This tutorial covers the creation of a standard woodworking board or sheet goods part. Since most woodworking parts are simple rectangles or linear sticks, an Extrude Boss will be used create most woodworking parts.

This tutorial is compatible with all versions of Alibre including Xpress.

It is important though to follow certain conventions and standards to ensure consistent part creation and reliable predictable models. Below are some of the most important considerations:

Create Parts and Assemblies with attention to view orientation. The standard Orthographic views of Front, Top, Right and Isometric should reflect those orientations for the Parts and Assemblies. The Front view of a part should be face of a board or molding, and not an edge or end. The Front view of an Assembly should be the front of a piece of furniture, cabinet, or when unclear something reasonable like the face of a bed headboard or footboard. Considering these orientations while creating parts and assemblies will make creation of a drawing easier, as well as provide a smooth and consistent workflow.

Parts and Assemblies should be created symmetrically about the reference planes where possible. There are always exceptions, but you should have a good reason when deviating from this “best practice”. This is a best practice that crosses software brand, and is considered a good modeling technique no matter what vendors software you are using. This will allow you to use the “reference geometry” to constrain parts and sub-assemblies in assemblies.

When creating Sheet Goods parts, we prefer to create those parts with the Length oriented horizontally along the X axis, and Width vertically with the Y axis. This convention has its basis in orientation used in Cutlist and sheet goods layout and optimization programs. It is consistent with working with sheet materials on a panel saw, on saw horses or a workbench, or doing layout work. It also helps when dealing with specifying edge banding. By using the convention of grain running horizontally, from Left to Right when there is a grain directionality, assures consistent material handling and will reduce errors. It will also allow design work to proceed with a consistent understanding of grain directionality and orientation from modeling to construction.

While Alibre does not have material directionality indicators to show grain direction, with this convention you can use the normal arrows from the reference planes to determine face/reverse side and grain direction. Just turn on reference geometry for a part in an assembly and hover over the Planes line item in the Design Explorer to display the normals arrows. We has also begun including a directional arrow on the face of sheet goods parts to aid in properly orientating parts during model assembly. This is a simple arrow shaped line sketch created on the face of the part, and an Extrude Cut 1/64" deep into the face of the part. This indicated Face side as well as grain orientation, and can easily be Suppressed or deleted when modeling is completed.

Lumber can be created with a horizontal or vertical orientation, with a horizontal orientation being common because of sheet good creation conventions. While vertical orientation may be more comfortable when creating legs or stiles, the final orientation of the part in the assembly is determined by assembly constraints to the rest of the model and not the original orientation during part creation. With a little practice, you get used to inserting a part and simply constraining it into position without regard to original orientation, or need to manually rotate the part before applying constraints.

Rather than creating all parts from scratch, we are tending toward using parts saved to a standard “library” parts folder. That way the directional and grain arrow features can be included, as well as a variety of miter features that can be suppressed and unsuppressed as required for baseboards, moldings and other standard uses. We also recommend the “Primitive Wizard” board creation program for Alibre that automates the task or creating rectangular parts (plans.thefrankes.com).

With sketches constructed on the XY plane, a standard board or sheet is Extruded for thickness along the Z axis. While moldings or profiled cross sections are best constructed on the YZ plane and extruded to Length along the X axis. It is a simple matter to orient the display to an isometric view, selected the reference plane on which to sketch, and Activate a 2D sketch on the selected plane. You can then Orient to Sketch plane (if not done automatically) or with a little practice you get used to sketching in an isometric orientation. Remember, construct your parts with consideration to the standard Orthographic drawing views and orientations. It is useful to turn on all the available toolbars.

One last note before creating our board. Woodworking normally only requires the use of a 2D sketch to create even the most complicated of parts. If you are trying to work with a 3D sketch, you should re-evaluate what you are trying to accomplish as it can probably be accomplished in a much easier manner. Besides sketching on the initial reference plans and user created planes, you can use the faces of parts as the plane for a 2D sketch. With Revolve, Sweep, and Loft you can create 3 dimensional shapes using a combination of 2D sketches of profiles and paths.

Step 1: Create New Part

Create a new part: FILE > NEW > PART; CTRL + SHIFT + T; or use the New Part icon from Alibre Home window.

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I have had Alibre Standard for over 2 years.&nbsp; When I bought it it was on sale and I got a whole bunch of training materials but I had never used a Cad program before but had been using Corel Draw for over 10 years.&nbsp; Cad was so bizarrely different that I never really could get the hang of it.&nbsp; On about 7 different occasions I have tried and tried to get the hang of it with absolutely no progression of learning.<br /> <br /> I have found that whatever software I have tried it is never easy for me to understand without someone actually teaching me.&nbsp; I finally found someone who could understand my difficulty as they had had a very tough time getting their mind around the concepts at the beginning and remembered how much they had struggled to get the idea of how CAD worked.&nbsp; Over the phone and using remote software to display their screen they led me through a couple of concepts that I was struggling with and BOING, the light finally turned on.&nbsp; I have since done some more of the Alibre video tutorials and all of the Instructables tutorials from alibre_rob which really helped a lot.<br /> <br /> I had previously tried some of yours and was confused as I didn't have the background to appreciate what you were doing.&nbsp; Today I tried this one and it has made a big difference as you have covered such a basic part with so much detail, for instance just hitting the home key when a part went outside of the view that I was looking at and bam the part was in sight.&nbsp; That's the kind of thing that was never mentioned after hours of watching videos and following along.&nbsp; As usual I have begun to bable, enough said!<br /> <br /> Thanks for probably the most basic, insightful and thorough tutorial ever.<br /> <br /> I really appreciate the fact that you still have the ability to thoroughly cover an aspect of Alibre that is so far away in newbie land from your field of expertise.<br /> <br /> Gary<br />
I really like working with Alibre because it is like working in wood. The solids I create can be worked with techniques like woodworking, and I can build a virtual prototype before even cutting my first piece of wood. This has saved me a lot of trial and error, as well as time doing mockups to verify the proportions and correctness of a design. So much better than 2D CAD because I can rotate the design and look at it from all sides. It all becomes so much easier after the first time or two, so stick with it as it is worth it.
Sorry for the length of the tutorial, but we tried to squeeze in all the fundamental knowledge of nearly two years of doing woodworking with Alibre, and a lifetime of experience with specialty woodworking and CAD software. There have been a lot of woodworkers asking us how to best use Alibre for Woodworking, and we wanted to save other users from learning all this by trial and error as we had to. There is more information than can probably be absorbed in one pass through the tutorial, but it was intended to address all the aspects of using a parametric modeling tool for woodworking. Start off with the other tutorials for basic techniques, and come back to this tutorial after you have gained familiarity with the basics of the software. A good place to start is the QuickStart Guide video available at the Alibre Xpress website and the other Instructables at this site. Woodworking can be done with a simple rectangle sketch and Extrude to create a board. But, if you want to model an entire kitchen cabinet, furniture project, or entertainment center, there are a lot of other considerations to address to take the model from the rectangular parts to a completed cutlist and sheet goods layout. This tutorial is more of an application of Alibre to woodworking, rather than an introductory course on how to use Alibre. While Sketch Up is a very good tool, we prefer Alibre because of the ability to drive models with formulas and associations between parts. We moved to Alibre because it was so difficult to make changes to an initial design with other software. Now we can change the dimensions of our designs with a simple change of a value or two. An entire cabinet will automatically adjust the dimensions of all the pieces when we only change the cabinets width or other overall dimension. Also, visit our website and download the free video tutorial on how to model a simple keepsake box project. Sit back and watch how easy it is to model woodworking after you learn the basic techniques. Visit www.kelseywoodworks.com for more information on Alibre as applied to woodworking. Besides it is a lot of fun too!
Bear in mind, that while this is a fairly in-depth tutorial for a relatively simple object, it is really more about learning the foundation of parametric solid modeling. All dimensions in parametric modeling are variables (i.e. parameters) that can be changed once the initial design is completed. This enables very rapid changes and what-if scenarios. This also introduces the concept of associativity, where when you create an assembly, or a 2D shop drawing from the 3D model (which is supported in the free Alibre Design Xpress product), then everything updates automatically when one element is changed. SketchUp has a nice user interface and a lot of cool features, but it has no notion of parametrics or associativity. Don't take it as a negative comment about SketchUp, they are just two different classes of products. Indeed there is a learning curve with 3D parametric modeling, although you may find it is not as tough as it might seem at first glance. Once you learn the basics of parametric modeling you can quickly model up a 3D design and then just tweak the dimensions to change it and then automatically generate variations on a design, or families of parts, or a cut list for fabrication. Parametric modeling may not be your cup of tea, but if you are interested in learning a skill and a product that you will find very productive if you do any sort of design or fabrication with any frequency. Hope this helps.
I agree with radiorental, SketchUp is more suted to do drawings like this.
Wow. On the one hand, I've been interested in documenting some woodworking projects using a 3d cad package (preferably one of the CAD packages with a freeware or low cost license. I tried gizmolabs DesignIntuition, which I like but found too expensive for "playing"), And this instructable is a nice step in that direction. But the length and complexity is daunting! I don't want the drawing to be harder than the bookcase was in the fist place! (although it was that way before CAD too, I guess...)
for that sort of documenting, google sketchup is the ticket. Half way between drawing and CAD

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Bio: I am an Engineering Technician with 15 years as a glorified government drafter. Another 5 years was spent drawing/programing for a company that had ... More »
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