Choosing CAD Software

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Forum topic by BoxMaker444 posted 05-10-2014 01:48 AM 2071 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 902 days

05-10-2014 01:48 AM

Topic tags/keywords: turbocad free cad 3d cad sketchlist 3d 2014 cad software

Please offer your advice in choosing a CAD program.

I have used SketchUp with some success and a little frustration. Now SketchUp wants $500 if I will ever use it professionally! I have used TurboCad, again with mixed results. I have a couple of TurboCAD drawings I will need to be able to print in the future.

I plan to design and build jewelry boxes and music boxes primarily. I may want to produce drawings that I will sell to others who want to build my box designs. 2D and 3D renderings would be useful. I will need to make minor changes to box dimensions, material thicknesses, etc, as well as revising a box drawing to make the same box in a different size.

I am considering a TurboCAD upgrade, Free Cad, 3D Cad, Sketchlist 3D, Creo Elements/Direct Modeling Express 4.0 or? Unless there is a very good reason, I’d like to keep the price low or free, as I will only design a couple of box styles per year (several sizes for each style). Learning curve is an issue, as I wear many, many hats.

I expect LumberJocks is probably a terrific place to get the kind of advice I’m looking for!

18 replies so far

View Rick M.'s profile

Rick M.

7730 posts in 1803 days

#1 posted 05-10-2014 03:40 AM

DraftSight is basically a clone of an older version of Autocad, 2D only though.


View oldnovice's profile


5656 posts in 2791 days

#2 posted 05-10-2014 07:05 AM

There are a number of FREE CAD packages that are suitable for woodworking, and even more, if needed! I have used Sketchup, the free version, and did not/could not get over the “hollow” pieces that are created by Sketchup.

I have used Creo Elements/Direct Express since about 2002 (at that time it was called Solid Designer and several other names along the way to the current title due to change in capability and companies). I was trained on the full version when it was developed by Co|Create which was a part of Hewlett-Packard and in 2002 I found the free version which, for my work, has everything I need. If you want photo-realistic rendering this package is not for you. However if you want to make parts, assemblies of those parts, and be able to get 2D PDF prints of your parts and assemblies this will work beautifully. This is actually two packages s it contains 3D modeling, very similar to Skechtup but with solid parts, and a 2D package. Creo actually creates the 2D views of any parts/assemblies and can even add in dimensions, if desired, or you can add the dimensions as you see fit. Or use the 2D as a drafting application.
There is a 60 part limit for any one modeling session but I have yet to reach that limit is wood working or my other designs.
The only requirement is that you be on line when you sign in to use use it. If you cannot get on line for some reason you are allowed a number accesses before you must be online.
The PTC site for the free download
On this site there are comparisons of the free and the full version. Just make sure you download the proper, 32 or 64 bit, version for your PC. If you need help, PM me”

The other FREE package I have never used but read a lot about is DesignSpark which has a packaging side to it that might be suitable for woodworking.

Here are two examples of the rendering that can be done with Creo Elements/Direct Express

Hold downs

Wooden Kant Twist

You can create your own color palette but you cannot add any textures unless those are part of the model.

For me the most important part Creo was the ability to create, or to create, the 2D PDF drawings as I use those files as input to PartWorks for vectors for toolpaths on my CNC.

The 2D prints can be the standard orthogonal projections of a part/assembly, or isometric views of any part/assembly and other view including section, detail, exploded assembly views in all the from mentioned.
The dimensions on those prints can be added by the the program or added where you need them and are under your control with respect to color, font, size, inch, fractional inch, etc. all metric forms, and dual dimensions if desired.

The learning curve is not that steep and there are a number built in examples of how to get started.
I probably have used Creo Elements/Direct Express more than anyone else on this site and will be willing to assist!

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View oldnovice's profile


5656 posts in 2791 days

#3 posted 05-10-2014 08:00 AM

There are a number of sites that provide free 3D CAD models (Creo Elements/Direct Express can use IGES or STEP models):

3D Content Central

Trace Parts


3D CAD Browser

These site all require an email address and a log in name but there is no charge for any models. Remember to pick the file that is compatible with the CAD application your are using.

Some manufacturers have 3D CAD models available. 80/20 extrusions are available at 3D Content Central. Faucets and sinks from some manufacturers.

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View jdmaher's profile


381 posts in 2003 days

#4 posted 05-10-2014 01:44 PM

As an IT Management consultant, I always advise people to get the best software they can.

As a woodworker, I’ve tried several CAD programs (AutoCAD, TurboCAD, Sketchup, etc.). I BOUGHT the full professional version of Sketchup – in the first year it was available, and have bought all the upgrades since.

Now, the vast majority of my work as a consultant is advising organizations how to best spend their IT money (always a business investment question). Overwhelmingly, my advice winds up being: Do NOT spend the money. Actually, the advice is more like “The IT investment you are considering will NOT make money, so don’t do it.”

In your case, I would ask the question “Are you absolutely, tee-totally, CERTAIN that you will be able to SELL $5000 worth of your designs?” Please answer the question honestly, assuming you sell your designs really, REALLY cheap (as an exercise, consider $1 each). If you really will sell $5000 worth, buy Sketchup Pro. If not, get Sketchup free, and GIVE your designs away. After folks have downloaded 5000 of them, THEN buy Pro and start charging.

-- Jim Maher, Illinois

View mramseyISU's profile


406 posts in 969 days

#5 posted 05-10-2014 02:11 PM

I’m a semi-pro CAD admin so this sort of thing is right up my alley. I use SolidWorks almost exclusively we used to use Creo Direct when it was called CoCreate but it just couldn’t handle the castings we design very efficiently but would work fine for the simple shapes we do in woodworking. I think Autodesk has a free or cheap option for home users, might be worth checking out. There is a reason they are the largest CAD vendor in the world so it’s probably a decent product, I think Bertch or Omega cabinets use it for their CAD package, they’re local but I can’t remember for sure what they use.

-- Trust me I'm an engineer.

View helluvawreck's profile


22707 posts in 2290 days

#6 posted 05-10-2014 03:15 PM

I really do like Turbocad. It’s just an inexpensive program but it does a wonderful job. I would love to have autocad but have never been able to afford it. Turbocad has always worked well enough for.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View skatefriday's profile


379 posts in 906 days

#7 posted 05-10-2014 09:54 PM

I’ve used both Autodesk Inventor (for my robotics team, free for educational use through FIRST) and Creo. I far prefer Inventor, but Creo’s 60 part modelling crippleware is great if you are an amateur hobbyist just looking to model a few small things up. I don’t think Autodesk actually has a similar offer, but they do have a hobby version Autodesk 3D or something similar. I don’t know how it compares to Inventor as I’ve never used it.

View Woodmaster1's profile


732 posts in 2010 days

#8 posted 05-10-2014 10:46 PM

I have used Autodesk products for years. Autocad and inventor are great. I get them free because I teach using autodesk products. When it comes to designing projects I still sketch them on graph paper. If I feel the need I will make a CAD drawing.

View jap's profile


1251 posts in 1478 days

#9 posted 05-11-2014 12:54 AM

I also use Autodesk inventor, but I got it free since I used it for school.

-- Joel

View BoxMaker444's profile


3 posts in 902 days

#10 posted 05-11-2014 01:01 AM

Thanks, everyone, for your input. I think I’ll narrow it down to Creo Elements/Direct Express VS. Turbo CAD.

Specific things I liked about SketchUp were being able to pull two dimensional shapes into 3d, and the tool that allows a profile to be dragged around an item (like a jewelry box lid).

How difficult is it in Creo or Turbo Cad to profile edges? What about edges of a circle or other non-square shape?

OldNovice, the exploded view of the Refrigerator upper cabinet was quite impressive. I value your input on Creo. How long would it take to draw the cabinet and produce that view? Obviously it would be much quicker for you than me, but how long would you estimate it would take for someone who has already succeeded in making two or three other drawings of equal complexity in Creo?

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14167 posts in 3406 days

#11 posted 05-11-2014 01:09 AM

Autocad … find a LEGAL used copy on eBay

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View oldnovice's profile


5656 posts in 2791 days

#12 posted 05-11-2014 02:45 AM

skatefriday, I have not seen an issue with the 60 part limit with Creo if you share identical parts!

The 60 part limit applies to unique, not shared, parts!
A shared part shares all geometric properties except position.
Other properties may be changed as an instance of one shared part!
Sharing is useful with sub-assemblies; consider a sub-assembly of 40 unique parts and, after sharing the entire sub-assembly, there are still only 40 parts. but twice the number of sub-assemblies.

The image below has 92 items, 5 parts shared
  • 22 shared knobs
  • 10 joining plates
  • 10 threaded inserts
  • 10 nuts
  • 40 screws
  • 92 items

I just grabbed some hardware and shared it just for this example.
In reality you could have 60 unique parts shared 60 times or 100 times or 1000 times if needed!

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View MrRon's profile


3898 posts in 2667 days

#13 posted 05-11-2014 04:48 PM

I was raised on Autocad. I can’t compare it to other programs, but the learning curve was long and still on-going, so I would never switch. Pick a CAD program and stick with it; learning all there is to know about that program. Basically they all do the same thing; just differently.

View oldnovice's profile


5656 posts in 2791 days

#14 posted 05-11-2014 07:50 PM

MrRon, I like your last comment ”Basically they all do the same thing; just differently.” as that is very true and as all things in life it is a trade off of what can you afford (to take time to learn) versus what is it worth to me after that.

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View BoxMaker444's profile


3 posts in 902 days

#15 posted 05-18-2014 02:21 AM

is the 60 unique parts limit for all your projects together or for each individual drawing? If you can have a different 60 unique parts for each drawing, I cannot imagine a time where the limitation would affect my work in any way.

Specific things I liked about SketchUp were being able to pull two dimensional shapes into 3d, and the tool that allows a profile to be dragged around an item (like a jewelry box lid).

How difficult is it in Creo to “profile” edges? What about edges of a circle or other non-square shape?

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