Woodworking design programs help us think about, visualize, and create our woodworking products.   The ideas for our design come from experience, from books and magazines, and probably from our clients.   Whatever the source, our “design” of our woodworking “product” it is at one time in our head.  Of course.  But we must work get that design into the real world.  Some people, maybe many, go right from the brain to the bench.   Some people use a pencil and paper.  And some use woodworking design programs.  This article discusses the advantages of a computer approach.

There are three points:

  1. Design creatively with speed and flexibility.
  2. Introduce the appropriate degree of realism to your design.
  3. Design with pictures from the start.

Being creative.

Indeed we take the design from our mind and make it more and more tangible as the design approaches fruition.   I probably shouldn’t say this – being the inventor of SketchList 3D – but an important tool in my design is the whiteboard. In fact, I own what my children think is an inordinate number of whiteboards. I love them – both the whiteboards and my kids! Whiteboards provide the ability to quickly scribble and draw arrows and get ideas down where I can see them.  When I see them I can assess them. I ask myself if this visual representation of my idea meets my needs, desires, or goals?

This approach is very easy and fast in the beginning stages of the design. Sometimes I change things by removing part of my idea with the racer, paper towel, or even the tip of my finger. My point is it’s a very interactive process. And that’s what we need at the beginning of a design.  I don’t think at all about the tool I’m using.  Of course, you can do this with pencil and paper but the part about erasing mistakes with your finger was away.

Eventually, we need to move away from pencil and paper or dry erase markers and whiteboard to the shop.   And sometimes on the way to the shop, our hand-drawn design takes a detour to our prospective client for approval before the work starts.

Realism aids understanding.

It would be much better to use a woodworking design program if it allowed the same speed and flexibility as the whiteboard or paper.  That’s a tall order.  But the software adds another value.  It renders your idea on the screen with realistic colors and grains, accurate sizes and proportions, and realistic perspective views.

Desk from woodworking design program

This is a drawing illustrates how 3D and realistic imaging provide feedback on a design.  Each time the designed put in a board she saw the picture she was building.  You can look at this and ask about proportions, scale, and size.  You can almost feel what is good and what needs modification.  No eraser necessary – just select and hit the delete key.   You may or may not like this particular design.   But think of the process instead.  Keep what you like, delete what you hate, modify what has promise.

See the picture as you design with your woodworking program

A week ago, I was talking to an experienced woodworker/cabinetmaker.  He told me that one of SketchList 3D’s benefits is when he designs with it he receives instant, visible feedback. He said the software let him see his idea as it is created.  CAD programs, with their lines and boxes, can’t do convey that overall sense of the design from the get-go.  I never thought of that.

But he’s right.  And he’s discovered another benefit of using SketchList 3D.  With SketchList 3D you are designing, or maybe more properly recording, your ideas in three dimensions on your screen. You place a board, door, or drawer on the screen in the design. And see it instantly.  You look and maybe in your mind say that that’s not quite right.   At that point, you can delete it, modify it, or move it to a new position.  Then rinse and repeat.  So, you are just making your idea tangible with “building blocks” from your woodworking design program.  That applies to both the board level or the assembly level.

Ever feel creatively non-productive? Think back to the days, maybe in school, when you had a write something and you are faced with the blank white page. Writer’s block sets in.  SketchList 3D allows you to avoid woodworker’s writer’s block.  It quickly and easily captures your ideas and inspirations.   Because you get instant visual feedback about your design as you are thinking it through.   The process enables you to try a few alternatives out, present them to your prospective client (via email so you avoid the drive), get feedback, adjust and win the job.

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