Introduction: $50 Drafting Table

Picture of $50 Drafting Table

I'm a poor, currently unemployed art student. I plan on doing tons of Illustration work over the summer but I don't really have a suitable space to work. My solution? Build a Drafting table! The first one I designed was far too complex, my friend showed me plans for one on Instructables ( so I used that one, but modified it slightly to fit a reasonable price range. Yours, however, might come out to a few bucks more because I had a bunch of stuff laying around that I thought I could use, that's all optional though.

Also, keep in mind I'm no carpenter. If something was done wrong or you think my choice of materials wasn't ideal then please lemme know! If you plan on building this then pay attention to the comments because someone may mention something I've missed. >_>

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

Okay, so the total came to $52.77 (including tax), without including the random bits I found. I just took one trip to Home Depot and found everything easy.


3/4" thick slab of MDF: $26.72
- The size I got was around 3'x4'. You can get it cut at Home Depot for a 50 cents a cut for every cut after the first two. No big deal if you don't have a circular saw. In the Instructable I linked to in the previous step he uses a hollow-body door. The price was a bit steep for me so I went with MDF. If you don't want excess MDF you can get some smaller slabs for a smaller table.

UPDATE: MDF was a terrible choice for the wood. After leaving drinks on the sides of the table the condensation gets absorbed by the wood and raises the surface. Now I have grotesque looking bumps and rings. Not only that but it's pretty darn heavy, too.

Hinges: $3.57
- I got a pair of Non-Mortise Hinges, they were small enough to just barely fit on the 3/4" MDF. (See second image)

Collapsible Table Legs: $19.97
- These took the longest to find, seems like nobody knew what I was talking about. Got 'em sure enough. They require minor assembly, pretty straight forward.

3/8" thick scrapwood
- The hinges will give you a 3/8" gap between the table and the drawing surface. To keep your surface flat when you need it you'll need anything that's 3/8". I found an old CD rack with perfect little blocks so I cut a few off for the table.


Power Drill & Drill Bits
Circular Saw
Screw Driver
Pliers (small)
Ruler (Or measuring tape and straight edge)
Saw horses (Not really necessary if you get all your pieces cut at Home Depot)
Wood Glue


- I found a 2'x3' sheet of this in my basement, it's not the *ideal* size but I thought it'd work nicely on it.

Anti-scuff pads
- I don't know what these things are called, but you put them on furniture legs so they don't scuff the floor up. I put them on mine just to be safe. You could also put them on the 3/8" risers so the drawing surface doesn't come down with a bang.

- Take a picture of yours and show me! \o/

Step 2: The Cuts

I don't have tons of space in my room at the moment, so I went with a smaller table than blksheep's. I have a 28"x36" drawing area (with a 4" overhang) and a 25"x49" table- this gives me two 6.5" (originally wanted 7") shelves on both sides.

So if you have your slab at Home Depot, regardless of whether or not you have a circular saw you should get it cut there. Get a pieces that's 25" wide for the table and 28" wide for the drawing surface. The third cut will be to make the 28" wide piece 36" long.

So to reiterate, you should end up with...

A 25"x49" piece for the table. This can be done with a single cut.

A 28"x36" piece for the drawing surface.

Two pieces of scrap (one large and one that would make a good-size shelf)

Sorry no pics for this part.

Step 3: Attach the Hinges

Picture of Attach the Hinges

It get's pretty straight forward from here. Take your 3/8" pieces of scrap and put them on the underside of the drawing surface so that the table lies flat. Line up the table to the drawing surface so you have a 3" overhang. Center the hinges and space them out evenly along the bottom of the drawing surface- I have about 14" between my hinges.

Also, make sure that the smaller part of the hinge is attached to the table, not the drawing surface.

When the hinges are on flip it over and give it a test.

Step 4: Attach the Legs

Picture of Attach the Legs

It just keeps getting easier!

Make sure you assemble the legs BEFORE you attach them to the table. I neglected to do so on the first pair of legs and I think they came out a bit uneven. >_>

Anyway. Line up your legs dead center, mark the holes and drill away. Be sure as hell you don't go through the table. Screw the bases in then move to the second set. These are a bit tricky, as they want to bend towards the center of the table. I simply pushed them away from the center and marked the holes, then drilled and attached them. Do the same for the second set of legs.

When both legs are attached, open them up and flip the table around. Make sure everything is aligned properly and it lies flat.

We're almost done here...

Step 5: Finishing Touches

Picture of Finishing Touches

Now all there's left to do is attach the 3/8" risers and the plexiglas if you have it...

Simply line the risers up with the cornes of the drawing surface and glue them down to the table. I only have one on each corner. When they're dry you can slap on some anti-scuff pads (or something similar, like felt) to soften the descent of the drawing surface.

I haven't attached the plexiglas yet because I wanted to draw something on the drawing surface, and maybe have some friends doodle on it. It's also the perfect place to put reference sheets, like human anatomy and the like.

I also haven't attached the rails yet, as I'm devising a way to make them adjustable so they don't get in my way, like if I wanna use my laptop on the desk.

It took me very little time to build this, considering how much I'll be using it. If you decide to build one you can really make it any size you want and customize it in any way (i.e. cupholders for pens). If you do build one lemme know. :)


P.J.Dinicola (author)2014-08-15

sorry so late. next time try piano hinges. just a note. good work, i am thinking on doing one myself. thanks for sharing.

dendrite84 made it! (author)2014-04-02

Thanks for this! I am also a Museum School student and when I moved back home to Texas I saw this post and decided to give it a shot because I wanted a drafting table for X-Mas but wanted to build it instead cuz I knew it'd be less expensive.

I used the same materials you did, including the board which I later read is susceptible to water damage (yikes!!) and the same hinges / table legs.

I didn't attach a plexiglass panel because at some point I still want to cut out a square hole to make a light box out of this as well (I took animation with Joel and Flip :D)

This is my first real DIY project and I thank you !

Right now my only concern is that I need a way to make the top side hold it's angle while I draw (you know like the expensive ones at the art stores) without using CD cases as support. XD Any ideas on what supplies I would need?

As for the raise/lower mechanism, look around the gate/screen door section at your local big hardware store. There's bound to be an adjustable solution to your problem. I have no idea what the thing on my table is called, but it's like a hinge with notches.

Forgive me, I am exhausted, lol.

No worries :) Ya that's what I need. notched hinges. Thx again!

Haha, right on! I am torn, because A) I forgot this was up here, and B) I have since learned so much about practical design since I made this that I cringe every time I think about it. Everything about this design is flawed, but if you're short on cash and tools as I was back in the day, then this works.

Given my skills now, I could build one for even cheaper. However, this still stands as a quick and easy method to getting a good drawing surface. Now I just have an easy $100 one that more than suits my needs.

HDKdesign (author)2013-08-10

How did you attach the plexiglass? I don't want to use screws so it stays perfectly smooth.

HDKdesign (author)2013-07-24

What thickness Plexiglas would you recommend?

SirBrittanicvs (author)HDKdesign2013-07-24


SirBrittanicvs (author)2012-12-12

Wow. I am genuinely surprised this got me 3 months of Pro Membership. I'm certain I could now build a better table for even cheaper. Yikes.

jtwright4216 (author)2012-10-22

Nice drafting table design. It is simple and fairly cheap. Also I noticed that you just have it being held up statically without begin able to move. While searching through google I noticed this blog post He used some architectural hinges that worked out perfectly.  Take a look hope it helps.

baken411 (author)2009-05-13

what about those rulers on the rails? thats what i would like to know how to build diy since they are so expensive normally

SirBrittanicvs (author)baken4112009-05-13

Could you elaborate?

jadronx (author)SirBrittanicvs2012-01-04

he means a sliding t-square

Kraeik (author)2011-01-08

I know I am quite late to the party here, but have you considered coating the MDF with Melamine rather than the plexiglass? I t is not transparent but I think it would be a slightly better material for drawing on top of.

Just some unsolicited advice 8 months late.

SirBrittanicvs (author)Kraeik2011-01-10

It hadn't occurred to me to do that (mainly cuz I had that piece of plexiglass), however I've been looking for the name of that stuff for a while now as I have a project in mind that would look great with melamine instead of wood.

Also, this table bit the dust during my last move. : /

artcobain (author)2010-05-29

 im so so so so jealous right now >.<

jetbd1 (author)2010-05-20

 great work. =)

iluvpandas4 (author)2009-05-20

where'd you get the stool? its pretty neat looking

I think that's from Ikea. It is, unfortunately, nonadjustable and the height it's currently at is killing my back. That's where milk crates come in, if you don't mind waffle-butt that is. :p

jdege (author)2009-05-12

I've never had much luck putting screws into the edges of MDF. Even through the paper, MDF doesn't hold screws well. Through the edges it's like screwing into oatmeal. What sort of screws did you use? And have you had any problems with them pulling out?

SirBrittanicvs (author)jdege2009-05-12

I just used the screws that came with everything. I haven't had any problems ith them, but then again, it's only been assembled for a few hours.

jdege (author)SirBrittanicvs2009-05-13

If they pull out, your best bet is probably to dowel them. Drill out the holes with a 1/2" bit, two inches deep. Cut off lengths of 1/2" dowel that are longer than the holes. Or, if 1/2" dowels won't fit, use the widest dowel that will fit. Slather them with wood glue, and drive them into the holes. Let them dry for a day, then cut them off flush. Find some longer screws, drill proper pilot holes for them into the dowels, and attach the hinges. You should be able to find some 1-1/2" flat-head screws that fit the holes in the hinges. They should hold reasonably well, screwed into wood dowels - even in end grain.

SirBrittanicvs (author)jdege2009-05-13

Good idea. If things start falling apart I'll give that a shot.

nachosyumm (author)jdege2009-05-12

Regular wood screws do not work that well, you can get by with them by pre-drilling the hole and hand screwing them on the face, but i have never been able to get standard wood screws to securely go into the edges. I use plastic inserts for stuff like hinges that go onto mdf. The small screws have a tendency to rip out in mdf if you just use them by themselves

About This Instructable




Bio: SMFA Boston Grad. Creator of many things, consumer of more things.
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