Drafting equipment--where to get it

Yesterday I got a list for my Stagecraft class of the drafting supplies I'll need.
Among the things on that list are H, 2H, 4H and 6H drafting pencils, an architect scale,drafting paper without pre-printed lines, drafting tape, eraser sheild, triangles,...
I'm trying to order a lot of these supplies from online, because I don't have a car, so my first question is, does anyone know of a good art/drafting supply store online where I can find a lot of these things in one place?
Second, I have a question about the pencils. On all the websites I've visited so far, drafting pencils are listed interchangably as drawing pencils, and my prof. told me that I need to make sure that the pencils I get are drafting pencils, not drawing pencils...So I'm wondering, is there a huge difference between the two? Would it really matter if I got a set of these pencils that are listed as Drafting pencils and advertised as drawing pencils?
i would think drawing pencils would be softer and drafting would be harder therefore staying more fine
Try like officemax.com and stuff. I'm sure they ship stuff.
I've tried officemax, to no avail. I'm getting seriously discouraged. I've been searching all day.
propmonkey said:
i would think drawing pencils would be softer and drafting would be harder therefore staying more fine

Bingo. Altough at our shop we use mechanical pencils for drafting.
Okay, well that narrows things down a little. Also, what does an architect scale look like, so that I know what I'm looking for?
Like a triangular cross section with architectual scales on each edge.
Alright, well now that I have a better idea of what I need, where should I look for it?
The question is two part in pencils but also one in the same.

First a drafting pencil as opposed to drawing pencil these days would by description most likely be that of a mechanical pencil verses that of a normal pencil in shape and style. One has lead sticks of specific dia. you stick into the pencil, the other gets dull as you draw that is a bad thing for uniform line weight. This line weight is important as mechanical pencils can vary from 0.3mm to 0.9mm in dia. in the most common mechanical pencil sizes.
There is other forms of drafting pencil, pencil sharpener for drafting and lead holder and it’s own sharpeners available but for simplicity I expect this requirement is for one of the above mechanical pencil types. The drawing pencil however is in all ways a drafting pencil. Your instructor probably means mechanical pencil that which is of less use to the artist.

Second part of the requirement is for softness of pencil lead. Remember taking tests in school where they require of you a #2 pencil? No doubt all know the reason for this, but think of differences in hardness of lead. In art it’s useful to have stuff like 6B verses F verse 4H pencil leads. Grade of pencil is similar to the difference between drawing with a #2 pencil for a test and that of charcoal. Takes a lot less pressure to get a dark line with charcoal yet if doing something like a lay out line you will be erasing, that charcoal won’t erase cleanly. Pencil leads have different grades to them and even have colors and types that won’t transfer on a blue print. The lead types are graded as per a normal pressure on the paper how dark that line is.

Couple the two together and say you are doing a bunch of lettering. You can either press really hard and go over your letters a few times with a 4H that is 0.3mm in width or say get a 4H lead weight that is 0.9mm in dia. and have a 3x wider line that is much like charcoal in being dark but will often also smear easily. On the other hand if doing a lay out line, the 4H pencil that is only 0.3mm in width will erase easily if needed to erase at all if light enough. Press really hard on the other hand and it’s just as dark as the 6B.

ANSI standards have some very specific line width and lead type recommendation or rules your class is probably following. Believe it’s something like a 0.7mm type HB or F for boarders and lettering, a 0.5mm 2H for drafting lines and 0.3mm 4H for layout.

In addition to this there is different qualities to drafting pencils. Some if you drop will bend and constantly break your lead as it advances, some are just cheap crap etc. I once found a 0.5mm steel pencil that weighs a lot. This extra weight allows for heavier lines without as much pressure from me. On the other hand, my own 0.3mm 4H pencil is as light weight as you can get. A good mechanical drafting pencil as opposed to what your grocery store sells will normally have some type of selector towards it’s cap to indicate what type of lead is in it. They often will also be color coded or available in colors. Say Brown for 0.3mm, White for 0.5mm and Blue for 0.7mm. In also using the colors it’s fairly to indicate which pencil is on hand.

The architects scale as opposed to engineers scale is typically three sided with 6 sets of measurements to it as they relate to what increments per foot you have. The engineers scale will have a similar shape and number of measurements but instead of by the foot it will be by the inch and 10th of inch. Very important you get an architect’s scale rule for use in measuring per foot as opposed to increments per inch. Normally both are marked as to which type they are.

By the way, Staedler is a very good company to look for. KoiNor is also a good brand. Don’t trust my spelling as my drafting stuff is yet to get un-packed from their boxes. Most artist supply stores will have both art supplies and drafting supplies. This in addition to architectural supply stores that will have just drafting supplies.

Welcome to the world of drafting, there is lots of stuff out there to experiment with.
Before I took my first drafting class, I was in a similar predicament. I wound up just finding an art store near my school, pulling aside someone who worked there and saying something along the lines of "what the hell is all this stuff? I need to buy it.". It worked for me

Type H lead normally comes with the pencils.

Go with a 0.3mm pencil for the 4H, a 0.5mm for the 2H, a 0.7mm for the H and a 0.9mm pencil for the 6H. Is 6H really the one wanted? That's about as hard of a lead as you can get. Yea your lines will be light - get out the magnifying glass to see them thus the advice of using it in a larger dia. Thus you can press harder on it with breaking it less such as for sketching. 6H lead is very unusual to be using in drafting. You might find better for the 0.9mm lead to get a type F or 2B lead in it for bold lettering work or other very bold lines. I would also go with type HB for the 0.7mm lead type - type H is jsut too not soft enough but not hard enough either blah plastic like for my own preferred usage.

As above look for a very light weight pencil for your harder lead lines and smaller dia. pencials and ones even of steel or silver and gold plate available thru say the Office Max for your larger line sizes or heavier weight lines. Those extra ounces in weight of pencil will become to some extent an advantage in drafting for line weight.

The Architects scale is above, get a handle for it. This is a clip on 1" long thing that clips onto the scale as a place to hole it but more important makes a definate one side up to the three pointed scale rule. This way when working in say ½" = 1'-0" scale, you won’t have to constantly search for which is the right side up.

Drafting paper is normally for pencil Vellum in type. This will transfer in a blue line machine in making blue prints and erase fairly well. Make sure you get the right size of paper as it’s available in various sizes and roll sizes. There is other types of drafting film but they at this point will be less useful.

Drafting tape is much like masking tape but a little less sticky than it. Should you get into a pinch just use masking tape and pre-stick it to your blue jeans so as to pick up the lint from them and make it a little less sticky. Better than drafting tape is drafting dots. Same tape just 1" circles of it so you don’t have to keep cutting it. Your fingers and drafting table need to be clean while working with drafting tape. Nothing’s worse than when your drafting tape peels off while working on a drawing.

Eraser shields are fairly standard in design though there is one shield on the market that is a stage fixture symbol eraser shield useful later to watch for.

Triangles will vary in size but the stock sizes are one of 45/45/90 and another of 30/60/90 degree. An adjustable triangle is also very useful as long as a large size of it. After the two types above this would be my third choice to purchase. Large triangles with at least one edge 12" long will be very useful. The larger the triangle as long as not over say 12" initially, the more accurate and less you need to move your T-Square or horizontal bar. Very large and small triangles will eventually be useful in dependant upon how long your line is the difference between drawing a line and having to constantly move your square to advance onto the next section of the line.

After this in add on’s, I would get some Scum X which is basically a can of eraser crumbs that removes smears to some extent and allows a sort of ball bearing between square and triangle or template and the paper so you don’t further smear your work as stuff moves atop what’s drawn on paper. Otherwise the eraser crumbs are available in pounce bag form that you shake or sort of blot your work with. THe crumbs in it are a little smaller and less useful but the bag itself can also be useful in removing smears.

You need a rat tail or in other words hair brush to brush off your drawing from the above or erased line crumbs and pencil dust in keeping it clean. Once clean you also need “Workable Fixative” that will coat the drawing and prevent those lines from smearing all over the place as stuff or even while in a roll the paper touches it. Very important this fight against smears. Much better to press harder with a harder lead in it not smearing off at times and always do lettering last so as to leave the softest lead on the paper for last. You will constantly have to replace the eraser crumbs in keeping it clean. Workable fixative as opposed to permanent fixative will to some extent allow you to erase your work afterwards.

Eraser, just as pencil leads have various grades, there is various harnesses to pencil erasers from stuff that’s almost like clay and will remove smears very easily to stuff that is like a rubber block which will remove about anything while it digs thru your paper. The Pink Pearl brand and type of eraser is the normal eraser and type you will have used in grade school both as what was available to you and on the end of your #2 pencil - which is more like a type H than #2. For drafting the White eraser is a bit more refined and softer in not only erasing the softer pencil leads better, it’s crumbs will also be more benevolent to your drawing. I might buy two erasers, one pink pearl for work with harder lead and one white stick that is in a pencil like holder for it in use on smears and the soft lead. Always brush completely away what you erase or you will forever be fighting the smears of lead dust on your drawing. After you erase, sprinkle on more eraser crumbs so your triangles glide over the drawing instead of smear the work below it as it moves across it.

Remember to keep them squares, templates and triangles really clean - in a every day cleaning type of thing. Once the oil from your skin combines with lead dust on them, they will start to stick to your drawing to some degree much less smear easily your work. A multi-surface cleaner for plastic should be provided by the school otherwise protect yourself. Also once dirty your triangles will scratch as the plastic they are very easily.

Compass and dividers. The better the quality, the easier your drafting. Go with what you can afford but never skimp where it comes to a compass. Nothing worse than a compass that takes all day to adjust or starts to self adjust as you use it. “Quick Release” is the king of all compasses in ability to adjust. Also the option of extension bars in making larger circles and changing the tip type so you can use a mechanical pencil for it or inking tools in it is very useful. A $100.00 set is in no way un-reasonable if not on the lower end. Alvin, and Staedler is what I use for my many forms of divider and compass. The drop bow compass is really cool but the circle template in providing the same circles in one template is more useful so you don’t need this initially. On dividers, there is some types that have a spring tip and adjustment screw in making a A’ frame to it, and others that have gears atop it. The spring frame A-frames are harder to adjust but on the other hand also given hardness to adjust also stay at the adjustment you set much better than those with gears above it. Buy one that has the A-shape to it first and the one with the gears and no center screw adjustment for quick measurements later.

After this, two sizes of compass is normal. The smaller compass can be a little less expensive but the larger one should be quick release, extension bar able and have the ability to hold different tips including the ring for mechanical pencils. These mechanical pencil adaptors - while special in type are very useful. Otherwise another thing for your compass set is both a lead sharpener and sanding stick = sort of like a slapstick in style only it’s a board with a bunch of sheets of sandpaper stapled to it used to sharpen your compass lead. Short of getting a flat tip to the compass your sharp point tip will last only say an inch before it is sharp at the beginning of your arc and dull at the end of your arc. Type H lead is normal also for your compass. That’s not bad though I like a nice type B and 2H available when I don’t have the 0.5mm mechanical pencil holder installed. Very nice to have a pre-sized lead in the compass that will never dull. Can’t recommend enough a compass that will take a mechanical pencil adaptor ring and the mechanical pencils designed for compasses for use in drafing.

After these tools, templates up the wazoo of every and all types for as much as you can afford in all scales but especially in ½" = 1" Scale. Circle templates, Architect templates, square templates, furnature templates, I-Beam templates, Landscape Templates, People Templates, Lighting and stock scenery construction templates, lettering guides that are either just some 1/8", 3/16" and 1/4" bars of space to use your pencil within to templates more for ink that just let you trace the letters as you go in having automatic block letters. Literally hundreds of templates out there this plus burnishing stickers and other stuff. The drafting stuff available while these days has probably shrunk is still no doubt huge in what’s available. 1/4" scale is normal and useful but ½" scale is the main scale you will work in. Watch for this. In general, all templates have a use, have one that is the wrong size in scale, it just might be in template the right scale in drawing something smaller. A template of just zigzags can be useful for drawing drapes alone. Stairway zig-zag templates on a general architect’s template is also useful for drawing in drape. My I-Beam template also has a few feet of 2x4's on line templated 16" on center but of a 1/4" = 1'-0" scale. Fine, guess what in ½" scale it’s now that I use it every other stud in still working for quick spacing. Drawing a kitchen for a set in ½" scale and need to draw a 14" wide cabinet door that needs to operate, hmm, grab the 1/4" scale architects scale and look for the 2'-4" doorway template and it’s as easy at that. The more templates the faster your work.

Hope it helps, lots more to experiment with.

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