Just Starting Out

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I have been researching the possibility of designing my own furniture. My internet search have span over twenty hours with mediocre results. In general, I could use some link suggestions on key forums, wood selection, and tool descriptions. In other words, please share with the newsgroup one or two sites that you could not live without related to woodworking.
My primary question deals with CAD programs and tutorials associated these applications. My Internet searches point to AutoCad, TurboCAD, and Pro-engineer as the typical players. I also found Woody's 2.0 specifically for furniture design. Woody's has many modules for furniture design like cut list, cost-tabulator, and fastener database. Has anybody use Woody's for their wood work projects? The main drawback with Woody's as a specialty product may be less community support and tutorial guides.
What furniture design modules exist for other CAD programs (like cut list or cost tabulators)? Let me know if you have any other suggestions in the CAD area. Tons of CAD programs exist with different levels of ease. I am just wondering what you guys use themselves (besides paper and pencils).
The learning curve associated with high-end CAD application does not intimidated me, yet I could use some good tutorials for a starting point. AutoCAD tutorial searches did not return anything about furniture design; only about populating your building models with furniture. Please let me know if you have more insight in the CAD department. I would hate to learn one program to discard it for another preferable application. Basically, a CAD program would allow me to play with a few different designs and budget the project.
My secondary question relates to fasteners used in newer furniture. Generally, these fasteners are used in lesser quality furniture. Does an online guide and vendor exist for these fasteners (not the Home Depot variety either)? I have no idea what they are called, so can not easily search for them. A pros and cons guide would help me as well.
These answers will help during the planning stages before even cutting a piece of wood. It should help me determine what designs are possible and what tools are necessary for particular design aesthetic. This woodwork area is completely foreign to me.
Woody 2.0 advanced CADD for the furniture design http://www.almod-corp.com /
AutoCad http://www.autocad.com
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<snip>

<snip>
I'm sure others will address your other concerns, but I just wanted to relay some of my experience. As a design engineer in a former lifetime, I've used AutoCAD and ProEngineer. IMHO, on a scale of 1 to 10, the learning curve on AutoCAD is about a 6, while the learning curve for ProE is about a 9. Many here will tell you that both are overkill. Since I gained a high level of competance with AutoCAD as a result of using it on the job, I've never need to test out some of the "simpler" CAD programs, like TurboCAD, so I can't comment on their effectiveness or ease of use.
todd
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| | As a design engineer in a former lifetime, I've used | AutoCAD and ProEngineer.
Ditto; as well as Ashlar Vellum, SolidWorks, and NURBS-based software I helped write for high-end engineering design.
| the learning curve on AutoCAD is about a 6, while the learning | curve for ProE is about a 9.
That fits with my experience. Vellum and SolidWorks are a little better; they follow the same paradigm as Pro/E wherein you set up the geometry first and then go back and put in dimensions and constraints.
| Many here will tell you that both are overkill.
They are. Pro/E is great if you're designing a Mars rover or a battleship, but highly unnecessary if you're just trying to put together some simple furniture. The high-end CAD/CAE/CAM tools are intended to manage large, complex designs that change a lot. They're reasonably good at what they do. But you have to invest a lot of time and energy to learn to use them before they will do that for you, and it's questionable whether what they offer will be useful to you. Even if you know the program, the effort of "getting the design into the CAD system" is expected to be offset by some advantage later on, like automatically generating some sort of documentation or modifying the design without having to re-draw a set of complicated drawings.
Even though I'm a CAD evangelist in some circles, I do most of my woodworking project designs on paper, and sometimes not even to scale or with a straightedge. Much of what I want to accomplish can be done on engineering paper in a dimensioned, roughly-to-scale drawing. Now that doesn't work for everyone or in every situation, but it works more often than it ought to.
--Jay
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On Mon, 09 Feb 2004 21:44:54 -0800, Robert Neville
welcome to the wreck....

I posted some links in a zip file on alt.binaries.pictures.woodworking

well, this one, for instance....... <G>

the tutorials included with autocad are not bad. however, acad is a humongous program, full of very odd conventions, patches and extensions. to use all of it's features well pretty much requires that you be a full time user, and pretty much requires special training. that said, I use it, or at least a few of it's functions, and find it quite useful.

I draw in autocad and generate cut lists and cost data in excel.

I would recommend taking a cad class at your local community college. I would recommend that you also take some woodworking classes.

there should be some info on fasteners from some of the sites linked to from the .zip I posted.

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They way I have always approached tool buying is to buy the tools I need for a project. If the project requires a table saw, buy a table saw. If it requires a biscuit joiner, buy the joiner when you need it instead of just going out and buying a bunch of tools. I never had a joiner or thickness planer until I decided to build mission style furniture for our family room. The cost of the tools is just part of the cost of project. I could never convince my wife I actually needed these tools until she asked me to build the furniture. I now have these tools and should have them for the rest of my wood working career.
Brian.....
wrote:

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Bridger,
Your links provide me with more than a start. Awesome! Thanks.
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Wander around www.wwhardware.com
On Mon, 09 Feb 2004 21:44:54 -0800, Robert Neville

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Great Link. This place gave me an idea of the fastners sought. "Assmbly Fittings" Thanks.
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I've found that I really like to use visio for designing my projects. I can set the page to a specific scale, type in the sizes I want for each "rectangle" or whatever and the pieces go together really quickly. I also like the attachable sliding dimensions. I build my own cutlists (also in visio) after figuring out what size wood (width mostly is the limiting factor) at my hardwood suppliers.
If you have a copy of visio you can take a look at a plan I created for my current project (an end-table). That way you can see the different objects I used and how the dimensions work in conjunction with them.
You can find it on my website at: http://myweb.cableone.net/mjshelton/files/plans/rustic_end_table.zip
I would say learning curve for visio is a 4.
Mike
PS. I always start with pencil and paper in the beginning stages when I'm trying to figure out what I want it to look like. Then I transfer those rough drawings to plan form.

[snip]
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You didn't say if you wer just starting out building furniture or designing furniture. These 2 things are very different. I used to teach CAD a long time ago and have never had the urge to use it. Paper and pencil work fine. If I was running a production shop it might be different. I think you'll find most "engineering" CAD programs overkill. I can't comment on some on the woodworking specific programs since I've never used them.
You'll find that designing quality custom furniture is more like designing sculpture rather that desiging a machine even if you're building functional/utilitarian furniture as opposed to "art" furniture. Good furniture design functions well but it also delights the senses primarily sight and touch. The interaction between the peice and the human will ultimately determine if the piece is good or not. This would be hard to show through on a computer screen. Don't get me wrong CAD has its place but many designers such as architects, auto designers, and fashion designers start out with pan and paper.
The best source for technical aspects of wordworking is Fine woodworking. Taunton Publishers also puts out another mag that deals more with design but I can't remember what it's called. It's available at Borders and it usually right next to Fine Woodworking..
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nyboy10128 wrote:

Yes, so true, and yes.
Want to see CADs influence on design? Drive through a group of houses built up through the mid 70's or so, then drive through a new 'exclusive' or 'high end' housing development. Be prepared to go from something with character to bland.
That's CADs contribution, straight lines and formula curves, and I don't care how talented a CAD operator happens to be.
--
Mark

N.E. Ohio
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designing
fine.
designing
show
built up

end'
bland.
care
You're right. Nothing of any architectural significance has ever been designed with CAD.
todd
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todd wrote:

I would take that a step further and state nothing of aesthetic significance has been designed with CAD.
It's cheaper to draw with a Box. It's cheaper to manufacture from the data file created in that box. This makes the bean counters happy so they make the directive to the marketers to sell straight lines and formula curves to the public. Eventually the public accepts the new look and what would have been hideous in the past is now visually pleasing, even desirable.
CAD is removing us from organic design, nature abhors straight lines and perfect curves.
I look at Woman and wonder what She would look like if created with CAD. She would be much less interesting.
The irony is I have CAD and I use it. Thing is, I know when to stop using it.
--
Mark

N.E. Ohio
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Mark wrote:

Most CAD users aren't artists. The good CAD packages that I've seen all provide the ability to incorporate whatever curve the user wants (generally using Bessier functions and digital pad interfaces for freehand entry).
Most of the artists I've known aren't CAD users; and actively resist any encouragement to acquire the skills.
I know a small number of artists who have climbed the learning curve. For them, CAD is just another (powerful) tool they use to express themselves.
There are sculptors who work only with hand tools. There are also sculptors who also work with pneumatic tools. I've watched both and it doesn't seem to be the tool that determines the beauty (or ugliness) of the sculpture.
Ditto for woodworkers.

Ah! Now we're narrowing our vision to consideration only of manufactured products. That's quite a bit of narrowing, BTW.
Manufacturing management (not artists) determine the nature of the products produced and the design methodology. Yes, the bean counters have a role, too. Generally, management chooses to produce well-engineered products that aren't /too/ ugly.
I've never seen a recruiting ad targeted toward engineers with artistic talent - even though it stands to reason that there must be at least a few out there somewhere. Have you seen such ads?

Hmm. We might have a difference of opinion here as regards perfect curves! It seems to me that everything we recognize as a perfect curve comes from the natural world.

Bzzzt! Warning! This may be a religious declaration as well as a statement of opinion. My loaded question is: "How do you know that?" I'll be a troublemaker and suggest that possibly she is a CAD creation (for some notion of computer and a special user who may or may not find it amusing to invent and use tools).

As do I. I stop using it when I've reached the limits of my abilities to translate my imaginings to something the software is designed to understand. It's never occurred to me to blame that on the CAD software, though.
--
Morris Dovey
West Des Moines, Iowa USA
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Check out http://www.woodweb.com . They have forums and a knowledge base on all facets of woodworking, finish and CAD. And that is just part of it.
Preston

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On Wed, 11 Feb 2004 02:49:04 GMT, "Preston Andreas"

Good link. I already had this one, yet you confirmed that it's a valid resource.
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As the Guys have said AutoCAD is overkill (although I love messing with the program) TurboCAD is cheaper and works approximately the same. Its sort of like Getting the whole Kit (stainless steel instruments, vellum, drafting machine) or just getting a scale and a technical pencil and a piece of paper and a triangle. (actually that is not a perfect analogy because TCAD is capability of everything too)
--


"Robert Neville" <robert_neville@ snipped-for-privacy@h0o.com> wrote in message
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Thanks for all the responses. As I may have mentioned, I am just starting out. Actually, I have no traditional tools, but I am very versatile on the computer. So CAD design is relevant for my experience (I know 3D Studio Max). My initial thoughts would be to enlist my father and build the first few pieces with him. The building notion came to mind after realizing that he built some furniture with lasting integrity and design aesthetics over 25 year old ago. One challenge would be that he resides on a different coast from me. So the design process would help me determine a solid plan and budget. The furniture design would have some modular characteristics. Then I would ship unassembled pieces on palettes (I have shipped more complicated stuff at work and have some contacts in shipping).
Retail furniture is really crappy or/and outrageous expensive. Design within reach (http://www.dwr.com /) serves as pricey example. Ikea (http://www.ikea.com) serve an inferior example. The whole notion may be ambition; yet as I mentioned, you have to start somewhere. Plus, my sensibilities gravitate to furniture listed at several thousand dollars. Thanks for all the support.
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Robert,
I write software for a living, when I go home, I'd much rather make sawdust. I found that thew learning curve for CAD was not worth it for me.... That is I got most of the design benefit from a pencil and graph paper in alot less time.
I'm not slamming CAD, just wasn't "fun" for me and this is a hobby.
That said, I am a analytical guy and one of the mental challenges, for me, of woodworking was to be careful not to think in mathematical absolutes....
Example: you have a 3/4" thick piece of wood that you want to put a 1/4" goove down the center of the edge. You decide to cut this groove in 2 passes with a 1/8" kerf table saw blade... You could cut one pass, move the fence an 1/8" and then cut the other pass. Or you could flip the workpiece around and cut with the other side against the fence.
Both approaches are mathematically equvalent, if you're perfect. But, of course no one is. The second approach is *Guaranteed* to center the groove on the edge..... It is also *guaranteed* to DOUBLE your error in positioning the fence, resulting in a doublely wide or narrow groove.
My point is that one of the skills to learn is: when to be absolutely anal about a particular setup/cut because it will be really visible or propogate in a nasty way, or when not to care because it doesn't matter. It helps to know the difference.
What does this have to do with CAD? Sometimes you may want to design a subassembly (like a door) so that it can be trimmed to final size after it is assembled. If you used CAD to lay out the length of your rails, you would be tempted to make the an exact size rather than a shade long.
The best way to learn this stuff is to go out an make sawdust (and mistakes).
Once again, I'm not slamming CAD; it's a legitimate tool... just don't front-load the design process too much.
Get out there and make sawdust!
BTW your question is interesting in that most newbies show up and ask "What tool should I buy?".
-Steve

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would
One of the advantages of working with wood is that if you make a mistake, many times it can be fixed by a slight adjustment. That usually doesn't work with software since it operates to exact commands. Of course, if you want to be literal about it, the slight fix in woodworking is analogous to a bug fix or service pack in software.
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