Latest FWW article on why pen and paper is better?

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Forum topic by Mark Shymanski posted 08-05-2011 11:05 PM 1633 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Mark Shymanski

5623 posts in 4227 days

08-05-2011 11:05 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I just had a chance to read part of the latest FWW where there is an article about why pen and paper are better that computer programs for drawing up your projects. I’ll leave aside that the article didn’t really compare the two methods but was just a description of the steps involved in manual drafting. Don’t get me wrong I am a firm believer that being able to draft by hand is a ‘good thing’, that is how I learned cartography and I am still a firm beliver in hand drawn maps/plans. The steps that were described, in the article,would absolutely convince me as a first time plan maker to use a free software package such as SketchUp that easily does perspective, oblique and whatever angle you want, it also does setting things in a setting (such as the room the piece of furniture may be destined for) you can rotate the object six ways from Sunday… The list of paraphenalia, templates not to mention the time and paper to actually become proficient enough to do a decent drawing… I almost burst out laughing when the author suggested changes and experimenting are easily done by overlaying additional sheets of paper. Been there done that it is no where as easy or convenient as SU (or other drafting package). I don’t know, it is articles like this that make me ponder the relevance of some of their contributors. ... and it still bugs me that the editor let the sloppy title, which had little to do with the article, get published.

Okay, I feel better now, I will stop ranting :-)

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

16 replies so far

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 3437 days

#1 posted 08-06-2011 12:32 AM

“it is articles like this that make me ponder the relevance of some of their contributors.”
Strange, I felt the same way a month or so ago when I saw an article in a woodworking mag about “tai chi” and woodworking. Stuff like that is one of the reasons I’m letting ALL my subscriptions lapse.(the other reason has been beat to death on LJ’s before..continued billing when the sub is paid up for two years.
I made a lot of money sketching isometrics of piping systems by hand. I’ve have used Autocad (very complicated) and other sketching tools including SU. But…. I still draw my plans in my shop by hand. I bought a roll of butchers paper that I just pull out on my work table and free hand most projects. Granted they aren’t as pretty as SU etc. but they serve the same function. I get a lot of satisfaction drawing them,if I make a mistake it’s easily fixed.

-- Life is good.

View rance's profile


4271 posts in 3675 days

#2 posted 08-06-2011 12:59 AM

I wonder if that FWW editor could E-Mail me that drawing he made with pen & paper? Or maybe he could make another copy since I spilled coffee on the first one. I laugh in their general direction. ROTF LOL! :) I kill me.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View DLCW's profile


530 posts in 3169 days

#3 posted 08-06-2011 03:53 AM

I only use pencil and paper when I’m at a customers site doing rough sketches. Once back to the shop it’s time to break out the computer and Sketchup 8 and go to work translating the hen scratches to something that can be easily changed and rearranged without to much effort. Also like Rance says, It’s much easier to email an electronic concept drawing to a customer then it is to have to arrange to meet them somewhere when little changes need to be made.

I also use 3D modeling software, CAD software and CAM software to drive my CNC.

Don’t want to go back to the “good old days”.

-- Don, Diamond Lake Custom Woodworks - - "If you make something idiot proof, all they do is make a better idiot"

View therookie's profile


887 posts in 3342 days

#4 posted 08-06-2011 04:01 AM

I am drawing more and more by paper because I hate getting frustrated with sketchup and I dont want to learn it all that much.


View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4162 days

#5 posted 08-06-2011 04:20 AM

Well, I can certainly rough sketch things in paper that I don’t know
how to draw quickly in Sketchup… but for impressing clients and
working out certain proportional and construction things, 3d
computer renderings are the way to go.

View Manitario's profile


2783 posts in 3397 days

#6 posted 08-06-2011 05:05 AM

reading that article just seemed to encourage me more to learn Sketchup.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View ~Julie~'s profile


617 posts in 3549 days

#7 posted 08-07-2011 03:58 AM

I DO want to go back to the “good old days.” I much prefer drawing by hand, but then I’m an artist as well as a woodworker. Some clients are more impressed by hand drawings, it depends on who you are showing what. For signs that I hand paint I use the computer to show what the finished project will look like as I can get an almost exact copy using fonts on my computer. BUT… I prefer the silent relaxation of drawing by hand, and the flow of the pencil on paper to the clicking of a keyboard and moving a mouse.

-- ~Julie~

View mtenterprises's profile


933 posts in 3207 days

#8 posted 08-07-2011 04:55 AM

Over the years I have tried several cad programs and for this old school draftsman(3 years of mechanical drawing between JHS & HS) I just cannot draw things fast enough on the computer. Paper ,pencil, eraser and extra paper seems all I can understand. It gives me a better feel of what I am planning on building. Sometimes you just cannot teach old dogs new tricks. But then again the cad programs were fun to tinker with and some drawings actually turned out right. For me I’m just too slow at it.

-- See pictures on Flickr -[email protected]/ And visit my Facebook page -

View BobTheFish's profile


361 posts in 3066 days

#9 posted 08-07-2011 05:46 AM

I don’t bother with those magazines. The rag quality ones are more about building things from 2×4’s and the better quality ones have way too much nostalgia for the “good old days”....

You’re much better off reading articles off the internet (like LJ), or looking at magazines devoted to design. Hell, you might even learn something about an unrelated field that can be applicable to woodworking.

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3823 days

#10 posted 08-07-2011 06:01 AM

I am definitely a pencil and paper person. I tried sketch up and after a couple of months of becoming totally frustrated with it I deleted it from the computer. For some of us the computer is primarily for email and internet looking.

View rance's profile


4271 posts in 3675 days

#11 posted 08-07-2011 06:09 AM

Julie, when drawing Art, there is nothing better than good ole paper and pen/pencil. The computer input devices ALL seem to take away some of the artistry. Once a piece is drawn, then someone can deal with scanning it or otherwise getting it into the computer if needed.

I think the reason I gravitate to computer drawing for woodworking, is that most of my work is composed of retangular shapes or defined circles. Once I gravitate to indeterminate arcs, then the best tool becomes a toss up.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5623 posts in 4227 days

#12 posted 08-08-2011 04:52 AM

I agree Julie that there is a lot to be said for the flow from brain through hand to paper for thinking through a project; I can’t comment on the artistry as I think all my taste is in my mouth and only have about 5 colours in my palatte LOL!

I guess I’ve been away from the hand cartography for too long and done too many maps on the computer to want to go back to doing it by hand (and I couldn’t draw a straight line with a ruler reliably enough now. ;-( I like SU and can see how it is frustrating for some, but I spend a lot of time on computers and kind of understand how to get them to do what I want. I do want to get more proficient at SU, as the last project I ‘designed’ with it turned out pretty well. When I am finally finished with it I will try and post it.

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

View BobTheFish's profile


361 posts in 3066 days

#13 posted 08-08-2011 05:06 AM

Ah.. I didn’t say it, but I had a lot of trouble with sketchup and went back to sketching on pen and paper. Nothing’s ever to scale, but relational dimensions and spacial design aren’t much of a problem. I can mentally assemble something rather easily, so sketching is mainly just a form of “notetaking”.

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 3500 days

#14 posted 08-08-2011 05:23 AM

I use both…... I use a CAD software on my computer that I control with an electronic pen. :) After you get used to it, it’s freakishly similar to any regular pen. Enough so that using a computer mouse freaks me out anymore….

But I don’t think that’s what they were getting at either… haha.

I will say I think you should just use whatever works for you. I do both, but for client work I can’t afford the time of doing it by hand (when the client invariably changes their mind 30 times on me). I wonder why they are pushing the user away from a computer. It seems like every time I pick up one of those woodworking magazines it’s just a constant bombardment of the shiniest new power tools.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View KayBee's profile


1083 posts in 3761 days

#15 posted 08-08-2011 07:38 AM

I looked through that article at the bookstore. Seems like they had way more junk than necessary . Just missing a light table.

Maybe FWW’s worried about losing all the people that grumble about sketchup learning curve. I just wonder how many went scurrying to buy the latest set of tools they recommend.

-- Karen - a little bit of stupid goes a long way

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