Antique Drafting Table

Kate Miller-Wilson
Antique Drafting Table

Also known as "drawing boards" or "architect's tables," antique drafting tables are prized by many home decorators and collectors of antiques. These large pieces are testament to the beautiful design and painstaking craftsmanship of the 19th century.

About Drafting Tables

Typically a fixture in an 18th or 19th century gentleman's office or study, drafting tables featured an adjustable surface to facilitate detailed drawing. Often this surface could be raised or lowered and could be tipped at a variety of angles. The architect or artist would generally use the table while standing, but sometimes, a tall stool could provide more comfortable working conditions. Some tables also featured a mechanism to adjust the height, so they could be used in a seated position.

Materials Used and Design Changes

Early drafting tables were constructed of oak or other sturdy hardwoods. They featured brass fittings and could be adjusted in only a few set ways. These tables were heavy, but they were finely crafted. In addition to fulfilling a function for the artist or drafter, they were beautiful pieces of furniture.

In the early 20th century, drafting tables were redesigned to be lighter and more portable. They were important fixtures in many architecture and engineering firms, and their looks became more utilitarian. Instead of fine woods and metal, the tables were now constructed of plastic, vinyl, and steel. The design of the tables became more complex, and many featured integrated drafting tools.

End of an Era

As computer-aided drafting became the standard practice in the late 20th century, drafting tables began to disappear from use in many firms. Some artists, architects, and engineers who are more comfortable with traditional pencil design still use drafting tables to do initial sketches or edit and revise computer-created drawings. However, few drafting tables are now produced for professional use.

Modern Uses for Antique Drafting Tables

As most antique collectors know, old items can often be used in new ways. Even if you won't be using an antique architect's table to design your next home addition, you can find some fun ways to give new life to this beautiful piece of furniture. Here are a few ideas:

  • Display artwork on a drafting table. Adjust the table to its vertical position and attach a favorite painting, etching, or poster to the surface. The drafting table will highlight the work of art and will make it an immediate focal point in the room.
  • Use a drafting table as a standing laptop desk. If you adjust the height to its maximum setting and make the tabletop level, you can use a drafting table a place to check your email or catch up on work without sitting down.
  • Use the antique drawing board as an artist's table. Even though the fields of architecture and engineering have embraced the computer design trend, many artists still work with pens and pencils. Drafting tables were designed for just this kind of use.
  • Use a drafting table as a family message center. To do this, place the tabletop in its upright position, and adjust the table to its maximum height. Attach a chalkboard and several clips to the drafting table. You can then leave messages for family members and find important papers on your way out the door.
  • You can also use a drafting table to display large antique books.

Where to Buy

You can shop for antique drafting tables at the following places:

  • Garage sales
  • Estate sales
  • Online auction sites like eBay
  • Antique stores
  • Online antiques marketplaces like Ruby Lane
  • Newspaper classified ads
Antique Drafting Table