New User
Curious to garner the opinions of kindred spirits who use CAD to work out their projects before setting board to blade. Specifically, what is your preferred software and how well do you manage workflow with it.

For example...
I model everything I build in CAD. Doing so provides me several important benefits:
- manipulate and visualize various designs within their virtual full-scale setting;
- discover and remedy interferences, joinery conundrums, and miscellaneous constraints;
- generate layout patterns to optimize sheet goods and straight-to-board cut templates; and,
- procrastinate physically building the thing by virtually building the thing.

I used to use Sketchup--a violently simple 3D modeling software. But it's simplicity is its greatest limitation and I've come to dislike it at a visceral level. So I'm learning Fusion360--a violently powerful 3D modeling software, though comparatively unintuitive and thus, somewhat difficult for me to grasp (Sketchup takes a day to grasp; with Fusion360, proficiency may take a month or two.) The thing is, Fusion360 is a robust parametric modeling tool. After you discover yummy parametric modeling, you'll adore it for design regardless of your prefered modeling software.

Care to share anecdotes about your preferred CAD software?
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Senior User
PTC Creo... formerly Pro/E it only has one competitor (Catia) and we are finding it doesnt really work too well, quality wise.


New User
Fusion 360 because It came with my Shaper Origin and its free for hobby use. Intended use is to design furniture with curves and to pull a component out to build an mdf template.

Great instruction from this guy for beginners too

not a very good picture but I'm currently working on a batch of dining chairs from Fine Woodworking magazine
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Phil S

Phil Soper
Staff member
Corporate Member
SolidWorks or Fusion 360 for 3d. Veterans can get a student version of SW for $20/yr. Fusion360 has a free version but I am finding it difficult to learn
Inkscape for 2d CNC work. It is very powerful yet free


New User
I used to use AutoSketch, a baby version of AutoCad and I absolutely loved it. The version I had was pre-Windows and thus I lost it when I got ride of my old desktop 3 yrs ago. It is cost prohibitive to use now as I don't see an inexpensive version of it. I am therefore in the process of learning SketchUp. I was absolutely horrible until I learned how to view in 2D. I'm an old engineer and learned to draw using old style graphics, 3 views to get the "3D" picture. I would jump to something like AutoSketch if it were affordable.


Corporate Member
I use Solidworks 3D, not because it is the best out there. Just because I have used it since its inception in the plastic molding industry and I know it pretty well after years and years.

There may be a lot better out there, but the time to learn a new package and be proficient at it is not a change I have an appetite for.


Senior User
Professionally I use AutoCAD, Inventor and have also dabbled in Creo Parametric and used Revit for a couple of years in the past. Fusion 360 is on my list to learn but just haven't gotten around to it yet.

Drawing software all comes down to what you want to do with it and how well you can use it.


New User
I use Sketch Up mostly but now that they are going to the Subscription pay scale I am going to give 360 a better go. I was using it for a while but it seemed too much for what I needed.


Corporate Member
I just looked at the You Tube beginners Fusion 360 videos by Lars Christensen that Steve (zapdafish) recommended in his post and all I can say is Wow! a really powerful tool. I will look into getting more information and if I decide to get into a CNC machine, it looks like the software to model with.

matt roberts

New User
I use Autodesk Inventor and Autocad. I used solidworks in the past. I like them both, it has been 12 years since I used solidworks and when I tried to use it recently finding the right buttons for the right tools was frustration, only because I was use to Inventor. I think most of the platforms at this level are pretty comparable.

Michael Mathews

Corporate Member
There is also a free version of DraftSight that looks and feels just like Autocad. I've used it at home until I get more comfortable with Sketchup. Now I mostly do everything with Sketchup..


Corporate Member
I think it depends on how you intend to use the information. I mainly use three computer design tools:

AutoCAD is great for testing quick ideas with hard dimensions and for drafting shop drawings to take into the shop for marking wood.

SketchUp can create 3D models for better understanding design. It is simple (and free) to start using. To advance with it takes quite a bit of learning, practice, and some plugins.

Maxwell 3D renders photorealistic views and VR (360°) with "unbiased" calculations. (It doesn't fake light and color cast.) This helps clients understand designs as they interact with the surrounding sunlight, color, and materials. This is overkill for stand-alone furniture, but useful for a larger scene within architecture. Loads of product design is rendered these days, and many car commercials too.

Obviously, CNC requires a different different tool chain and work flow to instruct the machine, but I don't have one.

There's no perfect tool. Simply plowing into the material without drawings works for many, and a quick hand sketch for others. I find great craftsmen often use a rather simple tool set, but they use it well for their process.

Dave Richards

Senior User
I think it's great that there are different options available so that folks can choose. Same thing with woodworking tools.

At the risk of offending the OP, I find SketchUp to be more than capable of handling everything I need out of it for woodworking and more. For me it's great for quick sketches, illustrations to communicate with a client, or my wife, and detailed models for sorting out joinery, creating plans, and getting instant materials lists. Full size patterns are a cinch as are files for CNC and 3D printing. Like any tool there's a learning curve but with the right help it isn't long or steep. It does take practice but so does everything else.

Mike Davis

Corporate Member
In the beginning everyone struggles to get their ideas on paper or these days into a computer. You need this process to help your skills evolve and to achieve clarity of thought. As you progress you need more drawings, better software, greater control and more detail. As your skill grows and your mind expands you learn to do with less and put your effort into making rather than imagining.

Dave Richards

Senior User
I use Sketch Up mostly but now that they are going to the Subscription pay scale...

The Subscription option offered by SketchUp is in addition to the Classic perpetual license they've always offered. They have not removed the perpetual license. The Classic license gets you SketchUp Pro and LayOut as with previous versions and also 10 GB of cloud data storage. The Subscription license is for SketchUp Pro, LayOut, SketchUp Shop, AR/VR Mobile viewer, and unlimited cloud data storage.


New User
plus one for SolidWorks. The parametric modeling concept is an awesomely powerful tool. Unfortunately, SW only becomes easy to use with a lot of practice, but I for one consider well worth it. Looking back on Sketchup and 2-D packages like AutoCad, I am now hooked on SW.


New User
I have used many CAD packages but currently I use Onshape at home and professionally. It's another free cloud based parametric CAD package. One of the big benefits is an open source like API that allow users to develop custom features. There are a bunch of features to make modeling things like all kinds of wood working joints much easier.

Stuart Kent

Senior User
I have used Sketchup for many years now and am now training on Fusion 360 and love it. Fusion has a definite learning curve but it can do a LOT in terms of CAD and CAM. The more I use it, the more impressed I am with the 3D modeling capabilities for advancing CNC designs.

Pop Golden

New User
I use my computer for graphic design, photo, tv editing, drawing & web work. When it comes to project design, I drop back to my board & "T"square. I'm a old draftsman, and I still can't see scale on a computer screen like I can on paper.


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