Drawing board
A drawing board is, in its antique form, a kind of multipurpose desk
A desk is a furniture form and a class of table often used in a work or office setting for reading or writing on or using a computer. Desks often have one or more drawers to store office supplies and papers. Unlike a regular table, usually only one side of a desk is suitable to sit on . Not all...

 which can be used for any kind of drawing, writing or impromptu sketching on a large sheet of paper or for reading a large format book
A book is a set or collection of written, printed, illustrated, or blank sheets, made of hot lava, paper, parchment, or other materials, usually fastened together to hinge at one side. A single sheet within a book is called a leaf or leaflet, and each side of a leaf is called a page...

 or other oversized document or for drafting
Technical drawing
Technical drawing, also known as drafting or draughting, is the act and discipline of composing plans that visually communicate how something functions or has to be constructed.Drafting is the language of industry....

 precise technical illustrations. The drawing table used to be a frequent companion to a pedestal desk
Pedestal desk
A pedestal desk is usually a large free-standing desk made of a simple rectangular working surface resting on two pedestals or small cabinets of stacked drawers of one or two sizes, with plinths around the bases. Often, there is also a central large drawer above the legs and knees of the user...

 in a gentleman's study or private library
In a traditional sense, a library is a large collection of books, and can refer to the place in which the collection is housed. Today, the term can refer to any collection, including digital sources, resources, and services...

, during the preindustrial and early industrial era.

During the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

 draftsmanship gradually became a specialized trade and drawing tables slowly moved out of the libraries and offices of most gentlemen. They became more utilitarian and were built of steel and plastic instead of fine woods and brass.

More recently engineers and draftsmen use the drawing board for making and modifying drawings on paper with ink or pencil. Different drawing instruments (set square
Set square
A set square or triangle is an object used in engineering and technical drawing, with the aim of providing a straightedge at a right angle or other particular planar angle to a baseline....

, protractor
In geometry, a protractor is a circular or semicircular tool for measuring an angle or a circle. The units of measurement utilized are usually degrees.Some protractors are simple half-discs; these have existed since ancient times...

, etc.) are used on it to draw parallel, perpendicular or oblique lines. There are instruments for drawing circles, arcs, other curves and symbols too (compass
Compass (drafting)
A compass or pair of compasses is a technical drawing instrument that can be used for inscribing circles or arcs. As dividers, they can also be used as a tool to measure distances, in particular on maps...

, French curve
French curve
A French curve is a template made out of metal, wood or plastic composed of many different curves. It is used in manual drafting to draw smooth curves of varying radii....

, stencil
A stencil is a thin sheet of material, such as paper, plastic, or metal, with letters or a design cut from it, used to produce the letters or design on an underlying surface by applying pigment through the cut-out holes in the material. The key advantage of a stencil is that it can be reused to...

, etc). However, with the gradual introduction of computer aided drafting and design (CADD or CAD) in the last decades of the 20th century and the first of the 21st century, the drawing board is becoming less common.

A drawing table is also sometimes called a mechanical desk
Mechanical desk
A mechanical desk is usually an antique desk type which was produced during the 18th or the 19th century. At one extreme there are desks furnished with a multitude of panels that swing out while stacks of small drawers pop up when a user lowers or extracts the main writing surface or desktop from a...

 because, for several centuries, most mechanical desks were drawing tables. Unlike the gadgety mechanical desks of the second part of the 18th century, however, the mechanical parts of drawing tables were usually limited to notches, ratchets, and perhaps a few simple gears, or levers or cogs to elevate and incline the working surface.

Very often a drawing table could look like a writing table
Writing table
A writing table has a series of drawers directly under the surface of the table, to contain writing implements, so that it may serve as a desk...

 or even a pedestal desk when the working surface was set at the horizontal and the height adjusted to 29 inches, in order to use it as a "normal" desk. The only giveaway was usually a lip on one of the sides of the desktop. This lip or edge stopped paper or books from sliding when the surface was given an angle. It was also sometimes used to hold writing implements. When the working surface was extended at its full height, a drawing table could be used as a standing desk
Standing desk
A standing desk is both an antique desk and a modern desk form conceived for writing and/or reading while standing up or while sitting on a high stool. The term stand-up or stand up desk is also used...


Many reproductions have been made and are still being produced of drawing tables, copying the period styles they were originally made in during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Modern-day idiom

The expression "back to the drawing board" is used when a plan or course of action is unsuccessful and needs to be changed, often drastically; e.g., "The battle plan, the result of months of conferences, failed because the enemy retreated too far back. It was back to the drawing board for the army captains."

The phrase was coined in the caption to a Peter Arno
Peter Arno
Peter Arno was a U.S. cartoonist.-Biography:Born Curtis Arnoux Peters, Jr. in New York, New York, and educated at the Hotchkiss School and Yale University, his cartoons were published in The New Yorker from 1925–1968. They often depicted a cross-section of New York society from the 1920s through...

 cartoon of The New Yorker
The New Yorker
The New Yorker is an American magazine of reportage, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons and poetry published by Condé Nast...

 of March 1, 1941 (cartoon)

Contemporary drafting tables

Despite the prevalence of computer aided drafting, many older architects and even some structural designers still rely on paper and pencil graphics produced on a drafting table.

Modern drafting tables typically rely on a steel frame. Steel provides as much strength as the old oak drafting table frames and much easier portability. Typically the drafting board surface is a thick sheet of compressed fiberboard with sheets of formica laminated to all its surfaces. The drafting board surface is usually secured to the frame by screws which can easily be removed for drafting table transportation.

The steel frame allows mechanical linkages to be installed that control both the height and angle of the drafting board surface. Typically, a single foot pedal is used to control a clutch which clamps the board in the desired position. A heavy counterweight full of lead shot is installed in the steel linkage so that if the pedal is accidentally released, the drafting board will not spring into the upright position and injure the user. Drafting table linkages and clutches have to be maintained to ensure that this safety mechanism counterbalances the weight of the table surface.

The drafting table surface is usually covered with a thin vinyl sheet called a board cover. This provides an optimum surface for pen and pencil drafting. It allows compasses and dividers to be used without damaging the wooden surface of the board. A board cover must be frequently cleaned to prevent graphite buildup from making new drawings dirty. At the bottom edge of the table, a single strip of aluminum or steel may serve as a place to rest drafting pencils. More purpose-built trays are also used which hold pencils even while the board is being adjusted.

Various types of drafting machine
Drafting machine
A drafting machine is a very useful tool in technical drawing, consisting of a pair of scales mounted to form a right angle on an articulated protractor head that allows an angular rotation....

 may be attached to the board surface to assist the draftsperson or artist. Parallel rules often span the entire width of the board and are so named because they remain parallel to the top edge of the board as they are moved up and down. Drafting machines use precalibrated scales and built in protractors to allow accurate drawing measurement.

Some drafting tables incorporate electric motors to provide the up and down and angle adjustment of the drafting table surface. These tables are at least as heavy as the original oak and brass drafting tables and so sacrifice portability for the convenience of pushbutton table adjustment.

See also

  • List of desk forms and types
  • Studio
    A studio is an artist's or worker's workroom, or the catchall term for an artist and his or her employees who work within that studio. This can be for the purpose of architecture, painting, pottery , sculpture, scrapbooking, photography, graphic design, filmmaking, animation, radio or television...

  • Surface computing
    Surface computing
    Surface computing is the term for the use of a specialized computer GUI in which traditional GUI elements are replaced by intuitive, everyday objects. Instead of a keyboard and mouse, the user interacts directly with a touch-sensitive screen...

  • Drafting machine
    Drafting machine
    A drafting machine is a very useful tool in technical drawing, consisting of a pair of scales mounted to form a right angle on an articulated protractor head that allows an angular rotation....

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.