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Three SketchUp Projects – What I Learned

Sometimes I hear compliments like “your SketchUp skills are crazy good” or something else equally kind. I know SketchUp pretty well, but I think the things I do with SketchUp tend to be the same kind of work; the same thing over and over. So when an opportunity to do a different kind of SketchUp project comes along I give it full consideration and on occasion, I’ll do free SketchUp work, especially if it has the potential to test my skills in a new way. I recently completed three SketchUp projects and this is what I learned from them…

The AWG Workstation

I lead a SketchUp workshop at the Alabama Woodworkers Guild. I am careful not to call this a class because that would then make me the teacher and while I have learned a lot about SketchUp, I don’t feel I have the broad knowledge to be called a teacher or instructor. But, I am getting there. Recently the Guild asked me to create a SketchUp model for a new workstation. It is a combination downdraft sanding station, router table and miter saw stand.

The very long workstation.

The SketchUp model I created wasn’t really difficult, but I had one error which I could not understand and I used a unique method to find it.

When creating the cutlist for this workstation, a component was showing up which wasn’t the correct dimension, but I could not find it in the SketchUp model. Not only does the Cutlist extension do just that; make a cutlist, it also can point out errors. Components inadvertently drawn to an imprecise size will sometimes be shown as “~73 5/64”. Note the “~” at the beginning of the dimension. This literally means about 73 5/64 and tells you that your component needs some attention. There can be components which need to be named in a more consistent manner, and in this example, components which were not shaped correctly.

Red arrow points to the Outliner pane.

There is a seldom used feature in SketchUp called the “Outliner” (seldom used for me at least). If this tool isn’t visible in the default tray, you can add it by going to “Window > Default Tray > Outliner”. This tool shows a list of the components in your model and by clicking a component from the list, the component is highlighted in your model (note the highlighted component in the image above and it’s location in the SketchUp model). The Outliner helped me find this mystery component and fix the model.

The completed Alabama Woodworkers Guild Work Station

My involvement in this project was to create the SketchUp model based on a design by member Patrick Bush and then create basic images and a cutlist showing how much material would be needed. See the completed document by clicking here.

The Curio Cabinet

I received an email through my contact me page where a reader asked me to make a woodworking plan of a curio cabinet. While, The Jackson Dresser woodworking plan started off from an email request, making plans for a specific reader is not something I do; it’s a long process and I had just created this one and needed a little break. But, I did agree to make a SketchUp model for the reader and organized scenes showing how I would go about building it.

Joel Bright curio cabinet.

As I began drawing this model, I was having a hard time matching the broad curve of the legs. The radius of the curve changes along its length. I decided to use yet another seldom used SketchUp feature called Match Photo (found via the Camera drop down menu and clicking “Match New Photo”). This tool enabled me to import the curio cabinet photo and then align each axis to the photo. I could then trace over the photo with the line tool and bezier curve extension and accurately duplicate a leg as well as overall proportions of the cabinet.

Curio Cabinet Photo Match underway.

I was able to get a very close representation of the scalloped legs and then continue to build the SketchUp model.

My version of the curio cabinet.

Note the detail which includes screws and glass shelves.

Also, I seldom use layers and scenes. Many people use these features, but I just don’t take my SketchUp projects further than the completed model. Because I wanted to provide more information with this curio cabinet, I used both layers and scenes to show how I would build such a piece of furniture. Download this SketchUp model via the 3D Warehouse here. See these two videos showing how Match Photo works: here and here.

Arts and Crafts Side Table

This is a project I started as a potential woodworking plan: an Arts and Crafts side table. A goal of mine is to develop a series of wood materials which look more hand drawn and colored vs. something derived from a photo. For this model I took my standard quarter-sawn white oak and manipulated the color in Photoshop using two standard filters and then warming up the color a little bit. I did not like the first try at a new material, but the second attempt was interesting…

Arts and Crafts side table 3/4 view.

The result is a material which to me looks more dull than shiny which is a challenge when using photos of wood – dull being a good thing. The filters have also caused a little more distorted look to the wood grain which I like.

A view showing drawer construction.

Note the poppy style cut outs in the slats.

The takeaway from this exercise? Well, I like the resulting quarter-sawn oak material, but I want to continue to develop a more hand drawn look. And, I am considering actually trying to hand-draw and color some of these materials. But, I am really liking the pine material seen in the drawer sides as is (see the larger view at the top of this post).

Note the sketchy lines I applied to the outer edges of the model. I achieved this look by laying an image with a standard edge treatment on top of one with a fine pen treatment and blended the two in Photoshop.

Also, I encourage those of you who want to improve your SketchUp skills to simply try new and different models and seek help when you have trouble.

* * * * *

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).

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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. As always, your Sketchup drawings are beautiful. I follow your blog because I like the projects you choose to work on, and especially because I often learn something about Sketchup.

    I use Sketchup to understand the projects I’m going to work on. I usually “draw” in the sequence I would “build”, thus rehearsing the project. But I also try to apply Materials in order to get a feel for how MY project would look.

    You put more effort into your drawings, often using Sketchup as an artistic medium. I don’t have that patience, but I greatly appreciate yours, as well as the tips & tricks you share with us.

    Please DO continue.

    • Thanks Jim. I do like the visual challenge available through SketchUp and your idea of building a SketchUp model like you would do with the real thing is very good.

  2. Thanks, Jeff, especially on the refreshment about match-photo! Great work. I am happy I found your site.
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  3. Ian Clayton says

    I am amazed you consider the “Outliner” seldon used. It is one of the best features of sketchup and should be used all the time

    • Yep, I hardly ever use it. I can only recall using it twice. But, since you use it so much, I’ll give it more consideration. Thanks for the comment.

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