SketchUp is our tool of choice for designing and planning projects. For the past several years, every project seen in the pages of Popular Woodworking Magazine and most of our illustrations began life as a 3-dimensional model created with Google SketchUp. We use it because it reduces our planning and design time because we can model quickly. It also reduces mistakes and errors in the shop by letting us know the exact size and shape of every part and every joint. It has made us better and more efficient woodworkers and we think it will do the same for you.
Even if you want to build a project exactly the way we did in the magazine, SketchUp is a great tool for understanding how a project goes together. With SketchUp, you can orbit around and get a look from underneath or behind. Not sure how pieces in a magazine project connect? With SketchUp on your computer you can zoom in for a close look, take it apart, measure the parts and even look at it with X-ray vision. Here is a blog post that discusses learning to navigate before you learn how to model.
You can pull out drawers, open doors, take subassemblies and joints apart or create your own exploded view.
You can zoom in as close as you like and look at things from the inside.
In addition to making projects easier to understand, SketchUp allows you to start with a design you saw in the magazine and quickly modify it to suit your needs. Like that bookcase, but want to make it narrower or taller? You can start with one of our models and make it shrink or make it grow. Need a smaller version of that cool workbench? Download our model, size it to your space and you have a working plan that you can print, and accurate sizes of the parts to make your cutlist.
Here is a post about Stretching or Shrinking a project model:
One of our favorite uses is to make fullsize patterns from views in SketchUp. Instead of spending hours tracing and drawing, you can hit the print button and head to the shop with as many copies of a pattern as you need. If the pattern is larger than a single piece of paper, SketchUp will tile the pattern across as many sheets as you need. Out in the shop, use spray adhesive to attach the pattern to the wood, and you’re ready to cut. Here is a link to a blog post that tells you how to:
Those are just a few of the ways SketchUp makes us better woodworkers.