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
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
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.
| 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
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.
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.......
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
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.
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
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:
I would say learning curve for visio is a 4.
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.
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..
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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@ email@example.com> wrote in message
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.
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
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
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?".
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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