I have not done woodworking much before and a friend invited me to build something... I have it all planned out in my head but I don't know what software is available etc for making a good template that my friend can follow...

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    Any answer would be slightly biased towards one program or another. I had asked a meta question in preperation for this event: meta.woodworking.stackexchange.com/questions/72/… – Matt Sep 19 '15 at 22:23
  • thank you for the reply, I need to clarify that I don't really mean the "best" (which would produce biased answers) so much as something that is "good" or at least common... A standard, something that lots of people use... – Leonardo Sep 19 '15 at 22:28
  • We also have a meta about the use of the word best so I understand. That is not the focus of my comment. There are plenty of CAD programs available. Depends on your budget, needs, capabilty, computing power etc. – Matt Sep 19 '15 at 22:34
  • Thanks, I will keep that in mind when I use SE in the future... (I am new to these sites). As to the woodworking my budget is $0 needs fairly basic and capability with computing and computing power is high... I have sketch up but was reluctant to use it this time... I was more interested in the paint drawing idea in your meta.... simple diagram with dimensions... – Leonardo Sep 19 '15 at 22:40
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    Well that was just mspaint. Sketchup is worth learning. Lots of tutorial videos out there. A little effort makes all the difference. – Matt Sep 20 '15 at 0:07

I'd say that CAD is not necessarily your best option. Don't get me wrong. CAD is a great thing and learning any CAD software will be a very handy thing to have up your sleeve. I highly recommend learning any CAD software (no matter how limited or advanced)

However, there are a few problems:

I have not done woodworking much before

Think of CAD software as a helper to create (mostly) any 3D geometry. Unless you have some very advanced CAD software, it will not tell you if that geometry makes any sense.

You can spend hours creating something, which might be hard or impossible to manufacture.

making a good template that my friend can follow...

What's possible and what not can be hard to tell. It depends on what material (wood) is available and what tools are available to shape or modify it. Maybe your design is valid, but your friend lacks the right router bit to do it. Chances are that he cannot follow it.

my small wood phone dock project

Starting with a small project is a great idea! It can be easy to bite off more than one can chew, but with a small project it's easy to finish it. And for a small project, you have to ask yourself if CAD isn't overkill.

Here are my suggestions:

  1. Design the project with your friend together. Don't sit alone in the basement for 3 months designing something in some CAD program that cannot be manufactured. The important thing is to understand what's possible with wood and what isn't. This way you can understand the important details of your design that make it either hard or easy to make. This depends on what tools and wood are available to your friend, which is why I recommend doing it together with him.
  2. Doing the design with your friend allows him to understand you. An ongoing communication is a lot easier to understand than just throwing a technical drawing at somebody "I want this done Tuesday!". Make simple sketches (on paper or any drawing program) to document what you both agree on.
  3. (optional) if you want to get into CAD, create a 3D part from the sketches. This is easier for you now, because you know the end result. You are not learning the CAD program and figuring out the design at the same time.
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Most woodworkers who do CAD-like renderings these days are using SketchUp; the free version is pretty decent and lots of online tutorials exist. This is an observation, not a recommendation.

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    And there are Sketchup tutorials by and for woodworkers on Youtube. – RedGrittyBrick Sep 20 '15 at 8:44

Although this approach does not necessarily involve software, it can be helpful: prototype your designs by making full-size or scale models using cardboard or XPS foam (the pink or blue 4'x8' sheets of insulation foam sold at home improvement centers). Foam is easy to work with, cheaper than lumber, and you can even prototype complex joinery.

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I'm going to go with Sketch up. One it's free and two if you use it a lot and need more options there is an awesome paid version for anything you would need to do. Also there is a site woodgrears from a guy Mathias Wendel who designed something called Big Print program which is just what your looking for. Able to print stuff to scale them glue it to your piece and cut and drill. Check it out he is an awesome woodworker and had a You Tube channel.

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