Concept of Orientation in Woodworking Design Software

A caller asked for a video that would cover the form that opens when you insert a board into an assembly.  Fair enough!  He said that it should be simple and go slowly.

The video I created covers a critical concept in SketchList 3D.  The issue is that as woodworkers we build three dimensional things with two dimensional materials — OK impossible I know — but often times think of a 4 foot by 8 foot sheet (3/4 X 48 X 96) as a 4 by 8.  But there’s a disconnect — maybe it’s so obvious that we don’t even think about it.  Materials are always length and width.   When is the last time you said a side support of a bookcase we 72 inches long and 12  inches wide?   No you most probably say the board is 72 inches tall and 12 inches deep.   So as you use your furniture design software – think about how 2D gets to 3D.

Bookcase showing dimensions.
Dimensions in 3D for Furniture Design Software

So one of the things SketchList 3D does is to translate all the various widths, depths, and heights onto the material dimensions of length and width.  The way it works is to have you specify the orientation of the board in the assembly.  The simplest orientation to understand is a shelf.  It has a width and a depth.  A backing board of a book case has height and width.  The side or a divider has height and depth.  (By the way rails and stiles are like smaller backer boards — they have height and width.)

Image showing the orientation of a shelf in an assembly.
Orientation of a shelf in an assembly.

Again maybe if you’ve used SketchList 3D you’ve never paused over this — but I know from experience that at least one guy was wondering how it worked.


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