Drafting & Architectural Supplies

Hidden Tools of Crafting: Drafting and Architectural Implements

For most people, making arts and crafts may involve painting, drawing with markers, or sculpting with clay. The mediums are manipulated into perfection without the use of precise measurements or mathematical calculations. Other people take a more technical approach to their crafts, especially when undertaking building projects. They want to map their artistic vision out, so there will be no flaws in the finished products. These folks often use implements for drafting and architectural design to help them put their arts and crafts ideas down on paper before turning them into reality.

The most important tool to draftsmen has to be the drafting table desk. This is where all of their ideas will be drawn out on sheets of paper before being initiated. These kinds of tables are also known as drawing boards, and the saying "back to the drawing board" is a direct reference to this role in the creative process. This kind of table has been around since the beginning of the Industrial Age. During that time, a draft table would be very tall and narrow desk made of sturdy wood and brass. It would have large sheets of paper hanging on it, so users could quickly jot down or sketch out their creative thoughts. Today, a vintage drafting table would not be very helpful to someone who wanted to do some serious drafting. It might look very impressive, but modern-day tables are easier to work with.

The drafting table of today is more utilitarian than its predecessors. It consists of a steel frame with a dense sheet of compressed fiberboard mounted to it for a drawing surface. The fiberboard is specially laminated with Formica to prevent the points of pens and pencils from puncturing it and damaging the integrity of its drawing surface. An adjustable drafting table will sport additional hardware that allows the height and angle of the surface to be altered to suit the individual artist using it. Most tables have removable screws holding the drawing surface to the frame, so the whole thing can be taken apart quickly and moved with ease.

Some people prefer having a lighted drafting table to work with. This kind of table has a lightbox for its drawing surface, and the paper resting on it will turn transparent when it is activated. The illumination makes it easier for someone using the light table to draw and trace figures and shapes onto their paper. Kids also love using light tables to make arts and crafts, especially for fun projects like designing skateboard graphics, or making their own comic books.

Special chairs are necessary to accompany the tall tables. Drafting table chairs are, of course, adjustable in height, so they can be raised or lowered to give draftsmen better access to a table’s drawing surface. Some look exactly like regular office chairs with wheels, cushioned seats, and armrests. Other, more ergonomic, drafting chairs are designed to aid people when they transition between sitting and standing. All of the furniture products used in drafting and architectural design can be purchased at an art supply warehouse, or from on online store specializing in modern office furnishings.

Another important tool to have when doing architectural drafting is a material which can accurately record and preserve blueprints written in ink and pencil lead. Drafting linen, a woven fabric that was heavily starched and polished until it had a smooth surface, was originally used to capture such drawings. Later, after the development of paper and plastics, use of this linen died off. Bond paper is perhaps the most widely used material for drafting these days. It comes in several different weights, is similar in composition to office printer paper, and quite cheap. People can buy it from an art supply store, or order it in bulk from a supplier's online catalog.

Vellum paper is another medium used to write down drafting ideas. It is more durable than bond paper, and mistakes made in pencil can be erased from it without causing any damage. Mylar and clear acetate sheets are also excellent to use for making drafts. They are plastic in origin, so they are more durable than bond or vellum paper. They allow marks to be easily erased without damage, and resist breaking down over time. The Mylar and acetate art supplies are a bit more in price than others, but many draftsmen believe they are well worth the money. These materials are for sale in arts and crafts stores and office supply stores everywhere along with drafting tape, which is used to affix them to the drawing board for usage. Drafting tape, or draft tape, looks similar to duct tape, but differs from the ultra-popular adhesive in a few main ways: it is not strong or waterproof, and it can be removed from surfaces without damaging them.

Of course, it would be impossible for draftsmen to put their plans down on paper without the proper writing utensils. Not just any pen or pencil can be used for drafting. It takes specialized instruments for this endeavor. Technical drawing pens are usually used to make drafts by hand. They have steel nibs, which allow them to predictably produce lines that have constant widths and conform to the ISO standards. They also have needlepoint tips that let them get closer to the edges of rulers and templates. Many of the best technical pens, like the Staedtler Mars Professional, are refillable. Other brands are disposable, and although they are convenient, they are more expensive in the long run than buying a sturdier pen that can be refilled.

Like the technical pens, mechanical pencils are more suitable for drafting work. These implements have replaceable, solid graphite cores called leads which can be mechanically extended or retracted. A mechanical pencil is better to use than a wooden one when drafting, because all of its lines are put down with a constant thickness. The leads never have to be sharpened, and the pencil never goes dull. The best mechanical pencil to use for drafting should have a thin sleeve covering the lead and a narrow barrel to grip. This will let the drafter see around the pencil, so he/she will be less likely to make mistakes. It also allows the tip of the lead to get closer to the ruler or template the drafter is using. Many architecture students use cheap Papermate mechanical pencils on their schoolwork, but serious draftsmen buy more expensive brands, like the Pentel 120 A3.

Other essential tools to have for hand-drafting crafting plans can include rulers, which help ensure that measurements are precise. A metal scale ruler is ideal to have when working on a lot of drafting projects, but many people can make do with a cheap aluminum ruler as well. Some drafters also prefer to have T-Squares on their drawing boards. A T-Square is a straightedge made from plastic or metal that is excellent at making perfect horizontal lines for drafting work. To make perfect, curved lines without using a compass, draftsmen will often employ a French curve ruler. The French curve is a template made out of wood, metal, or plastic, with rounded edges that can be traced to create curves of different radii.

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