How do I freehand layout a board without a schematic?

I am a total newbie and am trying to layout a pc board cabinet and need a lot of help! I see nothing in the tutorials about doing freehand layouts. I need 2 opposing sides that are notched in the center to accept tabs the thickness of the pc board material. The front and back have tabs that fit into the tabs for the sides and then are soldered to form the box. The back panel has some connector holes. The sides are both the same size. The front and back are the same size but slightly longer than the side pieces. Do I use the polygon tool? If so, how do I add the tab or notch?

How do I even start doing something like that. Everything except KiCad requires a schematic and of course there is no schematic associated with a pc board box.

Thank you.

I would design your box with notches and everything in any 3d or 2d cad that can export dxf. Then import side profiles as edge cuts into pcbnew, add zones and soldermask cutouts to taste.

Or if you don’t need to many notches you can just hand draw the outline directly in pcbnew (use poly line tool, not polygon).

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Empty schematic is also schematic.

In general, if someone wants to see a workflow without schematic supported better, give a thumb up in

I only need one notch or one tab, depending on whether it is a side or a front/end piece. The one back piece needs some cutouts but all the others are just copper clad pc board material with no holes.

Yes, if I understand correctly, @Southerner won’t have any circuitry on the PC boards. He is simply using the raw PCB material to construct an enclosure. This is a mechanical design task, so a mechanical design tool is probably a more efficient choice than the KiCAD toolset. I have used LibreCAD. Even for superficially “simple” board outlines, features such as “snap to”, ease of defining a corner radius, and offsetting one object relative to another are quite helpful.

Speaking of the corner radius . . . . when you do your enclosure design, remember that PC board outlines are routed with a circular cutter. That means internal corners will always have a radius (or fillet); they will never be truly square. I think most board fabricators can do interior corner radii as tight as 50 mils (1.25 mm), and some probably tighter than that. If something must butt against an internal square corner on your enclosure, you’ll have to define an over-cut corner to receive the mating piece.

Most quick-turn board fabricators charge “by the design”. If side panels (for example) are mirror-images of each other, they are two different designs and you’ll pay for two fabrication jobs. Consequently it may be advantageous to use symmetry, or even include “extra” features to make the panels interchangeable.

Using PC board material to construct enclosures offers some notable aesthetic opportunities. You can play with the copper itself, the silkscreen, and soldermask to create labels, eye-catching logos or even operating instructions . Somewhere on this Forum there is a thread featuring PC Board Art that may give you some inspiration. (Does anybody have a link to that thread?)


There was this thread about cases made from FR4.

This link from the thread might be quite useful to the OP.

I was thinking of the thread, " Looking for Nice Silkscreen Art Examples ". The examples shown there are all PC boards used as actual PC boards (i.e., circuitry is built on them) but there’s no reason that sort of thing couldn’t be done on a front panel, or enclosure wall.

(The links in that thread lead to even more classy examples.)


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