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Drafting Tools & Materials

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The art of drafting by hand allows the builder or architect to really connect with her work. Even if you plan on doing all your work on a computer, you'll need to start learning drafting by creating plans by hand. You'll become familiar with the techniques and can read older plans done by hand and not by computer. Having the proper tools ensures a clean picture with crisp lines and accurate measurements and makes your job go smoothly.

Drafting Surface and Guides

Before you can start drafting, you need a good drafting board. If you buy only one expensive drafting supply, make it a good quality drafting board. The board should prop up to work on or be adjustable if you choose a drafting table instead of a drafting board, which sits atop a table or desk. A smooth surface and an attached straightedge will create accurate lines each time. A good drafting board can cost a few hundred dollars, depending on size, type and whether you prefer a board or an actual table. Consider also how much space you have and the overall size of your work area.

Since the parallel bar is attached permanently to your board, you'll need a 24-inch metal ruler with a cork backing for making additional lines. The cork backing prevents the ruler from slipping when pressure is applied. You'll also want a clip-on desk lamp if your work area is poorly lit. Even in a bright area, a lamp can help illuminate small areas of your paper when working on intricate details.

Drawing Materials

After purchasing a board or table, you'll need the basic supplies to help you draw. Start your search by examining drafting supply kits. Often all the pencils and some of the basic materials you need come in a prepackaged kit. Purchase a good 2mm mechanical clutch pencil and packets of lead in the following types: H, HB and 2H. Ensure the lead is 2mm so it will fit in your pencil. You'll also want two separate mechanical pencils, one that takes 0.7mm lead and one with 0.5mm. You can find the 0.7mm and 0.5mm pencils in the office supply aisle of most supermarkets.

For your 2mm pencil, you'll need a clutch pencil sharpener that resembles a small round barrel. Good quality white erasers along with smaller erasers will help you fix minor mistakes, and an eraser shield is a must have for erasing tiny lines without erasing the rest of the drawing. To help you draw circles, purchase a compass or a set of circle templates along with a plastic 30, 60, 90 triangle and a 45, 45, 90 triangle. The numbers are the measurements in degrees of each angle in the triangle. As you start drafting, you'll soon develop a feel for how you work best and can purchase additional supplies based on your personal needs and the type of project you typically work on.

Drafting Papers

Finally, once you have a drafting board and the required pencils and supplies, you'll need to purchase paper for drawing on. Regular white paper can work for practicing on or testing out a new pencil, but the most commonly used paper for making sketches is tracing paper. This thin paper allows you to trace over other drawings when you need to transfer part of another sketch and is also cheap. It comes in rolls and works for creating practice sketches. When you are ready to complete a final project or want to present your sketch on high quality paper, use a piece of vellum. Vellum is much more expensive than tracing paper and should not be used for practice. You can tape the vellum over the tracing paper sketch to re-create the drawing in half the time.

Hold your paper in place, using a few small pieces of masking tape in the corners or with drafting dots, small circular pieces of tape designed not to rip your paper. If ripping becomes a problem, press the tape against your pants or another surface several times to cover part of the sticky material and help it lose some of its hold before placing it on your paper.


  • Architectural Drafting and Design 5th Edition; Alan Jefferis, David A. Madsen; 2004

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