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Larson Kitchen 1Later this fall I will be releasing an Alpha version of CabWriter. I have been working on this project with Greg Larson, owner of the New England School of Architectural Woodworking ( Greg, you might say, is the architect of CabWriter and I am the coder. The pictures you see here are snapshots I took of Greg’s kitchen – remodeled using CabWriter.

You may have heard bits and pieces of CabWriter if you follow me on my Popular Woodworking blog, or my personal blog or website. Today I want to formally introduce CabWriter and give you a hint of its features and show you some of the results to-date. But first there are two questions I need to answer, even before you ask them: what is an Alpha release and what is CabWriter?

What is an Alpha Release?

Larson Kitchen 1In the software world a new product is sometimes released in what is referred to as an Alpha release. The purpose is primarily to get very early feedback and suggestions. A secondary purpose is to build interest. Alpha releases are almost always free and have the following disclaimers:

  1. Functionality is incomplete or may change in future releases. That is, current functionality may be dropped or new functionality may be added in future releases. A CabWriter specific example is that it only works with inset doors in the Alpha release, but in its first product release will work with inset, overlay and frameless doors.
  2. There may be significant software bugs in an Alpha release. This is a direct tradeoff with the desire to expose a new product early. Users are asked to be patient and to take part in its improvement by reporting bugs to the developer. In the specific case of CabWriter reports should be made to me at : .
  3. The user uses an Alpha release at their own risk whether for personal use or commercial use. The very nature of an Alpha release is “use at your own risk”.
  4. Using an Alpha release is not a license to use the product release. You will need to acquire a license after product release.

Larson Kitchen 3So much for disclaimers, here is why I am releasing an Alpha version. I will be looking for help from users who want to design and build kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets, and office or library furniture. I want feedback in the form of constructive criticism, bug reports, feature suggestions and training needs. In return, for those who actively participate, you get the first CabWriter product license for free. If you are interested you can contact me via email and ask to be an Alpha user. You don’t have to participate to be an Alpha user, but only active participants will get a free license. I will, of course, be the judge of who has actively participated.

What is CabWriter?

Larson Kitchen Modeled in SketchUpCabWriter is a SketchUp Ruby script extension (formerly called plug-in). As its name implies CabWriter permits automatic and efficient custom cabinet 3D modeling, shop drawing documentation, cut list generation and DXF output that permits CNC milling. CabWriter is tightly connected to CutList Bridge and hence CutList Plus fx for material optimization. CabWriter takes advantage of the powerful Ruby API supported by Trimble SketchUp; its functional code is written in Ruby while the Graphical User Interface in JavaScript, HTML and CSS.

Shop Drawing in LayOut 1There will likely be two or three version with a target range from the hobbyist/weekend warrior to the professional cabinet shop. CabWriter comes with CutList Bridge. So far we have designed, built and installed four custom kitchens and are currently working on the fifth and sixth.

Shop Drawing in LayOut 2The goal of CabWriter is to be able to meet with a client at their residence and within a few hours walk away with a complete 3D design the client can sign off on, including plan and elevation views, cut list and materials list, cost estimate and even DXF output for CNC milling. In the real world of course clients will always want to make changes the next day and for a few weeks later. However, CabWriter makes it possible to complete this entire goal in just a few hours sans further changes. In the next two months we expect to demonstrate this goal including the installation. We will document the entire project from design, through CNC milling to completed installation in a video.

Shop Drawing in LayOut 3Before I show you some of the design output of CabWriter let me list some of its important features:

  1. The entire design file stays with the SketchUp model. While you may export files for Excel, OpenOffice or CutList Plus fx, there is no need to save or archive these files. They can always be reproduced with the SketchUp model file and SketchUp with extensions CabWriter and CutList Bridge.
  2. CabWriter has a large set of defaults all of which can be changed by the user. This makes tailoring CabWriter to a given build methodology relatively easy as well as assigning default material types and names.
  3. CabWriter automatically draws cabinet with any number of boxes, creates and assigns component names, part names and material types and material names. Any attribute that can be specified using CutList Bridge can automatically be assigned using CabWriter.Shop Drawing in LayOut 4
  4. CabWriter permits changing of numerous cabinet and box defaults on a per cabinet and per box basis such as number of doors and drawers.
  5. Cabinets can be edited after they are drawn to change things such as width, height, depth, material, number of doors, drawers etc.
  6. CabWriter Version 1.0 will handle face frame cabinets with inset or overlay doors, or frame-less cabinets.
  7. CabWriter automatically stores CutList Bridge attributes in each component so there is little or no manual entry required.
  8. CabWriter makes plan and elevation views a snap and automatically includes the hatching for material keys.Sheet Optimization in Vectric Aspire
  9. CabWriter is completely functional in the Make version of SketchUp for hobbyists and weekend warriors who wish to design and build their own cabinet. For professionals CabWriter makes integration with LayOut a snap.
  10. CutList Bridge comes with CabWriter and permits near instant cut list generation. Its bridging capability to CutList Plus fx saves material cost with material layout optimization.
  11. CabWriter provides CutList Bridge with the information to automatically create all the DXF files necessary to mill sheet goods on a CNC machine. These DXF file can, for example, can be imported to Vectric Aspire or Vectric Cut2D which will do sheet optimization and output the necessary G code for CNC milling. The DXF files produced by CutList Bridge fx permits use of numerous applications as alternatives to Vectric Aspire (Aspire is the application we are currently using).

Single Sheet Enlargement in Vectric AspireGreg’s kitchen, shown in the previous pictures, and above as a 3D rendering, was drawn entirely in SketchUp using CabWriter. The following images are CabWriter views sent to LayOut. You can see that the drawing set is quite professional and complete. The last two images are the Aspire optimized sheet layout and an enlargement of one sheet. Shortly I will be releasing a training video documenting a complete design. I will announce it and the Alpha release in a newsletter and in my blogs. So stay tuned.

CabWriter to CNC

I would like to end this post with a short video of a CabWriter designed cabinet set cut on a ShopBot CNC machine. CutList Bridge, which is part of CabWriter, produces all the DXF files which are then imported into Vectric’s Aspire or Cut2D which in turn optimizes the sheet layouts and produces the G code necessary to drive the CNC. This video was shot on October 22, 2015 and is the first CabWriter designed cabinet set cut on a CNC machine. Much thanks to Mason Papaport of Rapaport Design ( for the use of his Shop Bot CNC. Now pop the popcorn, sit back, and enjoy this special feature film.

Greg, on left, and students on installation day.Each year the New England School of Architectural Woodworking (NESAW at runs a five month cabinetmaking course. The purpose of the course is to prepare students for a rewarding career in the field of cabinetmaking. Over 90% of NESAW’s job-seeking graduates find employment at architectural woodworking shops across the United States.

The industry is in dire need of skilled craftspeople, due to the record number of retiring workers and the declining number of vocational programs aimed at cabinetmakers.

NESAW LogoSign up now. Classes begin January 5th and enrollment ends on January 10th. Visit the New England School of Architectural Woodworking for details.


NESAW’s program teaches the fundamentals of architectural woodworking and offers students the opportunity to work directly with members of the community to design, build, and install projects. This combination of skills-building and real-world experience makes NESAW’s graduates particularly attractive to employers, since it means a safer employee, less on-the-job training and a better understanding of the entire project lifecycle.

Greg installing a sink.Students who enter the program to improve their woodworking skills or start their own businesses also gain from this approach, as they better understand how to more efficiently design and build a quality product.

The New England School of Architectural Woodworking is owned and operated by Greg and Margaret Larson. I first met Greg in the fall of 2011 through introductions made by a former student of Greg’s and mine. I wrote about NESAW in my December 21st 2011, March 29th and June 11th 2012 Chiefwoodworker’s Newsletters.

Margaret serving cake at graduation celebration.That year I taught a SketchUp class for NESAW students. During this period Greg and I spoke at length about what students were learning and the time consuming aspects of custom cabinetmaking. Out of those discussions came CutList Bridge and later CabWriter. Greg and I have worked closely together ever since our first meeting and I have spent numerous hours at the NESAW shop with his students. Each year I teach a live SketchUp course to the students. I t is with this intimate knowledge that I highly recommend visiting the NESAW website if you are interested in a career in cabinetmaking. You will find no better program or more caring people than NESAW, Greg and Margaret.


have written before about The Heartwood School, which is focused on homebuilding crafts, particularly timber framing. Heartwood resides in the town of Washington located in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts. It is run by Will and Michele Beemer. The school offers a full range of home construction and woodworking courses – including a SketchUp course for timber framers. There is now several Build Your Own: courses including Country Windsor Chair, Woodworker’s Workbench, Shavehorse, Pole Lathe and Heirloom Dovetail Toolchest. ALso added is an Advanced SketchUp Pro: Layout course.

The Heartwood School’s course list and 2014 schedule is shown below. For a complete course description go to and in the table’s second column locate the course of interest and click the link. For further information or to register contact Michele Beemer at 413/623-6677, or

Two Week Courses:

July 7 – 18 Comprehensive Housebuilding


One Week Workshops:

April 21 – 25 Fundamentals of Woodworking
April 28 – May 2 Cabinetmaking
May 5 – 9 Stairbuilding
May 12 – 16 Build Your Own: Shavehorse
May 19 – 23 Build Your Own: Country Windsor Chair
June 9 – 13 Build Your Own: Workbench
June 16 – 20 Timber Framing
June 23 – 27 Scribed Timber Framing – Using Natural Forms
July 21 – 25 Finish Carpentry
July 28 – Aug 1 Cruck Framing
Aug. 11 – 15 Carpentry for Women
Aug. 18 – 22 Converting Trees to Timber
Aug. 25 – 29 Timber Framing
Sept. 8 – 12 Compound Joinery for Timber Framers
Sept. 15 – 19 Build a Skin-on-Frame Canoe
Sept. 22 – 26 Carve a 17th century Oak Box – Peter Follansbee
Sept. 29 – Oct 3 Build Your Own: Pole Lathe
Sept. 29 – Oct 3 Build Your Own: Heirloom Dovetail Toolchest
Oct. 6 – 10 Stairbuilding
Oct. 13 – 17 Fundamentals of Woodworking
Oct. 20 – 24 Cabinetmaking


Other Workshops:

April 7 – 9 Timber Grading (3-day)
April 17 – 19 Tangent Handrailing (3-day)
May 29 – 31 Hip and Valley Roof Framing for Carpenters (3-day)
May 29 – 31 Build an Outdoor Earthen Bake Oven (3-day)
June 2 – 4 Eyebrow Dormers (3-day)
June 5 – 7 Intro to SketchUp for Timber Framers (3-day)
June 6 – 7 Concrete Countertops (2-day)
June 30 – July 2 Traditional Raising and Rigging (3-day)
Sept. 4 – 6 Timber Frame Design & Joinery Decisions (3-day)
Sept. 26 – 27 Advanced SketchUpPro: Layout (2–day)

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.

A SketchUp Ruby Script ListingYesterday one of my readers sent me an email and asked if I might consider a series of tutorials on how to write Ruby scripts for SketchUp. I thought about that for a while. It seemed to me that the typical approach would either be to address an audience that already had some programming experience, perhaps even with Ruby, or in the other extreme to use the least common denominator approach and assume the reader had no programming experience. At first glance the latter seemed undoable because it meant teaching basic programming techniques, then Ruby and finally the SketchUp Ruby API. But as I thought more about it, including all last night, while trying to sleep, I believe I have come up with a way to teach script writing to lay people; a practical approach to SketchUp’s Ruby API and the Ruby language. And so, such a series would be possible and I believe productive.

A Google LayOut PageHowever, the real question is, what would my readers like to see in the next series of tutorials. Another idea I had was an Advanced SketchUp tutorial focused on the Pro version of SketchUp, including LayOut and one or two rendering plugins. This tutorial series would emphasis polished and professional presentation of furniture pieces; material that could be used to sell a client for example. In addition, the more powerful solids tools would be introduced and used in furniture modeling. As I thought about this opportunity I realized the target audience might be limited also; not everyone would buy a SketchUp license just to follow a tutorial.

Mastering Google SketchUp DrawingThat led me to a third option. That is to start at the beginning of SketchUp, but this time in stead of jumping in and drawing a piece of furniture, each part would focus on one SketchUp tool and delve into it in detail. For instance, many people don’t realize that there are numerous ways to use the Select tool. We tend to use tools the one or two ways we see someone else do it and stick with that method, never bothering to explore other functions of the tool. This series would be akin to a Master’s Degree in a field of study. To make it interesting to woodworkers I would use common furniture parts or joints in each tutorial; and each tutorial would also use different parts or joint so that there would be some woodworking learning as well.

So, as it stands there are three options for a path the next tutorial series might take:

  1. Ruby Scripting
  2. SketchUp Pro
  3. Mastering SketchUp

You might have yet another idea, and if you do I would like to hear it. Please comment your thoughts and ideas on this post and help me design a tutorial series you the readers would want.

Shaping Ogee Feet With The Intersection Tool Google announced the availability of SketchUp 8.0 on September 1, 2010. Both the free and Pro versions can be downloaded by going to the SketchUp Download Page. Before getting into some of the improvements, and there are some very significant ones, let me make an observation that is a little troubling. It appears that Google is implementing the “Bait and Switch” strategy with this release. In the past all versions of SketchUp had a free and Pro version. The free version was fully featured as far as modeling was concerned, i.e. all the drawing tools were present in both versions. In this version Google has implemented five drawing tools which are only available in the Pro version; and these tools are not just nice to have tools, they are significant productivity improvement tools.

To me this signals a trend where the free and Pro versions will grow substantially apart in the future, encouraging, even making necessary, users to purchase the Pro version if they wish to enjoy the drawing capabilities of SketchUp. I suspect this is a result of the enormous popularity of SketchUp brought about by the availability of the free version. Now that SketchUp has reached the “ubiquitous” milestone  we may even see the free version phased out altogether, or become so featureless as compared to the Pro version that it dies on its own. I hope not, but to this point SketchUp has been a little too-good-to-be-true, and all good things come to an end at some point.

To see all the new features in SketchUp 8 go to What’s New in Google SketchUp 8. But the five drawing features I have referred to above, which are only available in the Pro, are:

  1. Union – joins together selected solids. (Solid is a new entity in SketchUp. It is a group or component which is totally enclosed and with no dangling lines or surfaces.) As far as I can tell on quick inspection, this tool is the same as a  new tool included in both versions called Outer Shell, but I need to investigate further to see if there is any significant difference.
  2. Intersect – makes a new solid group from the intersection of selected solids and discards the non-intersecting entities.
  3. Subtract – The intersecting portion of the first solid is subtracted from a second solid. The first solid is eliminated. Google refers to this as a cookie cutter.
  4. Trim – The same as the Subtract except the first solid remains in place.
  5. Split – Creates three solid groups out of two overlapping solids: the first solid minus the overlap, the overlap and the second solid minus the overlap. Similar to Intersect but the non-intersecting entities remain in place.

These logical operations are the missing operations found in most 3D CAD tools. Till now we have had to rely on the Edit/Intersect/Intersect with Model tool and lots of cleanup to perform these operations. The Pro version of SketchUp also comes with LayOut 3 and Style Builder 2. The improvements in these tools are also explained in What’s New in Google SketchUp 8. All-in-all this version release seems to be a significant improvement over SketchUp 7, especially for the Pro users.

It is really too bad that these new logical operations tools will not be part of the free version. I feel like I should personally apologize for Google, but since I have no relationship with Google I can only hope they will apologize for themselves.

Shaker Tall Clock Crafted In Cherry

One of the most frequent requests I get is for a drawing set of the Shaker Tall Clock I crafted for my son to give his wife on their twelfth anniversary. I originally drew the model and plans in TurboCAD and printed drawings for anyone who wanted them. Later, I exported the model from TurboCAD to a .dxf file and imported the file into SketchUp. A lot was lost in the translation. Up to now that is all I had to supply anyone wanting to craft this clock. I recently looked at the translated files in detail and was embarrassed by the incompleteness.

Fortunately, I have completely updated the documentation, inserted missing information and cleaned up the model. You can download the new documentation from my Free Plans page. There you will find a complete SketchUp model with dimensions, a CutList Plus cut list file, an Excel cut list file, a .csv cut list file and a PDF file including both shop drawings and cut list. If you want a LayOut 2 file click here. You should have no problems crafting this clock if you so desire.

This  Shaker Tall Clock was inspired by a clock designed and built by Benjamin Youngs, Sr., circa 1809, of the Watervliet, New York Shaker Village. The original is held in a private collection. A photograph of the original can be seen in The Complete Book of Shaker Furniture by Timothy D. Rieman and Jean M. Burks, page 163.

Slightly larger than the original (81" H x 20" W x 9 7/8" D) this piece measures 85" H x 21 5/8" W x 12 5/16" D and is constructed from solid cherry hardwood.

Other changes from the original are the simple footed base, an arched waist door to complement the  arched hood and  arched side windows in the hood. The piece has been finished with 3 coats of hand rubbed Waterlox Original Tung Oil.

The hardware is polished brass consisting of drop pulls, one small pull for the hood door and a larger one for the waist door, a set of overlay hinges for the waist door, and a special pair of hinges designed specifically for tall clock hood doors which allow the door to clear the deep arched inset. The 8-day Kieninger clock movement is cable wound and weight driven with a top mounted bell that strikes on the hour and half hour. It was purchased from Green Lake Clock Company.

Although the design is traditional and simple keeping with the Shaker influence, the construction, on the other hand, is not. This piece is constructed using hand cut dovetails and mortise & tenon  joinery which will last for hundreds of years to come. To see the various stages of construction, details of joinery and explanation of technique, click here.

Logo & Outline Layer Appears On Every Page In this post we will complete the template we started in Creating A Custom Shop Drawing Template With LayOut 2 – Part 1 of 2. If you haven’t read that post please do so before reading any further. Hopefully you saved your .layout file from part 1, but if you didn’t you can download mine and pick up from there. When we left off our template looked as the picture at left. Everything we had drawn resides on layer Logo & Outline which is visible on all pages and locked to protect it from changes.

Now we are going to create a Date Box layer. This layer will contain the date the drawing set was completed and my website and blog addresses. It also will appear on every page. Add this layer by clicking on the + symbol in the Layers dialog box. Layer 3 appears and is selected. Notice it is unlocked and has one sheet of paper in the Pages icon. Click the Pages icon to change it to four sheets of paper (appears on all pages). Make sure the Visible eye icon is dark (not grayed out). Do not lock it at this time. We want to make changes to it which we can do now since it is selected (active). Rename this layer to Date Box by right clicking on the layer name and choose Rename. Leave this layer selected before going any further.

Remember we have a tall and narrow box that is 6 1/4” by 1/4” through which the grid is visible on the left side of the sheet. We want to place the contents of the Date Box in that tall and narrow box. First we have to create the contents by following these steps carefully:

  1. In the Text Style dialog box click on the Align Center and Anchor Center icons in the Format tab. For Family, Typeface and Size choose Verdana, Regular and 8 pt.
  2. Using the “Text” tool, and with the aid of the grid, click-drag-release a text box with the dimensions 6 1/4” by 1/4”, however, create the box such that the long dimension is in the horizontal direction. Before doing anything else with your mouse, notice the blinking cursor in the box.
  3. Type the line of text immediately following this numerical list of instructions into the text box. Do not cut and paste this line of text unless you first paste it into Notepad and re-copy it to remove formatting. You will have to re-choose Align Center and Anchor Center if you do this.
  4. Between .com and Blog insert 9 more spaces. Between /blog and Date insert 9 more spaces. This spreads things out using the entire box.
  5. Go to the Window/Shape Style menu to open the dialog box. With the text box still selected click on the Fill button in the upper left hand corner of the Shape Style dialog box. The text box should now have a white background (assuming you didn’t change the color in the Fill color box next to the Fill button). Close the Shape Style box.
  6. With the “Select” tool deselect and reselect the text box. Hover the cursor over the center of the test box just over the blue dot until you get a rotate cursor as shown in the picture below.
  7. Rotate right by click-dragging the cursor approximately 90 degrees. Notice the measurement box at the bottom reads Angle and approximately minus 90 degrees. Release the cursor and type –90 into the Measurements box. The text box now runs vertically in the long axis.
  8. Hover over a corner of the selected text box until a curser with four opposing arrows appears and click-drag-release the text box into position. With the “Select” tool deselect the text box.
  9. Lock the Date Box layer by clicking on the Lock icon next to the layer’s name.

Website: Blog: Date: MM/DD/YYYY

Hover Near The Center Until The Rotate Cursor AppearsThe Date Box Contents Are Now Included In The Template Our template should now look like the picture at right. Notice that the Default layer is now selected and that you cannot change the Date Box text. The only layers that can be selected are unlocked layers. Since the Default layer is the only unlocked layer it is selected.

We are now going to customize the Cover Page. The cover page is the page that comes first in a shop drawing set. It informs the reader of the customer or client’s name, the project’s name, the customer or client’s address and provides a short project description. Of course this is all a matter of personal choice, but for the purpose of this tutorial, that is what we will use as the definition of the cover page.

Before creating the content of the cover page we need to create a Cover Page layer. Click the + sign in the Layers dialog box and change the name of the layer to Cover Page by right clicking Layer 4 and choosing Rename. Type Cover Page and enter or just bring your cursor to the drawing area. This time leave the Pages icon set to a single page since what we will include on the Cover Page layer will exist only on one page.

We need four text boxes to be placed in the lower right hand corner box that is now blank. They will be roughly the same size so we start in the upper left hand corner and with the “Text” tool click-drag- release a text box roughly one quarter the size of the open area. Type the following into the text box:

Prepared For:
First-name Last-Name

Prepared For: Text Box Using the Text Style dialog box select the first line of text and format it to: Family, Typeface and Size choose Verdana, Regular and 8 pt respectively. Select the second line of text and format it to: Family, Typeface and Size choose Verdana, Italic and 10 pt respectively. This will make the client’s name stand out a little. Your template should look like that at left.

Four Text Boxes Placed & Default Text Added We can use the same process to create three more text boxes or use the copy/paste method. If you use the copy/paste method be aware that you may paste the text box exactly on top of the one you copied. That is not a problem; just use the “Select” tool and the opposing four arrow move cursor to move the pasted text box into position. Either type into the text box, or change the text if you used the copy/paste method, such that it looks like that at right. Notice the Prepared For: and Project: text boxes make use of larger italic 10 pt text. The remaining two boxes use regular 8 pt text.

Completed Cover Page Layer Text Notice that the small red arrow is trying to tell us that one or more of the text boxes runs off the page. The Client Address: is the culprit in this case. I used the copy/paste method to place the text boxes so they are all the same size. Each can be customized based on its needs. Since the Prepared For: text box is never likely to use more than one line I can shorten its height and give that height to the Client Address: text box. The same is true for Project: and Project Description: In addition, Project description may need more width. We make these changes using the “Select” tool and the appropriate cursor to change the size of each box. Try to keep vertical and horizontal alignment of the starting point of each box. To keep the white area of the text boxes from covering part of the Logo & Outline lines you may need to turn off Grid Snap under the Arrange menu. This will allow analog placement of text box edges giving you more control. Turn it back on afterword. Having made these changes the Cover Page information should look like that at left.

Lock the Cover Page layer. In the Pages dialog box Page 1 is selected (it is the only page available at this point). Right click on it and choose Rename. Change the name to Cover Page. We now have a cover page template, but we also need and every page template for all the drawings that will go into the drawing set. In the Pages dialog box click the + sign to add a page. It will be named Page 2 by default. We are going to change this name to Inside Page the same way we renamed Page 1 to Cover Page. With that done and Inside Page selected, in the Layers dialog box make the Cover Page invisible by clicking on the eye icon to gray it out (it is not visible anyway because we created it on the Cover Page and made it appear only on that page with the single paper icon selection, but this is a good habit anyway).

In the Layers dialog box add a layer and call it Inside Page. Make it appear on all pages with the four page icon. Inside Page should now be selected in both the Pages dialog box and the Layers dialog box. Add one text box to the upper left hand corner of the open text area in the lower right. Insert the text:

Drawn By:
Drafter’s Name

Format the first line with Veranda Regular 8 pt text and the second line with Verdana Italic 10 pt text. Like before make this text box a little shorter and less tall to make room for other information. Again you may have to turn off Grid Snap under the Arrange menu. Turn it back on when you are done. Lock the Inside Page layer. Now the Default layer is selected as is the Inside Page in the Pages dialog box. What we just did held the assumption that the same person, Drafter’s Name, would draw the entire SketchUp model and create the shop drawings. With that assumption we fixed that information in the Inside Page layer and locked it.

To finish our template all we need it drawing title, drawing description and page number text boxes that will change on a page-by-page basis. This information we will put on the Default layer and we will leave it unlocked.

Create and place these text boxes using the same techniques as before and the following text:

Drawing Title:
Front View – Overall Dimensions



Completed Template Cover Page - Checkout The Dialog Box Contents Carefully For Correct Settings Note that the Drawing Title: is pretty specific. That is simply because my custom is to have a front view with overall dimensions as the first page after the cover page (page 2) in all my shop drawing sets. Description: is a place holder; it could be Scale:, or Note: or anything else the drafter desires. Since the Default layer remains unlocked it is changeable at any time. As mentioned, the first page inside the cover page is always P2 in my convention. It too can be changed at any time.

Completed Template Inside Page - Checkout The Dialog Box Contents Carefully For Correct Settings There is one last little detail before we can save this file as a template. We added and Inside Page layer and made it appear on all pages, but actually we want it to appear on all pages but the Cover Page. In the Pages dialog box select the Cover Page and make Inside Page layer invisible by graying out the eye icon. Before saving this file let’s be sure everything looks correct. In the picture at the upper right is the completed Cover Page template. Checkout the dialog boxes on the right for content to be sure your setting are the same. Do the same for the completed Inside Page template shown in the upper left picture.

If you are satisfied go to the File/Save As Template menu to open the Save As Template dialog box. In the Template Name box give the template a useful name, e.g. SRWW Letter Landscape. This tells me it is a Swamp Road Wood Works template for 8 1/2” x 11 paper in landscape orientation. If you wish this to be the default template when you open a new file select Default Templates under Template Folder (although there is one more step to make it the default template). To make this the default template, go to File/New From Template to open the Getting Started dialog box. Select your template from the list and check the Always use Selected Template check box. Click Open. A new untitled file is opened and ready to go.

If you had trouble along the way you can download my template file and peruse it to see what I did. This post completes Creating A Custom Shop Drawing Template With LayOut 2. However, stay tuned for Creating Shop Drawings With LayOut 2, which will explain how to use this template with a SketchUp model to create a shop drawing set.

A Shop Drawing Cover Sheet - Our Goal I recently purchased a Google SketchUp Pro license. A major difference between the free version of SketchUp and the Pro version is that LayOut 2 and Style Builder are included in the Pro version. Style Builder is an application that allows you to create your own drawing styles. I haven’t used it, and its not likely I will in the near future. Style Builder seems most suited to architects and marketing types.

LayOut 2 is another story. I have used it on a couple of projects to create shop drawings from my SketchUp models. LayOut 2 is a presentation package that can be used stand alone or tightly coupled with SketchUp. Using it stand alone you have many of the 2D drawing, lettering, labeling and dimensioning features of SketchUp. To create shop drawings I use it tightly coupled with SketchUp. In this two part post I will describe how to setup LayOut 2 for this purpose and I will walk us through how I created my own custom template for shop drawings. In subsequent posts I will demonstrate how to create the shop drawings themselves.

In The Window Menu Select These Dialog BoxesSee the figure above left, which shows a completed shop drawing cover sheet. The template we will create will look like this one. Use this for reference as we proceed. Follow along with me on your own system as we create my custom template. First we need to setup LayOut 2. Open LayOut 2 to a blank page using the File/New menu. In the Window menu select the Pages, Layers, SketchUp Model and Text Style dialog boxes. Click on the picture at right to see an enlargement showing these selections. I use these dialog boxes frequently and leave them open all the time. Notice in the upper right hand corner that these dialog boxes are placed in a Default Tray. LayOut 2 allows you to create a number of trays with different dialog boxes, sort of like a pallet.  If you wish you could go to Window/New Tray and open a tray called Tray 1 by default. You can label it anything you want. Check all the dialog boxes that you didn’t include in the Default Tray and choose Add. Now you have two trays that are selectable from tabs along the bottom; the Default Tray contains the dialog boxes you frequently use and Tray 1 has the remaining dialog boxes you seldom use. This may be a handy way to work, but it is all about personal preference. I don’t bother with anything besides the Default Tray. If I want another dialog box I just use the Window menu and temporarily open it in the Default Tray.

Paper Setup Dialog Box Is Accessed Through The File/ Document Setup Menu To define the paper size and orientation use the File/Document Setup menu. This command opens the Document Setup dialog box. and we choose the Paper selection. In the Paper section choose Letter (8.5 in x 11 in) from the drop down box and the Landscape radio button. The Print Paper Color check box will remain unchecked.

Check the Margins check box, and for Left, Right, Top and Bottom use 1/2”, 1/2”, 3/4” and 1 1/2” respectively. Leave the Print Margin Lines check box unchecked. The Margins Color is Light Gray. In the Rendering section we will select High for both Edit Quality and Output Quality, a personal preference choice. Your dialog box should look as that at left.

Grid Setup Dialog Box Is Accessed Through The File/ Document Setup Menu Next we will set up a grid which will aid us in placing SketchUp model scenes on our shop drawings. Using the File/Document Setup menu open the Document Setup dialog box. Select the Grid item. Check the Show Grid check box because we want the grid to show on our shop drawing pages as we create them. You can choose between a grid constructed of lines or points; personal preference again, but I suggest we choose the Lines radio button.

The grid can have major and minor grid lines with different colors. I am accustomed to one inch major grid lines with eight sub-divisions for the minor grid lines. That provides a 1/8” grid which is appropriate for furniture design in US customary units. If we were drawing in the metric system we might choose one centimeter for the major grid and five for the number of sub-divisions. Check both the Major Grid and Minor Grid check boxes, and enter 1” for the Major Grid and 8 Subdivisions for the Minor Grid. The colors are purely personal choice. I suggest Light Sky Blue for the Major Grid and Light Gray for the Minor Grid. To select a color click on the Color box and the Colors dialog box opens in the Default Tray. There are a number of options for choosing a color. You may use the color wheel, input a color in either RGB (Red, Green, Blue) or HSB (Hue, Saturation, Brightness), choose a gray or color from sliding scales or choose a color from a List. We will sue the latter. After choosing a color close the Colors dialog box to get back to our original dialog box choices for the Default Tray.

We will eventually choose the Clip grid to page margins check box, but for now leave it unchecked. Why we do this will become clear later. Leave the Print Grid and Draw grid check boxes unchecked because we don’t want the grid printed when we print our shop drawings, and we don’t want the grid obscuring our drawing while creating it. Click close to save these setup choices. Our blank page is now a sheet of grid paper.

The Template Boxes Are Roughed Out Now that we have grid paper to assist us in placing objects, we need to instruct LayOut 2 to use it. Using the Arrange menu click the bottom two menu items until they read Object Snap Off and Grid Snap On. We are now ready to begin drawing our custom template. Use the  “Lines” tool (pencil) to draw a rectangle  whose sides are 3/4” in from the top and 1/2” in from the sides and bottom. Note we using the “Lines” tool, not the “Rectangle” tool, and we draw individual (separate) lines to create this box. To make each line separate, after drawing each line press the Esc key. If we didn’t do this, or we were to use the “Rectangle” tool, we would cover my grid with a white face (though I could use the Shape Style dialog box to inhibit this) and the lines would be connected which would cause a problem later when rounding the lower corners.

Draw a horizontal line 1 1/2” up from the bottom and stopping 1/2” from each side thereby terminating on the sides of the box we just completed. This creates a box 1” high and 10” long. We now draw a vertical line to sub-divide this box into a 1” by 4” box on the left and a 1” by 6” box on the right. We need one more straight vertical line to complete our boxes. This one will be parallel to the left edge, 1/2” to its right and extend from the top horizontal line to the first horizontal line that is 1 1/2” up from the bottom edge. At this point our rough template should look exactly as the picture above left.

Use The Arcs Tool To Round The Lower Corners To complete the boxes that outline our template we will use the “Arcs” tool to round the bottom two corners. The arc will be one quarter of a circle with a radius of 1/4” (2 grids). Refer to the picture at left. Using the “Arcs” tool click on a grid center point (Point 1). Next click on the 90 degree radius point (Point 2). Lastly click on the second 90 degree radius point (Point 2). Now we have a rounded corner, but still have the original square corners. To fix this we simply select each line, one at a time, with the “Select” tool and move the endpoints back 1/4” (two grid points). After selecting a line with the “Select” tool, hover over an end point until the cursor turns to two opposing arrows. Click and drag the endpoint back 1/4” with the assist of grid snapping. Be careful not to move the entire line but just the endpoints.

Now we will place my Swamp Road Wood Works logo (click the hyperlink to download it). With the File/Insert menu open the Open dialog box and locate the logo file you just downloaded. Highlighting it click on Open. The logo now appears in the center of the page and is selected, indicated by the blue bounding box. The logo is too big and in the wrong position, but correcting these problems is easy. Hold the cursor over the logo until you see the cursor change to four opposing arrows. Click and drag the logo and place the upper left corner where it should be (refer to the picture at right below). Next hover with the cursor over the lower right hand corner until the cursor turns to two opposing arrows on a diagonal. Click and drag the corner, but while doing this hold the Shift key down as well. This forces the scaling to be uniform. Place this corner where it belongs. You may need to repeat moving the corners until you get the optimum placement and size. Be sure to use the Shift key to maintain the aspect ratio. While the logo is still selected use the Arrange/Send to Back menu command to place the logo behind the lines we have drawn. This is to ensure the logo doesn’t obscure any of the lines.

We placed the logo as far to the left in the 1” x 4” box as possible and made it use all of the 1” vertical space. This leaves an area to the right where we can place my contact information. With the “Text” tool, click on the upper right hand corner of the logo and drag to the lower right hand corner of the 1” x 4” box. In the Text Style dialog box located in the Default Tray, choose Verdana Regular 8pt text. Now type my address and contact information as follows:

Joseph P. Zeh
325 West Street
Worthington, MA 01098

(413) 238-0338

Getting the spacing right may require tricks like placing a blank line before may name to create a little spacing at the top.

Logo & Outline Layer Appears On Every Page Let’s go back to File/Document Setup and choose Grid again. Let’s check the Clip grid to page margins check box as we said we would eventually do. Now we have a page that looks like that at right.

So far we have had one page titled Page 1 and one layer called Default. They are shown in the Pages dialog box and Layers dialog box in the Default Tray. We are now going to add a layer called Logo & Outline. First add a layer by clicking the + sign in the Layers dialog box. A new layer is added call Layer 2, and it is selected indicated by the pencil to the left and the blue shading. Right click on Layer 2 and choose Rename. Type Logo & Outline and press Enter. With the Edit/Select All command select all the objects drawn so far. Note this outlines all objects in blue. Right click on any object and choose Move to Current Layer. This places all objects on the Logo & Outline layer.

Layers Dialog Icons - Visible, Locked & Appear On All Pages Everything we have drawn so far we will want to appear on every page of our shop drawings. We will never change what we have drawn so far unless my logo changes, I move, get a different telephone number or change my email address. These are all unlikely to happen in any foreseeable future – I hope. To protect this information from change and to force it to appear on every page of the shop drawing we will make it visible, locked and apply to all pages. We do this with the three little icons to the right of the layers name. Click until the little eye is dark (not grayed out), the lock is locked and there are four sheets of paper in the last icon. The eye indicates the layer is visible on the selected page, the locked lock means it can’t be changed and the four sheets indicates it applies to all pages (of course we only have one right now). Now that this layer is locked it can no longer be selected so the selected layer has become the Default layer. To select the Logo & Outline layer again you must first unlock it. Locked layers cannot be selected (active).

Before we end Part 1 let me point out a few things. The page margins chosen were designed such that there is room along the top to punch three ring binder holes. The page will be placed in the binder in the portrait position. The grid only appears in the working area (actually it also appears in the little strip in the left, but that will be fixed in the next post). The grid is there to help place objects in the shop drawings by giving us something visual to snap to, but will not be printed with the shop drawings.

Stay tuned and we will complete the template in Creating A Custom Shop Drawing Template With LayOut 2 – Part 2 of 2. In subsequent posts I will demonstrate how to place the SketchUp drawings in the shop drawing pages for printing.

Wood Movement Master Calculations For Expansion/Contraction Of Headboard Panel The Trundle Bed design is complete and with this post so will the Trundle Bed Design series be. The next Trundle Bed post will be Part 1 in the Trundle Bed Crafting series where we will chronicle the build of this bed. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and complete this post first before strapping on our shop belt. As always I will make plans for this project available to my readers on my Free Plans page.

Since the last post the only design decisions were that of choosing joinery and allowing for material expansion/contraction through seasonal changes. All panels in the bed will ride in a grove 1/2” deep by 1/4” wide. The panels must be sized to allow for seasonal expansion/contraction, and we would like the panels to be centered in the groves. To accomplish this I will use a relatively new product on the market called Space Balls. Space Balls are flexible polymer balls 0.260” in diameter to fit snuggly in a 1/4” grove. By placing a number of these all around a panel which is appropriately sized they assure the panel will always be centered, eliminate panel rattle and allow for smooth expansion/contraction. Space Balls can be purchased from a number of places, including on the internet from McFeely’s.

Expansion/Contraction Is Not An Absolute Constant Across The Panel The trick to using Space Balls and to sizing panels is to know precisely how much a panel will expand/contract over the course of a season. You have seen me make these calculations before using an application called Wood Movement Master from Kite Hill Software Inc. Unfortunately this application is no longer available and supported. So, while I will use it here, you can find similar free calculators via a search of the internet. If you want to do the calculations by hand see Understanding Wood by R. Bruce Hoadley, an excellent reference for almost anything wood.

CutList Plus 2009 Parts List Generated From SketchUp Via Cut List 4.0.7 The first picture left above shows the results of a calculation for the bed’s Headboard Panel. This panel is quite wide, 22 29/32”. The bed will reside on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, so I choose Massachusetts, Coastal as the “Ultimate furniture location” which specifies the seasonal extremes of Equilibrium Moisture Content (EMC). The species is Cherry which defines the shrinkage percentage. The other critical parameter is the type of lumber, flat sawn in this case. Flat sawn lumber expands/contracts about twice as fast as quarter sawn lumber in most hardwoods. In the lower right you can see the results. This panel will undergo a total change in width of 3/8” over the course of a season. If I cut the panel now it will be at its narrowest because this is just past the peak of the dry season in Massachusetts. Space Balls recommends that panels be undersized 3/8” overall. I suspect this is a typical number for the typical cabinet door panel width. I decided to undersize this panel by 1/2” overall, which is how I arrived at the 22 29/32” panel width. This should work quite nicely.

One other subtlety about this panel, it is not the same width across its length; therefore the expansion/contraction will not be the same absolute amount across its length. See the second picture on the right above. Most of the expansion will take place near the center of the top edge where it will place the most force on the Swan Necks. This is a place where the Swan Necks are not physically attached to anything and hence will act as a lever prying the joint at the Headboard Posts apart. This is another reason why it is important to get this calculation right, that is, to minimize that maximum force generated by expansion. It is also why I will use lag bolts and glue on this joint to make it as strong as possible.

Rough Lumber Materials Requirement Per CutList Plus Calculations. While we are on subtleties there is one more to consider. The width of the panel given is good if I cut it right now. If, on the other hand, I get lazy and don’t get around to cutting it until late summer I need to adjust the cutting width for the planned expansion. If I cut it just past the peak summer humidity I may want to cut it 3/8” wider, lest it be too narrow and create an unsightly gap next winter. It is important to keep expansion/contraction in mind throughout the course of a design and crafting of a piece. Wood is still alive even though it is cut and dried.

Finally we can generate a cut list. Thanks to Cut List 4.0.7 Ruby Script (see Cut List 4.0.7 Ruby Script Connects SketchUp & CutList Plus ) we can pass information directly from SketchUp to CutList Plus and generate a Parts List and Material Requirements as shown above left and right. The rough lumber calculations are based 20% waste, which may be optimistic for hardwood calculations. It should be adjusted for the individual work habits. In addition to the rough lumber requirements shown above, two sheets of 3/4” plywood are needed for the platforms.

Now that we have completed the design I will make the SketchUp model file, CutList Plus file and a complete shop drawings package in PDF format available on my Free Plans page. The shop drawings in PDF format are thanks to LayOut, a presentation package that comes with the professional version of SketchUp. Now it is time to go in the shop and build this puppy. I will see you next for Trundle Bed Crafting – Part 1.

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