Drafting Board Concerns!


I am starting studio in my architecture school for the first time, and they require that I purchase my own drafting board.

They suggest that I use a 3' x 4' sized 3/4" plywood, part of a door, or a drafting board, depending on my budget. They also recommend that I cover it with Borco or illustration board. 

I was hoping someone could help me choose the most cost-effective method, being the poor student that I am without compromising too much quality. 

I also purchased a Mayline parallel rule that is 42". Does this mean my board should have the same width, instead of 48" (4')? 


Dec 5, 11 6:10 pm

home depot, have them cut to size a mdf board, attach parallel bar.

Dec 5, 11 6:28 pm  · 
el jeffe

wow - surprised to hear schools still require these.

i made a ~3'x4' board to take to my registration exam back in '96 (before computers).

i just used a piece of 3/4" plywood with a 1x2 poplar strip at the top to give the board a slight angle when placed on a tabletop, added a carrying handle at the top edge, covered it in borco and installed a mayline. i added some rubber bumpers at the bottom end of the board to protect the mayline cable mounted screws & brackets.

don't make your board the same size as your mayline. you should have some space to one side or the other to place instruments, otherwise you're always moving them when you move your mayline. pita.

Dec 5, 11 6:28 pm  · 

Thumbs up for OLD SCHOOL!

Hollow core doors are cheap, light, easy to handle and available in a variety of sizes. They also won't warp like plywood. Birch is better because it is harder.

If your typical drawing size is 24" x 36" you can get by with a 28" x 6'-8" luan door. Extra length / width is good for tools, and the door can be cut to whatever length you find comfortable, but it will have to be filled with a solid piece of wood at the cut end. You can draw on a 36" wide roll by turning the paper 90 degrees.

BORCO is not so cheap, search online for a good price. When you get it, unroll the sheet and let it acclimate for a day or so before sticking it down with double-stick tape. This will help keep it from bubbling up. Depending on the tape, the BORCO can be stretched a bit or repositioned to get rid of bubbles. The big question is which side up - green or beige? :)

You will need a stand and a stool or chair. A common cheap stand is two 28" tall file cabinets that obviously double as storage units. Once you get set up, you can use some framing lumber to angle the back of the board up for a more comfortable position.

Scan Craig's list, yard sales, even ebay for a "real" drawing board. Nice old ones pop up from time to time.

Dec 5, 11 6:32 pm  · 

I'd think the plywood would work just fine as long as you get something to cover it. I haven't used illustration board to draw on, but Borco is worth its weight in gold, IMHO. 42" or 48" should be fine either way as long as you put the guides in the right place.

Talk to some of the other students in the studio and see if anyone else needs plywood. Chances are the cheapest way to get it would be at your local building supply store in a 4'x8' sheet (I'd guess it will cost around $20). You can easily get 2 boards out of this. Sometimes plywood can come with a substantial bend in it. Try to get a sheet that is as flat as possible.

Dec 5, 11 6:50 pm  · 

kicking it old school

Dec 5, 11 10:36 pm  · 

like miles i would definitely recommend using a hollow core door rather than either plywood or mdf... it won't warp and it will be a helluva lot lighter...

Dec 5, 11 10:46 pm  · 

@jplourde, I have two 36"x60" in my studio and a smaller one in the house. 


Dec 5, 11 11:00 pm  · 

you can get a alvin board cover 48 by 60 for like 40-50 bucks i think well worth it they are nice. i would second doing like a 48x60 sheet of mdf or something like that would work well


Dec 5, 11 11:02 pm  · 

In my experience, there's a very good (~100%) chance someone at your school is selling theirs after finishing with the hand drafting portion of the curriculum. Buy a new board cover though, you want that to be pristine.

I deeply miss the days of making ArchE ink on mylar drawings (and yet, I'm incredibly happy not to have to ever make another).

Dec 6, 11 8:24 pm  · 

Can anyone tell me about this a picture of an old draft table in this blog? My mom passed away a few years ago and she had (now I have) this same table. I am in the process of refinishing it but wanted to know if you know the history. Thanks in advance


Please email me at

Aug 14, 15 12:07 pm  · 

Are you referencing the table in jplourde's post?

Aug 14, 15 3:35 pm  · 

When you are in school and need a drafting table, you build one of these:

When you retire and don't need one anymore, you buy one of these:

Aug 14, 15 4:22 pm  · 

Those are cool but I have drafting tables and such but the one thing I would have is some kind of catch rail or something so pencil, pen or otherwise would not roll off the table.

However, if I could find one like the lower image, it would be kind of cool. 

I would probably want some kind of heavy duty casters under it so I can adjust its position while also locking it given that it is probably a tad heavy. Otherwise, it won't be moved around much and require some muscling around to get it placed in some spot.

Aug 14, 15 4:47 pm  · 

TamiHartman: if you have a drafting table identical to the one pictured above in jplourde's post, then it probably was manufactured by the Anco Bilt company, Glendale, NY. I believe Anco Bilt started manufacturing various wood furniture products in the early 1900s. Their products included, among other items, drafting tables, artist easels, painting stretchers, etc. I don't think they're still in business, but I believed they continued manufacturing drafting tables until the early 1970s - I have one bought new in 1968.

If you do a Google search on "Anco Bilt drafting tables" you will find many that have been listed for sale on eBay or by various antique dealers -- a search like that may help you narrow down the background of the table you own.

Good luck.

Aug 14, 15 7:09 pm  · 

I bought mine at Staples back... but then swapped out the top board with a larger 5/8 MDF board to accomadate larger sheets. Still have  the desk today... as a computer desk now days.

IKEA sells drafting table

May 14, 18 7:19 am  · 

just realized this is 7 years old... lolj

May 14, 18 7:20 am  · 
Robert Jaeger

I have an old drafting table that is put together with square nails. Someone has put screws in it to tighten it up. Was wondering what it was worth.  

Dec 8, 19 9:40 pm  · 
Non Sequitur

8 cents.


For the most part antique drafting tables aren't worth much. There are too many of them, and they're large and unwieldy, so not much in demand. That said, I see them pretty frequently in antique shops, tagged in the $400-$800 range, and occasionally I've seen nice old drafting tables listed on auction sites valued at as much as $4000. I can't tell you whether they ever actually sell in those ranges. If you think it's something special you should get an appraisal from a furniture expert, not an online architect's forum.


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