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Lee Valley just posted a straightedge that uses magnets to hold a steel rule at many commonly-used angles, including ones for isometric drawing. Hmm — the last time I made an isometric drawing by hand, I was in middle school shop class. With CAD becoming ubiquitous and free CAD-like programs available to the general public, I can’t imagine there’s much use for hand-drawn isometric drawings anymore unless you’re a die-hard drafter.

The 12″ by 2″ aluminum body straightedge uses rare earth magnets to hold a 12″ by 3/4″ steel rule in slots machined at 0°, 30°, 45°, 60°, 90° and their supplement angles, although Lee Valley is quick to point out that this is just a quick layout tool and not a precise instrument.

Lee Valley etches the rule in Imperial and Metric graduations on one side and angle guides on the flip side. They anodize the aluminum and chrome-plate the rule to give it a nice, lasting finish. When you’re done with the tool, the rule stores in the other side of the straightedge.

Since Lee Valley lists patent pending under this this product, I’m assuming they (or Veritas Tools) are the creators.  Their magnetic straightedge will cost you $40 before shipping.

Magnetic Straightedge [Lee Valley]

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10 Responses to Magnetic Drawing Tool

  1. Dave P says:

    Gotta disagree with you about nobody using hand-made sketches anymore. As a machinist, I use them every day. So do the engineers who drop into the shop for R&D work. Fact is, no software program can beat a quickie pencil sketch for speed and revisability, and being able to whip out an isometric is a great timesaver.

    Think of it like any manual tool. I can think of a lot of times a screwdriver is a hell of a lot more handy than my 18v drill.

  2. TheHawaiian says:

    I do CADD everyday, but I will still whip out a pencil, paper and a ruler. Most times I need to do a quick drawing before committing to the computer. Even with CADD programs, it’s still a lot click/drag/tool/layer/etc. while a sketch could offer a better and quick insight. Also clients really appreciate and admire the talent to draw without the computer.
    I currently use Put-Lines mini-drafting machine (a ruler that rolls) in the office and especially out in the field. No booting up, looking for power outlet or fighting screen glare. I will take a look in to this tool for my arsenal.

  3. cheerIO says:

    I’m with the other commenters. Computers are great, but some things are easier and faster just drawn out by hand. Most of my projects are small one off’s so the majority are just drawn by hand as needed.

    This also looks dead simple to reproduce with a milling machine. Think I will make a small one to use with my 6 inch scale.

  4. gnume says:

    im with the other commenter’s as well.
    i use paper and pencil to do a quick sketch to get the : general shape, sizes and how to create it on the computer

  5. dreamcatcher says:

    I’m with Ben on this one.
    This product is about 20 years too late.

    As a design/builder I draw everyday. If I am using a paper and pencil, there’s a reason: I need to simply and quickly save or convey an idea. I can’t see this device adding speed or simplicity to the process. Sketching may happen using a sharpie on the back of a 2×6 or a carpenter’s pencil on a scrap of drywall, once in a great while it will happen in a notebook but it almost never happens when I have a proper straight edge and sharp #2 pencil.

    I have one word for all you other commenters: SKETCHUP

    Don’t get me wrong as I spent many years glued to a drafting table (in fact I still have my $2k Neolt table in storage) but in as much time as it would take some draftsmen to tape down their paper and find their tools, I could already have a usable Sketchup drawing completed and emailed away to the client. Am I amazingly fast at Sketchup – Hell Yeah. That’s the point. It’s designed to replace napkin sketching. It’s fast, intuitive, and always in 3D. I can take my computer with me to the job (and I never turn my computer off so no “boot up” time) and pull it out to quickly modify and reprint the drawings as needed.

    As a tip to all you machine shop workers and engineers or just designers/builders in general: Get a dry erase board. It doesn’t need to be a large wall hung thing (unless you want it to be) it can be a dry erase clip board. I recently did a machine design/build project where I needed to constantly express and get feedback from fabricators, operators, engineers, and clients. Sketching ideas on a notepad was too small and too much erasing; then I rescued a 2’x3′ dry erase board from the trash and fell in love with the usability of it for that situation. People seem to respond better to a black marker on a whiteboard than they do to a pencil sketch on note paper. They stand back and listen like they are in a lecture hall. Try it.


  6. I think many of you misread what I said:

    I can’t imaging there’s much use for hand-drawn isometric drawings anymore

    Besides misspelling imagine, I wasn’t saying nobody used rough sketches anymore.

    @Dave P.
    Last place I worked with a machine shop, we weren’t allowed within 100 ft of the shop unless we had a numbered CAD drawing. Even if it was for a prototype.


    I’m with you on the dry erase board. I have one in just about every room of my house, strangely not in my shop though. (I use notebook with green engineering paper in there.)

  7. Gough says:

    I may have posted this a few months ago, but one of the slickest white-board applications that I’ve seen was in a machine shop that we remodeled. They painted the metal doors with gloss white alkyd enamel and used those. It had the extra benefit of letting them use magnets to hold up paper sketches as well.

  8. Dave P says:


    Yeah, I’ve worked in some shops with incompetent draftsmen and engineers–we machinists had to use all kinds of excuses to keep them out of trouble! The place I work now does over 50 million in yearly sales of scientific equipment. Every machinist is college educated, and the engineering department is pretty sharp (although given to overtolerancing stuff). When you have a staff that’s smart enough, they don’t need to “stand back and listen like they are in a lecture hall,” nor do they have to have lousy ideas culled out by the CAD QC guy.

    But I understand your point. I guess collective mediocrity is so prevalent now that handwritten genius, created and vetted by an individual, is largely obsolete. But then, Lee Valley doesn’t really cater to the everyday worker-bee, does it?

  9. dreamcatcher says:

    @Dave P

    Whoa…I just caught your reply.

    Quote: “When you have a staff that’s smart enough, they don’t need to “stand back and listen like they are in a lecture hall,” nor do they have to have lousy ideas culled out by the CAD QC guy.”

    Quote: “I guess collective mediocrity is so prevalent now that handwritten genius, created and vetted by an individual, is largely obsolete”

    What are you trying to say?

    I never meant to demean the intelligence of machinists nor engineers. I just happened to have been in a situation where I was the “concept guy” so I had to present to the fabricators, engineers, and clients. The white board sketches just helped to ensure we were all on the same page. Prototyping may be a different ball game than what you are used to.

    I had the concept, the collective tweaks the concept to work out the kinks in the manufacturing and budget, then I test the outcome. When everyone is on the same page it works, when we are all mavericks (genius’ in our own minds) it doesn’t.


  10. gnume says:

    bit unrelated but still funny and intresting

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