In spite of having used CAD programs for many years (TurboCAD is my most
recent tool, and let's not have this degrade into a Sketchup war, shall
we?) I still resort to (and enjoy!) using pencil and paper for many of
my design activities. I used my Dad's drafting board, T-square, and
triangles for many years, and I still have fond, fond memories of taking
drafting class in high school, one of the two most useful classes I ever
took (typing being the second; and man was that Mrs. Utz a hottie!).
Unfortunately, I no longer have a decent drafting table, the T-square is
long gone, and all I have left are a few triangles and my drafting
pencils and a sharpener. I'd like to rectify that, but then again ever
since taking drafting class I always had a hankering for one of those
fancy drafting machines (like this guy:
). Does anybody
own one? There are lots of them for sale on eBay; any recommendations?
If it ain't perfect, improve it...
But don't break it while you're fixin' it!
We used Vemco drafting machines at Caterpillar until the early 80's
when the digital age was upon us. I would highly recommend Vemco.
Fortunately I got a copy of Wildfire 2 (Pro-Engineer predecessor)
about the time I retired and every project I do I model it with
One positive thing about 'Cash for Clunkers' is that
it took thousands of Obama bumper stickers off the road.
Mine's a Bruning (same difference, I guess): I love it. Traded a
parallel rule machine that my company discarded for it. Fitted it with a
couple Vemco rules and it's right purty.
A picture of a similar machine:
Speaking of the rules, are their designs fairly universal and interchangeable
various brands of drafting machines? I've seen several machines for sale on
didn't have rules, and my tendency was to shy away from them, but if new rules
obtained for a decent price then I guess I shouldn't let that deter me.
Also, any recommendations on size? I've seen 16" and 24" machines; do they make
Would I be sorry if I got a 16" instead of a 24"?
Any given amount of traffic flow, no matter how
sparse, will expand to fill all available lanes.
2 things to consider... the typical size of your drawings and the space
available for your drafting table.
If your typical paper size is 9x12 or even 12x18, the 16" will be plenty.
You can move the machine to extend a line now and then. If your paper will
be larger sizes you might benefit from the larger size. Also, unless I'm
mistaken (it's been a while), you can get various sized rules and screw them
on depending on the size you need.
Can't say with certainty for all machines, but my Mutoh works fine with
Vemco scales and the Alvin "universals".
There is a table of recommended machine sizes vs board sizes on the Vemco
site at http://www.vemcocorp.com/elbow_comparson_size.htm .
Note by the way the distinction between "standard" and "civil engineer"
machines--a "civil engineer" machine will typically have a vernier that
allows it to be set to within 1 minute of angle vs 5 for a standard machine,
but it doesn't have the 15 degree indexed stops so in practice it's a bit
slower to use for most general work.
Some time spent poking around the Vemco site will IMO be well
rewarded--there's a lot of information about their machines including
downloadable copies of the user's manuals.
I still have my K&E and had it rebuilt a few years ago. Fluid drive.
It's not up right now, but will be as soon as I have a place for my
For a quick sketch, to step back, do a tweak, walk into the shop with
it, start building.
For years I had a monitor perched on top my board, keyboard and
trackball on a shelf, and used both systems at the same time.
I guess the big thing to watch for is the problem most machines
develop and that is brake alignment...i.e. when you lock the
mechanics, do the scales stay true to the axis.
Ah, well, you haven't lived until you've used a drafting machine. Once
you do you'll throw away your T-square. Just imagine: a horizontal rule
that can be set to *any angle* on your drawing board, accurately and
Found--the gene that causes belief in genetic determinism
I've used both professionally (uhm... some 25 or 30 years ago) and at home.
I also used some cad software somewhere along the line. I still *prefer*
the pencil and paper way. If I were going to use it every day, I'd go for
the fixed table and machine. Since it's something I do infrequently, a
board, a t-square, and some angles are fine. Actually, quad paper and a
ruler does the majority of what I need anymore.
I had the opportunity to use all the drafting tools and equipment including
Like what Ed just said a t-square, and some angles can do the job.
Most of my furniture designs are done with free hand sketching.
When the furniture is completed I do an as build drawing.
An example of this is I start to make a sketch of a chair. Then I build a
Once I am happy with the prototype I take all the dimensions and make an
and detailed drawings. This way I can make some jig and fixture to make
An excellent way to work, particularly with chairs. I did a reproduction
one a few years back and kept a fairly good pictorial record of almost
exactly the process you describe.
Since it was a copy, and I had the original as a go by, I got to start
with a full scale drawing:
And, as you say, the jigs developed in making the prototype were the
name of the game. :)
I agree, learning rudimentary drafting in shop class (and watching my dad
design buildings) and learning typing were both highly useful. Now that you
mention it my typing teacher was kind of hot. I still have some of my dad's
drafting instruments, but my own paper designs are pretty rough, just enough
to get everything straight in my mind. Well, maybe not entirely straight,
yesterday I managed to produce a parallelogram instead of a trapezoid from a
sheet of laminated pine, got a good laugh out of that. All those precise
measuring instruments and ingenious use of clamps etc. and I still cut the
damn line wrong--apparently there's no tool that can prevent brain-farts.
I tend to prefer the parallel-bar[*] tables myself. However, mine has been
relegated to the Attic since it takes up too much floor space for the small
amount of time that it actually got used.
[*] Cords on both sides of the reference bar allow it to move vertically
on the table while remaining parallel.
The ancestor of that corded parallel bar is the heavy weight cordless brass
bar. It was equipped with a low profile gear at each end. The two gears
would maintain the parallelism of the bar. It was the first tool that I
used as an apprentice draftsman. Then we progressed to much better tools
not to mention CAD.
Today they make a plastic rolling-paralleled rule that is very good for
small shop drawing and navigation.
See the following link for better details
I'm really surprised that they would have started you out with that instead
of T-square and angles.
Not the same thing at all. The corded bar provides a horizontal reference,
the rolling rules don't provide a reference, they just allow a line at a
given angle to be transferred or repeated.
Personally I don't see what the things with wheels bring to the show that
the parallelogram type doesn't.
That device has been around for at least 40 years.
Piece of crap, back then, probably still is.
Was given one which I played with one for about 20 minutes before I
threw it away.
A decent size board is probably the most important tool for making
After that, a 45, a 30-60, and a decent scale will solve a lot of
Throw in a pair of dividers and a decent marine chart and you are good
to go to do some navigation.
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