Some time ago I wrote a multipart blog titled Drawing A Bedside Table. It was intended to teach beginners how to draw furniture in SketchUp. At the time SkectchUp 6 was the version available. These tutorials still exist and you can find them on my Google SketchUp page under the heading Beginner’s SketchUp Tutorial.

Recently Google SketchUp 8 was introduced and I pondered updating these tutorials. As I thought about it, a better idea came to mind; I decided perhaps I should redo them, but as a video series instead. What I intend to do is provide a video for each part, using the current version 8. The differences are small and shouldn’t be a problem. This way the reader can choose the medium he/she best learns in. Or even use both as supporting material. One day I will update the written versions. So here is the result, Beginner’s SketchUp Tutorial Video Version–Part 1.

Before jumping into the video there are some comments I hope will make learning SketchUp easier. SketchUp is a powerful tool, its learning curve is quick and it can be fun. It can also be frustrating for beginners. To help avoid this frustration, or at least to minimize it, I have developed a few rules that I encourage you to memorize. Or at least memorize the concepts embedded in them. If you commit these concepts to memory you will avoid that desire to give up, that many beginners reach. As you watch the video you should notice that I practice these rules myself.

Rules for 3D Modeling in SketchUp

1. Save your work frequently

Under the Window menu choose Preferences. Select the General panel and under “Saving” make sure both “Create backup” and “Auto-save” check boxes are checked. Set “Every” to 5 minutes. In addition, get into the habit of saving your file frequently using the File/Save (or File/Save As if it is the first save). You must save your file once before “Create backup” takes effect, so do it immediately upon beginning a model. 3D modeling is a lot of work and loosing multiple hours of work can make you blood curdling angry. Follow this basic rule to avoid hypertension.

2. Layer0 should always be active when modeling

During the modeling phase, described in Rule 6, make sure that Layer0 is always active. Access the Layers dialog box with menu Window/Layers and make sure the radio button to the left of Layer0 is selected. This should remain true through the entire modeling phase. This ensures that all primitives reside on Layer0. More importantly, that the primitives of a given group or component are not on different layers which would make using Layers to view and hide individual parts nearly impossible.

3. Draw one part at a time

NEVER allow a part in its primitive state touch another part in its primitive state. The word primitive, or primitives, means points, lines, faces, rectangles, circles, polygons and arcs including construction lines and points. In short, a primitive is any drawn object except a solid, group or component. Primitives are the most fundamental of drawing objects from which all other geometry is drawn.
A part is in its primitive state unless it is made into a group or component.
It  is very important to understand that when two primitives touch, even when they are on different layers, they STICK together.

4. As soon as a part takes 3D shape make it a component

Components save time and frustration. In addition, they dramatically reduce the file size of your model. Groups are similar to components but components have several advantages, most importantly reducing file size and efficiency in editing. Avoid groups if possible. A part doesn’t have to be completed before making it a component; in fact it should be made a component as soon as it takes on a 3D shape. Further modeling of the part, or edits to it, can be made later using the protected “Component Edit” or “Group Edit” tools.

5. As soon as a component is created move it to the layer where it will reside

The best way to move a component to a different layer is by using the Entity Info box. If the desired layer does not exist, use the Layers box to create it and then move the desired component onto the layer. Both the Layers and Entity Info box can be found on the Window menu, including other helpful boxes.

6. Draw a complete model before creating scenes, texturing or dimensioning

Draw a complete model first, including joinery. Be sure all parts are components. All components must have a unique and descriptive Definition Name. All components should have a unique instance (part) Name.
This I call the modeling phase. Only when the 3D model is complete should you move on to creating scenes, texturing or dimensioning.

Rules 3 and 4 are important because in SketchUp primitives are “sticky”. That is, if they touch one another they stick together, more accurately they share points, edges and faces. Therefore, if table legs and a table top are drawn in their correct position relative to each other, and are in their primitive state, they would be touching. Separating them onto different layers or making them individual components or groups becomes at best frustrating and at worst near impossible. In fact if you tried to move a leg the top would move; worse it would become totally distorted.

SketchUp’s sticky nature is one of its most difficult aspects to deal with, unless you follow these rules. Once mastered, drawing parts and converting them to components will become second nature. You will also discover that this sticky nature of SketchUp’s primitives was not perpetrated on the unsuspecting beginners by its developers to inflict hypertension and a nervous breakdown. Rather there is an overriding useful purpose that will be evident as you continue learning.


After you have completed Part 1, and certainly no later than Part 2. See and . They may save you a lot of aggravation.

Preparing to View the Video

A completed SketchUp model of the Bedside Table can be downloaded from my website Select the Free Plans menu button, scroll down to Tables and locate Bedside Table from the list. It is available both in native SketchUp file format (.skp) and as a PDF file (.pdf). Before you view the video take time to familiarize yourself with its design and dimensions. For this first part we are especially interested in the tapered legs. You may want to print out the leg dimension scene(s) for reference.

Downloading the Video to Your Computer

Sometimes the performance of your internet connection, the load on it at a particular time of day, and the length of these video tutorials can all conspire to provide you a frustrating and impossible viewing experience. If this happens it may be preferable to download the entire video unto your system and view it on your local video player. The video file is an mp4. It can be viewed with most video players including QuickTime and Media Player. If you have a default, or user specified, file association for .mp4 you may have to delete it or use a download manager to download this file. Otherwise the associated application will be invoked and file streaming will prevail over downloading. There are numerous free download managers on the internet. Be careful, and do some research to locate one that is not loaded with spyware or viruses.

To download this video click here or paste

into your download manager.

Viewing in Your Browser

You may find it easier to view the video in full screen mode. Start the video before selecting this mode. To enter full screen mode click the little screen icon at the bottom of the video player. When in full screen view hold your cursor near the bottom of the screen to access the video player’s controls. Exit full screen mode with the Esc key. This part is approximately 40 minutes long. Sit back, relax and enjoy the show!


See you in Beginner’s SketchUp Tutorial, The Video Version–Part 2.

Leave a Reply

64 Responses to “Beginner’s SketchUp Tutorial, The Video Version–Part 1”

  1. Dennis Dinsmore says:

    I am a recently retired software developer (wrote my first code in 1964!) and a self-described intermediate woodworker. I have been using Sketchup since it first came out yet I learned a lot from going through your tutorial. Not only was it very instructive, it was also visually well put together and had a very professional look to it. I congradulate you on a job well done.

    Your next challange: produce a video on turing the bedside table drawing into an actual piece of furniture.

  2. Joe says:

    Hi Dennis,

    Glad to here you have gotten something from my videos even though you are an experienced user of SketchUp. But I must admit, my videos are not professionally done. I sit at my desk with a cup of coffee and a microphone and sketch away. Some days I talk with a lot of Uhhhs and Ummmms and my dog barks in the background. So I do edit those out. But mostly I just give you what I say, mistakes and all.

    I don’t think I am film quality, but I do have an apprentice starting this week. Maybe I will shoot some video of him while he learns to build fine furniture.


  3. John Meeley says:

    Thank you Joseph. Your willingness to share your knowledge is only exceeded by your ability to teach. I tried in vain to learn SketchUp8 on my own for enough time to frustrate myself. I was provided the link to your blog, and in one short lesson I knew what I had been doing wrong all along.
    I have watched all eight segments in your beginners tutorial, and now I am in the process of re-watching and building along with you. I get it now! It works, it’s clear and your a pleasure to work ‘beside’.
    I will be sure to follow your lead and “model” myself to be as helpful to others as you have been to me.

  4. Joe says:

    Hi John,

    Thanks very much for the kind words. I am pleased that my tutorials have been effective for you and that you found my teaching style compatible. When I started the tutorials they were as much for my learning of SketchUp as sharing my knowledge of SketchUp. Now I enjoy meeting and helping fellow woodworkers like yourself. If ever you need help with a SketchUp issue don’t hesitate to write me at

    Thanks again,

  5. E Maxwell says:

    Very nice video. I’ve been all over the web trying to learn Sketchup for woodworking. Your Part 1 video has taught me alot. Thank you so much for taking the time to make your videos.

  6. Joe says:

    Hi E,

    You are welcome. Glad you found part 1 useful and hope you find the rest equally helpful. Let me know if I can help with you SketchUp studies.


  7. Frank Pratt says:

    A few months ago I went through the beginner’s tutorials & really enjoyed them. I got sidetracked by life for a while & now am reviewing them & then will move on the the others. Your manner & method of presenting the content is excellent (if only you had been a teacher at my high school) and I am enjoying every minute of the videos. Thank you very much for the efforts you have put into these tutorials.

  8. Joe says:

    Hi Frank,

    Thank you very much for the kind words. I am very pleased that you find the tutorials helpful and fun to view. Let me know if you need any assistance or help of any kind. I can always be reached at


  9. Wally Luikey says:

    Hi Joe,
    I am starting your tutorial series over again. Too many interuptions in my life I guess.

    Your details are excellent.

    Building stuff in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

  10. Joe says:

    Thanks Wally. I hope you find the time to get through them this time. I am always available to help if you need it. Write me at if you have any problems. And send me a copy of the .skp file with the problem and I will help you figure out what you might be doing wrong.


  11. André says:

    Hello Joe,

    Just completed your Beginner’s tutorial. Although I have some experience, it is mostly based on some very limited tutorials that just tell what the tools are for. One of the great things about your tutorial is your 6 rules list. I worked many many hours on a gaming environment (not for production, just for the fun of doing something with Sketchup), and let me tell you, although I haven’t much trouble using the tools themselves, I didn’t have your 6 rules, and WOW did I lose time, waste time, redo lost work etc. etc. I am extremely happy to gain the discipline of your 6 rules.

    Also, as a note, your little warning program (the one that warns you when you activate a layer other than 0), is great to have. The number of time I accidentally activated a different layer when all I wanted to do was make a layer visible (I tend to click on the left to activate something and the layer visibility is on the right) would have made following the tutorial very distressing. Thank you for that little “pain reliever software”.


  12. Joe says:

    Hi André,

    I very much appreciate the feedback. Thank you.

    The six rules are rules I discovered the hard way. When I finally figured out a drawing methodology that kept me out of trouble I though the woodworker SketchUp community at large would find them useful; and the Ruby tool too.

    A friend of mine wrote a companion tool for those times when you are already in trouble and the warning tool won’t help. See

    Happy New Year!


  13. Thomas says:

    you are my hero!

    thank you very much for taking your valuable time to create these tutorials. I have been roaming around all over the internet and by far your step by step videos are wonderful. I look forward to watching all of them.


  14. Joe says:

    Hi Thomas,

    Glad you have discovered my tutorials and find they work for you. Being called a hero makes me want to design a tight fitting body outfit with a cape and a large C on the chest for Chiefwoodworker. But when I visualize it I realize it wouldn’t be a pretty picture;<) Joe...