I am terrible about planning projects in advance and I rarely sketch anything out but instead usually design and build things by the seat of my pants.
They’ve done studies, you know. 60% of the time, it works every time.- Brian Fantana
Doing things that way isn’t the best idea and more than one (or twelve) of my projects has taken longer and cost more than it should have had I been disciplined about sitting down and planning it out. Now here’s the funny part: despite what I just said, there have also been times where I’ve been so obsessed with a project that I couldn’t sleep until I got up and put something down on paper.
Yes, I know I’m an odd little man.
So, when I do plan things out, I generally use either good ol’ pencil and paper for a super rough sketch or go to the opposite extreme and create a CAD model that is fairly precision. Here is a brief and likely incomplete list of free or nearly free Computer Aided Design software that’s available so you can plan better and make better decisions than me!
LibreCAD: (FREE) This is the one I currently use and it does a good job and is fairly intuitive. It is 2D only but that is fine for what I do which is use it as an augmented, precision pencil and paper. It can export files, images, etc.
FreeCAD: (FREE) I haven’t used this one yet but in looking at the site and perusing the support forum, it appears to be a solid program with a decent following. Like LibreCAD it’s open source which I dig.
AutoCAD: (FREE If you’re a student) AutoCAD is probably the more recognized name in CAD software, it’s basically become the proprietary eponym, and is backed by the power of a well established corporationey corporation.
If you’ve used any other programs like these and have recommendations or tales of woe and gnashing of teeth, please share your experience in the comments!
Finally, here’s Jamie Hyneman [said in hushed and revered manner] talking about using CAD: