Sometimes, the best tool for the job

I wanted to add a drawer to my soldering station, for the various things that end up there. The soldering station is a cheap Ikea Linnmon desk top with a sheet of 18ga. sheet metal epoxied on top. I have a set of drawer slides, and figured that a drawer was a simple project to work with FreeCAD 0.19.

Too simple. I spent a couple hours drawing… rectangles. A dado for the drawer bottom, and for the joint between back and sides…

A drawing on the back of a napkin is probably good enough for this, and the tablesaw is a much more effective tool for this than the CNC.

Well, I did a fancy drawer pull cutout on the face, so maybe I’ll CNC the drawer front. :stuck_out_tongue:

Easy to get into the idea of "this will be a project for the CNC, when the CNC isn’t the best tool for the project. Start drawing things in CAD (Because that’s how you get the CNC to do it) when you don’t need CAD to design a rectangle, and you don’t need a CNC to cut it out.

Now to get to work on a project that will actually need to try out FreeCAD 0.19

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I still like to plan out table saw projects in CAD. Ryan said something like, “You’ll find the mistakes in the design somewhere. It is cheaper to find them in the CAD”. Something like that. I like that idea, and I can show the other stakeholders (family members) a CAD drawing and get a little more approval that way.


I still have to learn how to render assemblies in FreeCAD, so basically, what I have is a bunch of flat drawings with dimensions… Not likely to find those mistakes so easy that way.

I’m pretty sure that I should be able to make several parts, and then assemble them, but so far, I haven’t figured out how to do that.

Edit: Oh, and doing things like mirror imaging one part is easy enough to do in CAM, but seems to have a high rate of failure in CAD. Never managed it in Fusion 360 either, though I abandoned learning that pretty early on.

For this though, honestly, if I can’t make a drawer with the tablesaw on the fly, I should just hang up my tool belt. Even with the dados, it’s a super simple project. I’ve decided to get a bit fancy with the drawer front, but I’ll wait until the other part is assembled to get more precise “real world” measurements.

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I don’t have a big shop, so I have no space for table saw and band saw. Therefore I plan to use a hand circular saw to do rough cuts and to make the proper parts on the MPCNC. A super way to minimize the power tools needed. BUT - as you describe, getting the hang of CAD requires a certain skill itself. If I had a big table saw, I could make boxes and shelves in minutes, just by eyeballing and stacking the similar parts.

So the morale to the story is that we have to git good on the CAD then? :smiley:

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I think a CNC is a great replacement for a band saw (if you aren’t resawing wood, a CNC can’t do that). The steps in a typical woodworking project that can be CNC are the parts where you print out a template, then bandsaw and sand down to the line, and then bandsaw the actual work piece, and router down to the template. But, IMO, once you get the ability to do those steps with a CNC, you will try to apply that to many steps in the process and end up making tabs and pockets in parts even when making things like a bookshelf :slight_smile:.

It is also useful replacement for carving. Who has the talent for carving my hand (other than Kelly)?

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With necessary creative and CAD skills, a CNC can be a tool for tons of nice projects, not needing much other than sheet wood and a hand saw.

So - then we only have to get creative - and get better at CAD? Not a small feat… sigh…

All true.

I kind of feel that there must be some advantages to the expensive tools like SolidWorks, but on my budget, I can’t get a sniff of it. Of course there aren’t any books or courses on the free tools, so it’s a lot of trial and error (and error and error and error…) learning them. I suppose that I could hang out on the FreeCAD forums for a while, and maybe I need to do just that. Not having any training in the other programs though, I’m not even really prepared to ask good questions yet.

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I think the manual is on youtube :slight_smile:

I am not sure there really are advantages from something like solid works. In my day job, I use vim (which is very free) and anytime I have to use something that I have to pay for (like an IDE that is specific to some build system that costs a lot of money (even as high as $30k)) they are junk by comparison. But it may be partially due to the fact that the tools I use help software engineers and they are obviously written by software engineers. So there is a sort of bias there. If people get annoyed by using vim, and they have the power to improve it, they will, and it won’t waste a lot of their time.

Having used solid works, and autocad and fusion and tinker CAD and openscad, and now playing with free CAD. It is my opinion that fusion is about the perfect mix of good tutorials, functionality and ease of use. Solidworks has some amazing functionality and capabilities, but it is clunky, the least intuitive program I have used for the price and just way overkill for most hobby needs. I was trained in autocad (great for 2d not very good for 3d) then started leaning solidworks for my last job. Then picked up fusion for home projects and realized that I could draw a project in fusion in about 1/3 the time it takes to do it in solidworks. It is just not designed for smaller projects but rather for designing and simulating large complex assemblies that will be reused over and over. Autocad is worth the price for 2d and will work for 3d in a pinch, fusion was great and is still good even with its free license limitations. Open-source programs like freecad and openscad are great and work well but lack documentation and instruction if your not familiar with CAD. They also haven’t and the time and money invested in them to be optimized for ease of use (thats why they are free). In the end my go too is fusion for most projects, tinker CAD to modify existing stl models, and openscad for parametric designs.

In short, solidworks is good for companies not really good for individuals (with rare exceptions for people who want to design somthing like the petsfang air duct mod for 3d printers. I can’t imagine that being designed on anything but solidworks) freecad is great for those who already know there way around CAD. And fusion is the best I have seen to learn on.