Manual Drafting & Sketching Skills, are they Still Relevant?


I get a great deal of enjoyment from drafting manually but there are aspects to it that are quite stressful such as making changes, alterations, the extra time and the inevitable spilled cup of coffee that goes all over the board right as you have your moment of triumph when the whole thing is finished.

While I couldn’t see myself opting for manual drafting unless something went horribly wrong with the electricity and I had to sit there like Charles Dickens by candlelight no doubt with enough mistakes to make anyone laugh once the power was restored, I still can’t dismiss it. Every now and then I come across a hand drafted piece of work that simply looks stunning with proper line thicknesses and everything the drawing needs to move onto the next stage.

When you see one, it feels like you have stumbled across an ancient sacred relic or some lost work by Leonardo Da’Vinci and like it it too sacred to be touched by human hands for fear of damaging it. Having covered the use of a drawing board and scare ruler for manual drafting like I am sure so many other students have done before and will continue to do, I doubt this could be considered a forgotten art form, just an outdated one. But should it be?

Life Before AutoCAD

I witnessed more than once the people with sweaty hands who used their rubber to erase or correct a small mistake and then swipe their hand over the page to remove the rubber shavings only to smear the fine lines and any ink across the page with the waste.

Once you get used to the flow of AutoCAD, Revit or one of their cousins such as Vectorworks going back to manual drafting can feel like writing for the first time without auto-correct, for those of us who grew up using Word or other writing applications the little red squiggle that appears under a word telling you about a mistake is a life saver!

While it is still obviously relevant for students or anyone just starting to learn the trade to begin with basic drawings and doing them by hand, that leads us to sketching and the reasons why this can be an essential skill for communicating to co-workers and clients. Sticking with drafting for now, there seems to be only two real reasons to use manual drafting; learning and a nostalgic trip into the good ol’ days where you didn’t have to make your drawing accurate to a one thousandth of a millimeter.

I have come across drawings where the lack of the Dimension tool has been abused, I have previously measured on a scaled drawings a five meter wide living room which has been annotated to be seven meters wide, the original designer taking advantage of the fact that they were not being checked on by a computer.

This has caused me a headache when converting 20 year old pencil drawings into AutoCAD where my drawings needed to be 100% correct but the original designer was able to take a few dimensional facts for granted! The full building needed to be something like 35m long so when the living room didn’t fit they just drew it in and wrote down whatever size suited them.

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