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The Christmas Gift that Blueprinted my Future

Have you ever received a gift that affected the trajectory of your life?

There was one Christmas in my youth - I forget how old I was - but I was between 10-12ish years old.  During the pivotal years of my younger life my Grampa exposed me to the basics of construction while simultaneously building his custom home.  This level of constructability wasn't without its paperwork and drawings.  This seeded a deep love for the idea of drafting.

In a few short years later my parents gifted me with the most memorable gift that watered the seeds of opportunity for my future - it was my very own drafting table.

Gosh dang I wish I had a picture of it.. but man?!? 

I can still feel what the table top felt like below my fingertips.  It was 1/2" particle board with a melamine finish.  It had a black and white side, which we assembled it white side up.  The polished black frame allowed the tabletop to articulate at varying angles.  This meant that I could stand and draw or sit and draw.  This also started my love for the color scheme of black and white.  Years into the future - just before I met Chas, the color balance of my room was black and white.

Not only did I get a drafting table, I also got a fully adjustable drafting light.  It would clamp on the top side and had a squeaky clink to it when the springs would adjust through its motion.  Along with all of that, I had all the necessary drafting tools to accompany the table.  A large T square, multiple triangles, bin of pencils with an assortment of leads and endless stencils.  Stencils for architectural symbols, letters, shapes.  There was a compass, protractor.. dude, I was stacked! 

I even got large drafting paper.  It was a soft brownish white composed of a mashing of different materials.  When you looked at it very closely you could see all the fibers holding it together.  Then there's the drafting dots.  This was a sticker roll that came out of a square cardboard box.  As you would pull the reals, a white and blue dot sticker would peel up - just like the quick grab stickers at Jimmy John's when they make you a sandwich.  The dots had a grip but soft residue in it that would allow you to take them off the paper without tearing the paper. 

I'm sure it's easy for anyone to remember what the art classroom smelled like in school.  Or the aroma of what a painting studio would smell like.  This is a combination of the paints, acrylics, paper.. I know you can picture this.

Similar to an art studio, drafting equipment has a similarly different smell.  Like one would cook mexican food compared to a meatball stew.. shit smelled good! but there's a difference to them.  Drafting equipment smells like an array of pencil lead mixed with the smell of unique paper with a metal tinge to it.  There's something mechanically-metal'ly about drafting stuff that is forever seared into my head.. Hot damn I love that shit. :)

During that same duration of time, I acquired an old school drafting book.  I can't recall if this was a gift or that I picked it up at a secondhand book fair...  but being the hoarder of things sentimental - I still have this in my possession.  

Exploring Drafting Basic Fundamentals | ©1974! 

exploring drafting book

First page, introduction... 



book introduction

Challenge Accepted

Fast forward a few years into the future - High School offered drafting classes all four years.

Similar to a child who always wanted to be a pilot and their school has the ROTC.. like gas to a flame, the fire inside now burns like an uncontrollable inferno.

This was my jam - and it was hard for others to keep up! 

Josh Brill student at a drafting board table

High School allowed me to compete in drafting competitions throughout the district and the state level.  I've played sports, but I've never competed at a high level before.  Somewhere along the way the universe gave me opportunities to compete with a pencil and T square. 

Quietly tucked away in my shop as a reminder of where I came from...

VICA accomplishment medals

Fast forward into my late 20's... 

There's no longer board drafting and CAD, Computer Aided Drafting, is starting to become obsolete, BIM is taking over.. Building Information Modeling.  Tangible data is held in three dimensional objects within the computer program.

As a child who aspired to be a pilot, I might as well now ventured into becoming an astronaut!  Where I positioned my interests as a child scaled to a level unimaginable by the time I was  an adult.  Only the largest contractors in the country were drafting at this level.  I had found myself at the forefront of the industry stepping into uncharted territories.  I was one of the few however who not only knew how to draw at the most basic of levels (by hand) my GP also taught me how to work with my hands.  

Like a winning race car driver who's also a master mechanic.

BIM box contractors looking at a design model in the field

The challenge was to take a 3D model, and then break it down into constructible drawings so the guys in the field knew how to build what it was we were designing.

hospital design plans with elevations and virtual model drawings

No one told me what was expected of the outcome of the information... Thankfully they let me hear the music in my head, then gave me an opportunity to compose it for an audience who needed to hear it.

The demand of this technology was moving so fast within the industry that I was asked to teach this philosophy to field supervisors.  So I developed a curriculum and taught them. :)

news paper article Phoenix Electrical JATC BIM training class Josh Brill

It would be a little more than a year from this time where I would be invited to help participate in the development of a book.. 

I'm unexpectedly humbled right now. 

I'm just now connecting the dots of the entirety of this story... from when I was 10-12 years old...

way, way cool!

drafting commitment

39 years into the future... 
Achieving Spatial Coordination through BIM | ©2013! 

Book Achieving Spatial Coordination Through BIM A guide for specialty contractors by David E Quigley

Book Achieving Spatial Coordination Through BIM A guide for specialty contractors by David E Quigley acknowledgement Josh Brill


talk about full circle. wow! 

Two years after the publication of the Spatial Coordination Book, the entrepreneur inside me was no longer dormant and needed a place of its own.  At the pinnacle of my career, at the top design food chain, I would leave the industry to pursue a riskier endeavor, self employment.

Now, TEN years after the publication of the book, I am sought out within my community to help solve constructability problems and build them into reality. 

LED World Wall Before

world cutouts

Today I no longer have the drafting table... Instead, my table is a digital universe, literally with endless space stretched out over 32 curved diagonal inches, triplicated, that sits atop a custom built desk... one that notoriously resembles the white contrasting hard melamine surface of the drafting table my parents bought me those many, many years ago.  

three monitor design desk work station

three monitor design desk work station

It's one thing to talk about the idea, but the trick is going from the figurative to the literal instruction game plan.... 

Unit 13, Working Drawings

old working drawings

old working drawings

gud handyman design working drawings

gud handyman design working drawings

From working drawings, to working with your hands.

wood cutout of continent with led lighting

workshop wood material with holes

sawdust covered tattooed arm G-Shock watch orange with rubber wedding ring

low voltage wiring

blue led lights under wooden world cutout inside work shop

painted white wood inside work shop

wooden world continents black against white board

wooden world continents black against white board front

wooden world continents black against white board back

led world wall with blue back lighting

led world wall with green back lighting

led world wall with pink back lighting

Although simple compared to some of my bigger and more complicated work, I was really impressed with the outcome.  One of the biggest joys of accomplishment was asking Avin for his help to hold the world wall up, all to realize he had less than 15min before needing to go to work.  I was quickly able to build a mounting rack/offset frame to hold the wall in a vertical state securely, acting as a mock-up for when it gets installed in the office.

It was one of those moments where I could hear the music in my head before I started playing.  In typical me fashion, with it now complete, I go into the shop and look at it over and over again. :)

Installation will be next week sometime.  I will be sure to follow up! 

As we neared one week before Christmas, for some strange spiritual reason, the idea to talk about my most memorable gift reared its way to the forefront of my creative mind.  It only was able to crescendo the fact that I also just finished the LED World Wall.

I know my parents were being encouraging to a child's interests, but I don't think they truly knew the impact of that Christmas gift.

What was your most memorable Christmas gift?
Did it affect the trajectory of your life?

Thanks for going on that ride with me! :)

I couldn't think of a better picture to go with the vibe than these two! 

Have a grateful weekend friend! 

iphone 5 design drawing

fender guitar design drawing

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1 Comment

Dec 17, 2023

What an amazing journey!

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