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CAD for Woodworkers Washington DC

Full-size patterns are particularly helpful when your project has a large or complex shape. You don't need a special printer to make full-size patterns, because CAD programs can split a large drawing across several sheets of letter-size paper. This is called tiled printing.

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CAD for Woodworkers

CAD for Woodworkers

By Randy Johnson

You don't have to spend much money to get a good computer-aided drafting (CAD) program for drawing woodworking projects. Fifty bucks will buy you a starter program that's easy to learn and use. For $150, you can get one with all the drawing power you're likely to ever need. A CAD program may not be on the top of your “tools to buy” list, but using CAD does provide some big benefits if you like to design your own projects or build projects that have lots of curves and angles in them. Dozens of CAD programs are on the market, ranging in price from a few dozen to thousands of dollars. It's a dizzying array. Some are made specifically for architects or engineers and are more specialized or advanced than most woodworkers need. Others are more general in nature and make a better choice for us. Thanks to the Internet, you can try before you buy. Most CAD programs are available as free trial downloads. Trial programs have some limitations but are complete enough to let you take the software for a good test drive. Our primary goal for this test was to find a CAD program that's easy to learn and use, yet powerful enough to create precise woodworking project drawings. In the end, all 15 programs we tested were capable of making precise drawings, but some were considerably easier to learn and use than others.

Precise Dimensioning

Measuring the parts of your project is fast and accurate because the computer does the math for you. With CAD, even arcs and angles are easy to measure. This is a huge advantage when you need to measure an unusual angle or the radius of an arc.

Design Development 
CAD is great for exploring design options and proportions. The first design may take you just as long to draw with CAD as with pencil and paper, but once you have a drawing, you can copy it as many times as you like in a matter of seconds. You can make changes to the copies much more quickly than you could using pencil and paper. And you'll never have to worry about wearing a hole in your paper with your eraser.

Full-size Paper Patterns
Full-size patterns are particularly helpful when your project has a large or complex shape. You don't need a special printer to make full-size patterns, because CAD programs can split a large drawing across several sheets of letter-size paper. This is called tiled printing. After you've printed the paper pattern, simply attach it to your workpiece with double-sided tape or spray adhesive and saw around it.

Drawing with CAD
A CAD program uses a variety of specialized tools to create drawings. Some tools draw lines, rectangles and curves, while others modify and combine these lines into new shapes. There are also tools for adding dimensions and even a rubber-stamp tool that will copy and paste a shape multiple times.

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