The Blender 3D modeler

Since SketchUp became a subscription product, I’ve been looking for a viable alternative for hobbyist CAD. I thought that SolveSpace might fit the bill, but it’s not as easy to quickly sketch out furniture and rooms as SketchUp. After struggling for a while, I eventually realized that Blender, the veritable open source 3D modeling tool, could be extended to support a SketchUp-like workflow.

The key is the Construction Lines add-on, which makes laying out lines and then extruding from them almost as easy as SketchUp. There’s a forum post that announces its features and a tutorial to apply them to a simple model. While Blender has a daunting learning curve, it also has a huge community with good learning resources.

For more technical machining or 3D printing needs, CAD Sketcher brings parametric CAD to Blender. I don’t have much use for something like that anymore, but it’s nice to have the option.

A few other plug-ins round out Blender for woodworking:

As a bonus, Blender has industry-leading renderers to generate photo-realistic proofs.