What are set squares?

The set square is in the shape of a right-angled triangle.

We have blue plex, wood and aluminium set squares.

Plex_set_squares_LOur blue plex items have a bevelled edge and two stepped edges. Draftsmen tend to draw at right angles with rotring pens to prevent smudging, therefore we have stepped edges for this purpose. The bevelled edge has measurements for enabling accurate markings.

BlackWhiteAluminSet_tOur aluminium set squares have a marked side which is bevelled and the other sides are square cut. The edge is cut to prevent peeling. The aluminium can also be used with scalpels. Both versions of set square can be purchased individually or in a set.

legno_7We also have wooden set squares for a traditional feel; again these items have a bevelled edge with the other sides being square cut, ensuring all the usability remains whilst incorporating luxurious timber.

Set squares can be utilised for drawing both parallel and perpendicular lines and are commonly used for technical drawing and engineering purposes.

Set squares are typically used in conjunction with T-Squares or parallel motions to ensure accuracy. The T-Square is placed firmly along the edge of your drawing board, there should be no gaps. Then position your set square on top of the T-square.  Paper can be secured in place using drawing board clips.

If you require a range of angles to be drawn, it is worth considering purchasing an adjustable set square. The angles produced can be up to a maximum of 180°.

Set Squares are often purchased with protractors and compasses.

Set Square Sizes

The convention for sizing a set square is to measure the length of the long side (the hypotenuse) on the 45°set square. This means a 32cm set square will have a 21cm short side and a 32cm hypotenuse.

Manufacturing restrictions may shorten the 32cm length slightly as the point may be removed, either for safety or because in the case of an applied scale because it is impossible to adhere securely to a point.

The 32cm 60° set square is produced to be compatible to the size of the 45° but does not have a 32cm length at all.

We offer many more including our long life collection; extra-large set squares and 2 way set squares. To navigate our ranges of set squares click here

Freya Knudsen – Email: Sales@artdo.co.uk



Parallel Motion

We frequently receive emails from people looking for parallel motion spares or advice about their parallel motion. The first point to appreciate is that many drawing office equipment manufacturers have gone out of business with the advent of the PC. 1990 saw the great demise and those remaining have significantly slimmed down their ranges.

So what types of parallel motion are there. Bearing in mind that we are referring to a blade or ruler which travels vertically up and down the board the variations are many.

1. The Surface Mounted Parallel Motion

To start with cord is anchored to each corner and then attached to the blade using pulleys or whatever. The cord is on the surface so the size of the board doesn’t matter..

Bertram Surface Mounted Parallel Motion

Bertram Surface Mounted Parallel Motion

BERTRAM BASIC. You can most of the fittings in a hardware shop. The rulers may be specially ordered from us. We no longer stock them and they have to be imported from Italy.

Bieffe Axial parallel motion

Bieffe Axial parallel motion

AXIAL. A surprisingly inexpensive but very effective parallel motion without the problems of wires, weights and wheels. It looks a real Heath Robinson when delivered but once assembled it works really well.

Mayline parallel motion

Mayline parallel motion

MAYLINE. You should also look at Mayline which works in the same way but is the best. Made in the USA we have found that Architects and Designers love it. Superb quality and it will fit on most boards the same size or larger. There is a side traveller on the ruler but if you read the instructions it mentions that this may be removed. Note it is dimensioned in inches to suit the American market so 4ft = 1220mm NOT 1200mm!

2. Cross Cord/Wire parallel Motion

Bertram Straightline Parallel Motion

Bertram Straightline Parallel Motion

There are many variations of this type and at various price levels. The ruler must be the same width as the board. This type is really popular with colleges and students as it is durable and reliable. You will only source spares from the manufacturer except for the cords which may be purchased from a hardware shop or chandlers.

3. Wire and Weights

Beloved of architects and designer the wire and weights parallel motion has been used for many years in the UK.

Peter parallel motion (Neolt 202)

Peter parallel motion (Neolt 202)

The first problem is that it does NOT draw lines that are parallel to each other which means that verticals drawn with a set square will also be out. How can this be? For 100% accuracy the diameter of the pulley wheels and the diameter of the wire  must be the same and of course the board must be square and the whole assembled perfectly. Nice to think it is possible but in 45 years I have never found a PM that is not out by a millimeter or two!  The illustration is of our Peter parallel motion which was made for us by Neolt of Italy. Sadly they have ceased production although we still have good stocks. We also have a limited number of spares.

4. Strange parallel motions

Probably a cruel heading but there have been all sorts of odd and often effective parallel motions such as the Paraglide. Spares will be difficult!


So you need spares. Think out of the box. Ebay is a good source. Wire can come from fishing tackle shops – best is it is plastic coated as it won’t harm the wheels and will move better. Weights, well now you do have to think maybe a piece of pipe filled with wax.

Rulers. They must must be the correct width to your board or buy a new board. The name on the drawing stand doesn’t mean it is the same for the Parallel Motion as dealers used to mix products from different manufacturers. And then there are the fittings on the ruler as they are all different and if they are not correct the ruler will not sit flat on the board. So if you are a practical person you may be able to put something together but if not then you really need to buy a new PM and maybe a new board.

If you are drawing A3/A2/A1 I would really suggest you look at our Bertram Straightline range

If you are drawing A1, A0 or larger you might want a floor mounted range so look at the options we have with AXIAL 

Good Luck


Drafting Machines

Drafting machines used to be a feature of any drawing office. Parallel Motions were generally preferred by Architects and Designers as they allowed the board to be clear for freehand work. Engineers and most other others found the drafting machine much faster to use as they had all their tools (scale, protractor, t.square, set square) all in one place and to see a skilled draftsman ay work was mind blowing as the drafting machine was operated very quickly. I remember going into the British Leyland Drawing Office at Cowley, Oxford. It seemed to stretch to infinity with so many machines. British Aerospace was another impressive installation.
There were two types of machine – the pantograph and the track machine. I am not going to discuss the Pantograph as it is not a machine I know well. The track machine which was very popular was that produced by Zucor and sadly no longer available following the demise of Zucor in the nineties. For many years the Zucor manufacturing side was within the Bieffe plant in Padua in Italy. For this reason the two brands were marketed together in the UK under the name Zucor Bieffe.
The machines made by Zucor included the superb EXPORT favoured by large format users producing full size drawings of say, cars. The Premier was an early machine but very good looking. The Medium was a very popular aluminium machine with a vertical black stripe. All machines used the same protractor head in either the 135 degree format or in the 360 degree format.
Let us look at some of the questions I am often asked.
1. What is a “parking area”. The machine has a vertical rail to which is attached the protractor head. You cannot draw under the rail or protractor which has to remain on the board otherwise the bottom wheel would fall off and the unit would end up on the floor. There were accessories such as an extension rail at top and bottom which projected beyond the board but this led to some draftsman having an eye removed or being emasculated and certainly not acceptable in a climate of health and safety. The parking problem had led the “extended boards” such as A1 extended (80 x 120cms) or A0 extended (92 x 150cms). An English AO board used to be 92 x 127 so adding 20cms for the parking area and heck 147 is a horrible size so 150cm is much more metric! So we allow 20cms for parking – give or take.
2. Articulation. Normally you would now expect the vertical rail to be hinged where it joins the horizontal rail but this was not the case in the past. Both our LM and SM machines are. Another important place for articulation is where the protractor head joins the vertical rail. a single hinge is adequate for drawing on paper (LM) but if different thickness of material are to be used you need the double hinge, one hinge allows the head the be angled up and the second hinge allows the head to be flat. In the past there were “floating” heads which lifted the head off the paper which was good for preventing ink smudging and not dragging dirty rubber dust over the drawing.
3. The length of the rails is often questioned. Our LM machine is the size you buy it at and not suitable for altering. The SM gives much more latitude. The top rail can be trimmed to suit and this is something we have done quite often. As I have said above not a good idea to have it projection over the edge of the board if you value your eyesight!
The vertical rail cannot be cut as inside the profile there is a counterweight which balances the protractor head and this counterweight runs on a pulley and wire which run from top to bottom. However on the SM the bottom wheel may be adjusted allowing the vertical rail to project beyond the bottom of the board. Some draftsmen liked this as they used to steady the vertical rail in their lap – matter of choice.
4. The drafting machines are supplied with a standard set of scales. There are no options for the LM but we stock various options for the SM but they have to be purchased as an extra – they cannot be exchanged with the standard set.
5. Left handed machines. These used to be available but no longer. You cannot reverse a right handed machine.

The difference between the LM and the SM is considerable. The LM is a basic drafting machine. Really good quality but at a level which is why it is only available up to A1X size. The SM has all the normal options and is based on the old Mutoh range.

Well I hope that helps. I will try and add to this as thoughts come to me.

SM Drafting Machine by Bieffe

SM Drafting Machine by Bieffe


LM Drafting Machine

LM Drafting Machine

How our range of table top portable drawing boards developed.

 Traditionally as a company the smallest board we stocked was A1 and the largest well ….. how big do you want to go, 3 metres, 4 metres! Market research suggested that there was a demand for table top boards, particularly as many creative people are happier with a pencil in their hand as opposed to a keyboard. Even CAD users find it is quicker to change a detail on a drawing board rather than producing a new drawing. 
 Our scale maker produced a range of smaller boards and so we specified our own version which we felt would be appropiate to the UK market and this we called the BERTRAM STRAIGHTLINE. It has a robust 14mm board, a superb ruler which is marked on both edges which means you can use the ruler markings near the bottom of the board. The cross cordwe liked as the more usual wire on this type of board snags and can be difficut to replace (foul I hear the competition cry!) The quality of the chrome handle, which also serves as a bench  prop, was excellent. So we ordered the stock and waited to see what happened. It was an instant success and had to order special packaging to ensure safe transit and minimise costs.
Bertram Straightline Drawing Board

Bertram Straightline Drawing Board



We then had requests for a less expensive version and so we discussed this with the factory. We felt the board itself was too good to pass up and so we looked at the parallel motion and came up with the BERTRAM STUDY. The STUDY has the same board and prop but a different parallel motion ruler and operating mechanism. The STRAIGHTLINE has cords that traverse the rear of the board passing round wheels on metal bearings whereas the cords on the STUDY run from the top corner of the face of the board, down the edge to the ruler, across the ruler and then down to the bottom opposite corner – this configuration is on both sides. It sounds a bit Heath Robinson but in fact it works surprisingly well and it is very inexpensive. We don’t have the STUDY in A1 size as there is very little demand. 

Bertram Study Drawing Board

Bertram Study Drawing Board



Now we had calls from Artists and Calligraphists who wanted the board but didn’t want the parallel motion. We also understood that they liked to rest the board on the corner of a table which meant some sort of grip, hence the appropiately named “castellated grip” which is made in black rubber. We called this board the CALLIGRAPHY. 





It was all becoming a stock challenge but a Mr Hardy had no sympathy with that. He wanted more features and in particular a lock on the parallel motion ruler so that it didn’t slip up and down the board. So we organised that and a finger grip in the middle of the ruler plus a ruler marked in centimetres on the left hand side of the board. It really was a very nice product and of course we had to call it the HARDY!  
Bertram Hardy Drawing Board

Bertram Hardy Drawing Board



Finally we realised that a “portable” drawing board needed to be portable and so we added a case. Cost was a problem but Corex seemed to be a really good solution. In fact the case works really well and there is plenty of room for instruments and drawings.  
Bertram Carry Case

Bertram Carry Case



Some Designers wanted a more adjustable stand and so we developed the WORKMASTER which has seven angle positions. We use the BERTRAM STRAIGHTLINE but fit it onto an adjustable stand from another supplier. This is suitable for professional designers and those requiring regular angle adjustement. The idea of having angle adjustment is to make it easy to angle the board up to the nearly vertical when working at the top of a drawing and then to reduce the angle as the work progresses to the bottom of the drawing.   

Bertram A1 Workmaster

Bertram A1 Workmaster





We then had a number of requests from Educational Establishments who wanted a really tough A3 drawing board for as little money as possible. This time we looked farther afield than Europe and ended up in the Far East and found the SCOOT. Amazingly this is a really tough plastic board and parallel motion with all the features. There is a set square available as well which slides on the ruler and of course the carry bag which we called SLING. All under the Bertram Brand.
Finally from the same supplier we came up with the RAPID which had everything in the one box. Ideal for anyone who has a project in mind and wants to produce some quite complex drawings. We know of similar boards on the market that cost three times as much. Of course RAPID will fit into the SLING case. 
















What’s the difference between Jullian Original Half Size easel and the Plein Air and Classic versions

This is a question we are very often asked.  It is important to understand the history of the three easels. The Jullian half size has been around for many years and it very popular with artists who do not want the weight and size of the full size version. I think it is not so much the weight but more the size. The half size is easy to carry and of course doesn’t have the storage capacity of the full size which means it is lighter – human beings always use all the storage space available!

So what are the main differences between the three and for the purposes of clarity I will call them the Jullian, The Plein Air and the Classic. The Jullian has everything we can put into a top quality easel:

  • Made in beech
  • Folding palette with stops to prevent wet paint “squishing”
  • leg spikes,
  • brush flannel
  • carry bag
  • rivets rather than screws which work loose, ask artists who have another make about screws loosening!
  • fixed metal lined drawer with three compartments
  • wing nuts and knobs cannot come off easily
  • deeper box which means a deeper joint and greater bonding surface with the legs which is the secret of the stability of the Jullian
  • beautiful real leather handle and carry strap stitched in a contrasting colour

The Plein Air was our answer to the many copies on the market and so we produced an easel which still had all the main qualities of the Jullian but we saved cost where we could.

  • The easel is made in elm
  • The metal lining of the drawer is a “drop in” type
  • The carry strap is canvas
  • No carry bag
  • Metal fitting on the joint of the back leg
  • Rivets only used where vital, otherwisde screws are used
  • Brass retaining strips on legs

And then the Classic which is the same basic easel as the Plein Air but we have left off the “frills”.

  • no tag/label holder
  • basic folding palette finished on one side only
  • strangely this easel has a carry bag whilst the more expensive Plein Air does not
  • Vertical support arm not rivetted
  • Not supplied with a spares kit
  • PVC handle
  • Copper retaining strips on legs
  • Screws visible under handle

Dimensions and weights

Over time we have provided information on weights and measurements which may be confusing. Reading from the Jullian price list the Jullian weighs 5Kg, the Plein Air weighs 5Kg and the Classic weighs 5Kg so there is no difference at all in weight but we do find that easels do vary in weight and should the bag be added in or not? The answer is they all weigh approximately 5Kg!

The other problem we have is that Jullian are always improving their products and the above is accurate in March 2010 but in a few months time …… ! However you will not get less.

I find it quite interesting when we have artists who have compared all three side by side (at Art in Action and sometimes at our office). They never seem to see the Classic or the Plain Air and whatever their budget they always go straight to the Jullian because it is just stunning to look at let alone put it to use and of course it has that international Jullian reputation.

So which one should you buy. Well I would always say go for the Jullian, but then I would wouldn’t I?  The Classic is a really good buy for students, art classes or when you know that it is a step to a Jullian. Good also for gifts where the budget won’t stretch. The Plein Air bridges the price gap between Classic and Jullian. I have to say Jullian have considered discontinuing it but it stays as it is still very popular.

James B – Art-DrawingOffice


Newsletter Signup Form

We strive to offer engaging content that is helpful to our customers. We don’t send out emails often but when we do we ensure they’re packed with handy tips and advice. Your email address is never passed on to third parties.

Subscribe to our newsletter