Sketchup and fusion 360 for woodworking / furniture design

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?

Certainly looks like somethiing that could be done with no problems in SketchUp. Maybe when I get my paying work out of the way I’ll model up a copy of that chair.

But… I didn’t have to get rid of my paid job to model this chair as a help for someone on another forum :wink:

What are you implying? That I’d be wasting my time modeling that chair? Or that you are just trolling folks who use SketchUp?


I only commented on your post but maybe it’s forbidden? And … you know Dave, there are also jokes and a sense of humor! :slight_smile:

I also use Sketchup

Someone who knows how to use SketchUp could model this chair. It would not be easy for a novice, just as modeling it in another software would be difficult for someone only familiar with SketchUp.


Certainly a person who can use SU can model it. I showed this armchair not because of the “impossibility” of modeling (you don’t have to be a world champion here), but because of the surface quality and, for example, variable rounding. And the question of the accuracy of mapping the design assumptions . A program that interpolates curves into sections and does surface trangulation - unfortunately, it is not suitable for anything other than preliminary designs and visualizations (in relation to this rocking chair). Whoever has had the opportunity to cooperate with the product designers know how they can “fight” by change 0.1mm rounded. I also know that there are people who design e.g. cars in SketchUp (and there are some who make amazing illustrations in Windows Paint) but I don’t know a car company that uses Sketchup for chassis design. I also don’t know of any manufacturing company that uses this software to design products with complex surfaces. That is why I believe that SU has its niches and fills them in and works great in them. But the fact that someone will model the Challenger in it does not mean that NASA will start looking for new employees on this forum :wink:

Sorry for mistakes but this language is not my native language.