Saturday, April 07, 2012

Pencil Points

Chicago is having a very warm, early spring this year, following a surprisingly uneventful winter. As the days get progressively longer, you can tell that people everywhere are thinking about outdoor projects of every kind. There are at least a half dozen, well funded, well advertised DIY websites that are happy to help you plan your work so that you can get the most out of the good weather. Most of them are quite eager to tell you how to complete your project, and 'oh, our sponsor has exactly the product you need!' But ask yourself for a moment what you would do without all of the experts on the web offering advice.

Before the big box hardware stores and 24 hour home improvement channels were around, most home owners turned to publications like Popular Mechanics, and chances are there was a project every month or two that was useful to every reader. But if you needed to know how to do anything and everything you needed something more like this.

Pencil Points, known as "a journal for the drafting room," was an architecture and design magazine dating back to 1920. Many of it's design article are still available today in republished collections. Among the articles published were Don Graf's Data Sheets, in which he presented information on building materials, construction techniques, design constraints, and various other useful articles, all compiled into succinct little descriptions, charts, and diagrams which seldom filled more than two or three pages.

This compilation (printed in 1945) has articles that cover requirements and building layouts for virtually every kind of commercial buildings as well as design parameters for all sorts of residential and recreational structures.

Suppose that you were enjoying a lovely spring day in the late '40s and decided that you wanted a fancy new grill to entertain your friends and neighbors that summer. You could just browse through this compilation of Dan Graf's work and find a design for a nice fancy grill you can build in a couple of weekends.

Of course once the guests are over you'll want to keep them entertained, so maybe a few games of croquet would be in order.

Better yet, how about a few rounds of horseshoes? I like a game where close counts.

After the guests are gone and the dishes are washed, maybe you'll need a place where you can quietly relax away from the hustle and bustle of your daily life.

This doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the information contained in this book. Most of the pages won't tell you every single thing you need to know to finish a project. There are no step-by-step instructions, but there's enough information that someone smart and determined could almost always get the job done.

Now, back to that shooting range on page 180