Online drafting-tool angst

Set of drafting tools from Australia. (Douglas Finney/Pinterest)

This is the fourth but not necessarily the last in my brief series on the tools used in architectural drafting. I cannot imagine how artists and illustrators whose work features architecture can do it without technological assistance. Art and the machine! In the distant past, buildings were often designed, and certainly built, with a certain indeterminacy of line to which Time and Mother Nature added beauty.

The precision of line and surface was improved over the centuries with the use of drafting equipment, but now computing (CAD, or computer-assisted design) has taken some of the art out of architectural rendering. Still, some want to hark back to ye olden ways. Today, the acquisition of vintage tools can be frustrating. Read “This A-Hole Wants How Much?” by a cartoonist named Douglas (he signs himself “Admin”) at the Arsenic Lullabies Blog.

I read the whole thing. It is not improper to call it a screed, though Admin uses the word rant, or even the less rollicking complaint. Douglas’s complaint is long but the hilarity of his illustrated descriptions of the flaws of drafting tools he buys online compels a reader to follow the screed to the end. Along the way, beware of assorted pottymouthisms, solecisms and neologisms. Here he sums up his predicament:

Since, it would be legally impertinent, to rant about what I’d like to rant about right now,* I’m going to complain about something else I have been putting off complaining about.

One of the great screws of being an Illustrator or an artist is how much good supplies cost.  Even in the age of online stores it’s still expensive.  For example a 3 ounce bottle of quality ink will run you from $3 to $5.  Let me put that  in perspective for you.  Ink has two ingredients water and dye.  Soda has about 49 ingredients and you can get 20 ounces of it for 1.00. People who use oil based paints are laughing at me for complaining about ink, because a set of quality oil pant is close to a monthly car payment.  Brushes, pens, canvas….the good stuff is way over priced compared to tools people in other professions use.  Even when I was a mechanic and looking through the Snap-On catalogue (the gold standard for tools) tools were cheaper…and you could use the same one for the rest of your life.

The problem is there are not enough of us for the supplies to be mass produced to the point the cost is reasonable.  You see a painting for sale, it probably cost 200.00 just in supplies.  It’s ridiculous, and a little sick.

*And what might that be?

We are left to wonder. I am still wondering whether the subjects of my three previous posts – Phiz, Antiquity Smith and James Holland – actually used drafting tools in their work. But wondering can be hazardous, for here comes a stray thought: Might greater ease of producing precise lines and curves with the application of drafting tools have played a role in the profession’s drift toward modern architecture? Hmm.

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy,, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
This entry was posted in Architecture and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Online drafting-tool angst

  1. Interesting thought, though Thomas Hardy records drawing up a traceried window with compasses ‘until the points bored holes through the paper’. As someone who worked their entire architectural career using hand drafting, it had a rhythm and flow that you could become very absorbed by. There was an art in setting up a nice working drawing that would be clear and have enough space for all the various views and details, and the copious notes required, all written by hand. It could be very satisfying, and it was clear from the qualilty of line and drawing whether someone in the office had a feeling for buildings or not.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.