What programs do you use and how much of a learning curve was there? I found one post and read through some of the descriptions, decided I would give that DesignCad 3D Max V18 a try, we'll see how much it takes to be able to create some basic projects.
Also want to see what type of materials list it can create, with the idea of trying to feed it into something like the CutListPlus software.
Bar none: There isn't a single program out there that will make you a good draftsperson if you aren't a capable one to begin with. Not trying to discourage you, just the hard reality of it.
That said - i've tried TurboCAD Designer, DeltaCAD and AutoCAD with varying results. Of those three, I had the least trouble with TurboCAD Designer. But that isn't saying much. At best, I got to the point where I could draw basic shapes for making router templates, and that took me quite awhile. Several hours were spent trying to become adept, but it just wasn't working in my brain.
I felt that I was a capable draftsman because I could always just draw it out - VERY accurately and to scale, but none of the CAD programs worked for me. I approached them like a woodworker and just couldn't grasp 'em.
Then ... *trumpets sounding*
There was Google SketchUp
Man ... talk about night and day. I've been using it about a year now and I'm already holding classes to teach the basics in my local woodworking club. It's THE program for woodworkers, I have to say. It comes the closest to debunking my first statements above about not being a good draftsperson to begin with. It lets me think about it more like a woodworker - including routing profiles around the edges of things and cutting joinery.
My search ended with SketchUp. There are even scripts and plugins that you can install that will export your drawings into parts lists which can be imported into CutListPlus and other cut list programs. I've done it successfully a few times and found it to be very helpful.
If you want to talk with the best teacher i've found so far, take a look at Dave Richards' videos. 99% of my motivation to learn this stuff came from Dave.
Thanks for that link to Dave R's site. He hangs out on one of the SU forums and visits over at Woodnet, too. He and I have had several on-line conversations and he never mentioned the treasure trove of vids at his site.
As far as the original post, I too have tried a number of CAD programs with very little success. I was just not willing to invest the time needed in learning them. Along came SU and I was almost immediately able to get results and with the wealth of tutorials beyond the simple ones from Google, I have become quite adept at using it for furniture design work. While I'll likely never reach the level of some of the stuff I've seen folks do with it, it fits the bill for me quite well.
You can make the drawings as simple or as complex as you like, i.e. just draw up the shell of a piece, or go the whole nine yards and include all of the individual pieces and the joinery, do exploded views and detail views of especially complex parts. You can even print out parallel 1:1 projections of parts to make full sized patterns of pieces.
While I have heard that there is at least one ruby script available to automate cutlists for SU, I've not tried that, but have opted to do them manually from my exploded detail drawings of projects.
EDIT IN: I've posted some stuff I've done in SU on [link:www.sawdustersplace.com/Sketchup%20files/SketchupPlans.htm|this page] of my website. Click on the "stills" to download the sketchup files. Keep in mind that these represent something of my evolution in working with SU, so some will have more detail and information included than others.
I used AutoCAD and Sketchup. I think AutoCAD is better for drawing out some templates and such and printing to scale (on a ploter), but Sketchup is what I use for everything else.
It does take a little bit to get used to how you want to "Build" your project in Sketchup but once you figure out your meathods it is quite quick and you can figure out any complications in your design before you cut wood.
Can someone give us a link to the script that will export a parts list. I do this manually now, but it would be nice to get that.
Here's a [link:www.crai.archi.fr/RubyLibraryDepot/Ruby/|link.] Scroll down to the "cutlist" ruby.
[link:groups.google.com/group/Ruby-API/browse_thread/thread/bfff069930ffa402#98a2e9cb30ab8e6e|Here's] another or the same one.
I've not tried either, so if you check them out, let me know how they work. I don't use much sheetgood stuff, and find it quite easy to just blow things up and transcribe part dimensions into a spreadsheet or word processor.
I regularly use one of them - i can't recall which. I'll check when I get home. It requires you to work a certain way, for sure. Each item you wish to cut must be its own component - that is, each part should be a discrete item that can be examined individually. In SketchUp, this is done by making each part a component. You begin by selecting all the components you want to develop a cutlist for. Then you run the script (it's a menu option) which outputs a text file. This text file is really just a "CSV" or comma-separated list of your parts. You can open this file in Excel and examine things like board feet as well, by the way. CutListPlus has a fairly nice import system that then takes that file as your "parts" list to arrange on the sheetgoods. It's really quite nifty.
Either Dave or another person over on familywoodworking.org has done a really decent tutorial on this. I managed to figure it out pretty quickly, but i'm a computer geek so I probably am not a good gauge :)