Whatever Chuck draws, the result is neat, clear, and interesting. His techniques are equally so, as a close examination reveals. The drawings are usually executed first in pencil, and then finished in ink. I hesitate to say "traced," because the ink lines follow rather than exactly overlay the light pencil ones. Sometimes, after the ink has dried, he erases the pencil lines. These are techniques I learned in mechanical drawing courses in high school and in college as an engineering student, and seeing them used by a master brings back fond memories of those days at the drafting board.
A letter from Chuck is hard to miss in the mail, for the envelope is always addressed with either elaborate calligraphic flourishes or fancy and whimsical artwork. He does not consider himself an artist, and so when he draws cartoons of people or animals he often traces them from some source, such as a magazine. He also employs a lot of color on his envelopes, as he does on the drawings inside them. He typically uses either colored pencils or watercolors; something that was commonly done in nineteenth-century engineering drawings, making the best of them truly works of art.
I often wonder whether the postman sorting our mail stops for a moment to enjoy Chuck's entertaining envelopes. They may be but small packages among the plethora of slick and heavy mail-order catalogues that clog our mailboxes nowadays, but they always carry the distinct mark of being hand-addressed and hand-drawn -- hand-designed -- and that alone makes them something to admire among all the computer-generated and personalized impersonal material. I know that I stop to admire a Chuck Siple envelope before I open it, and I open it carefully so that I can preserve it along with its always interesting contents.
With the near-ubiquitous adoption of computer graphics, a meticulous draftsman like Chuck Siple may be a thing of the past, but to me his eye for detail keeps him as perceptive a critic of design as he ever was. Though he has the hands of a draftsman, he has the mind of an engineer. Computer-generated drawings may be the new standard, but I doubt that any graphics program will ever become an engineer's pen pal.
CAD is a tool for a draughtsman. If you don't know how to properly use CAD, the result is garbage, not a drawing. One basic that is not understood is that a CAD drawing is drawn full size, but is scaled to fit the paper it will be printed on. The first job that I had using AutoCAD Release 9 (I learned on Release 10), had drawings done by a hacker - every mistake that we had been taught to not do, was in that drawing. I learned manual drafting, so I appreciate the accuracy and features of CAD. One of the finer points of manual drafting was knowing how to do a true size projection.
Excellent point, vimulkumarp, and I'm glad somebody said it. I've read "To Engineer Is Human" twice and have quoted it on this website more than once. Professor Petroski has a rare quality among university professors these days -- he's a master of communication who can speak equally well to experts and to the man on the street.
I'm the same, ChasChas. I could draw a plan view or elevation reasonably well, but was incapable of doing an oblique view of even the simplest objects. After awhile, my employers understood this and tended to put me in front of a computer, where I could do less damage.
Both my parents are Electro mechanical tech's with Vocational high school degrees. Both of them are capable of drawing better than the paid drafters in our company. They tried and tried to teach me how to draw. It never clicked. I can draw stick people, my circles look like ellipses, and lets just say that I prefer hyperbolic geometry since I cannot draw straight lines. I am grateful that drafting is not required any more. That would have been a road block for me. I enjoy looking at the work but it's a dying art. Soon enough the only place to hold any hand drafted plans will be museums.
I took drafting in college. I was never very good, but there are skills there that are necessary to have in your career, and I see it as a critical step to communicating. I'm an EE, but I've often been responsible for the "whole box". Being able to draw (even incompetently) allows you to better "see" things yourself, and communicate them across job boundaries.
Just as children must learn math BEFORE they start using calculators, Engineers should learn to draw and communicate effectively. After all, Engineering is both creation and communication; what's that if not ART?
Reminds me of a good Engineering book: A Canticle for Leibowitz
is all an engineer needs. Drawing and drafting in college is generally last grasp to resist change from older engineers that feel cheated that they had to go through the pains of learning how to draw and the younger generation does not. Same thing happened with calculators and now and it's happening again with the internet.
I guess you are also glad you never had to learn how to use a slide rule - that was my first 'calculator', and the batteries never died at a critical time. The operator had to know where to put the decimal point. And the first electronic calculators (red LED's) were 'slide-rule calculators', before the time of digital calculators.
CAD helps a draughtsman draw better. But if you don't know how to draw by hand, you can't draw in CAD. I had CAD-CAM operators complain that they couldn't create a certain profile in CAD. But they also couldn't explain what they were trying to do. After sketching from their description, usually by the 3rd revision I had deciphered what they wanted to do. Then I could explain the steps to re-create the profile in CAD.
But then I also feel sorry for the cashiers that have to rely on the cash register to calculate change. If they punch in too quickly and it says $0.18 change, they have no idea that the 7 cents I am offering is to make up to a quarter (25 cents). (I expect you just use your debit card.)
The most important tool for any Engineer, is a brain that works. That is what actually makes your tools, whichever are your favorites, useful.
Angry much? Fyi i know how to use a slide ruler, i am a collector of slide rulers too. I also know how to add even though i use a debit card. I have a degree in math as well. Also because i have a degree in math and my extensive knowledge in analysis and geometry i have a perfect understanding of 3D. I am also working on a masters in computer science. Now stop being cranky because the world can survive without your skills. And a friendly advice. When you get that hot shot young boss (you will at some point in your career) dont talk to him with this attitude.
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