Are you ready to take your woodworking skills to the next level?Then, you should learn how to use Fusion 360, or Sketchup. These Computer-Aided Design programs, or CADs for short, are an excellent tool to help you design, plan, and build your woodworking projects. While there are lots of different CAD programs out there to choose from, many can be very complex, and very expensive. Luckily, Fusion 360, and Sketchup are both free, and easy to use.
The purpose of this article is to break down the best resources that will help you learn how to use Fusion 360 or Skethup. We will highlight the best online courses, and reading materials, so you know where and how to learn these programs, as well as how much you can expect to spend.
Fusion 360 is a free, simple, easy to learn and use, CAD program. To become a certified Fusion 360 pro you will want to use the Udemy courses highlighted below. While there are several online learning hubs with a similar format, Udemy tends to be the most affordable, and they are almost always offering specials that offer incredible discounts for some really great courses. When I say “affordable,” I really mean it. Many courses on their site can be purchased for less than $25.
Right now, there are two main courses on Udemy focusing on Fusion 360. There is another one that we will also mention which is quite short and simple that helps new users understand general CAD programs functionality. For forty bucks, you can get all three of these courses on Udemy. That’s a pretty sweet deal considering you are just about guaranteed to be a certified Fusion 360 pro after you complete them. They also all come with a 30 day, money back guarantee.
Fusion 360 For Hobbyists and Woodworkers
We recommend starting with this general Fusion 360 Udemy course, aimed at both simple hobbyists, and professional woodworkers alike. This is a great beginners course because you don’t need to be a computer wiz to understand the skills taught in this course. All that is required is basic computer knowledge.
The creator of this course will teach you how to design an electronic prototype of your concepts so you can test their functionality, as well as create digital plans and technical drawings from the designs you build in Fusion 360. You can expect to learn general Fusion 360 skills like how to build a 3D electronic model of your project, so you can see what your concept will look like before you spend the time building it in real life.
This course consists of nine hours of video content, sixteen articles for reading, and comes with a lifetime access so you can work at your own pace, and you can always refer back to the course if you need to refresh your skills later on.
The creator of this course describes himself as “a self-taught 3D modeler” meaning, he was in your shoes once, and has created this course specifically to help those looking to essentially teach themselves. He has created the lessons so that they get progressively more challenging, allowing you to build upon the skills you have learned in each new lesson.
You can also expect to spend 95% of your time in this course creating models in Fusion 360. So this is an excellent place to start honing those virtual and 3D woodworking skills.
Course Link: Fusion 360 for Woodworkers and Hobbyists
Fusion 360 for Woodworkers, Designing an Adirondack Chair
Once you have the general Fusion 360 skills down, take your skills to the next level with a course designed to help you build a specific woodworking project, an adirondack chair.
In this course you can expect to learn how to design and build an intensive and in depth 3D model of an adirondack chair. This is a more hands on course that provides more specialized Fusion 360 training, and it requires that you already have a general working knowledge of the software before you take the course.
This is a five part course that includes three hours of on demand video, as well as lifetime access. Due to the specific nature of this course in building an adirondack chair, you can expect to complete this course more quickly, while gaining more centralized Fusion 360 experience.
The course instructor is an engineer who has been using Fusion 360 for five years for his own woodworking projects. Therefore, he has designed this course specifically for like-minded woodworkers who enjoy building furniture.
Course Link: Fusion 360 for Woodworkers
Still trying to decide between Sketchup and Fusion? Check out this article I wrote, where I compared the two programs.
The other free, simple, and easy to use CAD program is, SketchUp. If you decide to go with this program, there are a couple of great books on how to use SketchUp that are written by and for woodworkers.
SketchUp – A Design Guide for Woodworkers: Complete Illustrated Reference
The first of these books is an illustrated how-to-guide on all things SketchUp. Specifically, this book is geared towards furniture building.
You can expect an in depth, step by step manual for planning, designing, and building 3D furniture models.You can expect to be able to put your new skills to the test with exercises that will allow you practice what you learn as you go along. With over six hundred illustrations and actual screen captures, you can also expect just about every step, and instruction to be accompanied by a picture of how your model should look in SketchUp.
This book has sold very well, and the reviews are excellent. You can find the book by clicking here.
SketchUp Success for Woodworkers
Written by David Heim, an expert woodworker, as well as a professional writer, who has been using SketchUp for many years. Heim has developed a step by step guide of what he considers to be the rules of success when it comes to using SketchUp.
You can expect easy to read and understand instructions, accompanied by screen shots of what each step should look like in SketchUp. Heim also includes individual projects, with their own step by step instructions, so you can practice your skills from start to finish.
As Heim puts it, his how-to-guide for Sketchup lets “any woodworker can download SketchUp at breakfast, and be drawing detailed and useful plans by dinnertime.”
Mr Heim’s book is also very highly rated. It can be found on Amazon by clicking here.
General CAD for Woodworkers
If you are looking for just a quick and easy overview of how CAD software can be used for woodworking, this is a great option. The course consists of 2.5 hours of self paced video instruction, as well as 10 informative articles, including a pdf version of the instructor’s building plans for the apothecary’s chest project that he bases the course around.
You can expect to learn basic CAD skills such as, how to customize the workspace, and dimension scaling, as well as how to convert your model into a step by step pdf building plan.
It is important to note that this course is based on DraftSight, not Fusion 360. While Draftsight is not free, there is another CAD software, nanoCAD, that you can use as a free alternative. This course does not require any prior CAD knowledge.
Course Link: CAD For Woodworkers
I hope you found this article helpful. These are the best resources I’ve found that have helped me get better with CAD work. There are plenty of videos on Youtube that will teach you various aspects of the programs as well.
Comment below if there are any other resources you recommend!