Use These Free Apps to Plan Your Next Woodworking Project

Use These Free Apps to Plan Your Next Woodworking Project
Photo: Gukzilla, Shutterstock

Most carpenters have memorized a certain number of shortcuts for measuring angles, making cut lists, or estimating distances — but thanks to technology, you don’t have to do that anymore. If you want precise and quick results when figuring out archway sizes or ramp angle, there’s an app for that. Here are some of the best.

Try a simple bubble level

One of the simplest apps for levelling is a digital bubble level that uses your phone’s internal sensors to level anything from a washing machine to a shelf. Set your phone down on your project, balancing the device along any of its flat sides, and the app will tell you the angle, rise-over-run slope, or percentage of tilt.

For small DIY projects, this kind of level will serve you well. Keep in mind that many phones have uneven casing to accommodate cameras and buttons, phone cases might interfere with how flat your phone lays, and you are risking the safety of your device by using it as a tool.

Try this one on Google Play.

Let your phone do the maths

Why struggle with the maths when converting inches to centimeters or calculating the necessary volume of concrete anymore? You need the Handyman Calculator app. This is a helpful tool for figuring out how much material you’ll need for a given project or even estimating how much time a project will take. The downside is that with so many different conversion and calculation tools, you might have to dig for a while to find what you’re looking for.

Use augmented reality to measure distances

For simple measuring when you lay out furniture, plan shelving, or visualise a project, the AR Ruler app works well. For precision measurements, you’ll still need a real tape measure, but for visualisation and planning purposes, it will work just fine. The cons of this tool are that it doesn’t work in low light and you can’t save multiple projects in the free version of the app.

Get a lumber estimator

To estimate the amount of lumber you will need for a project, you can try the Calculator For Wood app. If you enter the raw measurements of your project, your lumber calculator can tell you how many board feet you will need. This can save you the hassle of multiple trips to get more wood and can save you some time.

Keep in mind that you will need to know the dimensions of your project before you can calculate the amount of lumber you’ll need, so you need to be working from plans for it to work.

Floor plans can be made on apps, too

To visualise layouts, plan renovations and additions, or to plan a new build, Floorplan Layout lets you draw your own plan, but that is all it does. This can be useful for reference purposes, and especially if you are building custom furniture to fit, adding a closet, or knocking down a wall. If you need to add furniture or other objects, you’ll need a more advanced app.

Get plans and tutorials right to your phone

If you want to get started with woodworking, there are a couple of apps that have free plans you can work from and some free tutorials to take you through some of the basics. The downside to these is that it’s hard to read the full plans on your little phone screen, so you might want to consider using a tablet or even going old-school and printing them out.

Log in to comment on this story!