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Programs to Draw Furniture Designs11/16
Up until now I mostly sketch what I will be building or will do a small model. I'd like to start using a program that will do this and would like to know what you folks use. Could you also tell me if they will work on an average laptop, what cost I would be looking at, how flexible they are, and how long it takes to learn to use. I'm not going to be using this in a CNC application. Thanks for the help!
Sketchup has a relatively full-featured free version and is not difficult to learn to use. Like any program there's a learning curve but I think Sketchup is pretty user friendly compared to cad programs I've used.
I will second Sketchup for anything from a one off furniture piece all the way up to a full kitchen or commercial build out.
As said, you will have learning curves, but one thing to remember is if you cant build it in the software, you cant build it. Meaning you head off endless screw ups in the software and you quickly see what will work and wont work.
Many of us in the wood world for years thing we can design on the fly and we will just figure it out in the shop. Til you cut something short or screw up a haunch which winds up in the fire.
The software lets you learn all those lessons with 1's and Zero's instead of wood, blades, dust collection, and so on.
Its been a godsend for us.
Another SketchUp user. As said, there is a free version and it does everything I need a CAD program to do. It's easy to use after you learn the basics. To do that I highly recommend a tutorial. There are both print and video tutorials; pick whichever method you find easier to use. There are many extensions you can add to SketchUp. A very useful one is CutList, which will print out a list of all the components in your model, or a subset, and layout those components on your stock, too. Very handy.
Most computers will run SketchUp fine as long as the graphics card is capable. My laptop can't handle the latest version of SketchUp so I'm using Make2016.
Sketchup is probably the best tool out there as it's free and easy to master. You may also try Wooddesigner. They offer some good features in the free version.
I used to sketch and hand draft plans to build furniture and cabinets from. I didn't realize how hard I was working until I switched to CAD. Utilizing one of the many CAD programs out there is the way to go. I prefer Autodesk products over Sketchup. Sketchup is handy if you are trying to workout design concepts or quickly generate a presentation for a client. Start with Autocad, it is the best 2D drafting program out there and is also an industry standard in the world of CAD programs. There are plenty of instructional videos on YouTube to get you started. If you are wanting to go 3D, try either Autodesk Inventor or Solidworks. Solidworks is supposedly better, I haven't used it so I couldn't say different, and it is costly. Inventor is a great option for 3D modeling and it can also generate 2D drawings one your model is complete. Inventor and Autocad are free to download from the Autodesk website. Free for learning and educational use and not for commercial use. You will need to create a user account in the education community, https://www.autodesk.com/education/home. You can also subscribe monthly or annually.
I would use a PC and not a mac. Many good CAD programs out there cannot function on a Mac. Dell and Lenovo are my favorite brands. Lenovo makes very good laptops for CAD, checkout there workstation line of laptops. The important thing here is a fast processor, i7 intel processor is a great choice. 2gb NVidia graphics card, at least 8gb of ram and you should be set.
Not sure if this is still active but here is my perspective. Sketchup is more of a modeler program, not a program to generate precise construction drawings. It's also mostly about rectangles. It's also clumsy compared to a good CAD program. By that I mean you are working in blocks rather than with lines. And the lines in SUp often don't connect with each other in export files so you can't get good CNC file output.
I think of drawing programs in 3 levels:
I use Ashlar Vellum Graphite (2d) and Cobalt (3d) on a Mac. These programs are often used to do initial design work before taking the output into a database driven program like Autocad or Solid Works. This is primarily because the Vellum user interface is very intuitive and user-friendly, has powerful tools to work with non-linear edges/faces and has accurate output via a wide range of file formats. It's also easy to learn and you don't have to be a CAD jockey 8 hours a day to master it. Autocad is a great program for architects but it's a beast to learn. Vellum programs are great for part time CAD work.
If you read the critical user comments about SUp you see problems that are not general to a quality CAD system, like limits on internal resolution. SUp's main advantage is being free. However, this is like buying an inexpensive table saw with a 1.0 HP motor and a throw away fence and then complaining about the quality of your cuts.
My main point is to think about your CAD program as a long term investment like the rest of your shop equipment. If it's cheap, then it is missing something important that more expensive programs spent a lot of time developing. The other thing a cheap program will do is frustrate you as your skills grow and the inadequate program starts to sag.