© 1999 Sandee McLeieer
I was a professional drafter for 8 years and have used all sorts of tables for that purpose, including tables up to 6 feet in length with drafting machines and electronic lifts, etc. Here are some observations I think about, now that I am shopping for my next one.
Get at least a 30" x 40" table, unless you are cramped for space. Measure your available space (footprint) before you buy. Allow an extra 3-4 feet for room for the stool and yourself. You may need extra table-top space for supplies that you want on hand but you don't want to slide off if you tilt the top. I have seen one model that has a 12" wide section that doesn't tilt. I want that one, but it's much harder to find.
See how easy it is to adjust the height and angle. Some models are a pain to adjust. Look for one that you can adjust from the front, especially if you are cramped for space. You may not have room to maneuver behind the table to adjust it. I am not kidding. This is IMPORTANT.
Check the height on the stool. Is it easy to adjust up and down? Is it compatible with the table in height?
Portability: do you need to fold it up and out of the way when not in use? How easy is that to do? Even folded up, how much space does it take (footprint)?
If you have to fold it up and away, you need a sturdy tabletop. The one I bought before was made of particle board, and if it bumped a corner, it would get a dent in it. You want to keep the surface as smooth and flat as possible. Luckily the only dings I got in it were on the edges. I was really amazed at how fragile it was.
Invest in a table cover. You want to protect that surface. You can get a 31" x 42" drawing board cover and the tape to apply it to the tabletop for about $50. Or you can get a cutting mat and use that for a cover if you do a lot of cutting ($90-100 for 30" x 42").
Some models are heavy, some are fairly lightweight. Even though mine was a "lightweight portable" table, it was still fairly heavy. A solid core top will add to the weight and durability. If you order online or through a catalog, include shipping/freight charges in your cost analysis. Some tables are only shipped by truck freight. Get a direct quote up front.
Price isn't everything, but the more expensive models are usually better made and will last longer over the long run, because they will take much more use. If you plan on having to take it down and up quite a bit, you may be better off getting the more expensive models, because they will be sturdier and last a whole lot longer than the less expensive ones. If you can set it up and leave it up, the sets sold at many office stores should be fine. One set has 4 pieces, stool, table, lamp and tray for $149.
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