October 12, 2022
My first drafting class involved a lot of pencil sharpening. It was a boring exercise that the students found somewhat insulting. There were pencil sharpeners all over the school; we had been sharpening our own pencils for years. Why did we have to relearn such a simple thing? Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) was science fiction in 1965. Mechanical drawing was an important trade in industrial companies and it was vital that we learned it correctly. So before we got to draw anything we had to learn to properly sharpen a pencil. And to know what was the correct pencil for the task. Then you moved on to understanding line weights and line types. If this sounds silly to some of you, I completely understand. Much of the drafting trade went obsolete within a single generation. Today’s CAD programs can produce a higher quality image in a fraction of the time we devoted to maintaining proper pencil points. I bring this up not as part of a rant on how easy people have it today but rather to illustrate that while techniques change rapidly, basic knowledge seldom does. Even the most advanced 3-D modeling software owes its basic architecture to the drafting board. We still look at a part and see a front, side, and top view. Sections are pulled from the model to illustrate features that might not be clear. Machine tools might be run by computers these days but the understanding of how the tool meets the material is still best learned on manual equipment our great-great-grandfathers would recognize. Being able to run a CAD program or a CNC lathe does not make you their intellectual equal though. To appreciate their contributions to our trade you need take the time to learn the fundamentals, even some of the obsolete ones. I can still point a pencil with a pocket knife and a rock; it comes in handy every few years.