few months ago, at the Alabama Woodworkers Guild, I was talking with some of the SketchUp users about Sketchucation, a website devoted to SketchUp. I said that this site is where all the serious SketchUp users hang out, but I rarely go there since I don’t geek out on SketchUp. One of them looked at me and said, “So you don’t think you geek out on SketchUp?” Clearly he thought I do. Well, I am here to tell you that I have officially become a SketchUp geek because I recently bought a SketchUp extension called Wudworxs. When you pay money on such things you get automatically enrolled into the geeky world of SketchUp.
Wudworxs is really a company which offers a series of extensions for SketchUp, all of which are woodworking related. An extension is a software product which can be added to, and works within SketchUp to automate complex tasks (extensions are sometimes called “plug-ins”). The extensions from Wudworxs simply automate tasks a woodworker would use while drawing in SketchUp. I bought a three pack of extensions from Wudworxs called “Wudworxs Library Version 1” for $20.00.
My current SketchUp project is another in a series of models based on furniture projects which have influenced my own designs, but are not something I’ll likely ever build (mostly because these pieces of furniture are gigantic and an expensive undertaking). In the past, I modeled an open hutch built by Ron Layport (see it here) and a Pennsylvania Secretary built by Lonnie Bird (see it here). My current project is a breakfront built by the workshop of Douglas Schroeder. It stands 8′ 8″ tall and is 9′ wide. This large breakfront was designed by the famed architectural firm of Robert A.M. Stern to go in a large Stern designed home (20,000 square feet large). The breakfront appeared in Fine Woodworking issue 78, Sept./Oct. 1989. The article titled “Handling Large Commissions” (which is out of print and is surprisingly not available at Finewoodworking.com) tells the story of how Schroeder had to enlarge his shop and hire two additional craftsmen to complete this project. He did not build just one breakfront, rather the commission called for four identical, massive breakfronts and took a solid 18 months to complete.
Over the years, I have borrowed elements from this breakfront and incorporated them into several woodworking projects of my own. A version of the bold cornice profile has been used on my entertainment center and the crown molding in our dining room. The less bold baseboard profile was used with a rare commission from a co-worker which I call the Scott Bookcase.
The Wudworx Extensions
These models are meant to challenge my skills and to meet the challenge, I model virtually every aspect of the furniture design. One daunting task was to make accurate dovetail joinery; the kind you would find on antique furniture. By my count, there are over 200 dovetail pins just for the case work. The drawers also get dovetails front and back, so I looked for a way to automate this process. I had heard of Wudworxs a while back, but never felt I had a project which was so difficult that I would spend money on the extension. But the Schroeder Breakfront certainly qualified. I got three different extensions packaged together for $20 – one for dovetails, one for mortise and tenon joinery and a board maker. See the videos below…
I found these extensions to be excellent and easy to use. By using the dovetail extension, much of the layout is accomplished by simply inputting data such as number of pins, pin angle and length. The extension does all the layout and automates the actual push/pull step as well. Making the mating joinery in the second board is just as easy.
The mortise and tenon extension automates this joinery which I use frequently in my models. As you can see in the video, once you input a little data, making this joint is as easy as clicking on the two boards used in the joint. The extension did not fully work in some odd-shaped boards, but this extension makes creating most M & T joinery a breeze.
The board maker extension automates two steps needed to make a board which is useful. But, making a board in the usual way isn’t hard at all. So, this extension will be nice to have, but it is not nearly as useful as the other two extensions.
The Completed Breakfront
I found the doors to be a major challenge. One of the benefits of making such models is the requirement to think through the correct steps and sequence to make the model. I got to know this breakfront inside and out which is a good thing as I consider future woodworking projects. While I will most likely never build something like this breakfront, in SketchUp I have and I gained more knowledge doing so.
This model is in many ways a faithful reproduction of the original, but not totally. For example, I did not add beading to the drawer fronts, and where the article wasn’t clear, I created some of the joinery the way I would do it in my shop. You can download the SketchUp model from the 3D Warehouse here. There are two mahogany materials used in this model along with a poplar material.
* * * * *
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).