Sketchup and fusion 360 for woodworking / furniture design

One key thing in SketchUp is you model one part and make it a group or component before modeling the next part to prevent the parts from sticking together. Also remember you can edit a group or component after you/ve created it so you don’t need to get all the detail in place before you create object.

When I model a piece of furniture I start with parts that help me establish the overall size and use them guide me as I add the parts to go between. For example in this lowboy I knew where the legs needed to go so I modeled the front left leg and made it a component. Then I copied and flipped it to make the other three legs in their final locations. After that all the pieces between the legs were added using the legs as the reference for the lengths of those parts. Details like the dovetails on the vertical dividers and the mortises and tenons were added later.

I can’t call myself a “proficient” user of Fusion360 - but it was critical for one project I did a few years back: A Murphy Bed/Desk Combination.

I’d already modeled it in SketchUp - and I took a course on CAD/CAM during summer session at a local community college specifically to be able to use their maker space - and the 5x9 CAM machine to fabricate it! I also found a hardware set available online and ordered it - and it came with fully dimensioned plans/cutsheets!

At this point, I could have adjusted my SketchUp model for the exact sizes I needed, but the maker space didn’t have anyone familiar with going from SketchUp to gcode for the machine they had - but they had it down to a science if you had a Fusion360 model!

So I redid it in Fusion360. After a short learning curve, I had no problem modeling it - and once modeled, the gcode export was simple, easy, and quick - the only thing in ANY way complex was that I had to define a couple of new tools which the maker space didn’t have - I bought them and, once done, donated them to the maker space - Less than $100 total with lots of “feel goods” when I did so!

I have the SketchUp model in the 3d Warehouse:

I can’t find the Fusion360 model - so I can’t post that as well.

As for a more general Fusion360 statement, I prefer to model in Sketchup. But if I’m ever again faced with someone else’s plan for something I’m want to make using CAD/CAM, I’ll probably brush off my very rusty Fusion360 knowledge!

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YO…! Fredo and FredoScale makes me hunnid hunnid dollar bills y’all…! THIS plugin is what drew me to SU, to modify cabinetry without skewing and having to redraw multiple cabinets to create a cabinet library. Years later I have discovered its great to copy / paste / modify / save as THEN drag and drop models from a browser. But the reality is sometimes its easier to just have one very very good detailed model and modify it as needed for a new client / project. I found that using multiple dynamic components are too heavy memory wise to be productive with larger files. This was years ago so maybe memory allocations etc have changed over the past 5-10 years. Here are some examples, DM me I might share my libraries if I’m drunk enough…
WHATEVER you do, if you take just a month to 3 months with SU it will literally change your life. Then comes rendering and SU with VRay offer a tremendous rendering solution and NOW bringing Enscape into the workflow…?! I’m shook, the software and integration keeps making everything more productive and most importantly in the end MORE PROFITABLE. Good luck, Happy New Year!

Designs by Jonathan


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When I follow some of the discussions out there on 360, a common term that will be thrown around is ‘parametric’ modeling. I mean, ya, it’s super cool, but the setup seems so overkill for 95% of projects.

Having recently jumped into the world of CNC, I am tempted to understand 360 better just for that purpose. There are definitely ways to go from SketchUp to CNC, including Fabber - a plugin just for that purpose, however, other methods in my experience tend to rely on SU Pro level exporting, so free solutions are more limited. If CNC was high on your list, 360 does have more dedicated tools.

If designing furniture and planning your project are your main purposes, no surprise that I’m definitely in the camp that SU is faster and better for letting your brain wander through the design process. You are right that in some areas, modifying geometry can become difficult in SU, and you’ll start to learn methods, rather than tools. A very common misconception I see, is that many people don’t realize with good selections of edges, and then using the move tool, you can manipulate geometry really well, where many people think you have to draw all your complex geometry all over again.

In the end, basic SketchUp is pretty easy to pick up and use, but to really become proficient, takes time. Great community though. ;).


I too have spent a lot of time getting to know Fusion 360. Its very powerful and can take you from design to 3d solid output. The learning curve is steep but then so was SU. A lot of what SU does relies on Extensions so is restricted to the Pro version (and cost). Fusion is free, even to the point of allowing you to earn $100k before you need to pay for it. Its context sensitive menus are way better than SU and the updates from Autodesk more frequent and meaningful (IMHO). Take producing a drawing as an example, its seemless in Fusion yet SU Layout is constantly criticized and yet never improved. I find they do complement each other - SU for ideas and concepts, Fusion for detail and parametrics.


thank you all for the feedback. So far i kept watching some youtube videos about fusion, and while I am getting a bit more familiar with it, its still miles away from SU easy to use / intuitive navigation (the simple fact that scroll mouse zooming is inverted in fusion is already a bit counter-intuitive lol)

for me personally from what I’ve seen and practiced so far, sketchup excels and modeling “on the fly”, while fusion you need to take more like a traditional approach of laying numbers and 2 sketches before anything else. Also orbiting and moving things around quickly, and snapping to edges/points in SU is waaay better and easier.

The thing I dont like in SU is that you need a ton of extensions to make your life easier. So far any new features I found in fusion that SU can’t do natively (or at least not with ease) I instantly found an extension that does it for you.

@TysonK from what I can deduct parametric settings won’t make sense to use on a full room furniture as a whole like a kitchen, since it would make more sense to remove a cabinet rather than shrinking everything else. Personally I would use parametric for single items like chairs, tables etc

@DBJ im speechless about your p/f work. those are movie like sets!!! wow! I can’t imagine how your workload/schedule with such clients is! amazing

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For Fusion, you need to go into mouse settings and reverse the scroll direction. Better still (and for SU too) get a SpaceMouse. They are simply awesome for maneuvering around in 3d space.

I would like to find a good way to swap models between the 2 apps - importing SU files works but destroys groups and components and leaves you with a mesh. Its better going Fusion to SU.

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I wonder if you could share some examples of furniture you’ve modeled in F360. Maybe something along the lines of the lowboy or garden chair I show here. In both cases these were modeled in SketchUp (and both could have been modeled in Sketchup Make. Could have been modelied in SketchUp Free (web) although admittedly not as easily.) and shop drawings for both were created in LayOut.


Does the spacemouse work identically in both apps? Seems like that would be important. Just curious.


Its a little more sensitive in Fusion but otherwise, yes.

This is completely untrue, I use a lot of extensions with SketchUp Make 2017!
However there are some extensions that only work in de the Pro versions…


Fusion 360 has a very sophisticated chronological approach to creating parametric components which can’t be compared to the formula-based dynamic components used in sketchup. For example you could build up a complex 3D shape based on a 2D plan. But at any point you could jump back in time to any previous step (using the icons created for each step, at the bottom of the screen), right back to changing the original geometry in the 2D plan, and the implications of this change would be applied to all the subsequent steps. It’s mind blowing. I hope this makes sense. So it is arguably a lot more sophisticated for parametric modelling than sketchup. Also it has in-built tools for CNC machining - planning and creating toolpaths.

However it seems to be best suited for designing and machining individual components, and more geared to engineering than woodwork. Ok that’s not entirely true but I concluded (with the advice of a Fusion 360 tutor) that I would do best to stick with Sketchup.

I am now running a CNC machine producing nested and drilled cabinet panel components for fitted furniture, design parametrically in sketchup with the help of the Cabinetsense plugin; automatically outputted and toolpathed in vectric, then G-code outputted from there ready for the CNC machine.

As someone said above, this level of complexity is overkill for a lot of people’s needs. However if you foresee yourself scaling things up in future it’s good to start with a program that can scale with you.

You can achieve a lot with sketchup.


See this SU file for ideas.

L shaped frame.skp (88.9 KB)

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Fair point! I was referring to the current versions.

History is nice and certainly has it’s pro’s, but it’s not parametric, per se in a sense that you can easily adjust parameters (range of diameters or movements of vertices)

Altair Studio is capable of going back in history and set up specific parameters to explore multiple options… Check out this video:

From 4:50 it get’s interesting:)

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fully agree. what ive learned so far in fusion, looks like sketchup would still be a better option for my needs. as long as i’m dealing with furniture i don’t see the need of fusion’s potential (yet), tho fusion is sooo much better with curves and bends. SU still kinda suck for anything in the round, at least natively

thanks for sharing your process, yet another approach to achieve it!

lol ok so this explains why so many car makers come up with facelifts every year!
also this app looks interesting!! never heard of it but looks powerful i wonder how fusion fairs against it. I really like it when they model with those small boxes like they do in Maya. not sure why but i find it interesting. always wanted to learn how

I have been using SketchUp Pro (aka Classic) since 2015 to capture my designs in 3D and Layout for shop drawings for myself and other woodworkers.
About three years ago I did a deep dive into Fusion360 to see if it was suitable for the type of studio furniture work I do. After taking the Fusion360 tutorials, I did a test case to compare a design done in Fusion360 with the same one using SketchUp/Layout. I chose an Arts and Crafts Table featured in Tim Killen’s book Fine Woodworking Google SketchUp Guide For Woodworkers. It has many details representative of hand crafted fine woodworking. I used SketchUp Pro and Fusion360 (free license to hobbiest) on a MacBook. Some may say it is not fare to compare the free Fusion360 to the Pro version of SketchUp, but since I use SU Pro, that is what I used.

Some Observations based on my study case three years ago.

Fusion360 Positives

  • Fewer crashes and bugsplats compared to my use of SketchUp (that was one of the frustrations which led me to try Fusion360)
  • Appears to be fully MAC compatible for all features
  • Frequent updates often with bug fixes and new features (some directly from Forum input voting)
  • Forum support from customers and developers. Enhanced with Fusion360’s built in screen capture video feature for sharing of issues.
  • Wide selection of fully native tool set (mirroring, fillets, curves, lofting, advanced extrusions) for many of my required needs. Since all tools were native, similar look and feel of User Interface.
  • Solid modeling
  • Excels at smaller detailed objects without the need to scale up as in SketchUp (“the Dave Method”) for detailing. Looks friendly for small production prototypes of single objects.
  • Link to McMaster-Carr catalog to bring in existing models of hardware (nuts, screws, springs, etc). Use this link like a 3D warehouse.
  • Parametric design - If you are willing to take the time and implement the parameters during your design capture, this could be a big plus. I had my hands full just learning the basic tools so I didn’t capture using parametric variables which seems too much like programming.
  • Timeline allows going back in time and inserting a change between command entries. One of the most useful features.
  • Includes a photo rendering feature.
  • Included limited selection of wood textures applied as 3D texture. So for example, placing a texture on a leg, was done on all four faces and included the end grain texture. I could manipulate the texture and see how the grain wrapped around the leg faces.
  • Includes a 2D documentation feature, animation, and exploded assembly views feature.

Fusion360 Negatives:

  • orbit, pan, zoom mouse buttons don’t match SketchUp actions. Makes for confusion if switching between sessions of Fusion360 and SU.
  • Cloud based - Designs captured on Autodesk servers. I prefer to keep my designs on private desktop usage/storage. Although some may find this a plus.
  • Very limited 3rd party extensions. While the native tool set is abundant, there is a lack of special drawing tools for dovetails, cutlist generator, component descriptor. Most extensions offered are for furniture manufacturing industry using CNC and flat panels. Those applications have little appeal to me for custom fine woodworking.
  • Learning curve steep. Not intuitive. Jarring how difficult and time consuming something like modeling a dovetailed drawer can be. See Fusion 360 Tutorial - How to Model an Assembly Drawer with Dovetails from Start to Finish Part 1 - YouTube
  • I found little expertise in Fusion360 community furniture designs fully implemented with detailed joinery. Lots of designs for flat pack furniture, smallish pieces for CNC machine and freestanding concept pieces. I would see a table with four legs, aprons and a top - but no detailed joinery. Contrast that with a vast wealth of knowledge using SketchUp for woodworking shared by Dave Richards in this forum, in the Fine Woodworking Design Click Build blog, books and DVDs.
  • Construction documentation had limited features and views vs more sophisticated construction documents possible with Layout.
  • Limited number of 3D wood textures to choose from. There may be a way to enter customer textures but I didn’t find it
  • For me, the biggest negative with Fusion360 is how they define and treat mirrored components. They allow creation of mirrored components, but each of them are unique, so the left front leg and the right front leg have to each be unique. When created, Fusion360 renames the mirror component with a mirror suffix, so component(mirror) , mirror it again and the component appears as component(mirror)(mirror).

For example, in SU I may start by creating a front left table leg. Add the stopped chamfer details then do flip along red and green to create four legs instances of the same component that can be quickly mortised for joinery. The flip along (mirroring) leaves the joinery in the correct location on each component. Later on as more joinery is needed, the back legs can be made unique.

So Mirroring (flip along) allows the mortise locations on different faces of the same component in SketchUp. Even though if a customer orders a front right leg, you cant substitute a left front leg. In woodworking drawings, this would be shown simply as “leg” and the onus is on the maker to know the left and right legs are mirrored. So making a component named “leg” with flipped instances in SketchUp is allowed and saves time with 3D joinery. Whereas in Fusion360 , which is for manufacturing assembly drawings, it requires a “front left leg” “front right leg” “back left leg” “back right leg” each as unique components. To work in Fusion360 one can cut joinery first and then mirror or, more tedious , cut the joinery on each individual part. Both of these are a different workflow than how I approach in SU.


Below: screenshots from Fusion360 and SketchUp/ Layout for the Arts and Crafts Table

Below Fusion360

A photo realistic rendering using Fusion360. Walnut texture material.

Compare with images from Layout of Arts and Craft Table below.
White Oak texture used.


very valuable information/comparison here.
sorry for the extreme length delay in replying though. but i still wanted to thank you

Zaz 1—

Thank you for your detailed comparison! It’s nice to know about other options, and how it is to work them.

I’m impressed with the detail of your drawings. I make custom furniture as well, but have a different workflow.

After 50 years of running a shop, I work alone, and don’t publish my work, so I don’t detail jointery or do exploded views as you do. Sometimes I make supplemental joint or detail drawings (usually a separate document, for clarity). I make allowances for jointery when I make my cutlist (by hand), but since I spend some time thinking about any complicated jointery, I often come to a different opinion later of the best way to proceed.

In this, I guess you could say I’m partly lazy and partly take inspiration from furniture catalogs of the 1600s and 1700s, like Thomas Sheraton or Chippendale’s— they drew pieces and published them in books and magazines for other cabinetmakers, but never showed details of jointery. A furniture historian explained it to me this way: if you were a cabinetmaker in the Colonies and you saw a design for a chair in a London cabinetmaker’s style book, you had no need for dimensions or jointery. You would be thrilled to have the latest ideas from across the pond. Dimensions would depend on your clients, and what sort of cabinetmaker didn’t know jointery for a chair, or how to properly size a tenon?

If you look at Sheraton’s books (our local library had the first edition, until they traded it for an abridged version with only three volumes— cursed lack of respect for culture!) you can see that this didn’t just hold for simple cabinets, tables and chairs; but also for intricate mechanisms such as chair lifts and fall fronts that automatically extended leaf supports. Presumably the blacksmith down the street would already know how to build these mechanisms to your specifications, once he saw the required action. And if he didn’t, he would learn damned quickly, to further his reputation and his enhance his pride of craft.

This model is not from Fusion but other parametric program. Here SU is… not fot this.

There is no point in comparing these programs. These are completely different programs also in terms of price. SU can be compared with, for example, Z form.
To those who praise Sketchup so much I ask: if someone is willing to sponsor and purchase one of these programs, what will you choose?