$50 Drafting Table

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Introduction: $50 Drafting Table

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

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 (https://www.instructables.com/id/Good-n-Easy-Drafting--Design-Table/) 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

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.

Materials:

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.

Tools:

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

Optional:

Plexiglas
- 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.

Camera
- 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

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

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

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. :)

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21 Comments

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

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

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.

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 http://thatshouldhold.com/build-your-own-drafting-table/ He used some architectural hinges that worked out perfectly.  Take a look hope it helps.

1 reply

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

2 replies

he means a sliding t-square

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.

1 reply

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. : /

 im so so so so jealous right now >.<

 great work. =)

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

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?

3 replies

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.

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.

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