On pen plotters and blue-prints and other nostalgia

Discussion in 'All Things Boats & Boating' started by MikeJohns, Jun 28, 2008.

  1. MikeJohns
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    MikeJohns Senior Member

    Many younger people have never worked with real blueprints and those offset tables and dimensions in blurred unreadable copies of the same.

    Life looked up considerably when the PC and then the plotter came along.

    I have used a variety of plotters; Lots of Flat bed plotters, Several HP roll the paper back and forth type of pen plotters then an Epson inkjet plotter that was cheap to run with huge reservoirs of ink (but slow and often started in the wrong place on the page). Now I use a canon A2 bubble-jet and it never screws up and prints the largest drawing under 1 minute.

    I gave all my older plotters away today, it was like losing old friends.



    The pen plotters would labor away for hours in the office always an impressive backdrop for clients, they did had some annoying quirks at first but then pen technology improved considerably. It just took an hour to spit out a detailed drawing, hard to conceive these days.

    I got the local dealer excited looking at a new HP ink-jet roll plotter that plots unlimited lengths off the roll but decided that A2 really is big enough and A3 is mostly what I use anyway (and the $$ would but me a new headsail). I email more drawings than print them now, It's scary when the foreman pulls out a PDA and checks your email while you are standing under a dripping ship trying to keep your clipboard dry.

    I have also dropped color plots in favor of black ink only. The details don't suffer I save a fortune in consumables and in reality they are about 100 times better then blueprints, slthough not everyone remembers that.

    But I do miss the little tunes and ditties the pen plotters used to produce as they flew around the page stepper motors whining away. Kids would sit mesmerized watching the process trying to figure out the drawing as it was built up from lots of little lines here and there. They had a high entertainment value which had to be seen to be believed.


    I still have rolls of blue-prints but now it is better to photograph them and shred them along with their silverfish.:)
     
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  2. safewalrus
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    safewalrus Ancient Marriner

    Know what you mean Mike -oh the joy of slide rules, log tables, and that simplest of all devices - the humble pencil!

    Still far better than this technical stuff in the right place, but can you find one? and an eraser -what's one o' they??
     
  3. MikeJohns
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    MikeJohns Senior Member

    Mike
    I like a mix of the old and the new.

    All through school and my first degree all we had was log tables and slide rules.

    Somehow the slide rule was more fun to use than a calculator and you got a 'feel' for what you were doing. We had circular slide rules too with special functions.

    The computers really made life easier for us in naval architecture, and I would hate to go back to the older methods now. But I use a clinometer (measures angles of roll when we do inclination tests) that was made in 1903 and it is an intricate and beautifully made bit of British engineering that will still do it's job well in 1000 years. And its going up in value. :)

    I learnt to navigate with a sextant, now I turn on the laptop and it says "you are here" plus or minus a few meters. I really like that. But I still work a position now and again, interestingly they still make midshipmen here shoot 7 stars for a dusk and dawn fix which is good to see.

    As for pencils, they only teach kids to print here these days, no more handwriting. It's all typing now.:(
     
  4. safewalrus
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    safewalrus Ancient Marriner

    Mike I'll say one thing for teaching kids to print and use computers as word processors - they do not have the excuse of poor writting anymore - so that's me bu**ered!:)
     
  5. Kaptin-Jer
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    Kaptin-Jer Semi-Pro

    --But there are still good and bad draftsmen. In my office I make all my draftsmen work to 1/256 of an inch, and you will be surprised at the wild strings of dimensions we get, because lines don't close, aren't straight. I make them fix everything until they get whole numbers. What I miss Is standing up and seeing the whole page. I would never sit when drafting. I would keep a 2x4 on the floor and do step-ups for exercise while I worked. Now I sit in front of the computer 11 hours a day and get fat and week!!
     
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  6. safewalrus
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    safewalrus Ancient Marriner

    's why diabete's is killing off all the good guys - too long on the computer! The ones who are rubbish get to walk the floor and do some exercise!!
     
  7. MikeJohns
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    MikeJohns Senior Member

    I like doing drawings on the computer curves are so fair and easy to generate, my huge crt monitors are finally replaced with flat screens which are much esaier on the eyes. Another great advantage of the PC is being able to zoom in and out which is a boon when your eyes have passed middle age.

    I am happy that I embraced and really learnt the new technology as it came out from about 85 onwards. It would have been too much of a wrench to adopt now.

    As for inches ! I grew up with that system and even convert back to it to relate to some dimensions but when it comes to fabrication and dimensions I found that the metric system is far less prone to errors particulalry with inexperienced people.

    cheers
     
  8. Kaptin-Jer
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    Kaptin-Jer Semi-Pro

    Inches, Decimal, Metric- doesn't matter, just push the units as high as passable. Only to catch mistakes. No one can build to those tolerances, and you might have to change the units before you plot, but it is a way to check yourself. and no, I don't like zooming in and out. I always liked to be able to see the whole page, Never have been able to get use to it and I too have been on Cad for about 20 years.
     
  9. safewalrus
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    safewalrus Ancient Marriner

    I like inches!!! and a 'barleycorn' is sufficient accuracy for me, normally!! If I have to go to higher tolerances the good old boatbuilds scale of eigths is about right - hell that's twice the width of a saw cut FCS! ain't that close enough? We're building boats not skyrockets for heavens sake!
     
  10. Landlubber
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    Landlubber Senior Member

    Yeah, I just love the people that tell me it was CAD designed amd built. They say it is better because the 5D router can cut to .002" ........yeah, then they hand finish the bloody job anyhow, so what is the fuss all about.

    So many drawings done today do not align....cockpit soles that differ in waterlines, companionways the show different lengths in different drawings, all because the computer screen is sooooo small compared to the drawing board.

    I miss the old blueprints, and the excuisite work some designers did, look at Alan Paynes original drawings, they were works of art.
     
  11. MikeJohns
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    MikeJohns Senior Member

    I arrange things so that I have the entire drawing on one monitor and the zoomed in portion on the other particulalry framing, pipe routing and similar . Most of our work is full 3d now and the 2 monitor approach really makes life easier.

    Paper drawings ...keeping your curves rules, squares all clean working for hours on a drawing and when you pulled it out of the file 2 years later for some modification and its only a blueprint covered in coffee mug rings and peppered with welding splatter burns and the originals lost. That is one great thing with the computers the original is there crisp and clean for all time.

    Some people could never keep a clean sheet as they worked on it, one draftsman we had always produced incredibly grubby drawings. Others were neat as a pin. Color pen drawings of piping and electricals could take several days, the draftsmen would not let me in to their room with a cup of coffee in my hand !

    When the big plotters came in half of them left and the other half became cad jockies, and I could drink my coffee with them while I waited for a drawing.

    Who remembers typing pools and the noise in there? We also had young women called Girl-fridays who ran stuff around kept the bussiness running answered the phones chased bad debts and made the tea . Now they have become middle-managers and they don't make the tea :)
     
  12. MikeJohns
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    MikeJohns Senior Member

    Some of the older drawings when framed sell for some reasonably large sums of money, it is apparently in vogue to have technical looking old stuff on your ultra modern walls.

    As for CAD vs hand drawn, there are some very sloppy CAD jockies, but by the old methods there were always a few entries way out in the offest tables. But that came out in the lofting.
     
  13. Eric Sponberg
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    Eric Sponberg Senior Member

    As I am sure you can appreciate, a good draftsman by hand is also a good draftsman on the computer if he knows how to operate the machine well. It takes organization and talent to set the dimensions and notes correctly and to organize the plan so that it tells a story. And don't forget the blank space somewhere on the drawing to rest the eye--don't crowd every last inch (or millimeter) with detail.

    Most of the other CAD drawings that I see by other people are usually pretty poor. They are poorly organized, have lousy lettering and dimensioning, have unclosed linework (I hate it when lines coming to a corner don't actually come to a corner--don't like gaps!) Learning how to draw, either by hand or on the computer, is like learning how to write. You have to edit, edit, edit until the plan tells the story clearly and succinctly.

    I like drawing by hand occasionally, especially when getting out a quick repair note or detail. If I have a large drawing to produce, it goes ever so much more quickly with CAD. Cut-and-Paste is the probably the most labor-saving procedure ever invented, right up there with "save as..."

    I still have my blueprint machine (excellent condition by the way, and for sale) but I think it may eventually end up in either a museum, a third world country, or a land fill.

    I have a large scale HP color plotter on which I occasionally do color graphics, but my drawings are all black ink on white paper. I still use color codes for line width definition--I simply like it and am used to it. I find color codes easy to use, and I always use a black background on the screen so that the colors stand out the clearest.

    I also run an HP deskjet large scale printer for tabloid size drawings, 11" x 17". Tabloid, D-size (24" x 36"), and letter size (8.5" x 11") are my standard sizes. Many of my colleagues in the past used larger sizes, up to E-size (36" x 48") and larger, but I find that size particularly unwieldy, and you cannot grasp the whole drawing in a single glance at arm's length. The only time I go to a large size format is when I am plotting full-size Mylars for patterns.

    Those are some of my thoughts on drafting and plotting. Thanks for yours.

    Eric
     
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  14. MikeJohns
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    MikeJohns Senior Member

    Thanks for your post Eric. I think the idea would be to draw a nice barquentine or 3 masted schooner with technical detail then run off blue prints and sell them as artwork. You might be surprised :) Certainly an art school might be interested.

    I don't use graphics tablets anymore either and I have a large one that is headed for landfill.
     

  15. Eric Sponberg
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    Eric Sponberg Senior Member

    Mike,

    I have thought exactly the same thing. If you create a master drawing, you can print it out at small scale for people who don't want to spend a lot of money, and larger prints for those that can afford it. Either way, you create only one work of art that you can print to any scale any number of times. A nice parchment type paper would add to the artistic effect.

    I have gone so far as to look for suitable art in the books that are generally available, and I haven't found anything that I like, really. I remember a classmate of mine at UofM (many years ago) did an ink drawing profile of a 3-masted training ship--that is the sort of picture that I have in mind when I have been looking for art.

    I did go to an art show here in St. Augustine a few months ago, and I met a man who had photocopied some of the drawings out of Howard I. Chapelle's "History of American Sailing Ships", printed them on small stock and mounted them on varnished wood plaques about 6" to 8" square--they looked really nice. Don't know what the copyright infringement was there, but the point is, the pictures looked good. He said he had had some discussions with the local lighthouse museum about doing pictures like that, and that they might be interested in larger prints to sell in their gift shop. I have not had time to follow up on that yet. But it indicates that there is possibly a market there.

    Great minds think alike!

    Eric
     
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