SketchUp, Tim Killen
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SketchUp Guide for Woodworkers: A detailed model

The assignment for chapter nine: make a model of a nice side table.

In this series on Tim Killen’s ebook, Google SketchUp Guide for Woodworkers, I am going through each chapter in an effort to discover tips to greater happiness with this complex and really amazing program (amazing because it is free). I have been working with SketchUp for about two years and so far Tim’s book has taught me many things about the program that I simply did not learn from Google’s tutorial videos or through other means.

In previous posts I have covered the basic steps of getting started (chapters one through five, click here) as well as building a model (chapters six and seven, click here). In this post I’ll cover chapters eight through ten, and hopefully wrap it up in my next post.

Chapter Eight: How to Design and Construct Joints
While there are many different methods of joinery available to the woodworker, Tim Killen focuses on just two: the mortise and tenon joint and the dovetail joint. Tim does not directly say this, but it is implied that learning the steps for drawing these joints will give you the knowledge necessary to form a variety of other joints.

For me, the best tip from this chapter is how you can copy and move just part of a component. For example, form a tenon on one end of an apron, select the tenon, copy it and place it on the other end of the apron. Draw one tenon and use it twice – pretty cool. See below…

After creating layout lines with the tape measure tool, I extrude one of two tenons needed for the apron (click the image to enlarge).

Here, using the select tool, I highlight the end of the tenon (note the blue lines).

Next, choose the move tool; hold down the control key (which makes a copy) and move a copy of the tenon to the right of the apron.

Using the Flip Along command, I rotate the tenon and move it to the opposite end of the apron.

My method would have me drawing layout lines on the opposite end of the apron as well and then use the Push/Pull tool to create the tenon. Tim’s method is faster.

The same can be done when making dovetails. After very careful layout, you can copy the first tail of a dovetail joint and simply move the copy down to the next location. Repeat this for all the tails in the dovetail joint. I don’t want to sound like a dovetail joint is easy to make in SketchUp; it isn’t because of the layout lines needed and attention to detail, but it is not terribly difficult either.

Chapter Nine: How to Begin and Develop a Piece of Furniture
In this chapter Tim takes us through the process of making what he calls a “Chamfered Post Table” which is basically a small side table. This model is a reproduction of an 18th century piece found in the pages of Furniture Treasury by Wallace Nutting. Since the design is historic in nature, the model is full of joinery from the period. Tim includes in this assignment many mortise and tenon joints as well as dovetails at every corner of the drawer. While this is a small table, it is big on joinery making this model challenging to execute.

Want to test your SketchUp skills? Try creating a model of this modest table.

This illustration shows the chamfered edges found on each leg. Tim had a unique way of drawing the chamfer in place and then rotating a copy of the chamfer for each subsequent edge. Because all the legs are copies, each leg is updated as a chamfer is created. This process took a few attempts before I fully understood how to do it.

The top features breadboard ends which have a more complex tenon design. This also means extra work creating the matching mortise; then adding the pegs brings further challenges.

I have always wanted to be a master at the dovetail joint; maybe someday I’ll master it with real wood. The process is taught in chapter eight, and then comes into play in a big way with this model. Note also the beveled edge drawer bottom and the drawer knob – both part of the assignment.

There are 63 steps needed to complete this model which took me about six hours spread over several evenings. I took it upon myself to add the photo realistic textures which were not part of the assignment – I guess showing off a little bit. I’d like to get faster at this model, so I plan to make some more of these.

At the conclusion of chapter nine, Tim lists accomplishments gained from completing this model: pinned mortise and tenon joints, dovetails, chamfers, bevels, breadboard details, drawer design and construction. This was a good exercise; I did many things with this assignment which I have never done before.

Chapter Ten: More Tools and Functions
At the outset of chapter ten, Tim Killen lists additional tools within SketchUp. For me, many of these tools are already familiar, but I could certainly stand more instruction. Immediately “Mastering the Follow Me Tool” got my attention since this tool has been the source of some yelling and screaming on my part.

I used the Follow Me Tool extensively while drawing a concept for an architectural bookcase. It dawned on me then to do it the way Tim suggests. I later learned how to turn the various segments along a run of molding into individual components. Tim walks us through the steps for creating molding for a handsome Williamsburg Tea Table. Understanding the Follow Me Tool is invaluable for anyone who includes moldings in their models.

Tim moves on to various other tools like the Intersect, Scale and Rotate Tools. Of these, I find the Scale Tool to be the most difficult to use. This tool can be used in a number of ways and for me at least, the Scale Tool takes the most concentration to fully understand.

Continuing education
As with the rest of Tim Killen’s e-book on SketchUp, I learned a great deal as I progressed through these three chapters. The exercises have challenged me in a number of ways giving me a deeper understanding of this program.

As I look through the upcoming chapters, the degree of difficulty continues to increase. Tim discusses using scanned images to create models and begins teaching advanced techniques using a Windsor chair as a teaching tool. Just the thought of drawing a Windsor chair gives me a headache. More to come…

Google SketchUp Guide for Woodworkers by Tim Killen is available for download in e-book format at Fine Woodworking by clicking here. They had been running it on sale, but the sale has ended and it is back to full price: $12.99. Even at full price it is well worth the money.


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This entry was posted in: SketchUp, Tim Killen


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


  1. Pingback: Google SketchUp Guide for Woodworkers – The Basics: A Review | Jeff Branch Woodworks

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