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Drawing board v CAD

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JimmieS11/12/2017 10:47:45
259 forum posts
1 photos

These in our hobby who still used drawing boards are in good company. In his autobiography, ‘How to Build a Racing Car’ Adrian Newey the F1 designer writes ‘I’ve stuck with my drawing board. Call me a dinosaur, but I think of it as my first language; for me it represents a state of continuity and I like continuity; it’s something I strive for. If I were to convert to CAD I’d have to learn something new, and not only is there a penalty to doing that, but there’s the question of whether I’d be as fluent in my new language as I was in my old.

Besides, what I value about the drawing board is that you can have everything at scale in front of you, whereas on a CAD system you’re limited by the size of the monitor. I also like the fact that I can sketch freeform and change it quickly.’

He, of course, has a team which converts his drawings into CAD for factory use.

I am not much of a reader but this book is so enjoyable to read. I feel that I am in a comfortable chair listening to AN reminiscing about his life. To me! I am almost waiting for him to say ‘now where was I, ah yes, next I ……..’ Add it to your Christmas list if you have any interest in the racing scene.


fishy-steve11/12/2017 11:34:59
122 forum posts
30 photos

Hi Jimmie.

I didn't know Adrian Newey had released an autobiography.

It's just gone on my Christmas list!

Thanks for the heads up.


Andrew Tinsley11/12/2017 12:43:00
1259 forum posts

I am with Adrian Newey all the way. I don't doubt the logic of youngsters changing from drawing board to CAD. However for someone like me. I don't have the time left to learn a new system and become competent in its execution. I am always "time poor" with so many things to do before I exit this life!

To summarise I like drawing boards and can do things quickly on one. CAD would take me months learn and become able to draw with any speed. I simply don't have the time to learn, nice though it may be to do so!


Muzzer11/12/2017 12:58:03
2904 forum posts
448 photos

I use a combination of both. I sketch stuff up as a concept in pencilCAD and mess about with it for a while, then when the concept finally appears viable, I model it up in properCAD and transfer real life dimensions etc onto it. The first step allows you to make big changes with little effort, while the second results in detailed designs that you can print out or use to generate g code. I couldn't do it with just one or the other and it would take even someone like Newey a fair while to produce drawings with enough detail for him to actually make stuff from.

As you say, he probably hasn't done any detail design for decades, having gofers to do that for him. Having said that, it used to be normal to have vast drawing offices full of draughtsmen and their drawing boards. Nowadays the same amount of work is done by a mere handful of CAD jockeys. I think that says it all really.


Brian H11/12/2017 13:09:06
1974 forum posts
108 photos

I tend to use my CAD system (DesignCad) as an electronic drawing board and learned the odd tweaks such as arrays and snap etc as the need arose.

I downgraded from 3D to 2D because I find thinking in 3D quite difficult.


Edited By Brian Hutchings on 11/12/2017 13:10:14

John McNamara11/12/2017 13:18:16
1313 forum posts
113 photos

Venturing into this conversation with some trepidation and having just hit the 3 score and ten mark I guess I am finally entitled to learn how to be grumpy and contrary!

I want to make a case for the white hairs who have learned CAD. It is never too late to learn a new skill and I highly recommend that Computer aided design, CAD, will greatly assist the design process. Yes I started using a drawing board and at the start the time taken on the computer using CAD to draw an object was much greater than with a drafting pen, pencils and the all important rubber probably used the most. This situation changed over time, Would I go back? never.

Freehand sketching is another matter no matter how you create drawings the quick sketch is invaluable, enabling you to freeze thoughts that flicker through your brain during the design process. The drafting board or CAD is too slow for this process.

I see the biggest difficulty in learning CAD is starting the right way. If you take the time to go through a good how to book on your particular CAD choice and do all the boring but essential little steps in order you will not find using the program nearly as difficult as you will by trying to learn it by using it without learning the basics first.


Edited By John McNamara on 11/12/2017 13:18:45

Andrew Tinsley11/12/2017 14:08:40
1259 forum posts

Yes John,

I think you said it all, you need time to go through a good book on your choice of CAD. This begs which system do you learn? You won't know what the snags are until you are up and running.

It is the time element that I am not happy with. I can do an awful lot of real machining for the time taken to learn a CAD system AND be able to use it effectively.

I am older than you, so I probably have less time available to get things done before I drop off this mortal coil. I would rather use a drawing board and get on with the work than take time out to learn CAD. If I were a lot younger, then no contest. I would learn CAD! However, I begrudge the time to do so, at my advancing years!


Andrew Tinsley11/12/2017 14:10:42
1259 forum posts

Please Mr Moderator, how do I delete a double post?

I seem to be very prone to this fault!


JasonB11/12/2017 14:28:45
19594 forum posts
2150 photos
1 articles

You can't but I have done it.

Neil Wyatt11/12/2017 14:34:30
18416 forum posts
718 photos
78 articles

Some of us sad folks actually find using CAD rewarding of itself... it's good mental exercise a bit like solving crossword puzzles.


IanT11/12/2017 14:44:25
1750 forum posts
164 photos
Posted by John McNamara on 11/12/2017 13:18:16:

I see the biggest difficulty in learning CAD is starting the right way. If you take the time to go through a good how to book on your particular CAD choice and do all the boring but essential little steps in order you will not find using the program nearly as difficult as you will by trying to learn it by using it without learning the basics first.


Edited By John McNamara on 11/12/2017 13:18:45

I generally agree with everything John says ... BUT....

When I first started with TurboCAD - I really struggled to get going. I did have a TC manual but it was a product reference really and not a good guide to getting started. But I persevered and became quite proficient (or so I thought) using the various menus and mouse clicks.

However, I've just up-graded to a more recent version (TC2016) and having watched Paul (The CAD) YouTubes - decided to take his advice regarding setting up a "minimum" Desktop and the use of key-board shortcuts (instead of the menus). In just a few weeks I have become very comfortable with this way of working and will not return to my previous methods of use. So my feedback to any would-be TC user would be to look at Paul's videos and take his advice to throw away much of the 'default' settings and learn to use the keyboard. It's very quick to pick up and very fast in use.

So go back to the drawing board? No, I was never much of an artist (my handwriting is also pretty appalling) - and 2D CAD is a very simple (e.g. intuitive) step up from a pencil - IF you get the right advice from the onset.



Russell Eberhardt11/12/2017 15:06:52
2611 forum posts
85 photos

Learning new skills is the best way to keep your brain young and active.

I find books, either paper or on line, are the best way to learn something like CAD. You can work at your own pace, which is likely to be a bit slower with age, and go over things as many times as needed for it to sink in. Youtube videos and the like are easy to watch but I find it difficult trying to then remember what the instructor did or how he did it.

Russell (72 years young)

Gordon W11/12/2017 15:07:54
2011 forum posts

I have used both, but still prefer the old board for my own use. I feel more in touch , scale is obvious, silly mistakes easier to spot. Draughtsmen were expected to know basic engineering and simple stress calculations etc. But when I had to draw a detail drawing for every stage of manufacture of a simple bolt then bring on the CAD

John Haine11/12/2017 15:18:59
3548 forum posts
194 photos

There is another way...

I'd like to use "proper" CAD such as F360 but haven't the time to get properly started. I do however use OpenOffice Draw (free) as a "drawing board". With a big screen (17" one is not often frustrated at lack of scale, and the ability to copy / paste / move behind and in front / make partially transparent / add a wide variety of shapes / align / add dimension lines, make it for me much better than a drawing board even for rough sketches. The snag is that one can't use the result as an input to a CAM program so I tend to end up using either G-Simple and re-drawing the items, or writing g-code by hand (or using Excel to speed it up).

Tomfilery11/12/2017 15:37:07
127 forum posts
4 photos

I have a very messy drawing board "style" and am useless at art. However, using TurboCad, I can produce professional looking drawing with relative ease (after developing my own style of how I use the program).

As per Ian T's post above, I use an awful lot of keyboard shortcuts and treat the drawing as if it were actually on a drawing board. I have drawn all sorts of things - from workshop tooling and add-ons, to house extensions (mine) and lots of railway rolling stock. CAD gives me the ability to change things quickly, without messing up my paper drawing and having to start again. If I had more artistic ability I might not feel that way, however, don't ignore the fact that with CAD you can draw your real life situation and play around until you can make your modification fit.

One example which springs to mind was when I was trying to hang a large extractor unit above the hob in my kitchen. I wanted the top part of the extractor "hopper" to fit inside the wall cabinets and needed to work out how much cabinet I needed to cut away and what thickness of mounting batten I needed to mount the extractor on so that it was a sensible height above the hob and stuck out a reasonable distance. To do this on a drawing board, I would have had to produce several iterations (probably starting a new drawing every second or third one) whereas with CAD, I drew the wall, hob and cabinets once and then moved the hood around until I got the right fit.

I tend to now do properly dimensioned drawings, rather than "fag packet" sketches, for things I make in the workshop..

I've just bought a secondhand cnc router and clearly the first stage of routing anything is to draw it up in CAD.

I haven't mentioned:-

The ability to draw an object once and then reuse it in other drawings

The ability to draw something full size and then produce drawings in different scales

The ability to rotate objects (e.g. railway bogies) to explore whether they will bind against the chassis for a particular radius of curve.

So - CAD, I wouldn't be without it.


SillyOldDuffer11/12/2017 16:38:45
6707 forum posts
1508 photos

I'm with Tom when he mentions using CAD rather than "fag packet" sketches. Very simple things I can do in my head but my memory is faulty and the technique doesn't scale up. If I use a 'fag packet' it will be a memory aid for something trivial. For anything beyond trivial I find it well worth producing a dimensioned drawing, and it's not long before 2D drawing software outperforms me and a sheet of paper. It doesn't get dimensions wrong and I can use hidden construction lines and layers galore. In comparison my hand drawings soon turn into a mess of corrections and rubbings out.

Once you reach a certain level of complexity, 3D CAD pays off. I wonder if others switch from 2D to 3D at the same point I do? I go 3D as soon as there's any doubt about which projection I'm drawing in!

Even though CAD is wonderful I'd only recommend it to those who have the time and the inclination. I don't think any CAD software is 'simple'. Nothing worse than rushing into something complicated when you hate it and have a reasonable alternative.


Neil Wyatt11/12/2017 19:23:46
18416 forum posts
718 photos
78 articles

Best decision I ever made was not accepting the A0 drawing board and parallel motion I was offered for free.

I have an A3 one, I think I may have used it a couple of times.

I did do two years of 'tech drawing' (I scraped a 'B' at O-level) using wooden board and set-square technology.

I do all my designs directly in 3D now, I think it's vastly more intuitive. Secret with a Cad program is to pick a proper one* and stick to it. In the long run they all do more or less the same things so if you are not getting very advanced you won't gain much by changing horses except a new leaning curve.


*I used to use Corel Draw (before TurboCAD) which I think targeted landscapers and I wouldn't call it a proper engineering CAD.

Maurice11/12/2017 20:03:24
469 forum posts
50 photos

My conversion to CAD was forced on me after a surgical operation on the top of my spinal cord. I made a very good recovery, but it robbed me of the pleasure I used to get from pencil and paper drawing. Just too clumsy now. TuboCad came to my rescue, fortunately. I wouldn't change back now. My only complaint about TurboCad is that for some reason, the version for Apple is so different from the Windows version that I am unable to use it, and have to keep my old PC just for drawing. I can see no reason why they can't be the same.

There is one "trick" you might like to try with TurboCad; I drew a lens in 3D then rendered it, and made the material clear glass. It actually behaves like a real lens, and magnifies an object drawn behind it! I suppose it should be no surprise, as it has to know how light is effected by various materials, in order to render them correctly, but I still think its clever!

Clive Foster11/12/2017 20:40:18
2535 forum posts
82 photos


According to Wikipedia :-

In June 2005, IMSI re-entered the Macintosh market with the launch of TurboCAD and TurboCAD 3D. These products were private-label licenses from CADSoft Solutions

So basically same code base as Punch!CAD products ViaCAD and SharkCAD. Maybe lightly re-skinned, maybe not. But still a completely different product so the naming is, in my view, flat out dishonest.

Which was where I bugged out from TurboCAD as, initially at least, pretty much zilch compatibility with the old version files and I didn't like the company ethics.


Dave Smith 1411/12/2017 21:00:45
140 forum posts
16 photos

I totally agree with John's comments. I have been part of both worlds - drawing board as an undergrad/post grad and then first design engineer at Rolls Royce (Aero) to use a 2D CAD system. As I approach escaping the corporate rat race in 10 days time I have probably clocked up in excess of 10000 hrs working 3D CAD systems (mainly CATIA). Free form sketching on piece of paper is always quicker and for simple parts like wood shelving I always go that route. However as soon as we need accuracy and detail I change to CAD. Then I always use 3D CAD from the onset, it is as quick as drawing in 2D and you see the complete virtual part. It also avoids a lot of the oh dear moments when drawing 2D assemblies because you missed something that clashes. Please do not give up on 3D, we have taken total novices and had them turning out credible work within 2 to 3 days or say a couple of weeks of evenings. I think it is more a state of mind in wanting to learn it. By the way you get what you pay for in CAD, with exception of fusion 360, where Autodesk have provided a very good mid range system for nothing, the more expensive the systems the quicker and easier they are to use. After all I want my engineers engineering not trying drive obscure unintuitive software.

I too have the Adrian Newey book coming for Christmas, he is well known in racing circles for doing conceptual work on a drawing board, which by the way is big enough to lay out a car full size in side view. In days gone by all the well known pens had them. I remember a meeting with Rory Byrne in his Toleman days and him showing me some concepts he was working on his own full size board. Having designed a couple of Race Cars myself on both drawing board and 3D CAD, its the CAD system any time. Sorry for rambling on.


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