No mechanical drawing is finished unless all headings, titles, and dimensions are lettered in plain, neat type. Many drawings are accurate, well-planned, and finely executed but do not present a good appearance because the draftsman did not think it worth while to letter carefully. Lettering requires time and patience especially for the beginner; and many think it a good plan to practice lettering before commencing drawing. Poor writing need not necessarily mean poor lettering, for good writers do not always letter well.

In making large letters for titles and headings it is often necessary to use drawing instruments and mechanical aids, but small letters, such as those used for dimensions, names of materials, dates, etc., should be made free-hand.


The student is apt to think that lettering is a form of mechanical drawing, that the use of the straight-edge is the principal operation, and that letters, forms, and the spaces between are to be figured out by measurement. On the contrary, lettering is ' design, and the draftsman so distributes the letters in the spaces arranged for them as to make a combination that will be pleasing to the eye. The requirements for a good design are simplicity and uniformity. These are acquired by accuracy in detail and by good judgment and taste, as no practical rules can be followed which will invariably produce the same result. Letter forms are, to a certain extent, standard. The lettering for a title is usually done very carefully and accurately, while practically all of the other lettering on a drawing is done rapidly and in a simple style. To develop a letter use the same method of procedure as in drawing a straight line between two points. First, draw the guide lines rather carefully and then block out the general form of the letter by a series of short strokes of the pencil. Continue this method, straightening the lines and rounding the curves of the latter until its form is satisfactory.


The spacing of the letters is very important and is best obtained by the unaided eye just as are the proportions of the letters. Care must be taken to allow a clear distance between letters, the space varying according to the combination. For instance, such letters as A, V, and W spread more at one part than at another and therefore do not fill the space completely. Of course, when the distance between letters is large any such irregularities will not be noticeable. The best method for obtaining good space values is by sketching in the letters roughly and then bringing them to a good appearance by correction and adjustment The first results are, of course, unsatisfactory, but after the eye and hand have become trained, great improvement will be noticed. A simple aid to this development will be found in the use of a piece of cardboard with the widths of the enclosing rectangles or parallelograms of the different letters marked on its edge, by which the spacing made by the eye may be checked.


In practical work most of the lettering is penciled in and then finished in ink. As faults in letters which may not be noticed in the penciled work stand out clearly after inking, it is not advisable to ink in the penciled letter accurately, but rather to improve upon it.

For lettering free-hand, use a pen that will make the full weight of line desired without much pressure, holding it squarely on the paper and directly in front. A new pen, which is apt to give too fine a line, may be remedied by scratching a little on a rough surface. If a pen is kept clean and all hardened ink removed so that the nibs are not spread, the pen will last a long time. A coarser pen must be used on rough than on smooth paper.

To remove a faulty line or a blot, let the ink dry thoroughly, then with a sand rubber, erase the spot carefully, rubbing around it, as well. Clean the sand out of the surface with a pencil eraser and finally polish down with a piece of ivory or smooth wood. Pencil in the parts erased as if doing the work for the first time and again ink in, using special care, as the ink is more likely to spread on an erased surface than anywhere else.


There are many styles of letters used by draftsmen, but almost any neat letter free from ornamentation is acceptable in regular practice. For titles, large Roman capitals are preferred, although Gothic and black letters also look well and are much easier to make. The vertical and inclined or italicized Gothic capitals shown in Fig. 34 and Fig. 35, are neat, plain, and easily made. This latter style possesses the advantage over the vertical type in that a slight difference in inclination is not apparent.

Upright Gothic Capitals.

Fig. 34. Upright Gothic Capitals.

The curves of the inclined Gothic letters such as those in B, C, G, J, etc., are somewhat difficult to make free-hand, especially if the letters are about one-half inch high. In the alphabet, Fig. 36, the letters are made almost wholly of straight lines, the corners only being curved.

The first few plates of this work will require no titles, the only lettering being the student's name, the date, and the plate number which will be done in inclined Gothic capitals. Later the subject of lettering will again be taken up in connection with titles and headings for drawings which show the details of machines.

To make the inclined Gothic letters, first draw two parallel lines 5/32 inch apart to mark the height for the letters of the date, name, and plate number. This is the height to be used on all plates throughout this work, unless other directions are given. When two sizes of letters are used, the smaller should be about two-thirds as high as the larger. The inclination of the letters should be the same for all, and as an aid to the beginner, light pencil lines may be drawn about 1/4 inch apart, forming the proper angle with the parallel lines already drawn; this angle is usually about 70°, but if a 60° triangle is at hand, it may be used in connection with the T-square as shown in Fig. 38.

Inclined Gothic Capitals.

Fig. 35. Inclined Gothic Capitals.

Inclined Gothic Capitals   Straight Lines with Curved Corners.

Fig. 36. Inclined Gothic Capitals - Straight Lines with Curved Corners.

Capital letters such as D, E, F, L, Z, etc., should have their top and bottom lines coincide with the horizontal guide lines, as otherwise the work will look uneven. Letters, of which C, G, O, and Q are types, may be formed of curved or straight lines. If made of curved lines, their height should be a little greater than the guide lines to prevent their appearing smaller than the other letters. In this work they may be made of straight lines with rounded corners as such letters are easily constructed and may be made of standard height.

To construct the letter A, use one of the 60° lines as a center line. Then from its intersection with the upper horizontal line drop a perpendicular to the lower guide line. Draw another line from the vertex meeting the lower guide line at the same distance on the other side of the center line. The cross line of the A should be a little below the center. The V is an inverted A without the cross line. For the letter M, the side lines should be parallel and about the same distance apart as the guide lines. The side lines of the W are not parallel but are farther apart at the top. The J is not quite as wide as such letters as II, E, N, R, etc. To make a Y, use the same spread as in making a V but let the diverging lines meet the center line a little below the middle.

The lower-case letters are shown in Fig. 37. In such letters as m, n, r, etc., make the corners slightly rounding. The letters a, b, c, e, g, o, p, q, should be full and rounding.

Inclined Gothic Lower Caae Letters.

Fig. 37. Inclined Gothic Lower-Caae Letters.

The style of the Arabic numerals is given in Fig. 36; Roman numerals are made of straight lines.

At first the copy should be followed closely and the letters drawn in pencil; the inclined guide lines may be used until the proper inclination becomes firmly fixed in mind when they should be abandoned. The horizontal lines, however, are used at all times by most draftsmen. After considerable practice has been had the letters may be constructed in ink without first using the pencil. When proficiency has been attained in the simple inclined Gothic capitals, the vertical, block and Roman alphabets should be studied.