Making a Plan - Drawing Your Structure

It is a good idea to have a plan before you start building. During the initial process of generating ideas and making quick tests of ideas a few notes and sketches may be all that are required. But quick notes and a few sketches do not help the team move toward consistent, strong, repeatable structures.

When designing a structure, draw enough details and views of the design so that it is clear what is being built. A structure may have a lot of symmetry and thus only a couple of views of the design will be required to describe the structure. If the design is complex then additional views of the structure may be required.

Different views that a team may wish to to draw:

You should be able to draw most structure designs to actual size. This makes it easier to refer to when you actually start building.

Assign numbers or labels to each structure design so that it is easy to refer to them later on.

Keep all of your designs in a notebook. You may want to augment the designs with digital photos of the completed structures.

Teaching drafting skills is beyond the scope of this website but following is a list of drafting tools and equipment a team may want to use as they begin to draw their designs.

  • Graph paper (comes in various grid sizes)
  • Sharp Pencils or mechanical pencils
  • Pencil sharpeners
  • Rulers with at least 1/8" precision
  • T-Squares
  • Triangles
  • Compass
  • Notebook (for keeping up with designs)
picture of drafting tools

The team may want to learn to use CAD software to draw their designs. CAD software can take a long time to learn to use. Check the links page for a link to a site that provides links to free CAD software.

Drafting Hints:

A drafting table makes it easy to draw consistently square lines. An alternative to a drafting table is to use a smooth square surface. I use glass samples (see discussion on building surfaces). Another alternative is to get a 2' x 2' piece of Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) from a home improvement center and use this as your drafting surface.

pic - squaring up paper for drawing

This photo shows a piece of graph paper being squared up with the side of my glass "drafting" table using a T-Square. Once the graph paper lines are lined up it will be taped down. A piece of regular copy paper could also be taped down. By using the T-Square and a ninety degree triangle you can draw parallel lines that are consistent and perpendicular to the floor line of the drawing. Make sure the edges of the drawing surface are perfectly square so that you can use your T-Square from any side of the board or glass.


A good thing to know

Many times while designing you may find the need to divide a length into something that is not easily measured on a ruler. For instance you may have an eight inch column that you want to divide into three equal pieces. Even if you do the math you cannot find the calculated measurements on your ruler. Here is an easy way to divide a line into equal sections no mater what its length. Take the example given of dividing an eight inch column into three equal sections. That means each section is 2 and 2/3 inches long - something you can't find on your ruler. Here is an easy way to divide a length into any number of sections.  Click Images for larger picture. 

In this photo I have a piece of graph paper that has been squared with the edges of the glass. On the left side of the graph paper I have a column that is eight inches long that we want to divide into three sections.
In this photo you can see that I have extended a line across the page from the bottom and the top of the column. I have also laid a ruler with the "0" touching the base of the column and the 9 inch mark touching the line drawn from the top of the column. At this point I lightly drew a line along the edge of the ruler and place a mark at the three inch and the six inch lines - thus dividing the 9" long diagonal line into three equal sections.

In the final photo I take the T-square and squaring it with the edge of the glass I draw lines from the three inch and six inch marks on the nine inch long diagonal line over to the eight inch column. I have now successfully divided the eight inch column into three equal pieces and I didn't even have to figure out what the exact dimensions were - all I had to be was to be able to divide 9 by 3.

This same concept can be applied to dividing any line length into any number of equal sections.