Technical drawing instruments

Technical instruments have been used for centuries to aid with measurement and the creation of drawings.

Instruments include those designed to assist with drawing accurate lines (such as straight edges and templates), the accurate measurement of angles (protractors), the drawing of curved lines (compasses), accurately measuring distances (scales and rulers) and ruling pens and pencils for committing the elements of a drawing to paper.

From around the mid-19th Century manual technical drawing instruments were produced as sets which could be purchased with the expectation of lasting for the entirety of an engineer’s career. 

Individual instruments such as pantographs or planimeters used for copying and scaling drawings and for determining the area of a 2D shape respectively.

Some examples of these instruments can be found in our collections and are highlighted here.

In 2020, the large majority of technical drawing is now completed using computer aided design software.