SketchUp, Tim Killen
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SketchUp Guide for Woodworkers: Taming Some Frustrations

This is part two in a series on Tim Killen’s SketchUp ebook.
In this post: an overview of chapters six and seven.

Chapter six of Google SketchUp Guide for Woodworkers by Tim Killen – an important chapter for modeling peace of mind.

I am a church going man. But I have to admit one thing – while using SketchUp, I have let some cussing rocket from my mouth. This software has so taxed my brain, that it has caused me to loose my religion on more than one occasion.

When I first began using SketchUp, one of the frustrations (which continues today) was moving an object to an exact point. Because objects move in three dimensions, placing a component exactly where I want it can be an optical illusion. I could move something into place only to realize it just looked that way.

When I recently continued my way through Tim Killen’s Google SketchUp Guide for Woodworkers (SUGW for short) and came to chapter six, I had to smile a little. It is titled, “How to Make, Move, Copy, Edit and Connect Components” Naturally, the word “move” caught my eye.

Surprisingly, not a lot of time is spent on moving objects. Tim covers the basics and explains how SketchUp will try to determine where the user wants a part to go – a feature that is very handy. SketchUp likes to move objects along an axis. But what if you need to move an object between axes? See my example below…

Here, I need to move the top of my bookcase down and back in order to position it properly. This is something I have not yet mastered.

Moving objects between axes still has me scratching my head. Maybe that is just it – I shouldn’t move an object that way; what I should do is first move it along one axis and then another. Something to think about.

But more importantly this chapter is about components – how to create them and work with them. The single biggest lesson I learned on my road to being a happy SketchUp user was how to properly make a component. Once I learned this one lesson, things got easier. This makes chapter six an important one for the SketchUp user. Tim Killen writes:

Components are essential for success in SketchUp. Without them, all you have are a bunch of lines and faces that interact and interfere with one another.

Amen brother, and I’d put the words “interact and interfere” in a bold font.

In addition to learning ways to work with components, a handy tip I gained was a short cut for copying a component using the move tool, and then position it. Its tips like this that helps both the beginner as well as the more experienced user. I can now create models faster and more efficiently after reading this chapter.

Understanding how a pro does it
Just like with woodworking, it is often helpful to simply take time to see how other people go about building a project. With every video I view on FWW.com, I honestly find myself thinking, “I never thought to do it that way.”

The same is true with SUGW. Through trial and error, I have developed my own method for attacking a model. It has been interesting to see how someone else does this and in chapter seven, titled “Create Your First SketchUp Model”, Tim guides the reader through the steps to make a basic model which also includes a few more advanced steps. See the illustration below…

My model of the magazine rack which is the homework assignment from chapter seven.

As I start drawing the magazine rack, I begin to consider if the method I would have followed is unnecessarily complex (which it is). Let me explain…

How I would have done it: draw the sides separately, form the dado for the bottom and a tongue at the top. I would then draw the shelf off to the side and move it into place; then repeat for the top. I create my models just like I would make them in real life.

Tim draws one side, positions a copy of the side and then turns the second side around. He then draws the shelf and top in place. In subsequent steps, he forms the joinery.

My method has me drawing two independent sides, something I always knew was not the best way to do it, but I simply have never paid attention to “Flip Along”; the option which enables a user to flip a copy of the first side so it is oriented correctly. This is a ginormous time saver because changes I make to the left side are automatically made to the right side – in the correct orientation. This is one of those things I had seen Tim Killen do on Design. Click. Build. but I had not been able to figure out the steps.

The main reason I draw items adjacent to the model and then move them into place is past problems when creating components. When drawing a part in place and then making it a component, sometimes I would also include a part which was out of view. This was especially frustrating when this discovery happened later in building the model making the fix difficult. Tim’s method has the user making the component in place, a practice I will re-visit and see how it goes. It is much easier to draw the top, for example, by simply following the outline of the sides vs. taking measurements and drawing the top off to the side.

A couple of additional high points from chapter seven: first, Tim had a neat trick to easily make the arches in the bracket feet. I won’t reveal his process, but his deep knowledge of how to use SketchUp simplifies the steps needed vs. what I would have done. Secondly, Because I draw so many case pieces, applying a rabbet inset to rear edges to accommodate the back is something I do a lot. Here again, Tim does this a different way which is pretty simple.

But most importantly chapter six explains the basic steps of creating components and then how to position them. Chapter seven then employs these steps in building a model. I have looked online for SketchUp classes in my area without success. Tim’s book is the next best thing to formal training.

Are you struggling with SketchUp?
Everybody struggles with SketchUp right? My advise: get Tim’s Google SketchUp Guide for Woodworkers. Simply put, it is money well spent, and as of this writing, Taunton has further discounted it now to 30% off. You would spend more money on a large pizza – so go ahead and visit Fine Woodworking.com and download your copy (click here). Learn SketchUp from a pro and save yourself a few cuss words.

This entry was posted in: SketchUp, Tim Killen

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During the week, I sell carpet and rugs for The Dixie Group. Weekends, you'll find me in my basement workshop making furniture.

2 Comments

  1. The inability on my part to move parts to where I needed them has become the reason I have ended up sticking to pen and paper drawings.

  2. David – believe me, I know what you mean about moving objects.

    I saw SketchUp as a very important illustration tool and knew I had to master it (not that I am a master SketchUp user).

    You bring up an interesting point, and one that has been in the woodworking magazines recently. That is, what is the role today of pen and paper in design? Some believe that it should be all pen and paper and I am sure the computer wizards out there feel the opposite.

    I personally like to start all of my project designs by at least getting the basic proportions down on paper. For me, it is simply easier and visually helpful to start out that way. Then I launch SketchUp to do the rest.

    Thanks for the comment.

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