AutoCAD Drawings, Step by Step
In my last project drawing, a complex fireplace wall and cabinets, it took 8 section views to show everything. I draw the elevation first, then section cuts at all places needed. This takes a ton of time. Would it be better to learn 3D AutoCAD and show a perspective with each dimension?
For our shop, 3d has no practical use except for a very complicated piece of custom cabinetry. As a custom high-end shop, we want 2d drawings we can build from, and that show the architect/designer that we comprehend his/her intent.
I've had the interesting job lately of viewing the work of other detailers who have subbed for us. Everyone has a different approach. The folks I've dealt with don't have snap turned on in their drawings, while I prefer to work with snap on. Some prefer to set up the print page template in model space, treat that as a drawing board, and confine their layout to the borders in model space. I prefer to draw all my plans, elevations, cross sections and details in one drawing and set up my page template as multiple pages in paper space for print output. Some prefer to have one page per AutoCAD drawing file. Some have drawn at 1/128 inch accuracy and I pretty much stay with 1/32 accuracy.
From contributor S:
The above comments about 2D, boxes and custom work are on target. My approach differs somewhat from you two. It's probably because I come from a building background, including homebuilding and a custom cabinet shop. I am used to thinking 3D while working in 2D. (Example: lay out wall plates for framing while you're thinking of the roof framing, the HVAC and plumbing.) But this is really the way we all think, right?
My drawings start in plan, or more accurately, horizontal section. I build up from there. Plan view is where you get most of the important relationships between components and systems. Toekicks relate to lower cabinets, that relate to uppers, etc. Then develop elevations and section off these. Use a lot of layers and layer control.
The problem with 3D, at least with custom work or anything tweaked, is you don't know what you've got until you get there. Until you determine the exact dimension of a part, usually via relative drawing, you don't have a part size to create a solid. We use 3d to illustrate the really hard stuff to visualize.
In the last 20+ years of doing this, I can't remember ever being asked to provide a rendering. Clear and accurate line drawings are what the shop floor wants and what the contractor wants on site, and what makes the architect happy. They also impress the client. The ACAD files facilitate cutlisting and CNC programming.
From contributor F:
The reason I got away from 2d is that I made too many mistakes in drawing the plan, elevation and section views. Not so much in the original design, but after three or four changes with many cabinets, I would forget to update a particular elevation or section. Then when I made the cutlist, I would take the information off the wrong portion of the drawing. I find working in 3d with a program that automatically gives me the part size is the way to go for now. Doing a section on a 3d drawing is one operation. I keep each section on a different layer, and then go into paper space and turn only that layer on. You can also, using this method, make any dimension or other notes pertaining to that section on that layer only and if drawn in model space it can be placed in any paper space view. Many of my clients cannot visualize very well. Renderings are not needed, but hidden line drawings can easily sell a job.
From contributor A:
I agree pretty much with the above. 2d is probably more comfortable for most. That's our process. Plan view (rough), elevation (rough), fully detailed sections (horizontal and vertical... depending on your nomenclature) and fine tune the plan and elevations. Yeah, it takes a lot of time - more than the boss thinks it should. Bosses seem to think that it's point, click, print, done.
I try to link as much as possible, i.e. section views with a full scale of the various profiles - that's easy. I don't have a way to link all the views in 2d, so if a stile gets changed it has to be done in multiple places. Easy to get conflicts on the shops if you don't have a religiously systematic way of revising drawings.
3d can solve that problem, but most folks find it very complex to learn, even if it is easier and faster in the long run. It all depends on what kind of work you are doing. If you do modular style cabinets, a program like...wait, that's a software issue.
As pointed out above, one of the biggest pros of 3d is cutlist capability. Can't do that in 2d! In my opinion, renderings are for the homeowner (wow factor). Submitting drawings to them, renderings, or even hidden line perspectives can really have a big impact. But if submittals are to architects or G.C.'s... they know how to read blueprints and good ones make the best impression.
From contributor P:
Ditto to that last message.
All the contractors read 2d blueprints - that's how they make their living. A good 2d drawing will make a positive impression on the contractor, and perhaps the architect. Ultimately, however, it is the homeowner that pays.
Is everyone in the same boat in that our bosses think it should always take less time? Is our process considered a necessary evil by our bosses?
Having worked on site for many years installing work, the detailer's drawings become the defacto blueprints, because they are much more dialed in than the rough sketches of the architect, with detailed measurements of the spaces.
On the issue of snap turned on or offÖ Which way do you draft, and why? And what accuracy do you set up for all the options? As I said above, I set snap to on and have a very small grid setting, perhaps 1/128. Everything else is turned on to 1/16 for dimensions, and 1/32 for general.
From contributor S:
I don't use the snap grid. I draw to 1/16ths and sometimes 1/32nds, depending on the requirements. Carcasses are always 1/16ths. Running OSNAPS are set to endpoint, midpoint and perpendicular only. I toggle the osnaps on/off with the wheel/button on my mouse.
Regarding the comment above about "linking" drawings - can you explain what you mean?
From contributor A:
(By the way, I use ACAD 2002.)
Let me comment on osnaps first. I like a lot of snaps turned on all the time - end, mid, perp, nearest, node, quadrant, and intersection are my settings. A quick f3 if they're in the way.
I have my units precision set at 1/256", as high as possible. This is the format/units/setting, not dimension settings. My dimension styles are all set to round to the 1/16" - that's what guys in the shop like to see. The thinking here is that I want to draw as precise and accurate as possible, but dimension stuff that's readable for the cabinetmakers. I don't ever use my snap grid.
By "linking," I meant good use of viewports. There's no magic here. I start with a rough plan view showing room layout with countertop edge, and base cabinet edge below, wall cabinet edge above. Then I create a rough elevation, drawing as much as I can. Sometimes the elevation is easier to work out after sections and details (ie horizontal sections) are figured out. The "plan view" is on a layer like "plan" and the details are drawn right on the same plan but a different layer. So if I stretch a run of cabinets from say 15'-0" to 17'-4", I am stretching the plan, the base details, and the wall details at the same time. In paperspace I selectively turn on or off the layers accordingly. That's what I mean by "linked."
When I have a run of cabinets that need 6 section views, I draw section A, and copy it as needed to get B, C, etc., modifying them as I go. These aren't "linked" like I'd like. The best practice I've found is to make sure everything is lined up with my elevation in MS.
This may not be the best method, and I'd like to hear others. Our drawing process is definitely an evolutionary one and we make improvements all the time.
From contributor R:
These are all good points. And since the majority of CAD issues here tend to center around casework, it's probably best to use that as the common thread.
I always used to draw the plan first, then the elevations, then the vertical sections, but here's one for you: consider drawing vertical sections first (at least the most critical ones which serve to drive the plan dimension). I know it sounds 'bass ackward', but when the sections are done, drag off a copy (as a grouped object), and you can overlay them on your plan and generate the plan geometry accordingly.
From contributor R:
I have little 3D AutoCad experience, but the people I know who seriously use it (in 3D) say it's kind of slow and difficult to use (but we all know that every piece of software has its shortcomings, so let's skip over the software issue). Anyway, it may work for you, so try a little 3D job. Get your feet wet.
The one thing I can say is, whenever possible, use the little jobs (you know, the 2 or 3 cabinets or the custom mantel) as an opportunity to experiment and develop your own concepts - whether it's fabrication or CAD. The small jobs are like gold! I started doing that with my jobs. I drew a door in 3D, then a cabinet, then a room. I found out what worked and what didn't. I learned when to use 3D and when 2D was better. In time, I saw that 3D had its benefits, so I looked into the software that I thought was appropriate for me and my company.
To sum it up, there's no substitute for getting your feet wet with real jobs - just calculate your risks before you jump in.
From contributor S:
Thanks for the elaboration. Interesting you have so many running osnaps set on. I find that they conflict with that many running, so I just run the ones that I use most frequently. The others I grab from my center button context menu.
My units precision is set to four decimal places. That keeps me in check. I want to draw everything "real world" and buildable. I don't enter any values greater than 1/32nds. This way I can easily see if I am off or have mistyped, and I recognize the decimals in 1/32nds.
Do you do all of your views in one master drawing? How about your large scale details? Do you mostly draw in objects (rectangles, polylines, etc.)? Do any of you use point filters?
From contributor A:
"....you have so many running osnaps set..."
Yeah, it 's probably just an old lazy habit. F3 to toggle on off or tab to cycle through gets me what I need.
"... draw everything "real world" and buildable..."
"...all of your views in one master drawing."
In my opinion, editing and revisions are way easier with plines. Point filters are just one of the many things that I've not gotten into. Maybe I should.
In the original post, you said a complex fireplace wall took 8 section views and a ton of time. This is typical for what I do, but it depends on how much time weighs. How much time are you talking about? This sounds like the kind of stuff I see a lot, and a day to draw it all wouldn't be unreasonable. For me, a week would probably be too much time. A typical kitchen may have 15 vertical sections and 25 or more horizontal sections, along with a dozen or so full scale views. I need to show a lot to pick up all the construction issues. It could easily take a week. And it could easily be a six figure kitchen, too.
From contributor Y:
Contributor A, it sounds like we're clones! That's exactly (more or less) how I approach my drawings.
I'm trying to find time to learn 3D, so I'll at least know what it can do. I don't like snaps as they never seem to be in the right spot. That's probably due to the way I set up my drawings. I have a friend who won't draw without them, so they must be useful, as he is extremely good at ACAD. I've got a routine that allows me to change snap distances from a toolbar but never use it. I too draw vert sect first and develop the plan/elevation from it in most cases.
I use almost all the o'snaps. On my new computer I can't get the thumb button to bring up the o'snap menu. I think I'll have to change mice, or mess with the mbuttonpan setting.
From contributor A:
For what it's worth, I have rt.clk set to context sensitive shortcut menus, scroll set to zoom in/out and my personal biggie is wheel button set to F8, which I use a lot. A friend of mine sets it to osnaps... we argue a lot about which is better. To each his own.
From contributor D:
When you draw in 3D, what size projects are you talking about? I typically work on jobs that can be from $50,000 to $300,000 in millwork. This may encompass 10 to 15 rooms of casework plus reception desk, doors, windows, jambs and other assorted running trim. I don't see the advantage of 3D. I am not a classroom trained CAD guy, so I may be way off base in my approach, but my clients seem pleased with the results. I have resorted to exploded views on some complicated cabinets, but this stems from really wanting to let the cabinetmaker see what is going on easily and to simplify things in the shop. It helps if the shop guys don't have to over think a project after I've already engineered it.
This also relates to the precision issue. Most cabinetmakers don't want to see 32nds on shop drawings. Sometimes you need to use 32nds to ensure accuracy. I'll use them when I know a particular aspect of a job will be machined on the CNC router, but more often than not, it's 16ths for me. This doesn't mean that the drawings are not accurate to the 32nd. When I lay out cabinets, etc. on the shop drawings, I'll adjust sizes to work things out evenly, regardless of what the architect has show. That's what scribes are for!
From contributor R:
Typically, my job sizes are running in about the same size ($60k-$500k). Most of the work is stair related (that's the client's justification for using me), so 3D is very useful - especially with curved and elliptical stairs.
An important issue is that most serious 3D software (Solidworks, for example) handles the larger models (assemblies) reasonably well, but it definitely bogs down at the drawing phase. This is because the software essentially is projecting the edges of a 3 dimensional model onto a 2D page (like a shadowbox or similar to the way Cabnetware or Cabinetvision does). This bogging is a serious issue and can lead to 5-10 minute saves and rebuilds. Also, developing assembly strategies that can handle revisions becomes much more complex than the 2D approach.
Before starting a job, I always consider doing it 2D. Like all aspects of woodworking, the bottom line is to evaluate the job and decide which tool is most appropriate. It's a bit like shapers vs moulders. While their uses overlap, they are distinctly different and it's only by knowing the specifics of the tool that one decides which is most appropriate.
But as the saying goes, "you'll never learn how to swim until you jump in the water."
From contributor J:
You all need to take your work and your process more seriously. Go back to night school and learn how to use the 3D functions to your CAD software. I have experience using 2D and 3D and can speak about each oneís strengths and weakness. Stop claiming 3D takes too long and learn how to improve your bottom line using 3D; your proficiency will develop with time (start small, as stated above).
3D CAD saves time! Practicing takes time. 3D forces you to be dimension specific, and it further illustrates that the designer can build, too - that is important in the shop. It also allows you to view a project from every conceivable angle without distortion or loss of integrity to your design due to human error, i.e.. incorrect detailing and elevations due to things being drawn twice. There is no need in 3D to draw a left and a right side view. You simply create a left and right side viewport from a single design and let ACAD do the rest. 3D also has the added benefit of getting you closer to a photo real model or a CNC cut path on an intricate part. All of these things were built into CAD to save time and architects and designers with experience enjoy these benefits alike. The investment in time at the local community college is time well spent. I spent too long trying to figure out how to make effective use of the tools available in ACAD. This led me to the school's doorstep.
My system and the system that others use starts like this... Plan and elevations in model space, then details and dimensions are scaled using viewports in paperspace. Paperspace is where everything you design ends up before plotting. Using layer functions to make what you want to see on paper visible or invisible. Always use snaps; this is what makes drawing accurate and faster. Rarely do we use grids, as this does little for us and our ever-changing design process. Whether or not a rendering is required, I do as much as possible in 3D in modelspace, which allows me to make cutlists and accurate estimates based on what exists in the design (takes the guesswork out). Advanced users use spreadsheet functions to list parts by size, color, type, number, cost and anything else we deem useful. All from one master drawing. These are really advanced ACAD functions you learn about at school or from any power-user. Additionally, we write scripts to determine order of assembly on complex projects. They are fast and easy to write and many companies use them to enhance design. Who out there knew you can do large-scale material takeoffs and BOMs using ACAD? This is a feature the home-building guys can really use, as it makes quick work of counting identical parts, which can be listed in any order according to preference and grouped with other pertinent info.
From contributor T:
I use paperspace. I don't see any benefit to cramming everything on one page at somewhat reduced scales to get it to fit. Multiple drawings, well marked, are clearer and less crowded, neater and have a way of telling the story. Shop drawings should be at 1-1/2'' scale with 3" and full size details. Drawing everything at 1" scale or smaller is stupid. Once the paper space drawing is done, it is ready to print right then and there. If you check it out, a 1-1/2" drawing in paperspace is printed on a 24" x 36" paper. The same drawing printed on a 18" x 24" piece of paper is 1" scale, which I send to everyone except the cabinetmaker, who exclusively gets the 1-1/2" scale for maximum clarity. I set my decimals to only 3 places and print all cabinetry drawing in inches with large numbers noted in parenthesis in feet and inches for the mathematically challenged. I only print dimensions to 1/16" minimum or the cabinet people laugh me out of the shop. The remainder always goes to the scribes. That is what they are for.
The only use I have ever found for 3D is for presentation purposes. I have never seen a cabinet man build from a 3D picture. Likewise, the full scale drawings are for what I call the "mentally blind."
No one has mentioned that when you draw a 3D solid and then make your other views (sections, plans, detail, etc.) and then make a plot page, this is where the dimensions go. That when you make a change, you must delete the plot page, sections, details, etc. and change the original 3D object (database) and then proceed with slicing up the cabinet (again) into the desired details and make the plot page, which is the only place that you can place the dimensions. Somewhere it was assumed that you change the database and all the dimensions on the plot page change accordingly. I don't find this to be true. Am I wrong? 3D is wonderful and it should be explored, but there is much more to it than meets the eye. Beside a plan, elevation, sections and details is "3D."
P.S. I got to the point of making drawings in an .avi format video, with surround sound in a full wrap around 3D movie, and I got more response from a perspective drawing done with pen, pencil and color. They actually frame these pictures for the walls.
From contributor K:
Just because there are three thousand buttons in AutoCAD doesn't mean that the one who uses the most buttons wins. I don't touch the menus at all. Everything is keyboard commands. It's fast and efficient. It should be daily decrease in buttons and not daily increase. One should try to simplify the act of creating shop drawings. When I'm up against the eight ball trying to get the drawings done fast and with as much detail as possible, I can't afford to try to use 3d at all. It's a big waste of time in the shop drawing process. Are you trying to impress an architect? It's all about getting the point across to the architect and having it flow as smooth as possible through the shop. Some people get carried away with software. I probably use 5 layers. There are people out there that use too many layers. Flipping back and forth to different layers takes time. Too much time. Do you really need to shut off certain layers at any given time? The only plus I can see is for CNC work. Sometimes I think that drawing on the board can be faster. We are so dependent on the computer that there are not many board drafters out there any more. Drawing on the board was an art form. Hail to the board drafters.
From contributor R:
Well, contributor K, I have to disagree with you. Five layers is not adequate. And buttons can be very efficient. I don't have any of the default button menus up; I have custom ones. Some are simple and some very complex. Would you like to turn off all dimension and text layers except for the half scale ones, in one click? How about turn off/on all toekick layers? How about turn off all layers and turn on only the upper cabinet carcasses? (That's just the beginning.) Buttons can do this for you. Oh sure, you could do a lot of typing at the command line to accomplish the same thing, but why? When you have that deadline...
From contributor A:
There are nine ways to skin a cat and what works very well for one may not work at all for another. In my opinion, pulldown menus suck and should rarely be used, buttons are better, customized buttons are way better, but nothing beats using the keyboard (short one or two stroke commands) except customized LISP/VBA/other routines. The more you (I) use it, the more we will see this is true.
From contributor A:
I've used about 10 layers for quite a while. Others have shared the value of lots of layers... and they are right, too. It's not the size (of your layer manager dialog box) that counts, but how you use it.
Some folks use hundreds of layers and it is way more efficient (ie profitable) because they use them well.
We (I) use a minimalist layer strategy... mostly because it's a legacy that I inherited, but I'm looking into resetting our layer standards to be more flexible. This may require a lot of layers... if it helps, I'll do it.
From contributor S:
I'll agree to disagree. The comments above about how one uses the layers is correct, on both accounts (K's and A's). If you have bad layer standards (or none at all), using 10 layers can take as much time as using 100. If you have good layer standards, you can manipulate your drawings better and faster for the good, get more information from them, and it takes no more time, maybe less, even though you may be managing a bunch of layers.
I have been doing this for awhile, too... 15 + years. I also started with just a few layers. The layer standards and customizing that we have established has allowed us to build incredibly difficult and complex projects.
We use our layers very well, to respond to contributor A. We do not use pull down menus. It is not overkill. There is no "layer thing" to be "all caught up in." It's standardized, and set up in the template and profiles. It just works, time and time again, almost without thinking. Every operator does the same thing... anyone's drawing can be instantly manipulated by anyone else in any way, simple or complex.
As they say in the ads: Imagine the possibilities.
From contributor K:
I'm just saying that the software program should be used as a means to an end. I started out on a drawing board about 20 years ago working as a detailer. Everything was black and white. Is there ever a time that you really need to shut off the wall layer in an elevation of casework or desk unit of any kind? Let's face it, layers are fantastic if you are an architect and you really need to turn them off and on or you need specific ones for plotting or visuals. The only importance of layers in millwork detailing in my opinion is for CNC use. When I'm under the gun producing shop drawings for submittals on a timely basis, I try to keep it simple so the emphasis is on detailing it correctly once for the shop and not caring whether my cabinet layer or framing layer is correctly picked. When I first started drawing in CAD years ago, I did use many layers, thought it was really great! Over time I've tried to get rid of the fluff that really isn't needed in order to get to the point. Don't get me wrong! I love CAD; I wouldn't go back on the board if I had to.
From contributor E:
Has anyone ever heard of CAD Standards? It seems to me that the original question was about that and not about proving one drawing preference is better than another. In many companies, standards are predetermined so that interaction between drafters and the like leave little to question. Rules are established preferably by efficient CAD techs with years, not days, of experience. This helps to maintain a certain level of organization as well as efficiency. And as we all know, efficiency is important, while many would debate the idea of being organized. All should check themselves to really see how well organized they are at creating drawings.
A good looking drawing can be made using only one layer and if this is all that is necessary, so be it. However, a drawing like this is not always the fastest way to get a point across, and can almost always be scrutinized for not being professional enough. That's an opinion many share. In my position, it is sometimes necessary to have drawings reviewed by others to establish integrity and to see if design intent has been achieved. We always view drafting as a conveyance of information, and after all, we are creating actual documents used to support a more important function... getting paid! Our standards have been established by well trained individuals with enough experience to instill confidence in even the greenest of drafters. This makes interaction with architects and designers a less daunting task and allows us to hold our heads up high in a crowd of drafters/designers because we build integrity into our work... all of our work, and it shows.
Furthermore, the use of multiple layers and multiple paperspaces as well as custom toolbars are all things built into the software to increase efficiency, not decrease it. When standards for these issues are created, saved and monitored, they can be reused an infinite number of times by anyone who prefers. Kudos to all that use more than five layers. We view layers as a place to put all things that share a common trait and we don't put a limit on how many should be used. We view paperspace as a place to put your designs on just that - paper. Modelspace is for designing in full scale on a large drawing board (actually the largest possible). Custom toolbars help us to utilize only what is important to a specific drafter and to consolidate the most frequently used commands. Dimensioning is always done on dimension layers so it can be viewed or invisible. Blocks are created for all sorts of reasons and when done right, they save an enormous amount of time. It truly is a discipline. The questioner already has a good system for his design work; it's the one he's most familiar with and no one can suggest he's wrong, but I'd like to see someone suggest some ways for him to save time on all those section views.
The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).
Comment from contributor O:
When I have finished an elevation, I rescale it, drop it on a titleblock page, do the same for the corresponding section drawings, then I get on with the rest of the project. If I come across an elevation later in the project that includes, for instance, a 30"x12" plastic laminate wall cabinet, I know I already have a drawing of that and I donít have to insert another from my library of section drawings.
By the way, I label the library of drawings similar to this: BPL34HCSB as a Base, 34"tall, Plastic Laminate, Handicap Sink Base; WPL30T12D is a 30" tall Wall cabinet (plastic laminate, 12" deep. Standard base cabinets would be BPL36 or maybe a BRP36 (raised panel door).
BPL36TD where TD is Tall Door, no drawer; BPL364DR would be a Base, plastic laminate, 36" tall with 4 drawers. I have been doing outsourced CAD drawings for over 10 years and the only problem I have encountered is where changes were made and I was not informed. I work by the hour and can email or provide plotted drawings. I have a good relationship with my 6 clients and have watched in-house draftsman come and go, get promoted from the shop and hated doing drawings, and saw tech school graduates try it and then end up selling cars. Trust your draftsman, empower him to be involved, trust him/her, make them an extension of your business and you will be happy.
Comment from contributor M:
We're using the full version of AutoCAD 2006, although I trained on the 2000 version at college. I work for a custom commercial millwork shop and on each job we do I produce a full shop drawing set first to submit to the architect/general contractor, then after the set is approved it's fleshed out into a cutlist package for our shop. No one at work has mentioned the one biggest advantage to drawing in 3-D. As soon as you've drawn it as a solid object or assembly, the section command generates as many sections through any plane you can possibly want or need.
Since 90% of our jobs have repetitive casework I've made a block library of the different types of boxes we build - which I can then drop into any drawing I need it for with its layers already in place. Because we do a lot of custom work each counter type and thickness (ranging from 1 layer 3/4" with 1 1/2" front face to 1 1/4" to 1 1/2" full thickness) has its own library.
The advantage of layers is being able to turn off all the parts except the counter or the kicks, or turn off all the doors to illustrate for instance that this particular double door cabinet has drawers inside it. So I typically start with the room plan, build walls, drop cabinets in, plane and extrude a counter top, drop upper casework in (from its own library of course) and move to paperspace to my layout page for plan, elevation, section, and iso views. If I need another section for clarity then I only need one command and one more viewport. Typically an average five room job takes approximately three hours total to put together, dimension and send out the door. Another 2-4 hours to revise for site measure and dimension cutlists.
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