territorial about tools

tools 02.jpgArchitects love their tools – whether they’re analog or digital tools. We all have our favorites and debates break out on what are the best and why. The key is why. Architects know why they hold to certain opinions which is a conversation all to itself.

Serendipity was on my side as I was shopping online earlier this week looking for pens as I came across my pen of choice throughout college. At some point, it became hard to find in art supply stores (even on college campus book stores) and I had to find another ‘brand’ (this was pre-internet days folks). Imagine my joy as I discovered it is still available online – in black and red ink. This got me thinking – I’m fond of my stuff (architecture stuff), even quite sentimental about many of my architectural tools. This is the part where I explain how we think about our tools and how we get attached to them. In other words – if you borrow it, you had certainly better return it – exactly where you found it or else.

If you have favorites and yours are distinctly different than mine, I’m interested to hear about them, but we’re not going to argue about them or tell each other that the other is wrong. If you don’t know why I mentioned that, you’re not an architect.

sketch pens
These arrived yesterday and I’m eager to use them. The fine point makes for great sketching (not writing), and this is the best (if not only) pen that has the perfect cap that allows me to clip it (hidden) to my shirt. I rarely go anywhere without a sketch pen clipped to my shirt.

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sketch books
Over the years, I’ve used many types of sketchbooks of all types and sizes. Now I simply prefer a size that can fit into a pocket and is able to unfold flat on a table. I carry mine everywhere I go.

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Forget the artist pack of every known type of graphite from hard to soft (9H to 8B). I’m an architect. A #2 pencil is still the best tool. When you totally geek out the pencil thing, you’ll find these pencil point protectors and a lead holder for pencils when they’re too small to hold. Architect toys, that’s all I can say.

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pens and trace (and more pencils)
Yellow trace is it. Sharpies – no other. Fat lead holders – one of the coolest tools I came across years ago – these pencils work so well on large newsprint or other times to be loose – like a Sharpie permits, but still using pencil.

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drafting tools
I admit these are used sporadically now, but my 6” flat architects scale is priceless. I’ve gone through many, so this one isn’t an original, but most of the day to day work is done with this little scale; it doesn’t leave my office. I have others that I carry with me. I don’t have much use of the larger (triangular) one except for ripping sheets of trace.

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modeling tools
I rarely build models these days, which is sad, because it remains one of my favorite things to do as an architect. It’s therapy. My only comment – the cork back metal ruler – I’ve had this since I was in 9th grade where I started building architectural models over 35 years ago. Don’t touch it, don’t take it out of my office. It’s sentimental.

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drafting table
This is still in use, but it’s been off my desk for several weeks. The cover is dirty and I should get a new one. What is special about this desk is my sister bought this desk for me when I started architectural school in 1986. I removed the legs and added a handle and fold out legs on the back so it can be placed on a desk top. Other than that, I believe the parallel rule (Mayline) is from my college days. For the record, it’s not my first drafting table – that’s a remarkable story I’ll share sometime.

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For those of you who only use digital tools – do you have “feelings” for them? Better yet, do you have stories? I do think computers are cool; my only feelings for computers are hostility or ambivalence with no sentiment.

I’d love to hear your stories. If you’re not an architect, I hope you understand a bit how we think without being freaked out.

territorial about tools

6 thoughts on “territorial about tools

  1. #2 Dixon Ticonderoga pencil…a main stay on my desk. Some are long, some are short, some are so short I can’t see the ends in my pencil cup, but I still love to use them. They are the best. Two fountain pens ALWAYS ride in my pocket. A clear body (demonstrator) pen filled with permanent black ink and a demonstrator filled with a red ink of my choice. The black ink pen gets used for sketching, signing, taking notes and every other use I can dream up for it. I use permanent ink in it so that I can do a quick sketch for a client and add a water color wash over it. This is done without having to change pens or worry about bleeding ink. The red pen gets used for marking up drawings in my office, marking up shop drawings, adding emphasis on a sketch or leaving a note for myself that I will actually notice more than all of the black notes stuck on the edge of my monitor. Fountain pens and #2 pencils rock!

      1. I have used everything from Montblanc to Pelikan to Platinum to Noodler’s to Lamy to Parker, but my favorite for overall sketching is TWSBI. I use a Diamond 580AL Demonstrator and an ECO Demonstrator. They are probably the least expensive pens I have but that makes them great for me to have in my pocket every place I go. If they get damaged or lost I can replace them and move on. I keep extra fine nibs in both of them since the nibs will flex to give a wider line if you apply pressure. Noodler’s makes great ink to feed them and I like the fact that the ink that I use is waterproof. It’s a great combination. Once you go to a fountain pen you will never go back!

      2. I think I need to try using one for a while to get a feel for it before committing. I’m used to a low commitment with a standard pen and I don’t worry if I lose it. It is quite tempting though.

  2. John Hrivnak says:

    hard to find the mechanical pencils with the rotating piece of barrel that one could use to identify the hardness of lead in each one – was better than rapidiographs and still can do quick line weights when sketching – also thrilled to hear I’m not the only one who still sketches… still don’t like the computer as a design tool… maybe some day…

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