Build your own Drafting Table


Working as a full time structural engineer believe it or not can really take a toll on your body sooner or later. Or any profession for that matter that involves sitting at a desk and either staring at a computer screen or being hunched over looking at blueprints all day. So, to take the ease off the body a little I have constructed a cost effective solution to get me up out of the chair and to straighten that neck up a bit. That being said here is the step by step instructions to Build your own Drafting Table for use in the office or at home.

 build your own drafting table

Build your own Drafting Table – Schematic Phase

First and foremost before you start to build your own drafting table no project should go without a set of plans and details. So, basically here is my drafted plans, a scope if you may, of the drafting table to be constructed.

 build your own drafting table plans

As you see it will composed of two surfaces one that is the actual drafting surface and the other that is the base to connect the legs and wall too. There will be a ledger that will be fastened to the wall and hinges that are attached to the bottom surface. It will consist of two legs that fold in and out so the table is able to rotate against the wall when not in use.

Here is a bill of materials of the final project cost broken down. Note that any of these items can be substituted to constructors wishes.

# of Items
Material
Store
Price
1
$46.97
1
$3.58
2
$5.12
3
$8.34
4
$7.88
5 ft
$2.50
2
$36.29
2
$15.39
1
Leather Trunk Handle
$10.99
2
$8.29
1
Sand Paper 150 Grit
$1.39
1
Sand Paper 400 Grit
$1.39
Total Cost:
$148.13

Here is a list of tools that were used or some that should have been used to make my life easier.


Drill and Tape Measure

Drill and Tape Measure


Hinges

Hinges


Adjustable Drafting Table Hardware

Adjustable Drafting Table Hardware


Hammer and Chisel

Hammer and Chisel


Jigsaw

Jigsaw


Build your own Drafting Table – Design and Preparation Phase

So now that we have covered all the schematic design, budget and materials needed lets get into the actual design/preparation phase of the drafting table. Basically, first off we need to cut the 4×8 sheet of plywood to the dimensions that we need. The drafting table surface is to be 28″x40″. The reason that I chose this size was for enough room to place a typical set of plans. A set of construction plans can run from as small as 8.5×11 to as big as 34×42. But the most common sizes are 22×34 and 24×36 in the industry for architectural as well as structural engineering. So, I wanted to just be able to accommodate a maximum size of 24×36 because I usually won’t use anything bigger than that. However, it is your choice your the designer.


Drafting Table Plywood Surface

Drafting Table Plywood Surface

Next you will need to cut the bottom piece of plywood. This piece was intended to be the base of the rotating mechanism. It will be attached to the ledger with hinges and will have a handle under to raise and lower as needed. The legs will also be attached to this piece. The size that I chose was a little bigger than the table top piece. This gave a area on both sides of the table for pencils and stuff. So, I cut the bottom piece at 30″x48″.

Then we will need to cut the intermediate 2″ pieces for the drafting table surface to land upon. The reason the pieces need to have a height of 2″ is for the hinges to be able to rest inside when they fold down. Plus it adds a nice storage area for either drafting equipment or construction plans. So, cut (4) pieces, two for the sides and two for the front and back.

2-inch Strip for Drafting Table

2-inch Strip for Drafting Table

Next we cut the 2×4′s for the legs. I chose a height of 32″ for my table legs. It was a little taller than a normal table but I personally would like to be able to stand up and review plans as needed. Also the 2×6 ledger will need to be cut to the same length as the bottom piece of plywood at 48″. Then all you have to do is a little bit of sanding and apply the stain as needed.

Build your own Drafting Table – Construction Phase

Now to start to build your own drafting table or the construction of the drafting table. First we need to attach the 2″ strips to the drafting table bottom piece of plywood. I attached it with typical screws spaced at 6″ on center (o.c.). I generally use screws in lieu of nails mostly because I like to have the flexibility of being able to remove and change the design around if needed. It is a lot easier pulling out a couple of screws than a couple of nails. And plus you can reuse them.

2-inch Strip to Drafting Table

2-inch Strip to Drafting Table

Next, it is time to install the adjustable hinges to the drafting table surface and bottom piece. Rockler provides a nice installation guide for this that is shown below. It is 12 3/4″ from the end of the hinge to the screws and 2″-3″ minimum from the sides. These dimensions should be measured from the 2 inch strips not the end of the drafting table bottom surface. So, install the actual hinge to the bottom base piece and the hinge catcher to the underside of the drafting table surface. Also do the same for the connection of the top drafting table surface to the hinge by installing the separately provide top hinge mount to the dimensions specified. This piece actually allows full rotation (front to back) while the hinge opens and closes and provides a bit of lateral stability (side to side).

Adjustable Drafting Table Hardware

Adjustable Drafting Table Hardware

Adjustable Hinges to Drafting Table

Adjustable Hinges to Drafting Table

Before we put the two surfaces together we will need to install the hinges on the 2″ front piece and attach them to the drafting table surface. I installed four 2″ hinges spaced evenly across the front of the table instead of a solid piano hinge. I did this because I think is easier to install, cheaper and they didn’t have dimension I needed and I didn’t feel like trying to cut it. By installing these hinges it will take some unnecessary pressure off the architectural hinges and keeps the rotation point located directly at the front of the table so it won’t lift up from the front. I suggest that you take a chisel or a jig saw and cut out a section, equal to the depth of the hinges, off the 2″ strips (perpendicular to grain) so that the table can lay flat when closed. Pre-drilling the screw holes is not a bad idea either because the actual attachment to both surfaces is a bit tricking with one person.

Now it is time to attach the the table top to the hinges and the Rockler architectural hinges. It helps to have someone else hold the table when you attach it because of the angles but if your like me and have no friends then I suggest laying the entire table on the floor and putting some blocking under the table top (by the 2″ strips) to hold it up vertical. This is where the pre-drilled holes come in handy. Alright, now test it out. Make sure there is a smooth transition all the way and down. Adjust the architectural hinges if needed. The below pictures shows (2) hinges installed and the architectural hinges. After installing (2) of the hinges I decided to test it out and make sure everything was opening and closing to my liking. And it didn’t but with a few clicks here and there it was up and opening smoothly. Can’t beat trial and error.

Drafting Table Hinges Installed

Drafting Table Hinges Installed

About now the drafting table is around 80% completed. The only items left are the folding legs, the ledger attachment to the wall and table, the paper stopper strip of quarter round and the stain (if you haven’t applied it already). Then it is off to putting some miles on your new drafting table!

Actually, now would be a good time to apply the stain of your choice. I went with a conventional lighter oak stain with a polyurethane finish. For my drafting table I applied (3) coats of stain sanding each time before applying the next coat thus ensuring a nice smooth finish.

Ok, now lets focus on installing the folding legs. The trick here is to install the first leg (lets say the left side) located at the corner of the 2″ vertical strips near the front of the table. Then install the other leg about 4″ or more inward on the opposite side. That ensures there is no conflict of the legs hitting one another when they are folded in. The Rockler leg brackets are perfect for this. They are equipped with a locking hinge mechanism that keeps the legs upright and locks them when folded. They are one of the best that I have seen in this category of folding table hinges. And only $15 for the two, these are perfect. The final measurements that I have for the first leg is 3″ from the front and 5″ from the left side of the bottom piece of the drafting table. Note, these measurements are from the edge of the drafting table to center line of the leg post. The other leg should be approximately 7″ from the front and 5″ from the right side.

Folding Drafting Table Legs

Folding Drafting Table Legs

Now for the ledger. The easiest way is attaching the 4″ hinges first then attaching the ledger to the wall. For the wall attachment I used two screws per stud. Lets get right into the engineering of this connection. This detailing is applicable to almost any ledger attachment even for a house (rafter or joist ledger) or a deck addition attachment to a house. The controlling code in this case is the National Design Specifications for wood construction 2005 edition. The NDS devotes 45% of its material directly toward fasteners and connections. Connections are generally classified according to the direction of loading. Shear connections have the load applied perpendicular to the length of the fastener. The second major type of loading in a wood connection has the applied load parallel to the length of the fastener, and the fastener is loaded in tension. The direction of the grain of wood also has different structural properties and load values.

So, in our case we are loaded in shear with the grain perpendicular. The NDS has 6 yield modes of loading that you are required to calculate. Then you need to apply factors for temperature, moisture in wood…etc. Without getting too much into the tedious method of calculating the load lets use the simple way. In the NDS there are charts for different fastener types to wood connections. So you can easily look up the allowable load for almost any type of wood connection in the needed direction which saves a lot of time. In our case we can turn to table 11L and go to Douglas Fir-Larch (or whatever wood you used) on the top column and 1-1/2″ (2x that has been planed 1/2″) side member on the side category. And we are using #10 wood screws which will give you 117# per screw. So, our total load resistance with (4) screws is 117# *(4) = 468#. That is all there is too it. For more information on the actual connection design see the following step-by-step example post located here.

Folding Drafting Table Legs

Ledger to Wall Connection

Then attach the 4″ hinges to the drafting table bottom piece and that’s it! The folding drafting table is completed! And since you know what force it can withstand you can tell everyone that you built a Drafting Table That should hold! Or something like that.

Final Folded Drafting Table

Final Folded Drafting Table

Drafting Table Side View

Drafting Table Side View

Drafting Table

Build your own Drafting Table – Plans

As I mentioned in my About section (please visit if you have not yet) that as donation to this site for providing this tutorial I want to give something back to the reader by providing a set of plans to go with it. I have drafted these in AutoCAD so they are easy to follow and a great reference. And thank you again for supporting this site!

Plans and details coming soon!

Build your own Drafting Table – Useful Links

Here are some other drafting table designs that I though where also very interesting and well thought of. Enjoy!



4 thoughts on “Build your own Drafting Table

  1. How do you prevent the plywood from bowing and warping? I got the same plywood, but it contorts itself like mad. The thing is so soft and light, it’s like Drywall instead of hardwood.

    • Plywood typically already has low moisture content, as the heat used in drying and gluing the layers together assures that the plywood is not wet. However, it can warp which results in the usual twisting effect that you have experienced. Some reasons could be that the moisture content was higher than normal and changed dramatically when it was glued and heated causing it to warp. This can happen in high moisture climates during the winter time. Another reason could be that it was left outside after it had been glued and was exposed to different temperature and weather conditions, then dried causing some warping. There are ways to correct warping but I wouldn’t recommend any of them. Basically, what you do is add consistent warm water to the the plywood and weigh it down to try and correct the skew or twist. Whether this works or not it is probably more work than needed. If you bought your lumber at Lowes or Home Depot and haven’t cut it, I would just take it back and exchange it for new un-warped piece of ply. As for the plywood being soft and light like drywall that’s odd. This is 3/4″ thick plywood it should be nice and rigid. Maybe go with and oak finish next time and see if there is more stiffness in that, may cost a little more. But make sure before you purchase to inspect for notches, marks, stiffness and warping. It is expensive so make sure this is the piece you want. A popular woodworking named Chris Schwarz, aka “the workbench design master”, never buys 2×4 studs because of the low grade wood it comes from. Instead he buys a 2×10 or 2×12 and rips it to the thickness of a 2×4 for quality. Its all preference. Hope that helps.

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