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Engineering as Art

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JA09/01/2022 12:02:34
1345 forum posts
80 photos

I have just received issue 4681 of the ME and read the two articles on the 47xx project.

I am trying to understand the article "Engineering as Art" that has come from the above project. I am very aware that some, or a lot of, engineering drawings are artistic but the two shown are not. They are sketches, one level up from "back of the evelope". They could be used to get something made but only with a lot of conversations with manufacturing.

I am not sure whether these are being "sold to us" as engineering drawings which should clearly tell you everything about the item and be traceable (not as in tracing paper). I would expect to see, at least;

  1. A statement of the projection used
  2. A drawing number
  3. An issue number
  4. Clear, proper, dimensioning, away from the part drawn
  5. An unclutterd sheet of paper without a lot of different parts drawn on it.
  6. A standard format with an information box ideally in the bottom right corner

The above should hold true however the drawing is produced.

When I started model engineering I was amazed how bad the standard of drawing was (and generally still is). Anthony Mount's drawings are some of the best.

I may pedantic but I have had a good rant.


Bo'sun09/01/2022 13:52:15
602 forum posts
2 photos

Hello JA,

I haven't seen the drawings you refer to, but in general, the standard of drawing/drafting has slipped somewhat in recent times. Are drawing standards taught anymore in schools and colleges, or do we rely on the CAD programmer getting it right? Properly executed manual drawings can indeed be a "work of art" and something the draftsman can be proud of. Not so easy to be proud of a CAD drawing when most of the work is done for you.

Ramon Wilson09/01/2022 14:10:39
1283 forum posts
367 photos

I haven't seen the article in question but as someone who has provided drawings in the past to ME for articles I'd like to offer my thoughts.

I certainly don't think you are being pedantic but on the other hand I feel you may not be giving matters due consideration. Yes there has been some appalling drawing standards for model engineer drawings over the years some of which have been offered by those who you would expect to know better but many by those who have no background in the art of technical drawing but are eager to share their project with others.

I have no formal training in drawing as such and know my own drawings will some time show both projections and, despite a dedicated mind to ensuring there are no omissions and mistakes, both occur and are always noticed after publication.

I have worked with many styles of drawing both at work and at home but the drawings that show many parts on one sheet are how it was done off a drawing board - easy to forget that with todays CAD and the much better way of a sheet per part if preferred. As long as the information is clear and defined (and correct!) how it is displayed should be irrelevant.

If I have a criticism it is that of differing datums on a drawing - something frequently done on ME drawings and very frustrating for the newcomer who is unaware until something doesn't line up after working to them. Anthony Mount's McOnie design has a classic example of this but I'm not knocking AM - his Waller engine drawings are just the opposite and were a pleasure to work to.

This subject is another that comes up from time to time - the issue is without question, many drawings do have many faults but to expect professional quality from mainly amateur offerings is a point to be taken well into consideration.

Long gone are the days of the editorial office too and in this day of minimal staffing levels it is unlikely there is anyone capable or available to check and modify or indeed rectify mistakes to perfection level - desirable as that may be.

Standards are without doubt not the same - I am currently working to drawings first published in Model Engineer mag in 1923. Beautifully annotated in fractions I have found just one error in the drawings published over several issues.

It does, I'm afraid, comedown to that old cliche, measure twice and cut once - double check everything smiley

Regards - Tug



Edited By Ramon Wilson on 09/01/2022 14:11:24

SillyOldDuffer09/01/2022 14:58:37
8469 forum posts
1885 photos

No problem here accepting Mr Perton's assertion that 'engineering drawings don't merely convey information, but also possess an aesthetic quality.'

I was comfy with his examples too. Admittedly they fall short as formal engineering drawings because they don't follow a standard and leave out all the version control information normally needed by industry. But surely their publication after parts were made from them shows they were fit for purpose. They're not 'wrong' when a small number of parts are made for a one-off job, and drawings and manufacture are done by the same small group.

I agree Model Engineering drawings often fall below acceptable levels of clarity. All depends on who drew it and when. They range between excellent and downright poor. Good news when drawings are clear, unambiguous, complete, versioned, helpfully commented and there are no mistakes. More usual for amateur drawings to be confusing, ambiguous, incomplete, and to be any one of several different versions. All the faults due to the absence of organisation, plus eccentric draughtsmanship! No consistency, no management, no maintenance, copies of copies, errors never corrected, failure to realise when it's important to be sure identify First Angle and Third Angle projections, and why it's bad to mix both on the same drawing.

I'd be surprised if schools still teach drawing standards because there's hardly any call for it. These days designers are much more likely to develop their ideas with CAD.

The software engineer who develops CAD doesn't have to learn Technical Drawing at school. Instead, he buys copies of the various National and International Standards that customers work to, and develops software that implements the standards. BS, ANSI, ISO, JIS, whatever. 3D-CAD can usually output 2D drawings in any of several different standard forms, and it's generally possible to customise these to meet local requirements. To a 3D-CAD package, 2D Drawings are just one of many possible renderings, and they might not be needed at all. The ideal is to go straight to manufacture, for which Gcode and a Bill of Materials might be enough.

When generating 2D drawings, the software gets geometric features such First Angle and Third Angle, Sections, Fonts, Units and Scales right every time, but it's less smart at bringing out human-friendly properties like well-positioned labels and appropriate dimensions. So 3D CAD often generates skeleton 2D drawings to be tidied up by a human as a second stage.

I do enjoy Victorian coloured engineering drawings though - they have soul.


Bo'sun09/01/2022 15:50:41
602 forum posts
2 photos

In the halcyon days gone by, a "checker" would have been employed to, err, check drawings before release. It certainly doesn't help when many designers are expected to draft their own designs. Without formal drafting experience, which designers may not have, it's no surprise that some drawings fall short of the mark.

JasonB09/01/2022 16:42:34
22560 forum posts
2634 photos
1 articles

Having seen first hand some of what comes into the ME office when Diane or Martin have asked my to help with queries on drawings I would say those two drawings in the mag are well above average.

The subject comes up on a regular basis and I'm not keen on it as all it will do is put people off making their drawings available for the benifit of others. Provided the item can be made and has the correct info I'm happy with how ever it is presented. Just look at Stuart drawings, they don't meet much of the OP's criteria yet how many model shave been made from them.

Of the three Anthony Mount engines I have made none have actually been from drawings by him, all by ME or EiM "designer" which are what are reproduced in his books.

Nicholas Farr09/01/2022 17:57:10
3310 forum posts
1524 photos

Hi, a draughtsman is a skill in itself, so if that's what you what, expect to pay for it. In my old job from years ago, they had a very good one on our site who answered to central engineering and he had the job of drawing up for a large new processing plant, however once the plant was in production and thereby needing routine maintenance periods, it soon became apparent that things like lifting beams didn't line up with the central aspects of equipment that had to be lifted out by overhead hoists and you can imagine the name calling he got, but the plant worked with very little snagging problems from the start. I spoke to the draughtsman about the issues of the lifting beams not being in line and he produced his first overview of the plant showing how they were all in line and I then asked, well what went wrong then and he told me that the bean counters were happy with everything except the footprint of the building and was told to keep every thing inside it, but the building had to be 3.6M less in its width and so he had to compromise on the lifting beams and a few other things that didn't effect the efficiency of the plant's production.

Regards Nick.

Bill Pudney09/01/2022 21:48:51
606 forum posts
24 photos

I was a draftsman for about the first half of my working life. When CAD was arriving I "moved on". I believe, as has been hinted at previously, that drawings produced by draughtsmen on a drawing board with pencil or pen have "soul". It's frequently possible to recognise who drew it without looking at any signature. It is my theory that with each introduction of new technology there has been a diminution of skill. So when drawing media changed from linen to tracing paper skill was reduced. Anyone who has had to work on linen will know what I mean!! The same applies to the introduction of mylar; the introduction of CAD etc etc

The drawings produced in the twenties by draughtsmen at Norton Motorcycles were a thing to behold!! drawn on linen, in ink, with even the tyre tread, and makers name shown they were simply beautiful!! I would love to have an original GA of a motorcycle, drawn at half size, framed on my wall....The Boss might not approve however!!



PatJ09/01/2022 22:41:03
325 forum posts
405 photos

When I started in engineering in 1985, all drawings were pencil or ink on vellum.

Both engineers and draftsmen produced drawings, but the draftsmen did the bulk of the drawing work, and they were very good at it.

When the first CAD systems began appearing at my company in about 1989 (when the second generation of personal computers came out), they hired computer guys, who knew nothing about drawing.

The drawings were totally monochromatic, with every line the same width.

They finally got rid of the computer jocks, and trained the draftsmen to do CAD, but there was only a slight improvement in the CAD drawings.

The key to making drawings that look good ("good" being a subjective term) is to use a variety of line weights, and to put the right line weight in the right place. The overall effect of using correct line weights is that the drawing begins to take on a 3-dimensional effect, and you can begin to see the depth of parts, etc.

Curved surfaces were often drawn with lines that became progressively wider across the curved surface.

I learned 2D CAD in the early 1990's, and I had a battle with my boss about whether engineers or draftsmen should make the drawings. The engineers would make what we called "redline" drawings, which were sketches with a red pen, and the draftsmen would create the 2D computer drawings.

The problem with the redline system was that the draftsmen we used always introduced random errors into the drawings, which could make for some costly problems if not corrected.

Untimately, all the engineers I know have ended up creating their "redlines" directly in 2D CAD, and the draftsmen have been eleminated as a trade, or else the draftsmen have moved on to 3D modeling, which is an art form in and of itself.

I started learning 3D modeling in 2012, and the transition from 2D to 3D was very difficult, mainly from a conceptualization standpoint, not because 3D modeling is that difficult.

The approach for 3D modeling is totally different than the 2D drawings I had made for 27 years, and it was very hard to teach this old dog new tricks.

A example of some nice drawing/art (as I call it) is the Brooklyn Bridge engineering drawings, many of which were in color, and many finely detailed far beyond what is seen today.
I learned how to draw correctly in 2D from the Korean guy who sat next to me in drafting class.
He made an A (+) on every drawing he created.
I asked him one day "How are you doing that ?", and he explained lineweights, and said that the base line must be very heavy, and you have to "burn it into the vellum", ie: go over the line many times.
I went from a "C" drafting student to a straight "A" stundent after that lesson.
The eye distinguishes shapes and things via contrast, and so drawings without contrast look very flat, washed out, and unappealing to the eye. I make what I call "visually correct" drawings by using contrast, which is akin to what the Romans did with the lines of their temples; ie: the temple had to look correct when viewed from a distance by the human eye. (the Romans curved their lines in a non-linear way, to make the temple look visually correct, but you get the idea).
Making generic 2D Drawings is pretty easy.
Making good looking drawings is definitely an art.

Edited By PatJ on 09/01/2022 22:42:29

Edited By PatJ on 09/01/2022 22:51:15

Edited By PatJ on 09/01/2022 22:52:20

DiodeDick09/01/2022 23:10:48
32 forum posts
9 photos

Engineering as Art:

First define"art".

While there is undoubtedly a lot of skill in producing an engineering drawing "the old way" is that really art? I do not consider a manufacturing drawing to be "art". Some general arrangements (like the one of "Douro" by Harland and Wolff that I can see as I type) has the waterline shaded blue, bow and counter planked and coal bunkers also shaded. Although presented like that for the benefit of buyers who were, perhaps, not good with engineering drawings, it is a very nice picture to hang on the wall and could be considered "art".

The drawings in the ME article are not particularly good examples of engineering drawings - no tolerances for a start, too many items on one sheet, etc. , but nicely drawn.

The primary purpose of a drawing is get the necessary information across. The various standards strive to eliminate confusion by reducing the risk of mis-interpretation, but I would argue that certainty of the designer's intention is more important than pedantry.

Lee Rogers09/01/2022 23:11:52
166 forum posts

My farher was as fine a draughtsman as you will ever meet . Artist? No. Precision in drawing ,carving ,painting, pottery or for that matter my own trade ,cooking, is not art ,it is craft.

Also for my part the idea that cooking is an art is usually an excuse for not being able to repeat the job 30 times a night week in week out under pressure. God save me from all the artists and creatives I've worked with over the years. There is no shame in fine craft , for many it is greater than art.

Art conveys a message , the message may be disputed and it may be made and conveyed with little skill or craftsmanship. Thats what makes it art.

Bazyle10/01/2022 00:01:21
6295 forum posts
222 photos

This is the subject I sort of brought up in the cooking thread last week.
Can you only make dumplings with 82.35g +/- .01g four, 17.5cc +/- 0.1cc water etc (someone's gong to complain they're not ISO Blah measurements, shock horror no suet etc).

Or my recipe - er slightly less flour than last time 'cos you're putting on weight, some water, er now some more flour 'cos you added too much water. Ok that'll do. Perfect dumplings every time!

Mick B110/01/2022 10:13:43
2156 forum posts
117 photos

When I was a tool draughtsman in the late 70s - early 80s I can certainly remember being impressed by the distinctive, fluent and economical style of some others in the game. Such drawings would also have to take into account the material types and dimensions most likely to be available to the toolmakers, which features would be most useful as datums, and what tolerances to apply where, in order to meet the limits specified for the component the tool was to produce. That can be where art and craft flow into each other - it could feel like the draughtsman was reading the toolmaker's mind.

Drawings for batch production, of course, have to take interchangeability into account, as well as potentially economy of material - they'd often be produced in full knowledge of the machinery and tooling expected to be used in manufacture.

Model engineering drawings don't really have these constraints or preconditions - the draughter doesn't know whether the maker's going to use a CNC machining centre, multi-spindle auto, a power-drill in a vice with a file, or anything in between. Interchangeability usually doesn't matter except where multiple examples of the same component are involved. So they're going to supply basic dimensions and leave the maker to determine tolerances and fits. Inevitably that means the maker has to do more brainwork and that can feel demanding and unfriendly. That was what I felt in my first ME projects.

Edited By Mick B1 on 10/01/2022 10:15:17

Ches Green UK10/01/2022 10:44:28
56 forum posts
5 photos

I agree with Pat's comment...

The key to making drawings that look good ("good" being a subjective term) is to use a variety of line weights, and to put the right line weight in the right place. The overall effect of using correct line weights is that the drawing begins to take on a 3-dimensional effect, and you can begin to see the depth of parts, etc.

I was trained to BS308 and started my career as an R&D draughtsman. IIRC, Pentel 0.7mm pencils were used for outlines and 0.3mm for dimension lines, leader lines etc. This made the drawings much easier to 'take in'. I was later to become a senior engineer at that company before moving on. All R&D engineers there had their own desk and a full sized drawing board that they did General Assembly (GA) drawing layouts on of the project they were working on. Those GA drawings would be handed to the Drawing Office (DO) to do the detail drawing work and proper BS 308 GA drawings.

ALL drawings had to have at least two signatures on them eg the draughtsman, the engineer and possibly the project leader before they got anywhere near the Workshop. All the Workshop personel understood BS308 conventions.

I later moved to a company that had large Computer Aided Design/Manufacture DOs. Again, all the draughtsmen were trained to the current British (or European) standard. As time went by the link between the DO and the machine shops changed from hard-copy drawings being handed over to the shops, to DO files being electronically transferred to the machines.

An awful lot of the skinny line drawings I see on the web etc are produced by CAD but there seems to be little DO training behind them. Note: there are some drawings that ARE done by people who have DO training and CAD training.

What is 'art?... from the Oxford Languages ... "the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power."

I think well done engineering drawings can have beauty and emotional power, as can model engineering products.


Edited By Ches Green UK on 10/01/2022 11:03:55

Ches Green UK10/01/2022 10:54:08
56 forum posts
5 photos

I would add that ...

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

The phrase beauty is in the eye of the beholder means that different people have different opinions as to what should be deemed attractive. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder means that beauty is subjective. Whether or not beauty is subjective has been debated at least since ancient Greece. Shakespeare wrote of beauty in Love’s Labour Lost, saying “Beauty is bought by judgement of the eye…” Benjamin Franklin wrote “Beauty, like supreme dominion/Is but supported by opinion,” in Poor Richard’s Almanack. Margaret Wolfe Hungerford is credited with coining the exact phrase beauty is in the eye of the beholder in her novel Molly Bawn, published in 1878." (


SillyOldDuffer10/01/2022 11:31:31
8469 forum posts
1885 photos
Posted by DiodeDick on 09/01/2022 23:10:48:

Engineering as Art:

First define"art".

While there is undoubtedly a lot of skill in producing an engineering drawing "the old way" is that really art? I do not consider a manufacturing drawing to be "art".

The drawings in the ME article are not particularly good examples of engineering drawings - no tolerances for a start, too many items on one sheet, etc. , but nicely drawn.


Although engineering drawings aren't intended to be art, they often tick the boxes needed to count as such. Same is true of the finished objects built from those plans.

Quite often a design that looks right, is right. But if, and only if, the exspurts have done their jobs properly! Someone has to do the sums! These two aircraft were designed in their day to meet mechanistic requirements, but how attractive they look, 'art', isn't entirely accidental.



Most agree the Spitfire has artistic merit. Is anyone turned on by the biplane?

Moving on to what might be wrong with Mr Perton's examples, I don't agree the absence of tolerances matters one jot. Like most Model Engineering plans, the drawings weren't produced as part of the American System of Manufacturing. Tolerances are pointless unless parts have to be interchangeable, which wasn't necessary in this case.

I don't know of any Model Engineer using the American System. Fitting seems almost universal in home workshops. The main exception might be Model Engineers using CAD to have stuff laser cut, 3D printed, ground, or CNC machined professionally. Otherwise I suggest toleranced plans produced for Model Engineers are unfit for purpose, and therefore bad-practice.


Mick B110/01/2022 12:01:50
2156 forum posts
117 photos
Posted by SillyOldDuffer on 10/01/2022 11:31:31:

Most agree the Spitfire has artistic merit. Is anyone turned on by the biplane?



Wikipedia's comments on this biplane - especially the Operational History - say it all, pretty much as you might expect from looking at it... laugh

JA10/01/2022 17:55:32
1345 forum posts
80 photos

Paul Parton's article was to sell the 47xx project which I admire and may have given money to. The second sketch shows five parts three of which are complicated. I have little idea what the driving side cover looks like. There is just too much information crammed into a small space. As for the stay for the piston, I just don't understand. There are 4 off without stud holes and 2 off with stud holes. The piston is shown with what could be 4 stud holes. I would expect to see the drawing of one of the covers on at least two sheets of A0 "paper".

I did O Level geometric drawing at school and went through the drawing training office during my apprenticeship. Fortunately a spell of three months in design told me I was not a designer. For most of my working life I have used detail drawings of very complex parts. The curse of my life was one part, about 250mm in diameter, 160mm long and weight about 8kg. This was described, including tolerances and manufacturing specs., by a detail drawing on sixteen sheets of A0 polyester film. One never saw the original but worked from A3 prints. It took over a month to understand the drawing (we never unstood the actual part).

I agree with Jason that one cannot expect most to produce good drawings. However someone producing and publishing designs should at least make an effort. I have been looking at an LBSC set of "drawings". He kept everything to a minimum and used both first and third angle projection on the same sheet of paper. I can only think he expected that person making the model would redraw everthing.

I don't think tolerances would be bad practice. The main problems is that most would ignore them. When I sit at my bench filing little bits of metal so they fit each other I often wonder if it would have been easier to work out the tolerances first so saving a lot of time and frustration.


Neil Wyatt10/01/2022 23:46:59
18990 forum posts
734 photos
80 articles

I think that people have to temper their expectations with realism.

A fundamental aspect of the hobby is learning how to make things and understanding how they work.

Fully detailed engineering drawing are about traceability, repeatability, quality control and management of liability.

Effectively they allow Freda in Minnesota and Chen in Shenzen to make parts that will fit perfectly to a piece machined by Constantine in Greece, even if they have no knowledge of the function of the assembly.

These issues don't generally apply in our workshops, and it's fair to assume that any reader should have a basic understanding of appropriate fits and finishes - or if these are critical, they will usually be covered in the text. Yes, there may be times when tolerancing is useful, for example if using a commercial part that needs to make a good seal, but this is generally an exception to the rule.

Other issues - there is limited space in magazines, putting frames with boxes holding the same information over and again on each drawing is pointless. Projection symbols are good practice if there is ambiguity. Notably, Tubal Cain's book on engineering drawing stresses their importance - underlined by their general absence from his drawings in magazines for hobbyists! (But not his professional drawings of diesel engines).

With a B at O-level in Geometric Engineering Drawing I am probably over-qualified for the hobby, and our draughtsman (yes we still have one) is not trained in engineering, but over the years his work has got better and better. These days, very few errors are introduced at 'our end'. The last complaint I had was from an author who said that a notch had been drawn on the wrong part - it turned out his original; drawing was wrong!

It is virtually impossible to check all but the simplest drawings completely without making the parts, and even then there is a tendency to make what you know is right and correct errors unconsciously.


P.S. what does break my heart is when I am sent beautiful hand-drawn drawings that look great on paper but just wouldn't reproduce well in print and we have to redraw them. I do get to use some 'back of an envelope' drawings when they aren't critical - they are nice to use to illustrate a designer's thought processes.

Bill Pudney11/01/2022 04:40:35
606 forum posts
24 photos

When I was involved in such things, checking of a pack of drawings amounted to 30% of the estimated hours required to produce the drawings. This included all data lists, parts lists, wiring lists etc etc



p.s. "Vellum" was mentioned with some relish a few times. As a medium for producing drawings on, I used linen, tracing paper, paper and mylar (a.k.a.polyester) what is "Vellum"??

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