Woodworking design software for simple projects

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Forum topic by Vrtigo1 posted 1565 days ago 8200 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Vrtigo1's profile


430 posts in 1625 days

1565 days ago

Hi All,

I’m looking for some software to help me create plans and material lists for simple projects. For instance, I need to build a storage shed, and it would be really helpful if I could create a sketch of how I want to frame it, specify the type and size of the lumber to use, show where the sheet goods go, etc. It’d also be really cool if it had the ability to calculate angles, so if I specify the width and height of a gable roof, it’ll show me the angles I need to cut.

I saw a review for CutList, but $100 is a bit more than I was hoping to spend. I know you get what you pay for, and if that’s the best solution out there I’m not opposed to paying for it, but I thought I’d check to see if anyone was using something else with success.


12 replies so far

View TheDane's profile


3741 posts in 2297 days

#1 posted 1565 days ago

I’m using Google SketchUp … there is a learning curve, but it is pretty powerful, and free.

Should also mention that Google has a number of videos on their website that I found very helpful. And for about $50, you can get a series of ShopClass tutorials from Popular Woodworking’s Bob Lang.

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

View tyskkvinna's profile


1308 posts in 1620 days

#2 posted 1565 days ago

I second Google Sketchup! A lot of my students use it and have reported that once you get past the curve, it’s second nature.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View rickf16's profile


376 posts in 2215 days

#3 posted 1565 days ago


-- Rick

View GFYS's profile


711 posts in 2105 days

#4 posted 1565 days ago

SU works great but it won’t teach you how to build anything.

View PurpLev's profile


8476 posts in 2282 days

#5 posted 1565 days ago

I’ll concur that Daves tutorials are Grade-A top notch!

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

View Vrtigo1's profile


430 posts in 1625 days

#6 posted 1565 days ago

Thanks all, it appears I need to spend some quality time with Sketchup to get familiar with it.

View a1Jim's profile


112018 posts in 2211 days

#7 posted 1559 days ago

Many use Sketchup

-- Custom furniture

View sh2005's profile


93 posts in 1870 days

#8 posted 1554 days ago

Google Sketchup has become very popular because this is one of the first free 3D CAD tool. I have tried using it few times but I haven’t been able to become proficient with it because it’s different than most other 3D CAD tools that I have worked with. I have access to SolidWorks which is one of the more widely used 3D CAD in engineering companies, but it’s not affordable for personal hobby use. There’s another tool called Alibre is more affordable for us woodworkers. In fact, the personal standard version is listed for $99. There’s also a feature-limited free version available. I recently downloaded it and from what I have seen so far, it looks like a powerful 3D CAD. The commands and 3D drawing tools are similar to SolidWorks. It’s not a very big learning curve. The tool also comes with tutorials as well.
For your requirements of being able to measure angle based on the width and height, these tools can definitely do that, plus a whole lot more.

View PurpLev's profile


8476 posts in 2282 days

#9 posted 1554 days ago

I personally worked with SolidWorks and find Sketchup much easier ,and more proficient, especially with it’s open source plugin capabilities, and it being free also means there are a massive amount of plugins available to make things automated and easier.

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

View sh2005's profile


93 posts in 1870 days

#10 posted 1554 days ago

I haven’t tried any of the plugins. I have to be give those a try.

View TheWoodsmith's profile


108 posts in 1554 days

#11 posted 1549 days ago

I gotta co-sign for sketchup! its almost as an invaluable a tool as anything in the shop! the learning curve is really not that bad and you can be up and running in no time!

-- I know its around here somewhere...

View tooldad's profile


657 posts in 2349 days

#12 posted 1549 days ago

I was introduced to Pro Engineer through an inservice at my school. In fact I was told to attend by administration. Supposedly it is the professional version of 3D design programs and that Gatorade product designers use it to design their bottles.

The processes are similar, but simpler in sketchup and it is a more user friendly interface and background.

After using both, I now teach sketchup. Take it slow, design a cabinet that is simple, piece by piece, and use a lot of components. That is the basic advice I give my students. Plus it is free and students can design at home. About 25% of my students really get into it. Going to shoot for 50% this year.

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