Dave Richards, SketchUp, Tim Killen, Window Seat Bookcase
Comments 17

Creating a Complex Crest Rail in SketchUp

The crest rail in this model was tricky to create.

The crest rail in this model was tricky to create.

When I published a post about the second design for my daughter’s new bookcase, I got an interesting comment from Dennis. Among other things, Dennis suggested I add a subtle curve to the top of the crest rail to soften the look of the bookcase. I liked this idea and started the process of adding another curve to my SketchUp model.

But making this modification to my model was a lot more difficult than I had planned. While I know the process needed to remove three curved planes from a square SketchUp component, after repeated attempts, I had a crest rail with multiple errors. Since I want to know how to correctly accomplish this process, I called on Dave Richards, a SketchUp master who writes at Fine Woodworking.com and has published an exceptional instructional DVD on SketchUp. I emailed Dave my model and naturally, he had a different and simplified way to create the crest rail. Below is what Dave taught me along with some steps of mine to break the crest rail into three separate components. Click the images to enlarge.

The bookcase with the old crest rail removed.

The bookcase with the old crest rail removed.

Next I create the beginning of the new crest rail: one long, rectangle .

Next I create the beginning of the new crest rail: one long rectangle .

Next, I use layout lines to create the upper and lower arcs.

Next, I use layout lines to create the upper and lower arcs.

Note above, the arcs highlighted in blue. I went ahead and added the mahogany wood texture. The crest rail is not yet a component.

Using the push/pull tool, I remove the area outside the arcs.

Using the push/pull tool, I remove the area outside the arcs.

I make the crest rail a component at this point.

Grabbing the front curve of the legs.

Grabbing the front curve of the legs.

Note the curved blue line in the image above. I copy this curved line and use it in the step below.

I hide the leg and crest rail, paste in place the curve, offset the curve 1 inch and using push/pull, extrude the shape shown.

I hide the leg and crest rail, paste in place the curve, offset the curve 1 inch and using push/pull, extrude the shape shown.

I erase the unwanted geometry leaving a "cutter".

I erase the unwanted geometry leaving a “cutter”.

With the "cutter" in the same location, I unhide the crest rail, hide the rest of the model and prepare to cut away the unwanted part of the rail.

With the “cutter” in the same location, I unhide the crest rail, hide the rest of the model and prepare to cut away the unwanted part of the rail.

There is a lot going on here. I explode the crest rail – it is no longer a component. This enables me to combine the shapes of the crest rail along with the new curved plane which is used to cut the crest rail into two parts; executed using the intersect command. Then, the unwanted geometry is deleted creating a curved vertical face on the rail.

The crest rail in its final shape, but it is still one long rail, not three individual pieces.

The crest rail in its final shape, but it is still one long rail, not three individual pieces.

Next, I need to intersect the legs with the completed crest rail so I can get three individual parts. To do this, I click once on the crest rail and from the Edit menu, I click Intersect Faces and then click With Model. This imprints the leg locations on the crest rail. I then hide the legs which gives me a better view.

With the legs hidden, you can see their imprint on the rail.

With the legs hidden, you can see their imprint on the rail.

In the image above I am beginning the process of deleting everything I don’t want. I want the left side crest rail and the middle.

Here you see the left and middle crest rails converted into components.

Here you see the left and middle crest rails converted into components.

The completed crest rail; three separate components.

The completed crest rail; three separate components.

I made a copy of the left side crest rail, flipped it and positioned it on the right side.

If that was not enough of a brain workout, I next had to do a similar, but not as complex process of trimming the legs to match the curve of the crest rail. After that was completed, I have a finished design to show my daughter.

The updated window seat bookcase design.

The updated window seat bookcase design.

Note the flat crest rail in the before illustration and the subtle curve in the after. I think this new design provides a more polished look. What do you think? Not only did this new design test my SketchUp skills, I think the design will further test me when it comes time to build the bookcase.

By the way – there is a video at Design. Click. Build. by Tim Killen showing the process he took on a chair rail (see it here). His design is a little different leading to a different way to achieve the desired look. There are some very good tips here concerning intersecting different shapes to achieve one component. At some point in the future, I am going to add the ability to do video tutorials like Tim does, but at present, I don’t think my mind can tolerate learning more software. 🙂

RELATED: My SketchUp Tips page
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17 Comments

    • Since this was so difficult to design, you have to like the new design. 🙂 Just kidding. I am making a full size mock-up of this design and I have not ruled out the before design. I think the mock-up will help make the final decision. Thanks for the comment.

  1. Dave says

    Nice work, Jeff. Since I have to like the curved rail, I will. 😀 Actually I do like the curved one better.

    I’m happy to know that I was able to help you out. One thing I would change about the process you outlined is to forego exploding the rail component. Instead, I would use Edit>Cut to cut the cutter to the clipboard. Then open the rail component for editing and use Edit>Paste in place to paste the cutter into the same context as the geometry of the rail. There are a number of benefits to doing it that way instead of exploding the component. Actually I rarely find any need to explode components after they are made.

    • Dave – thanks for stopping by and for your help with this. I am pretty sure I did it the way you mentioned at least once, but I did this whole process a number of times before asking for your help. Thanks again.

  2. dennis says

    Thanks for the kind comment about my suggestion Jeff. Naturally I like it in the newer design. In fact I think you have nailed it.

    • Dennis, I like the new design too. I am looking forward to making myself deal with more curves in my projects, so this change is a welcome one.

  3. Hello,

    Can I republish this exclusive tutorial in sketchup-ur-space.com, an e-magazine for worldwide sketchup users?

    Thanking you,

    Rajib Dey
    Editor-in-Chief

  4. Pbart says

    I definitely like the new design much better. The arc of the crest flows much better with the mods. While I lost you close to ‘…use layout lines to create the upper and lower arcs’ the tutorial was very enlightening. It’ll help me to progress in SketchUp use. The details and step structure were very clear. Thank you for the effort.

    • Pbart, one of these days I’ll adopt video for such tutorials. They are the best way to teach, I think. Thanks for the comment and good luck with SketchUp.

  5. RunnerPack says

    You did a great job both using the built-in tools and explaining your process, but Fredo’s Curviloft plugin would have made this much easier. Just sayin’ 😉

    • RunnerPack – thanks for the tip on Fredo’s Curviloft plugin. I know there are probably several plugins I need to use, but I have not had the time to investigate them. I’ll look into this one. 🙂

  6. I found this through an email update from Sketch-Up, and am frankly in awe of the level of skill and artistry on display both technically and in the real wooden world. I need to stay in more!

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