Making a drawing board

Drawing Board
It all started when I watched a film where a character spent most of their time perched at a large wooden drawing board immersed in sketches, and I thought “I’d like one of those”.

After some internet trawling I realised that wooden boards for sale are thin on the ground, so I decided to design and make one for myself. I started sketching up some design ideas, an amalgamation of drawing boards I’ve used over the years, and some pictures of old boards from the 1930s I found on line.

Drawing board
The next job was to model up the board, and along the way work out the moving components that I would need to consider in my design. I knew I wanted it to be both height adjustable and have a tilting function – but from experience both of these adjustments didn’t need to be infinitely so. I also wanted it to be at least A1 size so I could place lots of books and papers over it, and I also wanted it to have a good sturdy design aesthetic.
Drawing board modelled in blender
Using Blender ( a 3D modelling program) , I modelled the board around my own standing height requirements, and starting with the board, then worked out size and position of the uprights and then the triangular base support. I chose a triangular base over some other more standard flat base options I saw in my research, purely because I thought our home carpentry skills weren’t up to building the type of wood joints that would require.
18mm plywood for drawing board
My wood of choice is always plywood, and as this is mainly a prototype piece, I used 18mm ply for the board, and pine for the more structural pieces. The board has two support pieces of pine, to act as bracing and also to create a pivot point between the uprights and the board.
Under side of board
In retrospect ply has not been as stable as I would like, the board is developing a bit of a bow, which could be remedied with extra bracing or replacing with a hardwood. But as I don’t want to use the board for technical drafting – I think I can live with it.
component sketches
drawing board legs
upright height adjustment slot
aluminium board adjustment levers
The cutting list of components consisted of: board top, board pen tray strip, 2 upright supports, 2 thick upper and lower horizontal braces, 4 angled legs, 2 footrests (also acting as stability braces), two triangular side supports in 12mm ply, and two aluminium strips to create board adjustment levers with 4 position notched cut into them.
upright height adjustment
Construction began with the routing of a slot in the uprights, which will allow the board to be height adjustable. Then a cross brace was added with custom bolt fittings made on a 3D printer (see separate post 3D printing).
Traingular base with original pivot point
Then the legs were attached to a triangular plate, and bolted onto the upright. Once upright the board wobbled a bit, and on closer inspection it looked like the bolt position was too close to the apex of the triangle, this allowed the upright to pivot about this one connection point.
Repositioned pivot point
So I cut a larger triangle and repositioned the bolt hole lower down, this created a two position connection (the top of the legs and the lower bolt hole) which eliminated the wobble.
Drawing board braces
Then I assembled the board with 2 braces underneath, with holes drilled for bolt attachments to the uprights.
Pen tray glued and clamped to board
A thin strip of wood along the base of the board was glued on and clamped overnight to create a pen tray.
Board adjustment
For the final component, 4 notches were sawn out of thin strips of aluminium, and attached to the under board braces with a screw.
Drawing board
Finally the board is complete and I now have somewhere to spread out my sketchbooks and design doodles!
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Karen Smith Freelance Designer. I’m a Melbourne based designer, with over 20 years experience specialising in design. I enjoy working in a variety of mediums, including pen & ink, acrylics, watercolours, ceramics, wood and also textiles.
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