Drawing boards have many applications. You can use them as portable sketch boards to provide a solid support for drawing paper during outdoor drawing. The board may be held level on your knees for pencil or pastel drawing, or propped up at an angle for painting watercolors. Artists often place a drawing board on an easel, then tape paper to it, or tack on a piece of unstretched canvas for drawing compositions in graphite or charcoal for a painting.
Go to a lumber yard or building supply store that carries sheets of 1/2- or 3/4-inch thick plywood. Select a sheet of A to C grade interior plywood with an oak, cherry or birch veneer on one side for a smooth surface on your drawing board. Ask to see several sheets. Pick a sheet with the least amount of warping and the fewest dings and scratches.
Cut the plywood sheet with your circular saw and the plywood-cutting blade into several sizes of drawing boards. Cut a large board for large-scale studio drawings and artworks. Saw up smaller sizes to fit standard sheets of drawing paper, such as 22 by 30 inches and 8 by 10 inches. Cut the board 2 to 4 inches wider than the paper size.
Place the sheet of plywood on a sheet of 2-inch thick foam insulation with the veneer side facing down to reduce splintering and chipout on the smooth side. Measure the board to the dimensions you want to cut and mark it with a carpenter's chalk-string line. Double snap the string line firmly against the board for an easily read line.
Align a straight-edge cutting guide along the chalk layout line so the saw blade lines up with the chalk line. Firmly clamp down the guide at both ends with c-clamps. Make a shallow first pass with the saw, just deep enough to cut the wood's fibers. Cut all the way through the wood on the second pass in one stroke without stopping.
Use medium-grit sandpaper to sand the edges of the drawing board smooth. Sand the surface of the board with fine-grit sandpaper to remove any blemishes. Wipe the board down with a clean tack cloth to remove the sanding dust. Rub tung oil or boiled linseed oil into the board with a rag. Remove excess oil with a clean cloth. Cut a long oval-shaped hole in the smaller boards with a jigsaw to fit your fingers.
Use masonite or 1/4-inch plywood for a lightweight, portable drawing board.
Always wear safety goggles when operating a power saw.