It has become standard practice for me to make a SketchUp model of the projects I build. Sometimes I design a project using SketchUp as the only design tool – no hand drawings of the project whatsoever. Even when I am following a woodworking plan, I’ll create a SketchUp model.
This may seem redundant since woodworking plans should have all the necessary illustrations and instruction to complete the project. But, creating a SketchUp model helps me better understand the project especially since I am creating the various parts and assembling the project prior to building it. That strikes me as being pretty cool.
But, the inadvertent benefit is that I can catch mistakes or problems in a woodworking plan prior to cutting anything. Plus, as a creator of woodworking plans, I know from experience that mistakes happen. Plans can have errors and some plans can have way too many errors.
Imagine you live away from a big city and buying lumber means you have to drive a considerable distance just to get to the lumber yard. You have downloaded a woodworking plan and have your cutlist in hand as you make your lumber selection. You begin building your project only to find out that an error in the plan has caused you to cut a board wrong.
No big deal, right? You can simply grab another board and fabricate a correct part. But sometimes it is a big deal. Sometimes a choice board happens to be the one where the mistake occurs. Sometimes you want the grain to flow from one component to the next. Mess up the flow and you will likely have to pick a new board for both components. Some lumber can have unique color properties which means when one part is ruined, you have to find a replacement which has the same color; and maybe the board that contains the error was the last one that looked just right. Remember you live a long way from the lumber yard. The inconvenience of having to drive back to the lumber yard can lead to very real woodworking anger. Don’t get woodworking anger; get SketchUp.
Case in point is the model I am currently creating. It is the workbench shown above and I am in the process of drawing the cabinet which slides into the opening below the top. When following the cut list provided, more than one component is wrong – I am talking multiple errors within a single woodworking plan. Ouch!
The Good News
Because I am creating a SketchUp model, I know of these issues prior to buying any lumber and especially important, prior to cutting any lumber. I created a SketchUp model of the miter saw stand I recently completed. There were no mistakes in that plan, but there were some unknown dimensions which I was able to work through by first building the stand in SketchUp.
For this reason, I will strive to make a SketchUp model of everything I build (I even made a SketchUp model for the relatively simple sawhorses I built). While building something, I figure I make enough mistakes on my own. I sure don’t need to make a mistake based on an error in the plan I am following.
Another point to make: the workbench model shown above is being created for Sawtooth Ideas. The purpose of this post isn’t to blow their horn – I do that many times elsewhere on this blog. But it is important to know that the mistakes in this plan are being identified so corrections can be made prior to the plan going live on their site.