A Move Tool Exercise

comments (7) July 14th, 2012 in blogs

DaveRichards David Richards, contributor
thumbs up 19 users recommend

 In the last week or so I've tutored several students whose key stumbling block with SketchUp was the Move tool. To a person, they were finding it difficult to accurately move elements of their drawings around and place them where they wanted them. The Move tool really isn't that difficult once you get the hang of a few key things.

First, although you can grab an entity anywhere with Move tool, things work out better if you grab them by logical points such as corners or midpoints on edges. When I'm talking to my students about this I use an analogy of chain gate. Closing the gate involves hanging the end link of the chain on a hook on the fence post. While you could grab the chain at its middle, it probably isn't the best place if you are trying to get that end link on the hook. It makes more sense to grab the chain by the end. In the same way, grab entities in SketchUp by a point that will correspond to a point in the model.

Second, take advantage of SketchUp's inferencing when you can. Let SketchUp help you with the move operation.

Third, lock the move direction when it makes sense. You can use the cursor keys to lock the direction. Use the up and down arrows to lock on the blue direction, left arrow for green and right arrow for red. I prefer to use the Shift key to lock the direction instead. My left index finger tends to hover over the Shift and Ctrl keys and it's the same key for any direction. You can also lock the move direction while following an off-axis line using Shift.

Some time ago I did a demo video on the Move tool. You can see it here.

I made up a simple exercise file. the video below shows how I did each excercise in real time. If you want to give it a try you can download it here or you can type DCB move exercise into the search line of the Components browser in SketchUp.





posted in: blogs

Comments (7)

jbholz jbholz writes: Excellent tutorial, thank you. I woulda muddled through, but learned a coupla important things watching your tutorial video (e.g., didn't realize the Move tool had Rotate capability built-in!).

Thanks again, videos like this are a real service to the community.

Posted: 5:57 am on November 4th

DaveRichards DaveRichards writes: Steve, why are you whispering? ;) Yes, you are likely correct. This is a fundamental concept in SkethUp. If you aren't using components or groups in Sketchup, you will create all sorts of problems for yourself.

Posted: 8:02 am on July 23rd

saschafer saschafer writes:

The point that @niceguystrom makes regarding components is, without a doubt, the solution to @Hughie's difficulties.

Components, components, components.

Converting everything into components early and often is the (relatively) unintuitive part of SketchUp, that makes all of the rest of SketchUp much, much more intuitive.

Have I made myself clear? It's components, components, components.


P.S. In case anyone missed it: Components, components, components.

Posted: 7:50 am on July 23rd

DaveRichards DaveRichards writes: Steve, I think the basic keys to working efficiently in SketchUp are learning to navigate in the 3D space using the various inferencing tools for both drawing and manipulating the entities once they are created and understanding the sticky nature of geometry. Both of these are are first lesson sorts of things in the SketchUp training course.

As to your questions about modifying a project, what you do depends upon how the model was created. You might take a look at Modifying a Model http://www.finewoodworking.com/item/23220/modifying-a-model Although not intended as basic tutorials you might also look at the videos here: http://www.finewoodworking.com/item/22911/a-fern-stand-demonstrating-my-drawing-process and here: http://www.finewoodworking.com/item/24328/jeffersons-bookstand-another-workflow-example

I'd be happy to talk with you if you'd like. You could send me an e-mail. Click on my name at the end of the blog post to do that.


Posted: 6:15 am on July 23rd

niceguystrom niceguystrom writes: Dave,

I would tend to concur with Hughie. As a high school shop teacher I find it takes the kids plenty of practice to find the "right" ways to move items. Key among them is the concept of grouping things into components--something you intuitively know but the novice wouldn't catch.

This is my first reading of your blog, so I will look through it some more looking for how you suggest moving things precisely. EX. once a design for a table has been made, what are your suggestions for lengthening it to an exact finished dimension; or taking a complex extrusion and altering the pattern after the extrusion. I have my 'tricks' but have always felt there must be better ways to alter final designs.

Posted: 5:15 am on July 23rd

DaveRichards DaveRichards writes: Hughie, I guess we can agree to disagree on this point. I don't believe I am wrong at all. I've never found the Move tool anything but intuitive.

Posted: 8:58 pm on July 21st

Hughie Hughie writes: Dear David

With great respect, you are wrong, the Move Tool IS difficult, it is FAR from intuitive. AND yes users of freeware have to adapt to it.

Your explantations were excellent and revealed the inherent difficulty of moving 3D objects which have not been (or cannot be) "isolated" when we want to move them. That would be the solution, app programmers. If I see a .jpg in a WORD file, I can click on it and move it to where I want it. )Ican ALSO work on it as a .jpg file. THis shold be app'd when I click on an object that I want to Move.
Posted: 8:17 pm on July 21st

You must be logged in to post comments. Log in.

Save up to 51% on Fine Woodworking


Become a Better Woodworker

About Design. Click. Build.

Learn the art and science of designing furniture in SketchUp with Fine Woodworking's official blog. Moderated by a devoted community of woodworkers, we feature step-by-step SketchUp tutorials on designing components, downloads of pre-built 3D models of furniture parts, and news and information about the evolving world of digital furniture design.

Buy the Video
Don't miss Dave Richard's brand-new DVD/video download, The Basics.

Buy the Book
Get Tim Killen's popular eBook, the Google SketchUp Guide for Woodworkers.

Basic SketchUp Tutorials 
Learn the basics of building furniture in SketchUp with these classic posts from the Design. Click. Build. blog.

Creating a Project Plan in SketchUp
How I Draw in SketchUp
Axes in SketchUp
The SketchUp Move Tool
The SketchUp Rotate Tool
The SketchUp Scale Tool

Materials, Colors, and Textures
Applying Wood Grain Skins in SketchUp

Easy Dovetail Joints in SketchUp

Digital Project Plans

Download and modify SketchUp files for select projects from Fine Woodworking. View all.

Top Sellers:
Matt's Monster Workbench
New England Pine Cupboard
Garden Bench

Meet the Authors



I am a Biomedical Equipment Technician. I maintain anesthesia and respiratory equipment for the largest medical facility in southeast Minnesota. I...
view profile

Tim Killen

I am retired from Bechtel Corporation after 36 years in Engineering and IT management. I grew up among woodworking machinery in...
view profile


view profile