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Drafting

Drafting (or draughting) is the technique of creating engineering drawings. Skilled practitioners of the art are known as draftsmen (or draughtsmen).

The basic concept is to place a piece of paper (or other material) on a surface with right-angle corners and straight sides - typically a drafting table. A sliding straight-edge known as a t-square is then placed on one of the sides, allowing it to be slid across the side of the table, and thus across over the surface of the paper.

Parallel lines can be drawn simply by moving the t-square and running a pencil along the t-square's edge, but more typically the t-square is used as a tool to hold other devices such as triangles. In this case the draftsman places one or more triangles of known angles on the t-square - which is itself at right angles to the edge of the table - and can then drawn lines at any chosen angle to others on the page.

In addition the draftsman uses several tools to draw curves and circles. Primary among these are the compass, used for drawing simple arcs and circles, and the french curve, typically a piece of plastic with complex curves on it.

This basic drafting system requires an accurate table and constant attention to the positioning of the tools. A common error was to allow the triangles to push the top of the t-square down slightly, thereby throwing off all angles. Even tasks as simple as drawing two angled lines meeting at a point required a number of moves of the t-square and triangles, and in general drafting was a time consuming process.

A solution to these problems was the introduction of the "drafting machine", an application of the pantograph (sometimes referred to incorrectly as a "pentagraph" in these situations) which allowed the draftsman to have an accurate right angle at any point on the page quite quickly. These machines often included the ability to change the angle, thereby removing the need for the triangles as well.

At one time, draftsman was a sought-after job, considered one of the more demanding and highly-skilled of the trades. Today the task has been largely automated, and greatly accelerated, through the use of CAD systems, and drafting is often accomplished by the engineer, architech, or machinist who would formerly have been the consumer of the draftsman's work.



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