Learning CAD

Hey Jason,

I’m amazed with how you used CAD to build your Sci-fi office and stair trek project.
I’m presently self teaching myself librecad using Youtube , to gather enough skills for my fastcut cnc plasma table. Can you please tell me what courses you took in CAD programing , if they were online or not. Any help would be greatly appreciated.



Hey Chris, I started CAD modeling with Solidworks in 2014. I enrolled in classroom training. Classroom Training Courses | SOLIDWORKS
This was a 1 week 8-3:30 class. I learned all the basics and more. The class followed a text book that is a great resource. The text book has practice models that help get you started. It was a great experience. I could of taken a online course, but I’m old school when it comes to learning. It was great because for the first few weeks after class ended I frequently emailed my instructor questions to problems. In 2014 the Youtube video catalog wasn’t that great for learning CAD. It’s much better today, and I visit youtube when I get stumped. I believe you could learn the basics on Youtube if you had to.

I recently have been continuing my Solidworks training, The surface modeling training has been on my list to master. The surface cad is the tricky stuff like a tv remote that have lots of curves or auto body panels. I took a 3 day online class to get me started.
I still have a lot to learn and it’s fun and challenging.

FYI, Solidworks just released a starter version at a great starting price point.


I love Solidworks. I’m no power user, but it’s definitely the software I’m most comfortable with nowadays for CAD work. In addition to using Autocad and Inventor I’ve tried a few cheap to free products over the years and none have displaced Solidworks for me.

Check your local community colleges too, it’s possible they offer a classes in various CAD programs if the local Solidworks/CAD community isn’t very developed.

I’ve been using LibreCAD for drafting, but it is pretty different than what people would usually consider to be CAD. SolidWorks, Fusion 360, etc. are completely different animals because they’re about 3D and assemblies.

I quit paying for Fusion 360 last year (I had a subscription for years) because they dropped Windows 10 support (the last one that you could easily remove the Microsoft spyware from) and didn’t have any plans to offer a Linux client.

I’ve been painfully switching to FreeCAD, but what it’s taught me is that there’s a big enough difference in the way you do things in these programs that information someone might have shared in this thread on, for example, SolidWorks, likely isn’t very applicable to you. For LibreCAD, I found it relatively intuitive having started with manual (pencil/pen and paper) drafting, everything else was readily found on Google.

I really wish there was more CAD software that at least offered an affordable, perpetual license (ie: no free subscription that might have features removed in the future) for hobbyists, but I think LibreCAD and FreeCAD are your two best bets.

For fabrication, check out the plugin for FreeCAD called Dodo (I believe that’s what it’s called, may be wrong). It offers support for frame generation similar to AutoCAD. It’s still in it’s infancy, but it is under development.

Hope this helps somewhat as I infer from your choice in software that you’re looking for free or perpetually-licensed software rather than freemium or something that costs enough you can only afford it as a company and not a one-man shop.

Another really interesting (my opinion of course) 3D CAD program is MoI3d. It differs significantly from the others in that it is oriented toward intuitive sketching with a very simple interface. The full name comes from “Moment of Inspiration” & is a low cost, traditionally licensed program developed by Michael Gibson who also was the original author of Rhino, another 3D CAD package. The interface is intentionally minimalist, but the power derives from how well each of the tools work together. If one feels the need, it is also highly extensible via javascript. There is an enthusiastic community of users ranging from artists to machinists and fabricators. I’ve been using it for a decade or so & while it doesn’t do many of the things that Solidworks can do, it meets my needs. The quality of code and Michael’s attention to the community make this a really solid tool. So solid in fact that as soon as he releases a beta version I immediately begin to use it. If there are issues (which is seldom, even with the betas), fixes are often available within a day or so. The power of a small, well designed tool as opposed to the kitchen sink approach that the main CAD packages have become.


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I’ll definitely check into this one a bit. Getting the balance of powerful features vs making simple sketches quick to produce is a challenge.

I’m intrigued by the licensing scheme but the software doesn’t have a Linux build available which would be a definite prerequisite for my own purchase.

Thanks for sharing!

True enough on the linux aspect, however there are a number of linux users who run it under WINE. It was originally written as a Windows only program, then when he started supporting Macs he did it via WINE (it has since been rewritten as a native app for both Windows and macOS), but is apparently still usable via WINE. I use it on a Mac laptop, but all my other systems are *nix.


I’ve been using WINE since about 2006 and it’s been good to me overall, but I generally like to avoid giving dollars to products that aren’t exactly what I want if there is an option. I’m probably being picky, but I expect a little more out of paid software. I also avoid paying for software that only offers apps written in web frameworks instead of proper C/C++/Kotlin/Swift/etc. native apps or companies that use non-American programmers.

I’m still going to look into moi3d, though, the concept looks intriguing.

We’re taking this thread down a bit of a rabbit hole…but I’ll add another brief tidbit about MoI. It is a C++ app and does use licensed commercial libraries (particularly geometry kernels) and frameworks. The choice of QtWebKit provided multi-platform support and enables a solo developer to broaden his reach while still maintaining control. I believe this is a good example of someone working smarter rather than harder. It’s a neat tool that provides a lot of bang for minimal bucks in the often expensive CAD world. & yes Made in America.


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A few years ago I started messing around with a plasma table and then a 3D printer. Having used some CAD software in the past, it was challenging especially moving into the 3D world. Like others, I didn’t want to pay to much as this is just a hobby for me and wanted to leverage online learning wherever possible.

I stumbled on to Onshape. Someone had developed a 3D print that I wanted to modify and they shared the link to Onshape. Onshape is a 100% cloud platform that can be used by Windows, Mac, Linux and even phones and tablets For the free version, which is what I use, all designs are public. I found the software pretty easy to use and there are a ton of videos on their website and YouTube. While I have not been sharing my designs with others to much, I do find myself using multiple computers and found the cloud based approach is really helpful. I read somewhere that a good comparison between Solidworks and Onshape is like Microsoft Office and Google G-Suite. Onshape is not as full featured as Solidworks but for many it is more than enough.

I found the comparison article.

I tried Onshape recently and I was impressed with it’s implementation from a technical perspective but the fact that it’s somebody else’s computer (aka “the cloud”) and could be neutered or taken away without me doing anything to consent to it and the fact that the licensing costs are prohibitively high for a garage DIYer like myself it’s an incredibly hard pass from me.

Thanks Jason,

I live in Alberta Canada so I’m going to book in for a week course wherever it’s offered. Maybe i’ll look for a course in the USA. Either way I enjoy in class as well. Thank you for sharing the information , I really appreciate it!!