CAD like programs

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Forum topic by Charlie posted 11-12-2012 02:40 PM 4198 views 1 time favorited 27 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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18 posts in 2308 days

11-12-2012 02:40 PM

I have been considering purchasing and using a program that can assist me in cost forecasting, designing, and display for customers. I have looked at Sketchlist, but found it to be very time consuming and you must have a different prospect on how to tell the program what you want. It is not just as simple and putting down measurements. The board cut layout is also difficult to operate.

So, question…is there a better program, or do I just need to learn the program better?

-- "Design opportunity through numerical inexactitude."

27 replies so far

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3172 days

#1 posted 11-12-2012 04:10 PM

I think most folks on here use Sketchup; free software from Google.
I have not used it, but know it is 3D based and would therefore be more useful for making presentations than working drawings.

I have been working with Autocad since 1984 so my opinion might be a little jaded. I can do anything I want to with Autocad, but it is not an easy program to learn without instructions. It’s also very expensive, about $3000 per seat.

I have taught several co-workers to use it and it’s not that hard with a little hand holding to get you started. It’s just not intuitive like some programs.

There is a free 2D CAD program that works exactly like Autocad available from Solid Works called Draftsight, I think. I have it a home and it works great. That’s the way I would go, but, like I said, I may be Jaded.

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 3152 days

#2 posted 11-12-2012 04:19 PM

Like Crank says, Sketchup is the one people here use the most. As someone who used Autocad and Adobe Illustrator, I found Sketchup to be completely counter intuitive. I don’t really like the program much. That said, if you haven’t used the other programs before, you might not be set in your ways and find it easy to use.

Crank, thanks for the suggestion of Draftsight. I’ll have to look into that.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3849 days

#3 posted 11-12-2012 04:22 PM

eCabinets is available free from Thermwood. I haven’t used
it in awhile… at the time I was using it the software really
pushed the limits of common computers but was very
capable. These days fast computers aren’t uncommon
or costly so eCabinets should be more satisfying.

It has a significant learning curve to build things from
scratch in it, but you can store and modify designs and
parse costs and materials with a lot of control in it.

For furniture, Sketchup is easier to learn I think.

View jdmaher's profile


438 posts in 2780 days

#4 posted 11-12-2012 04:36 PM

Cost forecasting??? More on that later.

I DID use Autocad, briefly and badlly, with only informal training and and a bit of hand-holding from some regular Autocad users. It was a very painful experience for about two years of my life. Then Skethcup came out. I tried it. I bought it. I’ve bought every upgrade. I use it every week – but only for an hour or two, so I’m not really “expert”.

I believe that my limited bad experience with Autocad actually PREPARED me fo Sketchup, though I do NOT suggest that route to anyone. For me, these drawing programs are just NOT intuitive.

But Sketchup works. It works really well. The FREE version is actually more than I need. There are many good and free tutorials available for learning Sjetchup basics. I believe its worth spending about 8 hours, in about one hour sessions – all during a single week – to get familiar with the basics. If you then use the program regularly (say, at least once a week), you’ll be quite competent in about three months.

Competent at sketching designs and making them presentable to show others.

Costing, not so much. There ARE add-on tools for Sketchup to help do that, and many people think they are quite good. I’ve never found one that was simple, easy to understand and easy to use. Its probably just the very casual way that I do my drawings (which doesn’t jibe well with cut-list costing tools). However, I’ve tried several and was never able to take one of my existing furniture designs and get a costed parts list in a four-hour session. I decided that, for me, it ain’t worth the effort.

So, for sketching, I recommend Sketchup. But not for costing.

There may be better choices available if you are running a production shop. For example, I know there a packages tailored for kitchen cabinet makers and semi-custom house builders. For large-scale furntire production, many firms DO use AutoCAD – along with MFA drafting people and CNC machinery.

What kind of work are you doing?

-- Jim Maher, Illinois

View casual1carpenter's profile


354 posts in 2676 days

#5 posted 11-12-2012 04:44 PM

I use a program called ViaCad, it took a while to learn and use but I had bought it and spent the time to try and use its abilities to my advantage. I do believe that it is still a more capable program then I have the knowledge to use. The big advantage for me is being able to go from a thought / concept and drawing the major elements begin to work in the minor elements and critique my final 3D drawing, individual parts, and construction methods.

There are numerous free, inexpensive, as well as costly programs available. Most are available as trial downloads that you can get to see if you might be able to wrap your brain around how to use them. I can say that Sketchup had me dazed and confused but drawing in 3D mode of ViaCad made a bit more sense to my particular warped brain.

View bruc101's profile


1260 posts in 3743 days

#6 posted 11-12-2012 05:59 PM

I think one of the reasons people have problems learning a cad program is they don’t know and understand drafting and cad terminology. Once you learn those two things then learning a cad program will be much less frustrating.

Learn those two things and then learn how to prompt the cad program to draft for you and you may be surprised at how much easier and faster you can learn the program. Learning cad can be intimidating if you let it but a cad program doesn’t understand what you want it to do without telling it what to do.
“drafting & cad terminology”

-- Bruce Free Plans

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3172 days

#7 posted 11-12-2012 06:22 PM

bruc101 has a good point.
I have been using Autocad since 1984 and find it very easy and many people compliment my drawings, BUT I was trained in school and worked for 12 years in drafting before I ever saw a CAD program. That makes a huge difference.
I get drawings across my desk every day from “engineers” in various manufacturing plants that look like something a 6th grader drew. In fact, that’s about half of my job, to take this crap and make working shop drawings from it.

View bruc101's profile


1260 posts in 3743 days

#8 posted 11-12-2012 07:06 PM

You hit it dead on Michael. I took drafting in high school all the way through college becoming an architectural engineer….all on a drafting board and using a slide rule. When Autocad came out it was a piece of cake for me because i knew how to draft and all the terminology that goes with it. All I had to do was learn how to tell Autocad what I wanted it to do.

I taught my daughters how to read drawings and what the drafting terminology meant on the drawings. When they learned that is when I sat them down in front of Autocad and taught them how to tell Autocad what I wanted it to draw.

Two of them have architectural degrees, the 16 year old twins are getting proficient in Autocad and the 13 year old is now learning to tell Autocad what she wants it to draw for her. Another suggestion learning..learn to do what you need to do first in cad, not try to learn the complete ain’t going to happen no matter how good you are in cad.

Here is some drafting terminology on my plans site I made for anyone not understanding how to read cad drawings. When you learn the terminology then Autocad will draft for you when you learn the commands and how to dimension. Piece of cake.

-- Bruce Free Plans

View HoosierDude's profile


48 posts in 3216 days

#9 posted 11-12-2012 08:04 PM

I use the free version of Sketchup to draw out my models and use CutList to generate the cut lists, bill of materials, and cost information. There are two plugin’s for Sketchup that work together to create an export file out of Sketchup for CutList.

First Cutlist Bridge. This plugin helps you define your components with information that CutList will use to create your “parts”. You define what sub-assemblies a component belongs to, what material it is contrstructed from, etc.

Second CutList for Sketchup=. This plugin can create a .csv file that you can import directly into CutList fx.

The only cost in the above scenario is $89.00 for the silver edition of CutList Plus fx. Combined, they create a very robust and easy to use method for me to design and estimate the cost of projects.

One final word about Sketchup for anyone that finds it difficult to use. I highly recommend Tim Killen’s excellent e-book, Sketchup Guide for Woodworkers.

Hope this helps. Good Luck!

-- Paul Lyons

View MrRon's profile


5193 posts in 3444 days

#10 posted 11-12-2012 09:34 PM

At the age of 66, I had an introductory course on Autocad at a community college. That led me to a job as an Acad designer. It took a lot of work and asking questions, so by the time 3 months had passed, I was up to speed. Even at that age, with no previous experience or exposure, I was still able to learn. As the saying goes, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is false. An old dog like me can always learn something new and so can you. It takes desire, confidence and lots of work to succeed. If you think you can’t do it, you have already failed. Autocad is a difficult program to learn, but many millions have learned it. Now at the ripe old age of 78, I still work at Acad and learn something new each and every day. Just don’t expect a CAD program to do all the work for you. It is just a tool and one that requires a learning curve. It doesn’t matter which CAD program you use. Just put all your effort into learning and it will pay you back.

View casual1carpenter's profile


354 posts in 2676 days

#11 posted 11-12-2012 11:06 PM

bruc101, I checked out that symbols link and peeked at you pages there. Nicely done.

Earlier on the LJ front page was a recipe box project,
I used his picture and did a quick draw. By the way his looks a lot nicer. It was not a complicated project in that it consists of four sides, a top, bottom and divider. By drawing in 3D mode I can use simple primitives to rough out dimensions etc and see the idea in 3D from various angles. I still have the ability to pull and or note dimensions etc, switch line styles and views, and model to sheet in 2d/3d

View Mike's profile


406 posts in 2888 days

#12 posted 11-12-2012 11:30 PM

I use Solidworks. It currently is the engineering standard program for CAD. It will even allow you to calculate the weight of the product, render what the image looks like, comes with a hardware tool box so you can add fasteners, allows you to import products from manufactures such as McMaster-Carr, etc. There are a lot of things you can do with Solidworks since it is so intuitive.

-- look Ma! I still got all eleven of my fingers! - -

View casual1carpenter's profile


354 posts in 2676 days

#13 posted 11-13-2012 12:31 AM

Mike, just what is a Solidworks seat worth? I make my living being retired and before I was in the construction / metal trades. I sort of assign value to things and what is good value to business is not always good value to a home user like me. This program I used is number 2 of 5 with 5 being the best but highest priced of that bunch. I have used the entire punch cad series as I get access to the beta testing trials.

View bruc101's profile


1260 posts in 3743 days

#14 posted 11-13-2012 06:04 AM

Thanks for your compliment casual1carpenter. I have a lot of fun with that site and meet a lot of interesting woodworkers. I hope to be able to have the time soon to finish up some more of the plans. I’ve got about 50 more I want to add to it. Your cad work and your box looks great.

Mike, Solid Works is a great cad program. Glad to hear you’re impressed with it.

-- Bruce Free Plans

View sawdustrich's profile


20 posts in 4030 days

#15 posted 11-13-2012 02:16 PM

I am in the same boat. Autocad user since the late 80’s and it is amazing how bad some
of the autocad dwgs are I have seen from other cad users. Lines that don’t touch in corners,
parts of the dwg that was just eyeballed in instead of drawn to scale, different size text and
horrible layering systems. I feel your pain.
Keep at it.

-- Rich, Columbus, Ohio

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