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Computer Aided Design has come a long way in the last decade, but most of the heavy-duty pro-level apps are still much too complex for the average guy to use for fun. Google offers a much simpler tool called SketchUp (free) that’s popular among the high-end DIY crowd. But what if you’re out and about — like, say, stuck in a waiting room — and want to visualize your latest carpentry concept? There’s an app for that: Woodcraft.

Google’s SketchUp relies on Boolean objects — the process of creating standard shapes, then modifying them by adding or subtracting the space overlapping between shapes. Let’s say, for example, you wanted to create an empty box with no lid. You could start by creating a cube. Then you could create a slightly smaller cube, place it inside the other one completely overlapping the top, then subtract. In that case, you’re left with a box with a box cut out of it — or a box with walls sized based on the difference between your original two boxes.

This is a lot less complex than creating the box from scratch by noting points in space and connecting them. But it’s still a lot more complex than Woodcraft. Created by a company called Fasterre, Woodcraft is an iPad app that’s essentially a mashup of traditional CAD apps and a carpentry planner.

In Woodcraft, you create a project, then drag in raw lumber from an indexed library of common carpentry sizes. Each item drops onto the work area on your iPad. Then you can move the items around, and you can “use” tools like a table saw, a hammer, or a hand saw to cut your raw wood into shapes and attach them together. To keep item placement simple, Woodcraft offers the ability to switch from 3D to 2D and back again. This helps a lot when you’re trying to do something like line up a bunch of lumber in a plane.

I downloaded and tried the app, and I’ll tell you straight up that it’s still too complex for me to use easily. After a a bit of dinking around with various components, I reverted back to my standard paper and pencil. Of course, my paper and pencil won’t produce a bill of materials from my project like Woodcraft will. Woodcraft even takes into account the size of the raw stock so you don’t end up buying one board too few by thinking you can get a 6′ piece from two 3′ sections remaining in a board.

For more information, take a look at the product site (below), or if you have an iPad and are interested, you’ll also find a link to the app in the Apple App Store. It’s $10, which is a little pricey as apps go. But then again, it’s a pretty complex app.

Do you pre-visualize your projects? And if so, what tools do you use?

Fasterre’s Woodcraft [App Creator]
[Apple App Store]

PS: Note the comments on the YouTube video above where a number of people call out the app creator (or whoever shot the video) for their poor saw safety. True!


11 Responses to Build Virtual Projects with Your iPad

  1. Usually paper and pencil for me. I’ve tried SketchUp and it just took too long. Maybe if it’s a future project that I have lots of time to think about I’ll use the computer, but if it’s a “let’s do it this weekend” type project, I spend 10 minutes with pencil and start building.

  2. Rick says:

    I’m getting an iPad soon. This goes to the top of my download list. Thanks for the info..

  3. mnoswad1 says:

    Yep, that thumb was the only thing I could stare at.

    Pencil and paper are getting a bad rap these days, as if somehow not using a computer means that your plans are less sophisticated. Just think about all the the things that were put down on paper……….Brooklyn Bridge, Guggenheim Museum, Eiffel Tower, etc.

    I actually think that drawing by hand helps you to understand what you’re designing in a different and more complete way rather than drawing points with a mouse.

    I do want to learn sketch-up, but still find I can get my ideas out faster and more importantly revise and edit faster when using paper.

    • zoomzoomjeff says:

      Yeah, the thumb distance freaked me out! That’s all I could think about after that…”how long before that guy loses his thumb?”

    • bigalexe says:

      “I actually think that drawing by hand helps you to understand what you’re designing in a different and more complete way rather than drawing points with a mouse.”

      AutoCAD trained mechanical drafter here. This is a true and false statement. The computer is a tool and I have the capability to visualize my computer designs but this isn’t the case for everyone. Also I think a huge difference is 2D vs 3D. I was trained on a computer but trained in the traditional manner of Top,Front,Right side view in 2D. If you only ever went 3D I might see an issue.

      I can talk about 1 kind of large project I did in SketchUp and how it worked out. Our living room needed bookcases. So I wanted to model them and drop them in place (Yay iKea!). In order to visualize properly I had to model EVERYTHING in the room, even did the molding. Once I got everything done it all came together but leaving anything out wouldn’t have worked.

      1.) Computers are a tool and can’t be blamed for lack of vision.
      2.) For short weekend projects use paper because it’s quicker. For longer projects the PC can be a great visualization IF you put in the work.

      • mnoswad1 says:

        @bigalexe……did you ever hear the true story of how Ralph Lauren had all the furniture, walls, kitchen etc. mocked up in linen stretched and stapled over wood frames so he could visualize the lay out in person of his new york loft/apartment? Hired a bunch of set builders for a few days……then the architects drew up the plans afterwards…..saved serious time/stress knowing that the project was going to work before construction even started.

  4. Sean OHara says:

    @Alan Yeah I’ll have to go with you on that one. I’d be half way finished by the time I sketched it out on the iPad and changed the design twice in the meantime.

    @mnoswad1 whoever that is I hope he donates that thumb to Megan Fox after he cuts it off.

  5. pencilneck says:

    Meh… lack of mouse and keyboard doesn’t lend itself very well to doing design unless you wish to draw stick figures.

  6. Mike says:

    I agree with pencilneck on the keyboard & mouse. I do most of my more complicated projects in Rhino. I can’t imagine building CAD models on a touch screen.

  7. I bought and use this app religiously.
    I agree with the learning curve, but it’s not hard to figure out, and to me, much better as I’m a visual builder.. I can try sketching things out, but tell me you get all your measurements perfect the first time out and I’ll try and stifle my laugh. This program helps me to work out all the little kinks, measurements, etc, and see how everything fits together.

    For me, this was worth every penny of the $9.99

    Kills me to hear someone complain about the price of a practical app, when they are willing to buy their $59.99 video games… Get your priorities straight!

    Bottom line, it’s a great tool, and the developers respond to every email query I’ve sent, and are continuing to update it based on user feedback. What more could you want from an excellent program that is only getting better?

    You spend more for lunch… Try it and I know you’ll find it as useful as I have. Reviews are up on my blog as well.

    No, not a paid spokesman, or in any way affiliated with the product, except as a user that is extremely happy with this app.

    Try it.

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