Learning the Fundamentals
A group of friends are learning to use SketchUp. Each of them are at different points along the learning curve. They asked me to give them some sort of SketchUp homework to kind of force them to further develop their skills. While I was pondering a project to give them I came across Doug Stowe’s blog post about the little friendship box he makes with some of his students. The box is simple enough with butt joined corners and a peg to attach the swiveling top. Making one from scratch in the shop still offers enough challenges to a beginning woodworker to make it an interesting project but it is small enough that the project has a visible end.
I took a few minutes to draw out Doug’s box. In the process I found it gives opportunities to use some fundamental SketchUp skills and thought this would be a good project for my friends. I gave them the two views of the box shown below and the instructions to draw the box using the dimensions given and I gave them a ten minute time limit although I didn’t hold them to that limit.
The results were quite interesting. Everyone got the box drawn eventually. Most got it in about 20 minutes or so. They all reported having various problems. Some had issues with getting the holes drilled for the dowel. Others had problems getting all the parts to line up. The octagonal “nut” on the peg seemed to cause the most trouble. They either had difficulty “drilling” the hole or getting it centered on the peg.
One of the guys drew each of the parts separately spread out on the ground plane much as you might lay out the parts on the bench before assembly. He found that after drawing the parts that way, he had to take quite a bit of time to assemble the box using Move and Rotate to get the parts into position. I’ve seen tutorials that teach this method of creating a model. I suppose it does give one good practice at using the Move and Rotate tools but it is an awful lot of extra work. As readers of Design. Click. Build. know, both Tim and I advocate drawing the parts in place as much as possible. This reduces the chances of errors and makes drawing easier.
Here’s a silent video showing how I drew it. It shows in real time how I drew the box.
The key lesson I think everyone learned from this exercise is to use SketchUp’s inferencing. This comes into play in many ways. Here’s a few of them:
When moving a component or a copy, use inferencing to determine where to place the component at the end of the move. Grab the component with the Move tool at a point that will coincide with a point at the end of the move. You can see that in the video when I make the copy of the side component and again when I make the copy of the bottom to use it as the top.
Drawing the end in place is simplified by inferencing. Instead of drawing a rectangle 2 in. long by 1-1/4 in. high, we just draw it to fit by clicking on the appropriate corners of the sides. At this stage we don’t care what those dimensions are as long as they fit.
After drawing the hole in the lid, I used inferencing to locate the center of the hole in the end component by holding the cursor over one of the vertices on the edge of the circle for two seconds before moving it toward the center. When the cursor gets close to the center, it’ll snap to it. The cursor dot will switch from square to round and the message, “On center outside active” will pop up. I used the same method for drawing the dowel and for both the perimeter of the octagonal nut as well as the circle for the hole in it.
Yesterday we had an opportunity to get together virtually using GoToMeeting and we were able to discuss how we approached this. I think we all advanced our skills and I for one enjoyed the opportunity to chat with these guys. The next exercise is to add some details to the little box.