How to Use Drafting Tools

By Lisa Maloney

Drafting tools are an architect's best friend. You can't begin to apply your advanced drafting skills until you've learned how to select drafting pencils and what to use which kind of pencil for, how to set up your paper on your drafting board and how to use dividers.


Use a .5 mm pencil with 6H lead for drawing guidelines and construction lines.

Keep a .5mm pencil with H lead on hand to darken center and hidden lines. You'll also use this pencil for lettering purposes.

Darken thick object lines with a .9 mm pencil loaded with H or 2H lead.

Drafting Board

Lay your paper on your drafting board.

Line up one of the horizontal lines on your drawing with the edge of the horizontal slider on your board.

Tape all four corners of the paper down so that it won't wiggle or move while you draw.


Align each arm of the dividers so that one point is laying on the start point of the measurement you want to transfer and the other divider point is laying on the endpoint of that same measurement.

Lift the dividers off the measurement you intend to transfer, being careful not to change their alignment.

Place the dividers over the location you'd like to transfer the measurement to, and make a pencil mark to indicate where each of the dividers' pointers sits. This duplicates the measurement.

Drafting Scale

Place the edge of the scale parallel to the line being measured.

Face the edge of the scale that you're reading toward your nondominant side (if it's oriented vertically) or away from you (if it's oriented horizontally). This helps keep you from casting shadows on the relevant face of the scale as you work.

Make light marks to indicate the distance you're measuring or drawing out, as measured by the scale.

Adjust dividers with the scale by making a pencil line as long as the dividers should be wide, using the scale as a guide. Then adjust the dividers by orienting the points on the ends of the pencil line. Adjusting the dividers by placing the points directly on the scale might nick the surface of the scale, making it hard to read.


Draw a straight pencil line that forms one side of the angle you need to draw. Orient the straight edge of the protractor along this line with the middle point where the vertex of the angle will be.

Make a small mark at the desired angle measurement on the protractor.

Use a straight edge--or the straight edge of the protractor--to draw a straight line from the vertex of the angle toward the mark you just made. You don't have to connect the vertex and the mark if you don't want a long line--just make sure that, if you were to keep drawing the line, it would intersect the mark you made.

Drafting Triangle

Select the vertex of the drafting triangle that has the angle you'd like to draw. For example, if you're drawing a 30-degree angle, select the vertex of the 30-60-90 triangle that measures 30 degrees.

Place the point of the vertex you selected where you want the vertex of the drawn angle to be. If one ray (line) of the angle is already drawn, line one of the triangle's edges up with it. If no lines have been drawn yet, just make sure the edges of the triangle are oriented as you'd like the edges of the angle to be.

Draw in one or both rays (lines) of the angle as necessary, extending the lines as far as required to represent the object you're drawing.

Drafting Compass

Place the point of the drafting compass at the center point of the circle you intend to draw. If you're drawing an arc, imagine that the arc extends all the way around into a circle and place the point of the compass at the center of that imaginary circle.

Adjust the leaded end of the compass so that it touches where you'd like the edge of the arc--or circle--to be. If you're drawing an arc at a specific distance from the center point, make a line of the desired distance, adjust the point and leaded end of the compass against the ends of that line, then place the point of the compass back at the center point of your circle or arc.

Grasp the middle of the compass between your thumb and fingers. Twist your fingers, applying light downward pressure on the compass to mark out the desired length of arc or circle with the leaded end of the compass.


The mm measurement on drafting pencils tells what the diameter of the pencil lead is. The H measurement tells how hard the lead is. For example, 6H lead is very hard, while 2H lead is much softer and H lead is the softest of all.

About the Author

Lisa Maloney is a travel and outdoors writer based in Anchorage, Alaska. She's written four outdoors and travel guidebooks, including the award-winning "Moon Alaska," and regularly contributes to local and national publications. She also has a background in personal training, with more than 6,000 hours of hands-on experience.