Reply by JBrow

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Posted on to Sketch Up or not to Sketch Up ...

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1361 posts in 945 days

#1 posted 03-07-2016 02:57 PM


I have never used Sketch-Up, but if it is FREE, that is a great deal. TraylorPark pretty well nailed down why a CAD program is useful. Unfortunately, in my experience at least, CAD takes an investment of time before getting the most out of the tool, just like any other tool in the workshop. The last “The Woodworking Shows” I attended (2 years ago) offered some Sketch-Up training, so it appears there is help beyond any documentation the Sketch-Up programmers may offer.

I began using TurboCad, a CAD program, before Sketch-Up appeared on the scene. I rarely build anything (even the simplest of projects), without developing a cyber scale drawer. What TraylorPark implied but did not specifically mention is that the parts are drawn to scale. As a result, it is straightforward to get a set of plans with accurately dimensioned parts. So, for example, a part that has tenons on each end is drawn to its full length and you can then describe the tenon dimensions on the full length piece. It reduces the chances of cutting that part too short. Any problems in the design are revealed either by the CAD or by spending the time on the CAD and just thinking about the project.

I have used the TurboCad Deluxe version, which costs about $100 and is fairly powerful. However, I prefer their complete software program, TurboCad Pro. I have not found anything I cannot draw in the Pro version – it is extremely powerful. I think TurboCad is competing with AutoCad for a piece of the architectural and drafting businesses.

The prior version of the Pro edition of TurboCad costs about $400. The current version of the Pro edition runs about $1400. They seem to upgrade annually. TurboCad comes with a well written bound manual. While the manual is also available within the software and on their web site, the bound manual is handy especially when learning to use the software. I am not sure whether a bound manual comes with Sketch-Up. TurboCad also offers training packages at a cost. I have not used them, so I do not know whether they are worth the extra money – but they are available. I thought I recalled some on-line training offered for Sketch-Up – maybe by Popular Woodworking, just not sure.

I find that I spend about 10% – 20% of the total project build time on developing the CAD plans. But by the time I start building, I find that I have the project pretty much in my mind’s eye. I refer to the drawers mostly for specific dimensions and complex joints or parts.

One downside to CAD is that if you buy a new computer with a newer version of the operating systems (e.g. Windows 10 instead of Windows 7), I think you have to get a new version of the CAD to run on the new operating system. Even though the CAD may be upgraded regularly, there is no reason to upgrade unless you are changing operating systems or you want some new feature offered on the new version. I continue to use TruboCad Pro 16, which is now 8 years old.

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