Any recommendations for design software for projects?

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Forum topic by lumberJill3 posted 01-13-2015 02:37 AM 1130 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1 post in 1472 days

01-13-2015 02:37 AM

Newbie here, have surfed this site in the past and enjoyed it. I have been trying to figure out what is available on the internet to aid in design. Looking for something that I can use without needing a brain transplant. Any suggestions?

I noticed ya’ll are focusing on woodworking projects. My first “project” is to get my shop & a workroom in usable shape. I would like a program I could use to get the specifics of the rooms down-basically equivalent of graph paper, a pencil, and measuring tape,(which I have also actually used:)

Its turning out to be harder to find this on the internet than I thought, or I just don’t know where to look.


8 replies so far

View Mark Kornell's profile

Mark Kornell

1169 posts in 2773 days

#1 posted 01-13-2015 06:20 AM

Welcome to LumberJocks, Jill.

Grizzly has a shop planner – Very good for laying out a woodworking shop. Has a library of their tools you can use but since most woodworking machines are superficially fairly similar between brands (e.g., a Grizzly 8” jointer is pretty close in size to any other 8” jointer), works as a generic planner. Also includes items like cabinets, tables, stairs, pets, etc.

If you are looking for a more generic CAD-type program, SketchUp ( is good. I used to design/layout equipment for both my shops as well as use it to design almost all the furniture I build. Highly versatile, with an online warehouse for all sorts of components you can use in your models.

-- Mark Kornell, Kornell Wood Design

View jerryminer's profile


944 posts in 1683 days

#2 posted 01-13-2015 06:29 AM

I think any design software you use will require some brain work.

I’m a big fan of Sketchup. It’s powerful, easy to learn, and free! (as long as you are not using it commercially).

It’s biggest strength, IMHO, is that you are working in 3 dimensions right away—- but it works great in 2-D too.

If you use it, be sure to learn how to use the “Component” function—-then you can make every item in your shop a separate “component” and move them around at will. Dimensions are easy to use, too.

Also, there are a lot of free tutorials on the web.

-- Jerry, making sawdust professionally since 1976

View SirIrb's profile


1239 posts in 1472 days

#3 posted 01-13-2015 12:47 PM

I wont be a ton of help. I use the same program (professionally) as GM. And have used the all the big names. Sometimes you can find a cheap CAD software at Walmart. But as has been stated above, all software will require a learning curve. the better you get the faster you will get and the more solid your results. I would say that if you are going to drop some cash go 3D and that way you can choose to 2D the shop or 3D your way through the next project with difficult joints to make sure it all fits. I usually always make everything in the rough in 3D at work on lunch and then build it. It is very handy to be able to trial and error something and then print the template or to find out just what “that” number is down to the thou.
Sorry to ramble. Let me know if I can add some of my CAD experience or can assist in any way.

-- Don't blame me, I voted for no one.

View OSU55's profile


2035 posts in 2231 days

#4 posted 01-13-2015 05:49 PM

I also like the Grizzly shop planner – They have premade machine blocks that can be dropped in, and I think you can make some custom blocks. Quicker and easier than doing it in a CAD program.

I see no reason to purchase a CAD program. Sketchup is a very powerful tool for free, and is updated, again for free. As others said, you are going to need your brain turned on, whatever program you choose. Sketcheup is easier than the 3D CAD packages used in industry (not as powerful, but it doesn’t need to be). There are tutorials on the web to help getting started, as well as more advanced ones after you “find the bathrooms”. Yes you will get frustrated, yes you will think there has to be something better, but after you learn the basic aspects you will find it isn’t that difficult.

View JayT's profile


6018 posts in 2453 days

#5 posted 01-13-2015 05:58 PM

I use Sketchup, as well. Anything I can think up for a woodworking project, I’ve been able to create in SU.

Another LJ member (I don’t recall who) uses and likes Creo. There is a free version of that one, too. I’ve tried it and struggled, but that could likely be because I started with Sketchup and the tools and interface are different.

-- In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View Rob's profile


704 posts in 3313 days

#6 posted 01-13-2015 06:27 PM

The Grizzly shop planner is a nice initial rough planner if you just want to bang something out quick, but I found a 2D floorplan inadequate so I used Sketchup to make a 3D shop plan. The problem with 2D is that it’s difficult to make use of the wall space unless you draw multiple projections. A 3D model takes care of that for you automatically.

You can also download properly-scaled models for lots of tools and fixtures from Sketchup’s 3D warehouse and insert them into your Sketchup model. That worked great, but of course I hadn’t fully appreciated the importance of some practical considerations like putting my workbench next to a window and loading long boards onto the back side of the lumber rack, so I still had to rearrange a little bit.

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3890 days

#7 posted 01-13-2015 06:48 PM

You can download little Sketchup files for common machines
and move them around.

I think Sketchup is overkill for doing floorplans though. That
Grizzly thing probably works ok.

Vertical clearances become relevant as a machine collection grows
or in a very small shop. I’ve never used planners… I juts move
stuff around and fix what bugs me.

View Bulkhead's profile


23 posts in 1775 days

#8 posted 01-14-2015 09:16 PM

Another vote for SketchUp here. I use it for designing a variety of projects. As you will find however, you an end up spending a lot of time working with it and that may not be your thing.

I like that I can go through a fairly detailed design and almost simulate actual physical production as a part of the design process. I find and fix problems before physical production. More time spent up front, but faster work on the back end.

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