My Strategy with SketchUp
There are a number of ways SketchUp is used in woodworking including:
1. The development of a conceptual design
2. Creating views and images for client review
3. Working out a complex joint
4. Estimating board ft quantities and cut lists
5. Displaying realistic representations of furniture and their finishes
6. Solving difficult cutting angles
7. Assembling a detailed design package for use in the shop
I probably have done all of these things, however my main use and focus with SketchUp is represented in #7 above – that is, preparing for the actual build work in the shop. After all, I want to be in shop working with my hands and the tools, shaping lumber, and assembling a new piece of furniture. Or I want to provide accurate and relevant information to my students so they can have the satisfaction of a successful project.
Therefore, in one sentence, I would state my main SketchUp strategy as;
Quickly and accurately make a detailed model to produce dimensional views necessary for basic shop construction.
I’m not looking for colors, textures, pretty pictures, finishes, and embellishments; rather complete engineering content of a piece of furniture so that I’m not guessing, experimenting, sketching, and calculating in the shop. I find this process to be the most satisfying and productive for me. I also think it works well with my students, who want complete, explicit, and easy-to-read documentation.
There are real limits to what can be done effectively in SketchUp, and this was made clear in developing the Maloof Rocker (shown in previous blog entries). There was no way I was going to create a beautifully sculptured chair in SketchUp. What I needed from SketchUp, were the sizes, angles, joint details, band-sawed shapes, and full-size templates. The final artful sculpturing, that is so important to the Maloof chair, would have to be worked from pictures or viewing an actual piece.
Crude, non-sculptured model
I also bump into these SketchUp limits on Windsor chairs. While SketchUp reveals the complex assembly of the chair parts, all connecting at various angles, it does not adequately handle the final shaping and sculpturing. Nevertheless, I would not know how to start a Windsor without having worked out all the parts, angles and connections in SketchUp.
A Sack Back under development now (no sculpturing of handles and seat), has all the important information for construction:
Some day perhaps SketchUp will include a Woodworker’s Toolbox equipped with drawknives, travishers, files, and spokeshaves. In the meantime, I’ll be quite satisfied having SketchUp produce the important, basic construction information.
By the way, I’ve finished the Maloof Rocker. I have to admit, admiring Sam’s work much more having gone through this process. The artistic shaping is incredible and something that I could not duplicate.