Introduction: Sketching Practice Box

According to the standards for technological literacy, one thing that 9-12th graders must know is that structures, such as buildings and bridges, have "a number of requirements" in their design. One of these requirements is a set of professional drawings, which often consists of a number of standard views of the exterior of the structure. Typically, the top, front, and right side views are those where the most information can be obtained from 2D drawings of 3D objects. As such, these planes have been called the "primary planes of projection." In our case, we will be literally projecting the details of 3D objects on to 3 planes, through the creation of our practice box.

Our box will consist of a wooden base with acrylic walls, with a flat sheet of acryllic forming the top. We will include a small platform on the top such that we can elevate the object we are drawing to draw it a bit better. When finished, we will have a small box that we can place objects inside in order to sketch the principle views of those objects, as shown in the picture.

You will need:

  • A sheet of 1/8" clear acrylic
  • A sheet of 5/8" thick plywood
  • A hot glue gun with glue
  • A sheet of white foam core board
  • Wet or dry erase markers

Step 1: Cut the Materials

First thing is to cut the materials to size. We will be creating a box approximately 8" x 8" x 8". You can make a box larger or smaller than that, though you must change the dimensions of the other pieces accordingly if you do so.

The plywood base will be an 8" by 8" square. Mark 8" using a ruler or tape measure, then cut it accordingly. This cut can be done with a table saw, a jigsaw, a circular saw, or hand saw, so long as it goes all the way through.

Once you have cut it to size, you need to cut channels for the acrylic to fit into. We were able to use a table saw, though you can also try and use a router, chisels, or another type of cutting apparatus to cut the channels. It is important that the channels are of the same depth, and are both 1/8" thick. Therefore we recommend you use a table saw for consistency. The channels should be (insert measurement here) away from the edges of the board on two sides (see picture).

Next is to cut the acrylic sheets. We recommend that you do not remove the protective paper before cutting as to not scratch the acrylic surface. Cut the acrylic sheets such that you have two pieces that are (insert measurement here). These pieces will serve as the sides of the box. The dimensions are to offset both the thickness of the plywood and the position of the channel. Cut one more acrylic sheet to (insert measurement here). This piece will be the top of the box, and had dimensions corresponding to the position of the channel such that a seam between the pieces can be created later.

Step 2: Glue in Sides of Box

Next we will glue in the sides of the box into the channels. First, run a bead of glue in one of the channels. You will want to do this with some urgency, as hot glue cools relatively quickly, and we want to achieve a good bond when we place in the acrylic sheets in. Do not worry about putting too much glue in, as any excess should be squeezed out when you attach the pieces of acrylic in place. Immediately after running the glue, place one of the "side" pieces of acrylic into the channel. Use force when placing it in the channel to get a strong bond. Try and place it such that the corners match up at the meeting of the channels. You do not want too much space between the walls when it comes time to place the top. Repeat the actions of running the hot glue and placing the acrylic sheet for the other side of the box. When both acrylic sheets are in, create a hot glue seam between the two pieces.

Do not run the glue all at once, as you will fill your channels with glue that will be difficult to get out.

Step 3: Glue in the Cover of the Box

Then we will glue the cover on the top of two sides. First, align the cover with the edges of both sides of the box, and place two tapes on both edges in order to keep the cover in place. Once the tapes are secure, we can put hot glue under the corners between the cover and side pieces. Wait until the hot glue is cooled, and we can remove the tapes from the box. Remember to hold the top acrylic sheet when putting hot glue in, since the sheet might move slightly. Also, make sure to keep the glue gun in an angle so that the hot glue can attach both pieces and keep the top piece in place.

Step 4: Foam Core Foundation

Finally, the last step before the Sketching Practice Box is ready for use is to glue down the foam core foundation. First, sketch out the measurements (a 7½”x7½” square) on the foam core to guide your cutting tool for a nice and clean cut (use a ruler to keep your blade straight as it moves along the cut for extra precision). Additionally, you could also use a square to ensure your corners are at a 90° angle. Once you’ve cut the board to size, hot glue all four corners on one flat side with a dab of hot glue in the center of that side (5 dabs total). Finally, and quickly before the glue dries, place the glued side centered on top of the plywood inside the box, and press firmly (but not so hard to deform the board) to ensure a strong bond between the foam core and the wood. You can use other adhesives to accomplish this, though we have found hot glue to work the best.

Step 5: Sketching Practice

When using the Sketch Practice Box, place the desired item on top of the foam core (about center) and get the dry erase marker. Once the object is correctly placed, begin sketching the outlines of the shapes seen from one side on the acrylic surface. These sketches should look like what can be seen when looking on that side head on. Upon finishing the sketches, use an eraser (rag or other appropriate items) to clear the acrylic. Repeat as necessary for any side of the object.