Black and White

Drawings for a project can be like a road map.  A good one will take you from one place to another, safely, quickly, with a minimum of wrong turns, dead ends, and delays.  A good drawing should provide everything needed to build a piece of furniture, without guess work, trial and error methods, or waste.

Mario at the board

I try to prepare drawings for most PFW projects.  For one, they provide necessary information to our students.  Everything should be there; all the joinery, dimensions, list of materials, the sequence of construction and assembly, and choice of hardware.  For me, they provide another chance to “walk through” the project; an opportunity to double check the information, making sure everything is clear and correct.  That’s tougher than it sounds. I know, I could be using CAD.  And these days,  “drawing” programs certainly provide the woodworker with everything needed to complete the build.  And if someone is competent with a computer (which I am not), they’d never have to lift a drawing pencil.  But I think CAD drawings are a little cold; lacking some of the same things that probably attract a person to woodworking in the first place: uniqueness, personality, nuance, detail, and individual expression- with a touch of the past.

Tools of the trade

Some people might find my drawings too full of stuff; too much distracting affect, maybe even a little pretentious.  But some woodworkers are amused by them (especially architects and engineer-types); who often wistfully recall some mentor or colleague who “used to draw by hand”. They lament that no one draws by hand anymore. Well, I’m sure it’s more of a cost issue than anything else.  If people had more time or if the typical constraints of deadlines and cost weren’t an issue, then maybe . . . . I remember once having a roommate named Pedro who worked a summer job for NYC transit, coming home with an armload of oversized late 19th century architectural drawings.  They weren’t blueprints; these were more like presentation drawings.  Each was full of tight, clean detail. Each had been carefully shaded to convey the full power of the proposed design.  Some were even hand-tinted with water colors.  Most had been casually rolled, then piled one on top of another in a dusty corner of the office where he had been assigned.  A few were waterstained, others were frayed or torn at the corners.  But they were all gorgeous.  And they were being thrown into a dumpster. A careless supervisor found them a bother to keep after and thought the drawings were just taking up precious space; get rid of them and there would be room for a water cooler or a soda machine.  Progress, I guess.

Working between the lines

I was so impressed by those drawings.  And although we were roommates, Pedro wouldn’t part with even one of them.  He was equally impressed with them, but I imagine his plan was to sell them off. Those luxurious drawings stuck in my mind.  And when I draw a plan, I do it with those discarded works of art in mind.  I want my drawings to hint at the care put into the things I build- and the classes we teach at PFW.  And if someone looking at my drawings didn’t fully understand them, I like to think they might enjoy my rendering of wood grain or antique brass; maybe notice the subtle shift from light to dark that gives depth or relief to the shapes on paper; or the neatness of my lettering (my handwriting stinks)

Drawing detail

So, next time you’re at PFW, stop by my studio, I’d be happy to show you what’s pinned to my drawing board. Mario