SketchUp, Tim Killen
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SketchUp Guide for Woodworkers: An attempt at advanced modeling

This is part four in a series on Tim Killen’s Google SketchUp Guide for Woodworkers.

My first imported image for SketchUp: the cornice profile for my dining room crown molding project. This step is covered in chapter eleven.

With this post, I am coming closer to wrapping up my working review of Tim Killen’s Google SketchUp Guide for Woodworkers. I had hoped to make this the final entry in this series, but covering six increasingly complex chapters in one blog post is just too much. So I’ll save the final three chapters for later. Honestly, I did not realize this whole thing would be so involved.

As you would expect, the topics and subsequent models have become more advanced with each new chapter. And that is where we are right now – covering advanced modeling techniques; no more beginner stuff. In this post, I cover chapters eleven through thirteen which includes a lot of curves; something I have limited experience with.

I am a fan of square, linear things and models like a Maloof style rocker are about as curvaceous as I would care to get. Making it through these advanced levels of instruction can produce a headache, but all of it is good to know and these lessons certainly help expand my capabilities with SketchUp. There is a mountain of information to cover, so let’s dive right in…

Chapter Eleven: How to Use Photographs and Scanned Images
In my short time as a 3D modeler, I have had one occasion in which I imported a scanned image into SketchUp. The image is shown above and I did this in order to make an exact copy of a cornice profile I am using as crown molding in my dining room. I had problems doing this, so Tim’s step-by-step guide saved me time and trouble doing it a second time for this exercise.

When I first attempted this process a while ago, I had problems orienting the image correctly. It wanted to “lay on the ground” vs. standing up as I needed it to. In this chapter, Tim explains how to do this correctly. And as he points out, most images are not square to the page when scanned, being off at least slightly. That was the case with the image above. In the image (click it to enlarge), I am fixing this by using the rotate tool to make the image line up with a reference line I drew along the red axis. With the image properly oriented, I can then trace over the profile and proceed from there.

An important point in this chapter is using an imported furniture photo and with at least one known dimension, scale the photo to the correct size and begin drawing and uncovering some of the unknown dimensions.

Tim discusses a couple of different ways to accomplish this, something I’ll have to try some day.

Chapter Twelve: Advanced Modeling Techniques
This chapter covers twenty-two pages and is the longest in the book. In chapter twelve, I need to create models of three different projects: a Shaker step stool, a Windsor chair, and a colonial cupboard. The goal is to cover a variety of projects in order to gain some real world practice with SketchUp. In the case of the Windsor chair, being able to develop this model is a real accomplishment.

Shaker step stool. This is pretty basic modeling – the step stool employs tips taught in earlier chapters, but requires careful use of layout lines to properly create the sides…

A nice model to reinforce some things already learned. If you look closely, you will note that the front edges of the sides are slightly angled towards the back.

Getting the angles correct requires careful use of layout lines.

Another interesting aspect of this model is developing the half dovetails on the stretchers.

I had to draw the sides three times before I had all the layout lines correct, but once that was done, the rest of the model went pretty quickly.

Windsor chair. This model tested my skills so much, I never finished it. A Windsor chair has so many complex angles to deal with and a variety of curvaceous shapes to replicate, that I quit before I completed the seat; and the seat is the beginning of the model. 😦

After creating an image of the seat to be imported, I begin the process of tracing its shape.

After locating the holes for legs and spindles, I extrude the thickness. Already I have made two mistakes and I loose interest in this model.

Something as complex as this Windsor chair would really benefit from an accompanying video or two or three. I got lost with just the text and images as a guide. If you want experience making turned components like legs and spindles, this model is for you. For now, I am putting this exercise on the back burner with hopes of coming back to it in the future.

Colonial cupboard. Now this model is more my speed – it is full of straight lines. As with every exercise in Tim’s book, the goal is to learn the process being taught, but as a model illustrator, I also want to make my models as accurate as possible. I had trouble with this mainly because the measured drawing isn’t as user friendly as I would like.

Note the panel door which has a bead adjacent to the panel. Making this door is the main goal of chapter twelve.

An example is the placement of dovetails at the corners of the case. After drawing the pins in the sides, I drew the rabbet joint for the back only to find out the pin at the back interfered with rabbet. So I had to draw the sides a second time as well as the top and bottom, which in reality gave me more experience drawing dovetails but I would rather not have to do it twice.

With the top removed, you can better see the case dovetails.

After some trail and error, my model of the Colonial cupboard reached the point where I had to draw the panel door. Making the door is new ground and it is somewhat complex.

An exploded view of the door which shows the bevel on the panel. The bevel runs along panel’s front edge and the back as well.

A close-up shows the haunched through tenons on the rails and the mitered bead.

This model tested me in a couple of ways: 1) The panel for the door is beveled on both sides which requires some careful layout to execute. 2) The bead which surrounds the inner edge of the rails and stiles has to be mitered which is challenging, but an important process to learn. Tim teaches a neat trick to make the mitered bead.

Missing from this model are the period hinges and the door knob. Tim covers hinges in Chapter Thirteen.

Chapter Thirteen: Advanced Detail Modeling Using the Intersect Command
Have some Tylneol at the ready when you try to wrap your mind around this chapter. The models are super complex – a wide variety of things including: a bonnet for a highboy complete with goose neck molding, a curved chair crest rail, the components and joinery for a glass door, the rear leg of a Maloof style rocker, a Windsor chair sculpted seat, and a small cabinet hinge, among other things.

In the example of the highboy, Tim gives the process to create the top, but does not go into full detail. To be fair, to do so would be at least a whole chapter unto itself, but I was left a little disappointed. I would have liked to gain the expertise on how to make SketchUp trace the graceful shape of the goose neck molding.

The same is true for the other models found in this chapter. I don’t have the need to draw any of these examples right now, but I could see myself making a glass door for a cabinet. This will be a good chapter to save for future projects.

Take Aways from These Chapters
As Google SketchUp Guide for Woodworkers progresses through more complex models, the ebook could use the help from video instruction. In preparation to begin the Windsor chair model in chapter twelve, Tim gives the reader a drawing of the chair profile which is to be imported – so far so good. But then he directs the reader to “use the Line and Arc tools to trace over the shape” which is much harder than it sounds. The Windsor Chair seat has shallow curves as well as tight ones. I was left scratching my head a little; I never felt like I knew the best way to join these curves in a seamless manner. This is where a link to a video tutorial would be good.

Also in chapter thirteen, where the models are most challenging, we are left to mostly read how to develop models like the highboy. Here I would have liked a model to work on. The same is true for the even more complex Windsor chair. The ebook comes with one model, how about a couple more.

So, while I think more should have been done to make this a more complete teaching guide, I still gained insight into how these models go together. The models I did complete taught me new things and provided more practice doing things I learned in earlier chapters.

In the next post, I’ll cover the final three chapters of this ebook which deal with adding photo textures to a model and then creating shop drawings and full size templates. You can get your copy of Tim Killen’s ebook by clicking here.

UPDATE 05.30.13: Tim Killen has started a video series at Fine showing the steps for making a SketchUp model of a Windsor chair. See it here.

This entry was posted in: SketchUp, Tim Killen


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


  1. What an honest, in depth review. Thanks for posting your experiences with this, Jeff. Sounds like you are deep into the bowels of SketchUp at this point. I feel your pain on the Windsor chair model. It's a funny thing, that desire to add every bit of detail to a model. I suspect that actual Windsor chair builders would laugh at the need for so much detail in a model, from what I've read about the sometimes rough construction process. In reality, there probably isn't much need for super-detailed models like this, unless you are creating plans for publication. But I'm guilty too, so keep at it!

  2. Thanks Aaron. BTW I enjoyed your SketchUp videos at the Woodwhisperer. Videos are the way to go when teaching ShetchUp.

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

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