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How To Choose a Drafting Table

To properly choose a table, you need to consider the following 4 questions:

  1. Is the table for long term use or in a temporary setting?
  2. What is the largest paper size you will commonly use?
  3. Which feature is more important, sturdiness of the table or the ability to fold it and put it away (i.e. - slide it under a bed) (Collapsible vs. Four Post)
  4. Would you rather sit a in a standard height chair (desk height) when you work or in an elevated chair (drafting height chair).

Short Term vs. Long Term Use

For example you may choose a short term table, if you are using it for a short term project at a job site or to use in a dorm room/apartment. Choose short a short term table if you are going to use it for four or less years and then upgrade, sell on Ebay or discard. Choose the long term table if you are planning to use it for the next 10 or more years.

If you chose Short Term, you should look for a table that is collapsible. Several manufacturers make drafting tables that fold. The two most common are made my Martin Universal Products and Alvin & Company. They both make several models, but you should see the Alvin Onyx Series or the Martin Berkley Series.

ADVANTAGES

  1. The collapsible table’s best feature is the way they fold. Basically, the legs fold together and then the top flips down. By design, you end up with a final height of about 5” and then the length and width are determined by the table top size.
  2. Though not like a four post table, these are surprisingly sturdy.

DISADVANTAGES

In most cases the largest top size is 30”x42”, which means that you will be limited on your paper choices.

If you chose Long Term, your options are much greater. You can choose the collapsible table (described above) or a four post table. A four post table simply means a table with four stationery legs. These are the sturdiest of all drafting tables and are available in all sizes including the very largest (37.5”x72”).

Paper Size

The most common paper sizes used the United States are 24”x36”; 30”x42” and 36”x 48”

24”x36” is most commonly used in residential designs; 30”x42” in commercial design and 36”x48” in large multi phase commercial projects.

This is an important step in your Drafting Table Selection process. You want to choose the table that will best accommodate your sheet sizes, but you do not want to choose too large, unless your table will be placed in a permanent setting. You will notice a significant price difference when you go beyond a 30”x42” table and the main reason for this is shipping (side note: UPS and FedEx charge significantly higher fees when the dimensions exceed 30”x42”, which in turn translates in to a higher consumer price. At the time of writing this article UPS charges $40 in addition to the standard shipping fee, to ship a 36”x48” top).

Keep in mind, if you are using 24”x36” paper, it can be used on a 24”x36” table, but it is easier to use if you have a 30”x42”. In other words, if you have the space and money for a table size larger than the largest paper your plan to use, this is what you should choose.

Collapsible Tables

ADVANTAGES

  1. The collapsible table’s best feature is the way they fold. Basically, the legs fold together and then the top flips down. By design, you end up with a final height of about 5” and then the length and width are determined by the table top.
  2. Though not like a four post table, these are surprisingly sturdy.

DISADVANTAGES

  1. In most cases the largest top size is 30”x42”, which means that you will be limited on your paper choices.

EXAMPLES

  1. Alvin Onyx
  2. Martin Berkley
  3. Alvin Professional

Four Post Tables

ADVANTAGES

  1. Available in the largest sizes
  2. Sturdiest of all designs
  3. Available with drawers

DISADVANTAGES

  1. Limited/No portability (much heavier)
  2. requires greater space in most cases

EXAMPLES

  1. Alvin Workmaster
  2. Alvin Design Master
  3. Mayline Ranger
  4. SMI Oak

Chair Height

Some people prefer to work at a Drafting Height while others prefer a desk height. Drafting Height is normally considered to be a table that has a top that is elevated 36” from the floor. Desk Height is a table with a top height of 30.”

This is a matter of preference, though the most common is the drafting height, which allows your feet to rest on a foot rest and still allow the chair to swivel.

Article by Jeff Hatcher
29 Years of Industry Experience
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