Drafting Board

My well traveled drafting board

I’ve had several people inquire about the drafting board I have in my workshop. Like my workbench it’s evolved through several incarnations and the current version serves my needs quite well. Most notably, it folds flat and can be carted across country and used on film sets and at woodworking events I occasionally speak at. I also like the fact that it can be set up on the dining room table or on my workbench for that matter. Often in preparation for a video shoot or a speaking engagement, I’ll produce scores of drawings. It’s a pleasure to set up on the back patio and draw out in the open air. In case you would like to build one this couldn’t be simpler. The drawing surface itself is simply a piece of cabinet grade veneered plywood (in this case cherry) wrapped in a frame of inch thick poplar. The board is approximately 30” high by 36” wide but that’s completely arbitrary. I used a dado set to create a tongue and groove joint that locks the panel to the frame. The board is left unfinished to cut down on glare. The bottom of the frame has a lip to catch drawing tools and it provides some material to screw a pair of hinges to the back.

Simple props adjust the tilt of table

I used half lap joints to construct a framework that’s hinged to the board itself. I adjust the tilt of the table with a couple of props that rest in a series of V shaped grooves at the rear of that bottom frame. In practice I seldom adjust the table tilt once it’s comfortable. Probably most important to me is the location. I’ve managed to shoehorn it in just off the end of the workbench. It’s clamped to a base made earlier for a router table that no longer sees much action. I consider myself a woodworker first and a designer second. Much of my design work is done as the project goes along, with many design decisions made at the bench rather than on paper. It’s what works for me.

For any of you wondering why I’m still in the knuckle dragging stone-age of paper and pencil. I’ve found that drawing skills (including freehand drawing) spill over and cross pollinate with the hand and eye skills needed to guide a chisel at the workbench. Somehow drawing with a mouse doesn’t do the same thing for me.  

George R. Walker

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About walkerg

Woodworker and writer
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7 Responses to Drafting Board

  1. jared says:

    thanks George!!!!

  2. jared says:

    long live the paper and pencil. drawing with a mouse is like velveta cheese, close but not quite.

    oh, by the way. I am in the process of design a couple pieces for a very close friend/architect, who is building a hotel in ecuador. he came over to see the progress and saw all dividers strewn all over my work table. he was so intrigued that i was actually using dividers, i think he thought i was a bit crazy and had lost it. after a couple minutes showing him what your video described, he was hooked. i can’t believe these techniques are almost lost to modern designers! why? thanks so much for un-earthing these lost gems!

    best,

    j

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  4. Tico Vogt says:

    Hi George,

    That looks excellent! I never considered drawing at an angle like that. Another tool made accessible and enjoyable to use, therefore it gets a lot of use.

    It’s interesting how the tactile feeling of the pencil on the paper translates somehow into an internal sense of actually building.

    Building anything takes time; trees take time to grow, boards and sticks get get dimensioned one sawtooth to the next, edges planed as the iron travels its course, a line gets drawn from one point to the next…

  5. Jeff says:

    Nice board! How does the cherry ply resist pencil marks (dents)? Is it all veneer, or is there a thin MDF substrate below the cherry?
    Thanks for the post,
    Jeff

    • walkerg says:

      Jeff,

      It’s just standard plywood. Up to now(after four years of use) I haven’t had an issue with the surface getting too dinged up. I’m sure given enough time it may get a few rough spots from divider points. One note, when using dividers to step off a proportion I use a fairly light touch. I do this more for consistancy and accuracy, but it also cuts down on damage to the board. Several of the period design books I have studied have a section on building a small drafting board. This is my take on it with the exception of using plywood rather than solid timber for the field.

      • Jeff says:

        Thanks very much – even though I have a foot in both camps, I still love the feel of drafting by hand. This really helps to settle my mind on a design for my own board I’ve been working on.
        Jeff

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