SketchUp at AWFS
Last Saturday, I was a speaker at the AWFS (Association of Woodworkers and Furnishings Suppliers) conference in Las Vegas. It was a two-hour seminar titled “Google SketchUp for Woodworkers”. About 113 people attended the seminar. I suspect that most, if not all, had experience with SketchUp.
After introducing SketchUp and quickly running through basic set up and tool use, I moved on to the main part of my presentation – “building” a piece of furniture real-time in SketchUp. My selected piece was a Williamsburg square tea table with carvings and cabriole legs. I brought the actual table I had built, in curly maple.
Here is a picture of the overall SketchUp model.
I started the modeling from scratch using an imported scanned image from a magazine article in an early Fine Woodworking issue. From there, I traced over the shapes of table components, and then moved on to shaping the legs and stretchers, and incrementally assembling the parts. It was an interactive session, as the audience asked questions as I worked the model.
The last part of the presentation showed the procedure I use in SketchUp and Layout for extracting shop drawings and full-size templates.
Finally, as I reflect on the conference, some observations come to mind as follows:
• Many participants were interested in how SketchUp can be used to drive CNC machinery. I don’t have experience doing this, but others at the conference are having success by exporting .dxf to various CAD/CAM software packages that create the G-code necessary to run the machines. Also, some users are using the CAD/CAM software to replace SketchUp quasi circles and arcs, with “real”ones.
• I was impressed by the number and capability of 3D applications for design of kitchen and office cabinets. These software programs are quite sophisticated and automate much of the detail design work, and also produce the required G-code for the machines. Interestingly, many woodworkers who use these applications are also looking at Google SketchUp for the non-standard cabinet work.
• It seems to me that the least know feature of SketchUp is Scenes. There were many asking about those “tabs” on my screen below the Toolbars. Of course, Scenes are extremely valuable for developing the shop documentation, and the audience now recognizes this.
• Following the session, many participants remarked how surprised they were to see how much can be done with SketchUp.