How To Draw Up Woodworking Plans – In this article we give an overview of how to design woodworking projects in FreeCAD. The article contains several fixes and solutions that make working with FreeCAD easier and more comfortable.
FreeCAD is an open source software mainly aimed at mechanical engineers. Most of the details are obviously more oriented to products that have a few parts but are quite complex – this isn’t a woodworking project made up of simple boards. Check out our CAD for Designers article for a more detailed comparison of different software solutions.
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The big advantage of FreeCAD is that it is fully parametric and you can change the dimensions after you finish the design. We only need to change parameters in a spreadsheet and the box will become square. Likewise we can change the thickness of the material and make small boxes as well as large storage containers.
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The first step is to create this spreadsheet with all dimensions. For the box these are the thickness of the material, as well as the inside width, length and height. We use the alias manager macro to create aliases for these numbers so that we can refer to them by name later. This macro can be installed in Freecad’s Addon Manager.
After you save the file with the spreadsheet under the name master comes a part that is quite tricky.
We click on the blue circle to enter a formula for the dimension. This cube takes dimensions from the spreadsheet in the format of filename, hashtag, table name, dot, variable name. This would be like master#p.Material.
You can also perform calculations when entering dimensions, such as adding four times the thickness of the material to the overall length.
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After creating all the files following the same scheme we make sure that Assembly 2 Plus Workbench is installed. Go to Tools, Addon Manager and install the latest version.
First change: Replace the a2p_partlistglobals.py file in the directory where Assembly 2+ Workbench is installed (under Linux that is the directory ~/.FreeCAD/Mod/A2plus) which you can download here.
Second change: You also need to change the a2p_bom.py file in the same directory. Find the following two lines in the file. In the current version these lines begin at line 113:
Also make sure the check boxes for “Recalculate before updating imported parts” and “Use tentative topological names” are enabled in Edit, Preferences, A2plus.
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After switching to A2plus workbench we can now import individual parts one by one with the button that shows the plus sign. These parts can be aligned with each other in different ways.
Select the two surfaces you want to align, click the Plane Overlap button, and decide whether the two objects are opposite or aligned with each other.
A board is locked in place after all three surfaces are aligned. Putting together a project this way is quick and actually quite fun.
After everything is assembled we create a cutlist with a parts list button. If the dimensions are not listed, please modify the A2plus workbench as described above
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We import the cutlist into libreoffice to make it easy to calculate square footage, price, weight and other data
You can also export the data to other software such as Cut List Optimizer, a free (but not open source) optimization program that helps you optimize sheet usage.
When we use hardware such as hinges or handles for a project we add part information directly to the CAD file. To do this simply select the Button Information section of the Assembly 2 Plus Workbench and you can add various information.
All this information is finally displayed in the parts list and makes cost calculations and parts ordering simple and convenient.
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In addition to the cutlist, a drawing is quite useful when creating the final piece. In TechDraw Workbench we create a new drawing and are now free to insert different views.
We can select only one part of the assembly such as the cover and create a drawing of only these components.
Sometimes it’s better to have a better visualization than what the CAD application can offer. With a few clicks we switch to the raytracing workbench, add a new Pover project and add our objects to that rendering.
Below we describe how to use a different template file and modify the result so that it looks like this image:
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Create a new cube with the Part Workbench, then switch to the Retracing Workbench and select the new model:
Then select the cube and Povray object and use the yellow square button to add the cube to the rendering:
When you hit the blue render button now you’ll get a nice white cube already sitting on the floor:
Click on the cube view object inside the povray project (not in the main part) and select one of the colors shown in the Color Game PDF. It is important to select identical colors as shown in the PDF. As an example we choose magenta. If you re-render the image, it will be a cube like this:
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We can further enhance this cube image by saving the povray file to disk with this icon: test.pov file. We open the command prompt, go to where the file is saved and type:
You can easily create other wood textures by using other colors in the file. These renders are not perfect but povray files give you the opportunity to improve detail, change textures or add additional objects.
Then just change the povray executable in Edit -> Preferences with this script and you’ll have textured rendering right inside FreeCAD.
Designing for woodworking with FreeCAD is not ideal. Combining parts is inefficient and distributing parts between several files is not convenient. The cutlist functionality is working with the hacks described above but it’s a bit complicated to use.
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But for assembly for delivery: the big advantage of an open source solution is that anyone can change everything and add new features. Maybe you should try FreeCAD too and let us know what you think about it. Here are the coastal bench plans for the Big Sur collection. It would be great with a 65″ dining table, or used outside with your designed raised plant bed. Maybe against an entry wall with a few bags underneath… maybe at the foot of a bed..
Showcase: Built From These Plans I feel honored every time a good friend of yours builds from these plans! If you build this piece, please take a moment and show us your build! We are dying to see your fabulous work!
Note: Use 2″ screws and glue unless instructed to use 3″ screws. If you’re doing this for outdoor use, buy wood that holds up to weather and moisture. These may include cedar, redwood, and teak, but I would ask your local lumber supply for a wood species appropriate for your area and climate. If it is for outdoor use, you must finish and seal all boards before joining. This keeps it loose and secure. You will leave a 1/4″ gap between the table top boards and increase the length of the side supports and side rests by 1/2″ to allow for water drainage and to accommodate the gap. This is not necessary for every climate zone, so if the climate does not require it, it will be a matter of taste.
Before you start building, always check my site to make sure you have the most up-to-date plans, sometimes I update and change plans to make the building process easier or to allow you to buy less expensive materials! Read the entire set of instructions and all comments before starting this project. If you print or save the plans, be sure to check my site to make sure you have the most up-to-date plans, as I occasionally update things to make building or shopping easier. If you’re new to building, read the Getting Started section and other articles under the BUILD tab on my site’s menu, which have valuable information on getting started, tools, and techniques. If you are not familiar with the finishing process, visit my Finishing School for some tips and tricks for painting like a pro and special finishing exercises. Use glue to secure your joints and consider painting or staining individual sections before joining. This makes the Paint application virtually flawless. Spray on the polish or wipe on the polish to protect your finish and your piece and it will last for ages. Comply with all security standards and guidelines, and be sure to follow security protocols throughout your build. If you’re unsure if you’re building safely, do a quick online search for the tool or technique you’re using or contact me
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