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SketchUp: A Guide for Woodworkers

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I have teamed up with Popular Woodworking University (PWU) to provide a comprehensive course on modeling furniture in SketchUp. The course is called SketchUp Comprehensive and you can register by clicking on the PWU logo above. If you have not heard of SketchUp you might want to read this PDF file titled So What Is SketchUp.

In this course, I will teach you how to download, install, setup and use SketchUp. You’ll learn to customize the SketchUp drawing toolbar, edit preferences and tailor the SketchUp environment to your liking. You will learn how to set up shortcut keys that let you switch tools quickly, and I’ll introduce you to some handy plugins that I have developed. You’ll get 12 video lessons, sample models, exercises and projects that will build your knowledge. All videos can be downloaded to your system so you will always have them to reference.

This course requires only that you know how to use a computer. There is no prerequisite for SketchUp itself. The course will take you from beginner to modeling complex furniture component shapes. Come join us.

Here is the course outline:

 

SketchUp Comprehensive

 

From Download to Project Models

 

Part 1 – Introduction to SketchUp

 

Part 1 is a one segment part. It comprises an introductory document that answers the question “So What Is SketchUp?” and a one hour video that will cover downloading, setting up, personalizing the work area, familiarization with important tools and dialog boxes and modify or adding short cut keys. It will also introduce the student to Ruby scripts by installing one authored by me and which is necessary for this course.

Segment 1 – Installing & Setting Up SketchUp

 

bedside_table1. So What Is SketchUp.pdf – Read this document before viewing Installing and Setting Up SketchUp.mp4.

2. Installing and Setting Up SketchUp.mp4 – To be viewed after reading So What Is SketchUp.pdf.

3. Segment 1 – Student Exercise.pdf – Questions to be answered and exercises to be completed at the end of viewing Installing and Setting Up SketchUp.mp4.

Part 2 – The Bedside Table

 

In Part 2 that student will begin with a blank sheet and draw an entire woodworking project titled The Bedside Table. At the completion or Part 2 the student will have drawn a complete set of shop drawings and a photorealistic image of the crafted piece. By focusing on one project, the student will learn the sequence and all the steps necessary to produce any project from scratch.

dough_boxSegment 2 – Drawing Tapered Legs

 

In Segment 2 the student will learn to draw tapered legs. Many of the basic and commonly used SketchUp tools will be introduced in this segment. Segment 2 is a foundation segment. I will introduce my six rules for modeling in SketchUp.

Segment 3 – Adding Aprons, Joinery, Rails and Top

 

In Segment 3 the instructor introduces a very basic tenet of modeling with SketchUp: Letting the model define subsequent parts and joinery. Drawing the aprons tenons and mortises will demonstrate and bring home this very important concept. The student is introduced to circular curves. In addition, he/she learns to think ahead to easy ways of modeling that save time and effort, particularly when doing so while using the tenant introduced in Segment 3.

Segment 4 – Drawing the Drawer Sliders and Drawer Box

 

shaker_stoolIn Segment 4 the student learns to use the Protractor, Move/Copy Multiple, Circle and Intersect Faces tools to draw dovetailed drawer sides, front, back and tapered bottom. These are the primary elements of the traditional drawer. We will complete the drawer in Segment 5.

Segment 5 – Adding Cock Beading and Turned Drawer Pull

 

Segment 5 is follow-on to Segment 4. In it we complete the traditional drawer by adding cock bead trim and a turned drawer pull.

 

Segment 6 – Dimensioning and Texturing

 

The ultimate goal of Part 2 is to create shop drawings sufficient to not only build the Bedside Table, but use as a “marketing” tool to sell prospective clients. In Segment 7 we add dimensioning and scenes. Digital images of wood grain will be used to textures each part allowing for a photorealistic imaging.

 

Part 3 –non-Rectilinear Pieces and Complex Curves

 

arched_hoodPart 2 focused on one furniture piece and showed the student how it is modeled from blank sheet to finished shop drawings and photorealistic images. In Part 3 we will look at individual furniture pieces that require “difficult” or “complex” modeling skills. The student will learn that these are neither difficult nor complex once the techniques are explained.

Segment 7 – Splayed Pieces: The Dough Box

 

Orthogonal or rectilinear parts are easy to model, but what about splayed legs? How do you determine the compound angles? How do you draw the joinery for chair legs? These questions will be answered in Segment 7 using the example of a Dough Box.

Segment 8 – Splayed Pieces: The Shaker Stool

 

Segment 8 builds on Segment 7 to show the student how to apply splayed techniques to turned pieces with the example of a Shaker Stool.

Segment 9 – Modeling a Clock Hood with 3 Dimensional Circular Curves

 

bracket_feetThe curved rail in the Bedside Table is quite simple. The curve is only one dimensional, i.e. it is a curve in only one plane. But how do you model a piece that curves in two or three dimensions? This happens a lot in clock pieces, especially grandfather clocks. The student will be exposed to the tricks to managing these parts in Segment 9.

Segment 10 – Table Top Edges with Non-Circular Curves

 

Segment 10 is the student’s first introduction to non-circular curves, i.e. curves that cannot be drawn with a simple circle or circle segment. There are a lot of tools that can help the SketchUp modeler with these curves. They are often modeled with Bezier or Spline drawing tools not unlike drawing curves with a pencil and French curve. The student will begin his/her foray into complex curves in this segment.

Segment 11 – Bracket Feet with Bezier Curves

 

cabriole_legsIn Segment 11 another important technique used in modeling parts with curves in more than one dimension is introduced. The technique is surprisingly simple; break the part into two or more parts, model simple curves and then take the intersections of these parts. This technique is used a lot in modeling bracket feet as we will do in this segment.

Segment 12 – Cabriole Legs with Bezier Curves

 

Segment 12 is the last and crowning segment in this tutorial. Not surprisingly, in this segment we learn to use some of our latent artistic talents to model the Cabriole leg. The Cabriole leg is modeled by joining three parts into one. The first two are joined much as the student did in Segment 11 to create a new part. This new part is then joined with a third part, the legs pad or slipper foot. This last step requires the students sense of artistry to “stich” the parts together.


Today I released two new versions of Ruby script tools; CutList Bridge 2.8 and Layers Management Tool 2.2. For download, installation and User’s Guide see SketchUp 2014–Tools Updated For SketchUp 2014 Compatibility.


On February 28th Trimble released the new versions of SketchUp: SketchUp Make 2014 (the free version) and SketchUp Pro 2014. There is not too much change visible from the outside, but a significant performance improvement under the hood. A good deal of that performance comes by upgrading the Ruby API from Ruby Version 1.8.7 to Ruby Version 2.0.0. This is a welcomed change, especially for people who write Ruby Plugin scripts such as me. However, that change caused many Ruby Plugin scripts to be incompatible with SketchUp 2014.

I spent the last few days coding changes to my tools to make them 2014 compatible. Today I am releasing new versions which work in SketchUp versions 7, 8, 2013 and 2014. I am releasing all of them as .rbz files which make loading them into SketchUp versions 2013 and 2014 a snap by following the instructions below. For SketchUp 7 and 8 users you can change the file extension from .rbz to .zip, open the .zip file with WinZip, 7-Zip or some other appropriate decompression software. Then extract the files and folders to the Plugins folder. You will need to restart SketchUp.

Locating Your Plugins Folder:

You will need to know the location of your Plugins folder to verify you installed CutList Bridge correctly and to import a materials.csv file from CutList Plus fx. SketchUp version 2014, both Make and Pro, has changed the location of the Plugins folder, so you should follow this procedure to be sure you know where it is. You can locate the Plugins folder using the Ruby Console. To open the Ruby Console go to the Window menu and click on Ruby Console. The Ruby Console will appear. In the white area at the bottom copy and paste or type the following line exactly as shown in the picture below left followed by Enter:

Sketchup.find_support_file(‘Plugins/’)

The location of the Plugins folder appears on the second line.Ruby statement to locate the Plugins folder.The location of the Plugins folder appears on the second line. You will see the results shown at right. If you get an error message re-type the quotation marks in the Ruby Console in the previous step. Note that I had to drag the right side of the window to enlarge it so the folder location would appear all on one line. Copy and paste the folder location and save it for future reference. You might also want to create a shortcut on your desktop pointing to the Plugins folder.

To install a SketchUp Ruby plugin script with the .rbz format:

  1. We recommend logging into your computer as an admin before installing any Ruby scripts. This will make the installation go more smoothly and ensure that files get installed in the proper places.
  2. Select Window > Preferences (Microsoft Windows) or SketchUp > Preferences (Mac OS X). The Preferences dialog box is displayed.
  3. Click on Extensions. The Extensions panel is displayed.
  4. Click on the Install Extension button. The Open dialog box is displayed.
  5. Locate the Ruby zip file to install (.rbz).
  6. Click on the Open button. The Ruby plugin appears in the list of extensions.
  7. You may see a message asking if you trust the author of this Ruby script. If you do click the Yes button. (Hint: I am trustable.)
  8. You may get a message announcing successful installation. Click OK.

Very Important – Please Report All Problems To: jpz@srww.com

Layers Management Tool:

  1. Download the Layers Management Version 2.2.pdf file to a location you will remember e.g. your desktop. This file is a short User’s Guide.
  2. Download the layers_2.2.rbz file to a location you will remember e.g. your desktop. Follow the installation instructions above.

Construction Plus Tools:

  1. Download the construction_plus.rbz file to a location you will remember e.g. your desktop. Follow the installation instructions above.

CutList Bridge:

  1. Download the CutList Bridge User’s Guide.pdf file to a location you will remember e.g. your desktop. This file is a User’s Guide.
  2. Download the cutlist_bridge_revision_2.8.rbz file to a location you will remember e.g. your desktop. Follow the installation instructions above.

Basic SketchUp 2014 for Woodworkers

In my Chiefwoodworker’s Newsletter 3-9-2013 Addendum issue I announced that American Woodworker and Chiefwoodworker have teamed to bring in-depth and quality SketchUp training to a greater audience of woodworkers. Since March 12, 2013 Chiefwoodworker’s Beginner’s SketchUp Tutorials and Intermediate SketchUp Tutorials have been available exclusively through AmericanWoodworkerTV. Those tutorials were restricted to viewing on-line only and many of you have written to request a downloadable or DVD version.

Intermediate SketchUp 2014 for WoodworkersA confluence of events created “The Perfect Storm” which brings us to a new stage in the life of these tutorials.

Event one occurred on January 17, 2014; F+W Media announced it had purchased New Track Media. What that meant for woodworkers is that American Woodworker joined Popular Woodworking under the F+W Media umbrella. Both magazines will continue under their own publishing name but they are managed by the same team.

Intermediate SketchUp 2014 for WoodworkersEvent two occurred February 5th when I was contacted by F+W Media and asked if I would be interested in developing a DVD set of the Beginner’s and Intermediate SketchUp Tutorials. I of course said yes.

Finally, event three occurred a few weeks into that effort on February 28th when Trimble announced SketchUp Make 2014 and SketchUp Pro 2014. We quickly scrambled to redo all the videos to be compatible with SketchUp version 2014.

These two American Woodworker video tutorials, updated for SketchUp 2014 and called Basic and Intermediate SketchUp 2014 for Woodworkers, are now available at Popular Woodworking’s Shop Woodworking store, both in DVD format and download and in bundled sets. You access them directly from the following links:

Basic SketchUp 2014 for Woodworkers DVD

Basic SketchUp 2014 for Woodworkers Download

Intermediate SketchUp 2014 for Woodworkers DVD

Intermediate SketchUp 2014 for Woodworkers Download

 

SketchUp 2014 for Woodworkers Video Download Bundle

Stay tuned for future planned SketchUp activities at American Woodworker and Popular Woodworking coming soon.


SketchUp Make and Pro 2014 brought with it many improvements including the upgrade from Ruby 1.8.7 to Ruby 2.0 for its Ruby API and Plugins. Like most improvements, there are some casualties and collateral damage. I had hoped that CutList 2.6 release fixed all the SketchUp 2014 and Ruby 2.0 compatibility problems, but users have found a few more. So today I am releasing CutList Bridge 2.7.

Very Important – Please Report All Problems To: jpz@srww.com

CutList Bridge:

  1. Download the CutList Bridge User’s Guide.pdf file to a location you will remember e.g. your desktop. This file is a User’s Guide. Read the “Locating Your Plugins Folder” section and the “Installation” section very carefully.
  2. Download the cutlist_bridge_revision_2.7.rbz file to a location you will remember e.g. your desktop. Follow the installation instructions above.

Chief's American Woodworker BlogIt’s been a while since I have posted here. Not because I am no longer posting, but because I am posting once a week on my American Woodworker blog too. Between my website, my American Woodworker blog, writing SketchUp scripts (I have three I am working on at the moment) and working in my own woodshop I have had time for little else. My newsletter has suffered too, but I hope to get one out shortly.

Anyway, if you visit here and don’t see any recent articles, go to my American Woodworker blog and catch me there. I will try to cross link them so you can find me wherever I am.


It’s out and it’s disappointing. If you are a free version user of SketchUp you have a new name to deal with for 2013: SketchUp Make. In addition you are more restricted in your use of SketchUp Make; you can not use it for business or profit oriented activities in any way. Other than that, you don’t have much to look forward to from a user interface point of view. It is quite possible that SketchUp Make (and SketchUp Pro) are a lot faster in some applications and hopefully more stable and less buggy. But the jury will be out on that for some time.

SketchUp Pro has some new features that are nice in the LayOut application; most notably you have cross section fill capability. But there is very little in the SketchUp application itself of import.

Higher price, uglier icons, still Ruby 1.6 internally even though Ruby is up to 2.0, no improvement in Ruby console (I thought sure Unit Test would make it in there) etc. etc. etc. Let’s hope they did something of value when they expose the under the hood changes. Right now, very disappointing.

The one thing that is obvious is the toolbar set up. You can now set up your toolbar with its own dialog box and when you collapse the window the toolbars and position is returned when the wind is expanded, Nice, but setting up the tool bar is a onetime thing and I could easily have lived with the old method. And Save Toolbar Postions worked quite nicely. What I don’t like about the new toolbar behavior is that I can’t place a vertical x 2 column on the left or right side. It forces a x 1 horizontal column when I try.
The fill capability in LayOut is nice, but it would have been better if it were integrated into the Section tool in SketchUp. I haven’t checked my list of bugs yet, but I bet when I do printing to scale and printing extents still isn’t fixed; a problem that has existed since the beginning of time. So far Trimble gets a failing grade from me for its influence on SketchUp.

I hope I have to retract or alter my First Blush opinion on SketchUp 2013. Trust me, I would happily do so it warranted. But I am not hopeful.


In CutList Bridge Tutorial – Part 1 I demonstrated how to use CutList Bridge to create a cut list for a furniture piece us a Shaker Tall Clock SketchUp model. In Part 2 I use a custom kitchen cabinet to demonstrate how to you the Cabinet Mode features of CutList Bridge. While Cabinet Mode features are particularly useful for custom cabinetmakers it is also useful for furniture designers and craftsmen. I think this video will be well worth you while whatever style of woodworking you do.

Before viewing this video be sure to download and install CutList Bridge 2.5. The previous version had a bug that could make following along with this video frustrating.

Also, you will notice that in version 2.5 you no longer have to use the Save Attributes button as was necessary in previous versions and witnessed in Part 1. All entries are now saved as you enter them.

MAC users may have had trouble using CutList Bridge because of an OS/Safari Browser bug. When you download and install CutList Bridge 2.5 you will be shown a workaround if you have this problem.

Downloading CutList Bridge

CutList Bridge can be downloaded and installed by following the highlighted link; the target post will always host the most recent version of CutList Bridge.

Overview of CutList Bridge

CutList Bridge adds two export commands to the File menu and one dialog box to the Window menu of Trimble SketchUp. The export commands are:

  • Export to CutList Plus fx
  • Export to Microsoft Excel or OpenOffice

The dialog box is called Extended Entity Info and as its name implies is complements and extends the Entity Info dialog box.

When CutList Bridge is installed, as indicated by the availability of these commands and dialog box, a basic cut list can be produced simply by selecting one copy of your model using the Select tool and then choosing one of the export commands from the file menu. Simple as that.

However, the Extended Entity Info dialog box can be used to assign additional attributes to your components, which will produce a richer and much more useful cut list. This first video tutorial will show you how to create a basic cut list and then embellish the cut list with material types (rough lumber, dimensioned lumber, sheet good and other items), material names (cherry, walnut etc.), sub assembly groupings and notes. Subsequent video tutorials will show you how to assign attributes helpful for cabinetry and architectural models.

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 may 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.

If you are on a PC platform running Windows OS and have Internet Explorer or Firefox you don’t have to change file association or use a downloader. Simply right click on the link(s) below and choose Save Link As. When Explorer opens choose a destination folder and select Save.

To download this video click here or paste

http://www.srww.com/downloads/blog_posts/CutList%20Bridge%20Tutorial%20-%20Part%202/CutList_Bridge_Tutorial_Part%202.mp4

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 33 minutes long. Sit back, relax and enjoy the show!


CutList Bridge 2.5 is now available for download. CutList Bridge comes with a CutList Bridge User’s Guide that will explain installation procedures and all features and functionality. The User’s Guide gives three examples of types of woodworking that benefit from its features. You can download CutList Bridge 2.5 with this link. Please report all strange behavior or bugs to jpz@srww.com and don’t hesitate to write if you need help.

Changes In Version 2.5

Version 2.5 fixes a bug introduced in version 2.4 and is a must upgrade. This bug will cause the user to potentially loose work and attributes. In version 2.4 I changed and included code to make it unnecessary to use the Save Attributes key to save attributes. Each input change is saved as it is entered. If multiple components are selected and an attribute is entered or changed, only that attribute will be changed in all selected components. Blank fields, unless one or more became blank due to an intentional change, will not be written to all components. This eliminates the need for the Save Attributes button. The button remains but is harmless and it will be removed in version 3.0.

In the process of making this change to version 2.4 I introduced a bug that is fixed in version 2.5. Sorry folks.

Help With Installation

Download the CutList Bridge User’s Guide and locate the Installation section in the index. After reviewing this section also review Installing Ruby Plugins and follow the instructions under the heading “Older versions of SketchUp and .rb files”.

CutList Bridge Tutorial Series

I have begun a series of tutorial videos to help you learn the features of CutList Bridge. Part 1 of 3 was recently released and can be found at CutList Bridge Tutorial – Part 1. Part 2 was released today and can be found at CutList Bridge Tutorial – Part 2. Stay tuned for Part 3.

Attention MAC Users

Known Issue With Version 2.5

If you are a MAC user and have the latest Safari Version 6.0.2 but do not have the latest OSX Mountain Lion installed, you will not be able to use CutList Bridge to add component attributes. Safari 6.0.2 in older versions of the OSX make text input fields black instead of white masking the black characters entered by the user. This is a MAC problem and not a CutList Bridge 2.5 problem.

However, I have provided a work around. If, after you install CutList Bridge as instructed above, your input fields show up with black backgrounds, follow these instructions:

  1. Download alternate_cutlist_bridge_css.zip by clicking on this hyperlink.
  2. Extract the file cutlist_bridge.css from the ZIP folder and move it to the folder …. \Plugins\cutlist_bridge\cutlist_bridge (note the two levels of cutlist_bridge folder). This replaces the file of the same name that is already in your Plugins file under folder \cutlist_bridge\cutlist_bridge (note again the two levels of cutlist_bridge folder).
  3. Close SketchUp and reopen it. You CutList Bridge input fields will still have a black background, but your entries will be red characters making them visible.

Models To Practice With

There are three models which you can download that already have attributes assigned. You can use these models to produce a cut list and experiment with changes to the attributes. The Shaker Tall Clock demonstrates most of the basic features of CutList Bridge. Base Cabinet, thanks to Matt Richardson and Greg Larson of NESAW, demonstrates most of the special Cabinet Mode features. SketchUp Home demonstrates a very large cut list whose Sub-Assembly names are automatically generated with the Sub-Assembly by Layer feature. Click the links below to download each model.

Shaker Tall Clock
Base Cabinet
SketchUp Home

Below is an image of a SketchUp cut list exported to OpenOffice. Not all lines are shown.

SketchUp Cut List Exported to OpenOffice


image

I am pleased to announce that American Woodworker and Chiefwoodworker have teamed to bring in-depth and quality SketchUp training to a greater audience of woodworkers. Beginning March 12, 2013 Chiefwoodworker’s Beginner’s SketchUp Tutorials and Intermediate SketchUp Tutorials will be available exclusively through AmericanWoodworkerTV.

AWtv-Beginners-trailerFrom the day I learned of Google SketchUp (now Trimble SketchUp) I became convinced it was a tool perfectly tailored for woodworkers. I have worked hard since 2007 to provide training to fellow woodworkers in the use of this tool. I have met a lot of woodworkers over the last six years and believe I succeeded in giving them the training they needed to add Trimble SketchUp to their woodworking toolbox.

However, the reach of Chiefwoodworker’s Blog can’t compare to the audience American Woodworker enjoys. American Woodworker is dedicated to providing training to woodworkers in all areas of woodworking with quality videos hosted by knowledgeable and expert woodworkers. It is my hope and belief that reaching a much greater audience with my tutorials will provide a greater service to woodworkers everywhere. I am delighted and proud to team with American Woodworker to benefit my fellow woodworkers.

AWtv-intermediate-trailerChiefwoodworker’s Blog will continue to provide posts, newsletters and videos on woodworking and SketchUp and I will continue to support my fellow woodworkers with SketchUp assistance when asked. In addition, I will continue to develop and provide SketchUp plugins. I also expect that my relationship with American Woodworker will grow. So stay tuned to my website (srww.com, Chiefwoodworker’s Blog, Chiefwoodworker’s Newsletter and look for me on AmericanWoodworker.tv.

American Woodworker Magazine, AmericanWoodworker.com, AmericanWoodworker.TV and Woodwork Magazine are all properties of New Track Media LLC.

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