be very smooth, far smoother than canvas usually is.
The trouble is because I want to know what it's like to paint on "real" gesso, as opposed to the "plastic"-feeling acrylic-based stuff. I might not like it (and for that, and many other reasons, this whole painting could fall apart, and I would either have to start over, or scrap it altogether. Either way, I'll have learned something.)