the Computer as a tool

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Forum topic by Dennis_MGWW posted 11-16-2009 07:18 PM 1857 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Dennis_MGWW's profile


90 posts in 3441 days

11-16-2009 07:18 PM

Hey All,

Many woodworkers these days use the computer at some point of the design process. Using CAD to design a project, or just surfing the internet for plans. The computer has become one of our tools.

I am currently going to college for a degree in Software Development. I am also a hobbiest woodworker/blogger with an occasional commission.

In an effort to combine these interests, I would like to develop some software to offer to other woodworkers on my blog. My question is ‘What type of software could be developed that a woodworker could benefit from?’

Any and all ideas are welcome.



-- Dennis,!/MpleGrvWoodwrks

15 replies so far

View mtkate's profile


2049 posts in 3349 days

#1 posted 11-16-2009 07:29 PM

A software that will automatically tell you (based on your design) how and where you are best to place your mortise and tenon joints…. and how big they should be. You could crosstab it with the type of wood being used, as an example.

I think sketchup already gives ideas on how much board feet a project might take based on design, but a software that would produce an optimized shopping list would be great.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4242 days

#2 posted 11-16-2009 07:51 PM

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any applications that are not already out there in some form. BUT, I do think there is a lot of room for improvement on existing products.

What I would really like to see (and would pay for) is a comprehensive suite geared to the hobby woodworker that would contain the following features, not necessarily in this order of importance:

1. A simple, no-frills, easy to use sketch program. It could have some advanced capabilities for those who choose to use them, but should also have an easy 2D mode with a very small learning curve.

2. A cut list calculator to aid in purchasing lumber/sheet goods and help cut down on waste. This would include a cost estimator where you would plug in board foot and sheet prices.

3. A wood movement calculator.

4. A full set of calculators for drill bit/screw size selection, decimal/fraction conversion, etc.

I’m sure some other guys can add to my list.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View LesB's profile


1748 posts in 3467 days

#3 posted 11-16-2009 08:01 PM

I think you are entering a crowded field. I’m aware of several inexpensive cad programs and a number of expensive ones and now we have Sketchup that is free.
Sketchup is open for a lot of improvements and additions. An plug in that would provide the ability to click on a component or element of the drawing and have the program give you the dimensions in a visible window. (The cad program I use, MacDraw, does this) That way you wouldn’t have to go to the component list and review your notes. Obviously for complicated components this might be a problem.

Remember most “wood workers” are not computer geeks so keep your program as intuitive as possible. I personally do not find SketchUp intuitive (-;

-- Les B, Oregon

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2794 posts in 3462 days

#4 posted 11-16-2009 08:03 PM

The absolute best thing would be if someone were to make a new type of blog software where anyone could sign up, post their wood projects, ask questions, get answers both in text but also with pictures and video. It would be pretty searchable and maybe even notify you via email when someone posted to your blog. That would be the absolute best thing. I’ll let you guys know here when I find it.


-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View mtkate's profile


2049 posts in 3349 days

#5 posted 11-16-2009 09:34 PM

How about automatic switching between metric and that other system of measurement?

View dbhost's profile


5723 posts in 3256 days

#6 posted 11-16-2009 09:47 PM

A port of Sketchup to Linux would be greatly appreciated… But I think Google keeps that one under wraps…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View Gary's profile


9333 posts in 3457 days

#7 posted 11-16-2009 09:48 PM

I want one that can read my mind and give me the plan in full detail…..

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

View Dennis_MGWW's profile


90 posts in 3441 days

#8 posted 11-17-2009 04:42 PM

Hey guys,
Thanks a bunch for the ideas. A lot of these are similar to what I had bouncing around in my head, except for the mind reading thing. :) I am not sure where I am going to start yet but I’ll let y’all know when I do.

If you happen to think of any more ideas in the future, feel free to post them here and I’ll be sure to consider them.


-- Dennis,!/MpleGrvWoodwrks

View mikedddd's profile


147 posts in 3254 days

#9 posted 11-17-2009 05:19 PM

Gary: I think my wife can do the mind reading part, downside though she never reveals the detailed plan until after the project is complete.

-- Mike

View TheDane's profile


5441 posts in 3687 days

#10 posted 11-17-2009 11:15 PM

I make my living with computers (tech support for a software company), so the last thing I want to deal with in my shop is a computer (know any letter carriers who deliver mail in their spare time?).

Years ago I was a draftsman for a farm machinery manufacturer, and still keep a drafting table and set of instruments in my office at home, so any detailed plans or drawings I create are done the old-fashioned way.

That being said, the computer in my home office does come in handy for SketchUp, web browisng sites (like LJ’s), and printing articles and plans.

I agree with Les B … the field may already be a little crowded (or fragmented).

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3672 days

#11 posted 11-17-2009 11:31 PM

you can use Sketchup on Linux using WINE already.

I do.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4149 days

#12 posted 11-18-2009 12:15 AM

I’d actually toss my lot in with Charlie M on the woodworking sketch program. A few things that I think could be done better than SketchUp:

1. Let me draw in 2d with snap-to the dimensions of my lumber. Sure, it can be a 3d app, but I’m a big fan of the 4 window 3 ortho views and one perspective interface, and me and SketchUp, for whatever reason, don’t really get along.
2. Perhaps define the pieces by cutting lumber: Let me put a couple of 4×8 sheets down and specify how I’m cutting my cabinet bits out of them as I go.

But even beyond that, if you just wanted to help in the effort to add dimensioning to Inkscape to give us a good 2d drafting program, or in the efforts to add dimensioning to Blender, those would both be huge contributions to tools for both computing and woodworking.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View Dennis_MGWW's profile


90 posts in 3441 days

#13 posted 11-18-2009 04:50 PM

I would agree that the CAD market is a little crowded, but I personally do not like the way the inexpensive ones work. I have spent the last 17 years working professionally with different CAD systems, and I have a pretty good idea of what features are nice to have, especially in a sketcher. I have used Google Sketchup, and although the price is right, I really do not like the way it works as compared to other CAD systems.

Coming up with a new CAD software is certainly an option, but I would like to think a little more out of the box. In what other ways can the computer be used as a tool for woodworkers? I like the “Suite” of tools that CharlieM mentioned. What else could be added to that? One idea that I had would be to have some sort of inventory database where you could put all of your tool information into for insurance purposes. It would have information like serial numbers, purchase price, replacement cost, a picture of the tool, etc…. This is just and idea, and I would certainly like some more input.

-- Dennis,!/MpleGrvWoodwrks

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4242 days

#14 posted 11-18-2009 05:00 PM

Great thought on the inventory database, Dennis.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Mark's profile


1807 posts in 3298 days

#15 posted 11-18-2009 06:21 PM

try to top sketch up but add a calculator, a part that tells you how much material you’re using, and a price estimator

-- M.K.

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