Fine Woodworking, SketchUp
Comments 4

I’m Working On What Could Be the Coolest SketchUp Model Ever

I have begun a new SketchUp model that to date has been soooo difficult that I am encountering some of the head scratching I remember from my early days with this all-powerful 3D modeling program.

For those who have not entered the world of SketchUp, check out this free software product here (ridiculous that it is free, but nobody tell SketchUp).

And when I say the coolest SketchUp model ever, it could be; at least in my mind (see the image above). BUT, before we go there, let’s look at what SketchUp themselves called an “awesome model” which I recently completed…

And here is my recent accomplishment which SketchUp shows so much praise over…

Ron Layport's Open Hutch.

Ron Layport’s Open Hutch.

When I first saw Ron Layport’s hutch on the cover of Fine Woodworking, I was smitten – a striking design and all that beautiful curly maple (curly maple is my favorite wood). Wow. I remember thinking “I’ll never make this” – it is gigantic and the cost of all that maple would make it a non-starter with the wife.

One day, I realized it would be fun to at least build the hutch in SketchUp. Such a model would be a showcase accomplishment for my SketchUp portfolio and would certainly challenge me. During the creation of the open hutch, I perfected the process of importing the various molding profiles directly from the Fine Woodworking article so I could accurately make all the unique moldings Layport dreamed up. I found a good curly maple image to paint the various boards with and all the joinery is there too. You can download the model from the 3D Warehouse by clicking here. I would do this for no other reason than to have the curly maple material for use on your own SketchUp model.

Note the unusual moldings.

Note the unusual moldings.

My New and Coolest Model

With the Layport Open Hutch completed, I next turned my eyes towards another jaw dropping furniture project from the pages of Fine Woodworking; Lonnie Bird’s Pennsylvania Secretary. See this piece from the magazine article below…



Lonnie Bird’s work shown above is amazing. Look at the figured walnut in the upper door panels, drawer fronts and you can barely see some figure moving at a diagonal on the desk lid. Again, walnut, figured walnut and a gigantic project – not something I’ll ever build, but it would be fun to try to model it in SketchUp. PLUS, I have begun leading a SketchUp class at the Alabama Woodworkers Guild. I am not calling myself a SketchUp instructor; just a guide of sorts. As such, I need to be pushing my SketchUp skills in new directions. With Ron Layport’s Open Hutch, I dealt with mostly straight lines and creating unique molding. With Lonnie Bird’s Pennsylvania Secretary, there are a lot of curves…

Curvy bracket feet.

Curvy bracket feet.

Curvy components for the gallery.

Curvy components for the gallery.

Creating these curves, often with a moulded edge has been a real challenge. So much so that I have called on SketchUp guru, Dave Richards, twice for help. Once for the bracket feet and then a second time for what is called the gallery seat board. During my email conversation with Dave, he suggested a blog entry at Fine covering how best to make the serpentine edge of the seat board. Since video is the best way to teach SketchUp, I was all for it. In the video, he uses a new feature found in SketchUp 2017 – see his video here.

So, I am well underway with this SketchUp model. I have a couple of tweaks needed to make on the existing model before moving forward. Even though I successfully created the seat board in a slightly different way than Dave did, I am going to go back and re-create it using Dave’s method.

Lots of joinery.

Lots of joinery.

Also, I have found some walnut burl images I want to add to the model in hopes of better replicating the look of Lonnie Bird’s original. More on that in my next update on this project.

* * * * *

Have a question or comment about this post? Leave me a comment below; but I also like email. Use my contact form to send me an email (click here).

This entry was posted in: Fine Woodworking, SketchUp
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During the week, I sell flooring products for The Dixie Group. Weekends, you'll find me in my basement workshop making furniture.


  1. Jeff you are awesome at this. You should teach. love the grain in that. I poked over the link you gave for the way to get the realistic wood grain but mine never turns out that well. Practice I guess or do you have any tips? Thanks John.

    • I have thought about do just what you recommend, but the time commitment and learning to do that kind of video has been a deal breaker. I’ll give it some more thought. Thanks for your encouragement.

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