Dave Richards, Fine Woodworking, SketchUp
Comments 4

Google SketchUp Guide for Woodworkers – The Basics: A Review

Header Graphic

In my recent post on Tim Killen’s SketchUp ebook (see the post here), I mentioned my desire for video instruction. About the same time, Fine Woodworking launched a new video by Dave Richards titled Google SketchUp Guide for Woodworkers – the Basics. Right away, I knew I would have to get a copy of Dave’s new video for a review.

Never mind me having to buy it; the nice folks at Fine Woodworking.com provided a free copy. Since I love free stuff and especially free stuff about SketchUp, I immediately started watching it and jotting down some notes.

I first ran across Dave Richards, along with Tim Killen at their excellent blog at Fine Woodworking.com called “Design. Click. Build.” They often give instruction on various SketchUp stumbling blocks readers inquire about and I have learned many things there.

Specifically, Dave is an authorized SketchUp instructor, so you can expect some classroom style teaching in his video.

Making My Way Through the Instruction
Google SketchUp Guide for Woodworkers – the Basics is really a series of six videos or episodes which progressively takes the viewer through the process of building a SketchUp model and then creating the shop drawings required for actual construction. If you were to sit down and watch all the episodes from start to finish, it would take you about an hour.

The subject material for this video is a simple wall mounted cabinet. The question I had for myself was: “As an intermediate level user of SketchUp, should I even consider spending time with this video? Are my skills more advanced than what this video teaches?” Upon launching the software which guides the video, I read this:

Whatever your skill level, this concise introduction to SketchUp gets you up to speed fast. Learn how to set up the program, use drawing tools, navigate in a 3-D space, sketch, refine drawings, and create shop-ready plans. Already know a little? This easy-to-skim video lets you focus on what’s new to you. Includes: sample project, tips, shortcuts, cheat sheet, and digital plan.

So, how does the video measure up?

First, a note about the video itself: the video quality is first rate. Forgetting that I was looking at Dave’s video, I found myself trying to click some of the SketchUp tools and buttons on the screen. The audio quality leaves a little to be desired. The volume is not consistent, meaning there are moments which are louder than others, but it is never a problem.

The contents page: note the episodes on the right side of the image.

The video is broken up into different episodes which make finding a particular topic easier. For example, I was drawn to the episode titled “Print Your Own Plans.”

Digging In
The first episode gives a brief, but more than adequate introduction to what are really the basics: how to get oriented in a 3D environment which includes moving around the screen using the basic tools along with important tips detailing how these tools are integrated with the mouse. It is interesting to see which tool sets Dave recommends and I learned a little tip about adjusting the background color. I have always entered the RGB color code for white. Dave just uses the sliders to accomplish this.

The approach with this video is interesting, because the first goal is to utilize SketchUp as a design tool. The initial model; a small cabinet, is created as simply something to look at; just like you would do when showing a design to a client. No joinery is part of this model (that comes later), and really, it is a good exercise for the beginner. A number of different tools are used while designing the cabinet and Dave provides a number of short cuts.

The fourth episode titled “Add Components and Joinery” is where the serious modeling begins. While the wall cabinet appears to be a modest project, it contains several different types of joinery which makes for a good teaching project.

I have seen dovetail competitions where one woodworker races another in an attempt to cut the fastest dovetail joint. If Dave were to participate in a competition on the fasted way to draw a door rail, I think he would win hands down. His technique is super simple and fast – see it below.

Different Strokes for Different Folks
One of the interesting things about this video is that I can see yet another SketchUp pro in action. In Tim Killen’s, Google SketchUp Guide for Woodworkers the process is laid out for making the rail for a cabinet door. I describe Tim’s method for making the rail here.

In Dave Richard’s video, he does this same thing in a totally different way. Take a look…

Dave starts by directing the viewer to form the basic shape of the rail. Then, we are asked to select the edges on the left side, indicated in blue.

Selecting the move tool and holding down the control key, we then move a copy of these edges to the right 1/4 inch. This process is repeated one more time. This forms the boundry for both the slot for the panel as well as the faces for the tenons.

Using the push/pull tool, Dave instructs the viewer how to complete the rail.

I am not saying that Dave’s method is better than Tim’s, rather it is interesting how two experts go about a similar task in different ways.

The rest of the cabinet joinery goes just as fast and includes slightly complex sliding dovetails for the shelves. Tips are frequently given with the goal of avoiding measuring as much as possible. To achieve this, Dave often uses adjacent components to determine appropriate sizes.

The cabinet is completed by adding a door knob and hinges for the cabinet door (models of these components are included with the video). Properly locating a knob can be a fussy endeavor, so I was glad I could follow along and see how Dave did this. The same is true for the hinge.

The Final Episode
While I have created a number of exploded images, I have not created any shop drawings. I also have very limited experience with layers and scenes. The last episode covers these features and processes in detail, and Dave goes over various ways to print images.

Good instruction for me – creating exploded views using layers and scenes.

Something to consider for my next eBook – shop drawings of a project which Dave covers in detail.

I have watched this episode twice already and finally decided I would open the included wall cabinet model and follow along as Dave creates some different layers and scenes. This is all good stuff and I can easily see myself coming back to this episode as I tackle future projects and their shop drawings.

Finally, Dave discusses how to create a cut list and a cutting diagram using a special plug-in. Nothing is left out of the process of turning your model into useful information for construction.

I have already mentioned that the video comes with a SketchUp model of the wall cabinet, along with the needed models for the knob and hinge. Tauton goes the extra mile and also includes a separate model of the wall cabinet with scenes along with a pdf file with a complete plan for making the cabinet.

And if all of this isn’t enough, the download also includes a cheat sheet/quick guide as well as a thirteen page transcript of the video.

In the case of the cheat sheet, it is not as comprehensive as the Quick Reference Card that comes with SketchUp, but I have never really used that guide because I find it too complex. The more simple approach of Dave’s cheat sheet makes it more user friendly (and specific to woodworking).

There is a lot I could say about this video. Things like how it is perfect for the beginning 3D modeler – well laid out with logical progression from design all the way to shop plans. I could write about how Dave provides a wealth of knowledge in the form of tips and short cuts that makes modeling faster and more fun – things that take a lot of the complexity out of SketchUp. I could say how at $12.95 the video is a gigantic value, especially with all the extras it comes with.

But for me, the big thing is this: does it answer the question I posed at the outset of this blog post? Is it useful for someone who has advanced beyond the beginner level. That answer is a resounding yes.

If you choose to get this video, I think you will be well pleased with your purchase and you will be on your way to more enjoyment with SketchUp.


  1. That was a very comprehensive review! You know how badly I want to learn this program and it seems like the video is a big plus for this!

    SketchUp does seem to be gaining some ground among the 3D drawing programs. And to think the program is free is amazing!

  2. David, I know what you mean. SketchUp was a source of great frustration for me early on, and I would be equally frustrated today if I were to tackle some of the complex models I have seen others complete.

    But, the DVD really makes it easy. You might want to give it a try.

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