3D Drawing Boards

At a number of Working with Wood Shows, I’ve seen in passing a display for 3D Drawing Boards.  At the time, I hadn’t really perceived the benefit of the system, especially since I have had a fair few years of technical drawing and draughting experience, and the boards seemed to be pitched at people with little to no drawing experience.

I have since had a chance to actually have a good look (and use) the system, and I’ve gone from being somewhat apathetic, to being a definite fan.

That does seem to be a strange way of starting a review of a product, and for that I apologise. However, what I am trying to highlight with this bit of an honest insight, is that because of our preconceived ideas and perspectives, there may be some great products out there that we really haven’t ‘seen’, and for me, this is one of them.

So let me take you through my experience of this drawing system.

Storage Case

Storage Case

When I first opened the package on my doorstep, I found the enclosed storage case, and before even opening it, I had a good feeling that I was onto a good thing. Presentation and attitude of a company towards their own product is king.  If they seem enthusiastic about their product, it is a good start!  I love this case, as simple as it is – it keeps everything together and is neat, and I’ve taken it with me almost every day and shown the drawing board off to a number of (interested) people so I have found myself rather enthusiastic as well.

This drawing board is not just for novice draughters, and in fact I’d say the more draughting experience you have, the more you’d get out of this – incredibly convenient method for achieving drawings in 3 point perspective.

The principle behind a 3 point perspective drawing is to attempt to achieve the most realistic representation of a 3 dimensional object in 2D.  Every single object you look at which has parallel lines, to our eye is not actually parallel – they trend towards a single point on the horizon.  This is known as a vanishing point.  Think of looking up at a tall building – the walls are not straight up and down – they lean in towards each other, and if you continued to build higher and higher, it would look like the very top floors were approaching a single point – that vanishing point.

To draw an object in 3 dimensions so it is visually accurate, you need a vanishing point to the left, and right, and one for verticals. This is known as 3 point perspective, and is what this board is designed to facilitate very very easily.

The Package

The Package

Inside the case was a whole collection of goodies.  There is the drawing board itself, with the unusual curved tracks, a perspex straight edge, which has its own onboard storage location (the two holes in the top-left corner), a pencil case with a pencil and liner pen, an elipse template, an optional 3D calculator CD Rom, and an exercise book.

You can tell the inventor of this product is a teacher – and I gather is a draughting instructor at a tertiary institution in NSW.  The exercise book is designed for those with little to no experience, and each exercise builds on the last, going from constructing a simple cube using some pre-supplied lines right through to a final project.  Not everyone will need the book, but it will definitely get novices easily up to speed with the system.

The 3D Calculator runs on Windows, and allows calculations to be translated into scale for the perspective drawing.  Measurements in perspective is complex at the best of times, so although it is available, I would tend to say that it isn’t something that is needed to get the most out of this board.

It is most useful for pre-visualising, and initial conceptual design rather than producing a set of dimensioned drawings to then build from.  Even those who use a compute drawing package (AutoCAD, even Google Sketchup) will find it beneficial to be able to quickly sketch up an initial concept before creating a digital masterpiece.

The Ruler and Vanishing Point

The Ruler and Vanishing Point

The heart of the concept are these curved slots that the straight-edge runs in. The centrepoint of the curve is the vanishing point, and this again is where this is so much easier than the traditional method.  In that method, you draw (lightly) a horizon line, then choose two vanishing points as wide apart as possible (when drawing average sized objects).  The bigger the drawing board the better, and less distorted the object appears.  This system allows the vanishing points to be very far apart, and yet the board itself is a convenient size.  The vertical vanishing point has a track with a very large radius indeed.  Often, this sort of drawing is done using two valishing points because the third is too difficult to achieve given the distance required, but this board solves that problem.

There is also available a larger version of this board for A3 sheets (the one pictured is for A4) (I don’t know if the US versions of the system are the same, or are for US paper sizes).

There is also a separate system available called the Archi-board with completely different vanishing points for people who are creating architectural drawings.  One idea I had would be to have the drawing board made from thicker stock, and the architectural vanishing points on one side, and the standard ones on the other, so you can use whichever side of the board suits the current project. For those that wanted that, it would save buying two complete drawing boards. Speaking of mods, I’d also like to see a couple of straight slots cut, probably under where the straight edge gets stored, as somewhere to put the pen and pencil when not in use (and deep enough so they don’t affect operation).  I keep finding when drawing, and switching from one to the other, that I put the pencil down on the chair, and then loose track of it.  If there was somewhere on the drawing board for storage, that would be even better.  Also, if under the straight edge, that would help retention of the pen/pencil during transportation, as the straight edge would keep them there!

The two boards are also referred to as the BEV (Birds-Eye View) (the one seen here), and the ELV (Eye-Level View) for architectural drawings.

Ruler Tracks

Ruler Tracks

As you can (just) see here, you flip the straight edge from track to track as you are drawing.  It is very quick and easy.  The bottom of the straight edge is not straight – has bumps along it.  I don’t know why they are there, but at a guess it is simply so you don’t mistake which side of the straight edge you are meant to use!

Paper Location Points

Paper Location Points

Cut into the surface are some marks for aligning the paper (which you stick down with some sticky tape – 3M magic tape would work well here, as it is easily removed afterwards).  The main marks are for aligning the paper in landscape orientation, and the small dots are if you want the paper in a portrait orientation.

Perspective Circles

Perspective Circles

Drawing circles in perspective is a bit of a trick, as you can’t simply use a compass.  A template is provided to assist with ellipses.  Personally, I also have a set of French Curves from my draughting days which I also use. (Did I ever mention I used to work as a draughtsman for a shop fitting firm in London while touring Europe in my pre-Uni and Navy days?)

Basic Perspective Cube

Basic Perspective Cube

It is a bit hard to see in the photo, but hopefully you can make out a simple cube that I’ve drawn here.  You do all your sketching in pencil, then go over the final correct lines with a fine-liner pen.

Adding and Subtracting Solids

Adding and Subtracting Solids

Taking that simple cube further, here I have added and subtracted some solids – added a cylinder to the top and a cube to one side, and subtracted a cube from the other.

More Complex Visualisations

More Complex Visualisations

When I first got the board, I sat down that evening, and in a very short time (about 15 minutes) while learning how the board worked, I sketched this workbench up, complete with drawers, and tapered portions on the bottom of the legs.

As I mentioned at the start of this article, I am rather enthusiastic about this product – having a package that I can use in the shed, or even in front of TV in the lounge to sketch up some concepts is great, and I am REALLY enjoying getting back to using a pencil, rather than a computer in project creations – I didn’t realise it, but I really missed that relationship that you have when drawing yourself, rather than the modern digital solutions.

There is a very comprehensive set of instructions on their website which are worth reading (and watching).

http://www.3dboards.com.au/

You can purchase the product directly from this site – costs $A140 for the standard A4 board detailed here.  If you are in the US / Canada, there is a link for ordering from a US distributor, and costs around $US60 (will confirm price shortly)

(I just had a look at the site to get the pricing, but it is going through some maintenance on the ordering page, so in the meantime you can ring them directly on 1300 363 352, or email merrick@3dboards.com.au). Merrick (who created the product) is more than happy to chat to anyone who wants more info about the product, how to use it etc.

Bottom line – awesome product which I am really enjoying using, and another great Australian product to boot!

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