Open-source 3D drafting software

While browsing through some of the resources on the website of the Timber Framer’s Guild (an essential stop for anyone seriously considering a DIY timber frame project:  http://www.tfguild.org/), I found some references to timber frame plug-ins for Sketchup, an open-source 3D drafting platform offered free from the company, Trimble (http://www.sketchup.com/).  Having used Trimble GIS equipment as an ecological researcher, I began running through the possibilities of mapping the complicated terrain at my building sites in my mind.  I thought it would be a useful exercise for planning layouts for the cabins in terms of views, window and door positions, access to the water, drainage, etc., but I was blown away by how much more I could do with this software and it was all free!  Not only was I able to teach myself the CAD software in an hour or so just watching the free instructional videos online, but the software has add-ons specifically designed for timber framers to formulate and layout joints, generate building material lists, and much more that I’ve yet to try.  After I spent some time messing around with different frame concepts, I started adding roofing materials, SIPs, foundation elements, staircases, furniture and appliances, and all sorts of other items offered in their user-generated warehouse.  I tend to be an adherent to the old-school methods of doing just about anything, but it was certainly easier and less time-consuming to manipulate design features within this software rather than erasing pencil marks and redrawing.  Not to mention all of the measurement calculations for drafting to scale were no longer necessary.  I’m attaching one of the frame designs I completed below.

16x24-timber-frame

It seems that for a DIY person like me, I could mock up a timber frame design myself and submit the design to an engineer for tweaking and approval, and save myself some billable hours avoiding all the professional drafting work.  And as long as I’m on the topic of engineers, I should mention that the Timber Framer’s Guild is a great resource to find engineers specializing in timber frames to help with your designs.

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