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Changes for SketchUp Pro 2019

Shortly after SketchUp announced their updates for SketchUp Pro 2019, I began thinking about the impact to the woodworking community. Then a few emails arrived from readers and I talked to others about the 2019 update. One thing is clear: SketchUp Pro is increasingly useful only to professionals. The weekend woodworker who happens to like creating furniture designs in SketchUp Pro will find the 2019 pricing plan hard to justify over the long run.

Is SketchUp Pro 2019 Viable for Weekend Woodworkers?
First, SketchUp has become a suite of products. Long time users will remember that the free version of SketchUp provided much of what a woodworker needed in a desktop 3D modeling solution. The only other option was the Pro version which added solid tools for SketchUp Pro and included two additional programs; a documentation product called Layout and a way to add illustrative looks to your model via Style Builder.

There is a saying that all good things come to an end, which isn’t always true, but it is with SketchUp. While you can still download SketchUp Make 2017 (the last of the free desktop versions of SketchUp), Trimble has been moving SketchUp to more of a web-based and subscription based product. There is SketchUp Free (web-based and free), SketchUp Shop (web-based with an annual subscription of $119) and SketchUp Pro 2019 (desktop/laptop with an annual subscription of $299). And there is now a Pro version called SketchUp Studio which is a whopping $1199 per year. See the options for personal use here and the Pro options here.

So let’s stop here for a moment. SketchUp woodworkers who like to use the CutList extension or any extension at all will have a hard time with these changes. I don’t use many extensions (extensions are software add ons which help automate complex tasks), but I use the CutList extension often. Extensions are only available with the Pro versions.

The cut list for my Modern Kitchen Cupboard created via CutList.

Woodworkers who like to add more realistic wood materials will find the current offering of SketchUp products disappointing because this ability is only available with the Pro versions. And I do this a lot and have written about such things at the SketchUp blog.

Fortunately, as an instructor at the Alabama Woodworkers Guild, I have a non-profit version of SketchUp Pro 2018 which is very reasonable. But, otherwise, I think the weekend woodworker will find an annual subscription of $299 per year a deal breaker (unless you are blessed with some extra money). Just think long-term – about $900 over a three-year period is a lot to ask weekend woodworker to pay.

So we have the free version and SketchUp Shop. I could see using the free version to supplement a 2D drawing on graph paper. For example, draw scale front and side elevations of a potential furniture project and then work out the details with SketchUp Free. This is doable, but for me, SketchUp Free is too limiting.

For SketchUp Shop, you get some pretty good features, but if I am going to pay for a semi-pro version of SketchUp, I’d like to have a software product which is more comprehensive for woodworking. A built-in cut list generator which creates not only a printable cut list, but also a printable material cutting diagram is a must have and a GLARING OMISSION in SketchUp Shop. There is a web page at the SketchUp site which shows a pretty weak attempt at making a cut list, and no mention of a material cutting diagram. See below…

Concerning realistic materials, I could get by with the built-in, basic materials found in SketchUp Free and Shop. One thing I am playing around with is actually hand coloring my SketchUp images. But, Trimble could at least include a couple more decent wood materials.

The New Feature
SketchUp Pro 2019 adds a much-needed line option which enables dashed lines. I have created these in the past through a tedious series of steps, so this upgrade is a nice addition. See the video below…

Beyond that, there are stability improvements and integration with other Trimble products/services (read more here). SketchUp staffers will tell you these structural upgrades are very significant, but for me, I’m not having speed or stability problems. So, no big deal really.

I have no problem with SketchUp’s pricing plan for their Pro versions. But SketchUp Shop, the best current option for woodworkers is incomplete. I highly recommend woodworkers download the free and older SketchUp Make 2017 while you still can (link above). Sadly, this means that I view none of the current versions as being ideal for woodworkers.

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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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Bandsaw Renovation Part 2, Shop Made Fence

In part one, I added new tires to my bandsaw and fixed a problem which prevented tensioning the blade against the wheels. In this post I’ll build a new bandsaw fence.

Logic would dictate that a tune-up would be the next step in the renovation of my Jet JWBS-14DX bandsaw, but at this point I’d rather build something. So I am going straight to building a proper fence for it. To my knowledge, this saw was offered in three versions: the standard JWBS-14, the deluxe model JWBS-14DX which I own and then the previously unknown to me pro version, the JWBS-14DXPRO. I remember the deluxe model having heavier wheels among a few other upgrades. The professional version seems to add a fence only. All the cool bandsaws I see at Woodcraft have a fence meaning that non-fence models are nice, but a nice tall fence just completes the saw.

For my bandsaw fence, I could have purchased the Jet JRF-14R ($88.99 via eBay; it seems to be a discontinued item from Jet) designed as an accessory for this saw, or simply drive over to Woodcraft and buy a Kreg KMS7200 ($108.00), also a bolt on option. But I have blown through all my money for new tools which means a much less expensive shop made fence is the only doable option.

I remember seeing an article in Fine Woodworking titled “Make Your Own Bandsaw Fence“. I found the article online and downloaded it. This fence seems pretty straightforward to build using plywood, some star knobs and angle iron. It is a hefty looking accessory and in the article, author Patrick Sullivan implies the fence is inexpensive to make.

Jeff Does Metalworking

I am not a metal worker – at all. Fortunately this fence requires just basic metalworking skills. The fence rides on 1-1/2 x 1-1/2 x 1/8″ angle iron; a part the plan calls the front rail. I sourced a metal-cutting drill bit for the mounting holes and a new metal-cutting blade for my rarely used reciprocating saw. Mounting the front rail was pretty simple, but I left the rail long opting to cut it to length after the fence was finished and I could confirm the left to right travel requirements.

Front rail and wood spacer bolted in place.

Next, time to begin building the fence itself. A key component is the hardwood runner which is an odd-shaped thing and includes a UHMW plastic insert. So this project includes metal working and cutting dense plastic.

The hardwood runner completed.

I had to add two threaded inserts which I need more experience doing since the threads caused a distortion in the cherry I used; tearing occurred as the threads began to bite into the wood. Then I added a plywood part called the sliding table base.

All the fence parts (excluding the angle iron).

The hardwood runner and sliding table base assembled.

With the base completed, time to move to the fence face and supporting parts. I should mention that all the wood for this project came from cut-offs and leftover material from earlier projects. I chose cherry for the hardwood runner not because I wanted a contrasting wood, it simply was the size I needed. Same for the ribs or backing supports for the fence face. Those are made of mahogany because the plan calls for one inch thick material. That they look good paired with birch plywood is just a bonus.

Fence face with ribs, fence base and hinge block (foreground).

The Completed Fence

Somehow I view this project as being more difficult than say a typical furniture build. Making an accessory for a power tool can be some fussy business. I kept having to check the fit, make adjustments, check again, etc. Maybe part of this feeling comes from the special materials used or the fact that this fence was designed to work with a Delta bandsaw and mine is a Jet. I did have to make one minor adjustment to the hardwood runner to account for the thicker Jet band saw table. No matter, the fence is finished; it works and I like it.

Everything assembled; star knobs added.

Fence on the front rail.

Note the front rail trimmed.

Looking good.

By the way, the metal-cutting blade in my reciprocating saw made quick work of cutting the front rail to size. I don’t remember using this saw to cut metal other than nails; I normally use a hacksaw for metal work. But cutting the angle iron was like cutting butter.

I’ll have one more post in this series covering my attempt to remove the shake from my bandsaw. I have already viewed a few videos on the subject and have some adjustment I want to try. That will be next.

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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).

Bandsaw Renovation, Part 1

If my bandsaw were a human being, I’d owe him an apology. My bandsaw is a tool which I have frowned on for many years. I have a drill press which I call Elvis because it shakes, rattles and rolls like no other tool I own. While my bandsaw isn’t as offensive as Elvis, it still shakes and has been a disappointing purchase. For some, the bandsaw is the center of their power tool universe; the most versatile power tool in their workshop. My table saw gets this honor while my bandsaw receives the ultimate put down. It stands in a remote area of my workshop and collects dust, or rather the sawdust from the other tools I regularly use.

But, whenever I contemplate using this tool, there is always this thought: I need to work on it; give it a tune-up. But my bandsaw is a tool which doesn’t make sense to me. I once saw a blog post where the woodworker viewed his bandsaw in much the same way and a tune up yielded miraculous results. It is time to get my bandsaw working better.

The Breaking Point

It took a potentially dangerous situation to get me to this point. I was using my bandsaw (a Jet JWBS-14DX) a couple of weekends ago to cut a pattern in some oak boards for my father when little black things began falling onto the board. I immediately identified this as a problem in the making. A few more pieces of black stuff appeared and I turned off the saw. After opening the bandsaw upper door, I saw the blade riding on the front of the wheel and the tire coming off the back of the wheel making it rub against the inner pieces of the saw. I repositioned the blade and turned the saw back on. Almost immediately the bolt for the upper wheel came off and started bouncing inside the saw causing my woodworking session with my father to end.

After thinking on this sorry situation for a while, I determined this problem didn’t just happen that day. It had to have been developing for a while and since I rarely use my bandsaw, it is likely that this tracking/tire problem has been brewing for a considerable length of time. It also occurred to me that I should periodically check my tools and ensure they don’t need a tune-up (avoiding a potential safety issue). So, while I have always been disappointed with my bandsaw, even a little attention on my part would be helpful.

The Fix

The first thing I had to do was replace the tires on both wheels. Time for a trip to Woodcraft which is less than a 10 minute drive from my home. I picked up new tires and a new blade.

Woodcraft supplies.

The my Jet JWBS-14DX. “DX” means this is their deluxe version.

New blue tire in place.

Getting the new tires in place was an ordeal. These stretch over the wheel and even following the instructions to warm these tires via hot water, getting the tires on the wheels took all the strength I could muster. For the bottom wheel, four times I thought I had the tire in place only to have it slip off (resulting in a few choice words). But, I finally got both tires on. Later, I found this video and wished I had seen it prior to putting the new tires on. It’s a pretty good video.

Up next: Installing the new blade which should be a piece of cake, except it wasn’t. I could not get the tension mechanism to work. For those of you who don’t know, the blade slips onto both wheels and there is a lever on the saw which moves the upper wheel upward causing the blade to tighten against both wheels.

I first thought that I had inadvertently loosened the tension on the upper wheel too much. But, no matter how much I adjusted the tension, it would not tighten the wheels to the blade. After some research, I discovered this bandsaw has a potential design flaw in the blade tension assembly causing it to bend or crack over time. Dinner time was approaching, so this issue would have to be resolved another day.

Major Surgery

The next weekend, I devoted much of my Saturday towards repairing the tension problem. During the week, I watched this video several times…

First I had to determine if the part in question was actually broken in some way. I needed to inspect it which meant I’d have to disassemble the upper part of my bandsaw following the video above.

The disassembled bandsaw.

Parts everywhere. Using my table saw and router table as a work surface.

I was not sure if the old blade tension assembly was actually damaged since I could see no crack or nothing bent, but I also did not know what else to do, so I ordered a replacement part and within a week I had it installed.

The e-replacement blade tension assembly.

But, after installation, the tension problem remained. And, I could find no report of a similar problem on the internet. I tried every adjustment I could think of. There were times when I literally stared at my bandsaw hoping the problem would become obvious. I asked the staff at Woodcraft and at the monthly Alabama Woodworkers Guild meeting. Nobody could explain this issue. It was almost like the blade was too big. There was at least a 1/2″ gap between the top of the upper wheel and the bandsaw blade. I concluded that the old tires were much thicker than the new ones, but I find it hard to believe that difference translated to the lack of tension I was seeing.

The fix. Note the red arrow.

In the end, I put the original tension assembly back on my bandsaw and lowered the collar which the tension mechanism contacts which in effect raises the wheel upward. I kept lowering this collar until I got the proper tension. But, I still can’t explain why I had to do this.

This repair has been going on for the last three weekends. I am happy about me being able to fix it vs. having to pay someone else to repair it; an option I was considering since Jet has a repair center in my area. And I am happy about being able to return the part saving $150.00.

But, the bandsaw renovation is only half-finished. In part two, I’ll explore some ideas to remove the shake I am experiencing as well as build a fence for it following an article in Fine Woodworking magazine hopefully turning this frowned upon machine into a shop favorite.

Finally working again.

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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).