WWI “Field Sketching Case”

WWI “Field Sketching Case”

We keep on ending up in the Wayback Machine when looking at scrolling map technology (and I bet we could go a lot farther back). First we started with the 1930s scrolling car navigator, then the 1920s wrist-borne map scroll. Here, Make: Online reader “TH” describes a WWI era (1914) scrolling device for map making:

The same concept of scrolling paper was used even earlier during the WWI era to make maps. The Cavalry Sketching Board or Field Sketching Case was like a handheld version of the old surveying plane tables. Two rods were attached to the sides of a wooden board to store a roll of paper that could be pulled across the sketching surface. A magnetic compass, an elevation clinometer, and a straightedge to use as an alidade were built into the device. It also included a leather arm strap so it could be used on horseback.

In use, the map maker would start at a point and set the compass to the general bearing of the road or trail that was to be mapped. Holding the board steady, he would carefully draw straight lines in the direction of various landmarks visible from his current location. The map maker then moved to a new point, aligned the board in the same orientation using the compass, sketched more lines to the landmarks, and made notes of various features along the trail. Continuing down the road, he would repeat this process many times. After returning to base, the sketch was turned into a usable map by filling in the details. The landmarks were located by finding the points on the map where the sketched lines intersected. The finished map could then be used by itself or combined with other similar maps to cover a large area. An example of this device can be seen above.

Original sketching boards like this are quite old and aren’t seen frequently. But they are also relatively simple and any makers interested in the idea could easily produce a similar device.

[Thanks, TH!]

Hogspear sketch book 1914


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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at garstipsandtools.com.

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