Drawing on past experience

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Anthony Bailey

Friday, February 28, 2014

Yes, a play on words, I’m talking about technical drawing to be precise. Back in the "80s and way before, if you wanted to design something on more than the back of an envelope, then it meant sitting at a drawing board and carefully creating an ink drawing of your intended work. It involved a raft of different things, learning isometric and orthogonal projection – something I did first at school, using scale rules and drawing instruments, including technical drawing pens and the inevitable eraser to get rid of unwanted lines and smudges. Then along came CAD and anyone with a computer can buy a relatively low cost CAD package and fairly quickly learn 2D design skills and should you wish it, 3D, which allows you to get an all round view of a drawn subject.

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Well, I have rediscovered the joys of using traditional hand tools, without junking power tools by any means. I am loving sharpening cutting edges properly and using my hand-eye coordination to create good quality results with a bit of thought and care, no dust and very little noise to boot. Calm and contemplative you might say.

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By the same token, I felt I wanted to relearn my old TD skills, working in the old-fashioned way. I still had most of my old drawing kit although I have added some newer items since. Originally I had a huge AO size drawing board and stand with a drafting machine that floated around the board at the flick of a wrist, giving a feeling of power and control. More recent space constraints mean I’m working with a smaller A2 drawing board, which isn’t quite the same, but is still interesting to work at. So my intention in due course is to introduce this element of project creation into the pages of Woodworking Plans & Projects when the time is right. At the moment I’m exploring different chair designs to see how well these complex three-dimensional objects can be displayed in just two dimensions so you can still make sense of them. I’m also working on getting my draughting technique as clean and crisp as it once was years ago.

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So, here’s the funny thing. Yes, the demand for technical drawing equipment including very precise technical pens and scale rules is far, far less than it used to be with the advent of Computer Aided Design. But they are still being made - if you know where to look for them. You can buy brand new drawing tools for ink design if you wish.

This is true of so many areas of technological advance. New technology comes along, such as digital photography and sophisticated power tools to name but two. The mass market then chooses the new easy-to-use machines and devices, but then there are some of us who decide we want to work in the old ways that have worked well for so long. Indeed, to meet and to feed this interest, some well respected manufacturers are producing an ever burgeoning range of ‘high-end’ hand tools with prices to match and in another sphere entirely, very expensive film cameras, again beyond the pocket of most of us. So, if there are some people like me still drawing by hand, then maybe we aren’t quite alone in this wish to choose a slightly more taxing and skilled path of more satisfying human endeavour?

I don’t think that’s such a bad thing, do you?

Anthony Bailey.

Images, from top to bottom:

1. Looking for a germ of a good idea

2. A complete set of drawing equipment

3. A good eye and a steady hand required

(PHOTOGRAPHS BY GMC/ANTHONY BAILEY)

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