All Replies on What is the best CAD Software for Woodworking & Furniture Design

  • Advertise with us
View Italo78's profile

What is the best CAD Software for Woodworking & Furniture Design

by Italo78
posted 11-03-2018 05:28 AM

28 replies so far

View bruc101's profile


1384 posts in 4391 days

#1 posted 11-03-2018 06:17 AM

I use Autocad Architectural Desktop, and I have a degree in Architectural Engineering and that’s probably why I use CAD since I already know it. Our commercial millwork shop now uses Microvellum (extremely expensive and takes much training in it) along with Autocad Architectural Desktop.

If you’re looking for 3d then I think most woodworkers are using Sketchup. Sketchup is an awesome 3d program and well worth learning if you’re a woodworker designing your own personal stuff. Sketchup has a large learning community.

I have a friend that’s an Architect using Sketchup Pro and is doing some awesome 3d work in it.

-- Bruce Free Plans

View bondogaposis's profile (online now)


5840 posts in 3200 days

#2 posted 11-03-2018 01:13 PM

I use the free version DraftSight, it is very similar to AutoCAD.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View LesB's profile


2599 posts in 4292 days

#3 posted 11-03-2018 05:19 PM

I use a Mac computer so I chose Microspots, Mac Draft Pro for my 2D drawings.
It is cross compatible with most of the other CAD programs and I found it reasonably intuitive to use.
They offer a couple of versions (grades) and a trial period if you want to try it out.They just came out with a Microsoft version too.

-- Les B, Oregon

View MrRon's profile (online now)


5932 posts in 4092 days

#4 posted 11-04-2018 12:55 AM

What is the type of cad drawing you want to do, 2D or 3D? 3D is fine for “concept” drawings, but 2D is better for details. If I were machining a part on a milling machine or lathe, I would use a 2D drawing. I use Autocad for all my 2D drawings and have not seen a need for 3D. I prefer Autocad (mainly because that’s what I learned) and I can use it in any type of drawing; structural, architectural, woodworking, plumbing, electrical. It is a very versatile software. It is a very expensive software, but you can get it free (as a student) as long as you don’t use it for profit.

View lumbering_on's profile


578 posts in 1339 days

#5 posted 11-04-2018 01:33 AM

I’ve made the move to Fusion 360 as you can get it for free as a hobbyist. I was using Sketchup, but I didn’t like the move to the web-based version. I also found that after the switch to Fusion 360 a lot of things are much easier than they were in Sketchup. In fact, I now find Sketchup down right clumsy and frustrating to use.

View Rich's profile (online now)


5872 posts in 1438 days

#6 posted 11-04-2018 01:43 AM

I have SketchUp Pro and it does everything I need. Combined with a rendering package I can show my clients exactly what they will get.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View Al_in_OH's profile


4 posts in 1384 days

#7 posted 11-06-2018 04:05 PM

Glad this question was asked. I am also an AutoCAD guy, but prefer not to pay the price for it. I haven’t had the need for a detailed CAD program for design needs as I mostly can do that by hand (quick drawing with dims). What I need it for is to show the customer the design (3D) so I was trying out Sketchup, but like lumbering_on said it is clumsy. I might try Fusion 360 that he/she suggested.

View shawnn's profile


152 posts in 2214 days

#8 posted 11-06-2018 07:58 PM

I’ve used Pro Engineer extensively for years (now called Creo), which is one of the most widely used engineering packages. I have also used Mechanical Desktop and to a lesser degree Inventor, and Solidworks (very little). I did production design using Autocad AME in Release 12… took all night to generate ISO views, running a single view per Pentium workstation… Creo is expensive and probably overkill for most woodworkers but they now offer “pay as you go” service; they also allow a one month free trial version, which you can extend the use of by changing the date on your computer prior to running it. Just mentioned it since, IMO, if you’re going to invest your time in the learning curve you might as well hit the broadest market. I also did a long term live review of Catia V6 just after it was introduced, I wouldn’t have a copy of that if it was free. That was several years ago, it might have matured in the interim but it was a (bad) joke back then.

I have used 2D Autocad since x286 processors and can verify that Draftsight is functionally an exact replica and is free, assuming you can get their goofy e-mail verification to work. There are ways to make it work if it doesn’t after downloading and well worth it considering the price of Autocad. It even uses the single & double-digit hotkeys from Autocad (“L” for Line, “E” for erase, etc.) even when their command has a different name (Erase is actually Delete in Draftsight).

View Italo78's profile


18 posts in 1748 days

#9 posted 11-12-2018 04:04 PM

Thanks to everyone for taking time out of your day to reply to my question.
I have quickly tested the free version of Sketchup and Fusion 360.
Although both software appear to be great powerful tools, I cannot really comment on either since I have only tested the user interface and the tools available for each.
I was planning on testing out Solid Works since that is the cad program that appears to be widely used in the workplace today. I have used Solid Works for work nearly 15 years ago, but I have not used it since (and I can telly you that I have forgotten how to use it).
Has anyone worked with Solid Works for woodworking? I have only found a few SW woodworking videos online but nothing very solid.
Will it take long to re-learn? Does SW provide cut lists?

Thanks again to everyone for your time.


View KamileD's profile


1 post in 913 days

#10 posted 01-08-2019 10:03 AM

Have you looked into Woodwork for inventor? It works with Inventor so it’s not cheapest on the market. Nevertheless, it saves an incredible amount of time by automating BOM, drawings and many other specification generations.
Here’s a link to it:

View BlueRidgeDog's profile


708 posts in 628 days

#11 posted 01-08-2019 11:18 AM

SketchUp for me. Simple, powerful, massive library of components already available.

View DannyW's profile


283 posts in 646 days

#12 posted 07-16-2019 07:01 PM

I know this is an old post but does somebody have an update recommendation, preferably 3D? I did some searching and was interested in Fusion 360 but it is no longer free to hobbyists and is only available as a subscription. I was looking for some thing easy and free (or cheap) that specifically had woodworking features, and preferably with a good following to help in learning the program.

-- DannyW

View dschlic1's profile


482 posts in 2819 days

#13 posted 07-17-2019 05:34 PM

Fusion 360 is still free for hobbyists. They make you jump through some hurdles, but its there. I use both Fusion 360 and SketchUp. Both have their strengths and weaknesses.

View Tim Lanier's profile

Tim Lanier

12 posts in 584 days

#14 posted 07-17-2019 10:05 PM

I know this is an old post but does somebody have an update recommendation, preferably 3D? I did some searching and was interested in Fusion 360 but it is no longer free to hobbyists and is only available as a subscription. I was looking for some thing easy and free (or cheap) that specifically had woodworking features, and preferably with a good following to help in learning the program.

- DannyW

I’m a hobbyist and have been using SketchUp to design my woodworking projects for over 10 years. Now that I’m an employee I get SketchUp Pro for free but before that I used “Make” which is the free version of “Pro”.

SketchUp Make 2017 is still available for free from

SketchUp is easy to use but I think it really helps to have someone show you the basics when you’re getting started. There’s a ton of free training available on youtube and other places on the web. I also think our in-house training materials are excellent at

If you’d rather use the free web version you can find that at
If you don’t mind paying for a more powerful web version, there’s a Shop subscription for $119/year.

View DannyW's profile


283 posts in 646 days

#15 posted 07-18-2019 07:29 PM

I have been looking at video tutorials on both Sketchup and Fusion 360 from a woodworker’s standpoint. Both will require a learning curve but so far I like what I see in Fusion 360 far better; I like the parametric focus as it looks like building components will be much easier and more versatile once I get the hang of it. Thanks for the note about it still being free for hobbyists.

-- DannyW

View shawnn's profile


152 posts in 2214 days

#16 posted 07-18-2019 08:12 PM

I’ve been using Fusion 360 extensively for a few months on a couple of machine design projects. It’s a great modeling software but sorely lacking on the drawing side. If you’re only designing your own stuff it would be a good choice, it is easy to learn and use, especially if you have any 3D modeling experience. Great visualization and motion-linking. I kind of wish I had bit the bullet and bought a “real” software but I’m married to it at this point.

A couple of hints to avoid rework or issues down the road:

1. Put all the features of a part in the Sketch as much as possible (holes, fillets, chamfers) rather than secondary operations, except special features like tapped holes. Sketch has dimensioning, trim, extend, offset, fillet, etc.
2. Figure out how the assembly joints work before building any assemblies. It’s different than any other software I’ve used but easy once you figure it out.
3. Make “New Component” not just “Join” or “New Body” and use joints to assemble them. It works best IMO to make the New Components of an assy all in the same file, and you have the option to export any component as a standalone item.
4. If a part is saved for any reason the assy it’s used in must be updated, as well as a part or assy to its respective drawing (no automatic update).
5. If you create sub-assy’s that are combined in a top-level assy, use Rigid Group to lump all the parts together otherwise the parts will not always remain assembled (stupid IMO).
6. Use the Animation module to translate part locations in an assy in order to create an exploded assy. Switching back to Design module reverts back to as-assembled.

View MrRon's profile (online now)


5932 posts in 4092 days

#17 posted 07-19-2019 06:15 PM

For someone who has never done CAD drawing, I think Sketchup is best, but for those who already know CAD, any general purpose CAD program like Autocad© is good. For furniture design, you don’t want a specialized program that has a lot of non-woodworking commands, like plumbing or electrical.

View shawnn's profile


152 posts in 2214 days

#18 posted 07-19-2019 07:30 PM

IMO, for fundamentally the same amount of effort as 2D drawing, ie. Autocad, a 3D model is much more useful, especially once assembled, to check fit and clearances; also,there is the ability to view on-screen, or create dwg views, from any angle vs 2D. In order to use any of them (2D or 3D) the user will need to develop knowledge of how CAD works so again IMO one might as well learn 3D as it takes good 2D practices anyway to make usable 3D models.

I’ve used CAD since the early 90’s and I found Sketchup to be non-intuitive, although I will admit I very quickly just decided not to bother with trying to figure it out. I recommend something more mainstream. If it’s new to you, you might as well learn something that adapts fairly easily to most common platforms than some kludgy thing that’s different from all the rest.

View DonovanJO's profile


2 posts in 165 days

#19 posted 04-21-2020 10:16 AM

I use AGACAD wood framing software. It is used as a Autodesk Revit extension for designing timber:

View tvrgeek's profile


1042 posts in 2498 days

#20 posted 04-21-2020 10:46 AM

Glad to see this post. Reminded me I need to investigate this. I can’t afford Autocad. Many years ago I had QuickCad. Easy, intuitive, but alas, does not run on my current computer. I tried Sketchup and gave up.

I also used to do schematics for British cars, but need a couple features QC did not have. So been using paper and pencil.

View Woodmaster1's profile


1546 posts in 3436 days

#21 posted 04-21-2020 01:57 PM

I am a AutoDesk product user. I taught CAD so you have a tendency to use what you know. So I use Inventor or AutoCAD for any CAD work I do. I usually just rough sketch my projects or know what I want and just start building. I know after teaching Cad for 40 years I’m going against what I taught but plans are something that doesn’t go beyond my shop.

View bilyo's profile


1161 posts in 1951 days

#22 posted 04-22-2020 06:25 PM

If I may, I’ll give you a different point of view. Which CAD program is best depends on what your end purpose is. This, of course, is just my opinion based on my needs and purposes. If your end use needs are to produce a presentable model for your own purposes or, more importantly, for a client to see, then something like Sketchup, Fusion360, or something similar is great. If your purpose is to produce drawings to guide your woodworking project, especially if it is just for yourself, I find any of them a waste of time. I have used both Sketchup and Fusion360 (to a lessor extent) as well as a 2d program. I found that I spend more time doing CAD than I do the woodworking. Since I am a one man hobby woodworker, I find that I prefer to work out my plans with paper and pencil rather than spend hours at the computer. Sometimes, I will do it totally freehand and for more complicated projects, I’ll use straight edges and rulers. Frequently, I’ll do it on the fly. I know that some programs will produce cut lists and quantity take-offs for you. I have just never found the need for those.

View CharlesA's profile


3443 posts in 2647 days

#23 posted 04-22-2020 06:59 PM

If I was starting out, I used Fusion 360 because I like the way one can adjust dimensions of a finished model. That alone is worth it. But I learned on Sketchup, and I find myself going back to it because the logic of it is easier for me to remember. The two products model in very different ways.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View LeeRoyMan's profile


1400 posts in 576 days

#24 posted 04-22-2020 07:21 PM

I find it incredibly helpful to produce drawings for myself, no matter what I’m building. Being fluent in Sketchup, it doesn’t take me very long to draw a project. Drawing the project is time well spent compared to the time it takes to fix mistakes. Can’t go wrong if you cut to the measurement right from the drawing.

Sketchup is the only program I use so I can’t speak of other programs,
but I’m extremely happy using SU

-- I only know... what I know....

View xeddog's profile


314 posts in 3856 days

#25 posted 04-24-2020 04:29 PM

Fusion 360 used to be free to hobbyist making less than $100,000 per year. It is STILL FREE for hobbyists, but the monetary limitation has been reduced to $1000 per year.

View YesHaveSome's profile


176 posts in 1107 days

#26 posted 04-24-2020 04:50 PM

I start sketching on paper to figure out an idea of what I want. I then move to Autocad to figure out spacing and overall dimensions. I then move to Fusion 360 to make the 3d model. Cutlists are then made in Autocad. When I need to make published plans I use a combo of Autocad and Sketchup. Sadly, there isn’t one program that does all of those things well so I pick and choose.

For 3D, I started using Sketchup and it continually drove me crazy by behaving unexpectedly in various circumstances. I then moved to Fusion and while the learning curve was higher, once I got it figured out I was able to move much faster than Sketchup and things worked the way I expected. Fusion isnt perfect and it’s terrible for plans but it’s where I spend the bulk of my time. And it has by far the best licensing of any of this kind of software.

Cutlists, especially for larger pieces, took forever in Sketchup and Fusion. I finally started using Autocad for those and it’s much more simple. I just export a BOM from Fusion and then draw out all of the pieces in Autocad and place them where needed. I’d be great if I could figure out a way to import the pieces from a CSV into Autocad.

-- But where does the meat go?

View Andre's profile


3694 posts in 2655 days

#27 posted 04-24-2020 05:44 PM

Just a thought, perhaps your imagination and a sketch pad? Heard that this system has worked for many a years!

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View TexaCali's profile


6 posts in 120 days

#28 posted 06-09-2020 09:55 PM

I’ll throw one more in the mix – Albre Design. Albre is a full on 3D CAD program like Solidworks. They have a inexpensive version ($200, no subscription last I checked), but expect to pay 10x that for the “Expert” version. As 3D CAD programs go, it is excellent and quick to learn – draw a 2D part and extrude it to make a 3D part, make 3D cuts in it, combine parts into assemblies, create detailed renderings, auto generate parts lists, create parametric designs you can easily change, exploded views, etc, etc.

What I don’t like about these programs is I have to create my own libraries….if you want to use a 6’ 2×4 then you have to create it. Need a 4’ 2×4, then you need to create a new part. Easy enough for boards with butt joints, but a 3/4” x 6” x 2’ board with dovetails is going to be tedious and would really like to find a program that was tailored to woodworking with libraries of common parts (or ways to apply common joints without having to draw them out in detail). Yes, you can do anything you want with these advanced 3D CAD programs, but I’d rather not take time to have to draw out every last detail. Any suggestions?

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics