SketchUp: 3D modeling for carpentry


Every project starts with an idea! And an idea has to be designed before it can be translated into material. You can model on a piece of paper, you can hold everything in your head if the project is very small or you don’t want to be very accurate, but it’s much better to use 3D modeling with specialized software: in this article I will tell you about SketchUp.

SketchUp, a low-polygonal (working with objects of low detail) environment for 3d modeling. It was originally created for interior design of rooms, buildings, furniture placement. For carpentry this product is very attractive because of its simplicity, accessibility (there is a free version) and the presence of related components (when you change one, all related).

The basic interface of SketchUp

The interface is very simple and intuitive compared to other 3d modeling tools.

  • The left part is represented by the modeling tools;
  • At the top are the view control buttons and plugins;
  • Right – properties. The application does not require looking for something in the main menu at all, everything is in the toolbars.

Modeling tools in SketchUp

There are several panel options:

  • Large Toolbox – for a large monitor, a very handy option. All the main elements are in one panel and are on the same level without attachments.
  • The “getting started” panel is the default panel. It is convenient for small screens. Also, all the elements are gathered in one panel, but to use some of the functions – it is required to open the submenus.
  • Separate menus, section by section – if you need to change the order and location of the controls on the screen.
  • 3D objects are drawn directly in the main window, there is no separate view for drawings. You can use a pencil or one of the flat shapes to draw a two-dimensional object and then use the “pull/push” tool to push out the volume. Or use a pencil to complete the volume.

To fix the direction of movement (drawing or pull/push), use the arrows on the keyboard:

  • Up – locking along the blue axis;
  • Right – fixation along the red axis;
  • Left – fixation along the green axis;
  • Down – fixation parallel to the tangent axis. The tangent axis is set by dragging the mouse along one of the existing lines.
  • To set the exact size while drawing, set the size with the keyboard and press Enter.

To set auxiliary lines, use the tools: tape measure and angle meter:

  • The ruler tool allows you to set parallel guide lines. To do this, click on the existing line (you can use centerlines) and move it in the desired direction with the mouse. The distance between the main line and the guideline is set from the keyboard.
  • The Angle tool sets the guideline at an angle to the selected line. You must select the intersection point by setting the plane with arrows or select another point on the line and then set the angle by selecting the third point or by setting the angle from the keyboard.
  • 3D modeling in joinery: examples in SketchUp

How to draw a furniture body in SketchUp

Let’s take a simple example – a furniture cabinet. What could be simpler than four panels joined together. But, for basic skills, it’s a perfect example.

  • On one plane, draw a rectangle by setting the dimensions from the keyboard
  • Create a component from the plane
  • Open the component for editing
  • Extrude the plane with the Drag/Push Tool
  • Ctrl-click with the move tool to copy the displaced component
  • Specify a horizontal plane between two panels and create the component in the same way
  • Similarly, copy the panel by moving it and fix its position by an angle
  • Type “/3” + Enter and divide the area between the panels into 3 areas
  • We get a simple bookcase or a cabinet or a nightstand
  • This simple example demonstrates how 3D modeling in SketchUp can automate some of the routine aspects of design. It may seem complicated at first, but later these skills will seriously save time and reduce mistakes. Because, the most serious mistake is a design mistake!

How to draw a facade for an enclosure in SketchUp

Now, let’s cover the created enclosure with a fa├žade. The facade will make with an indentation: 1mm top/bottom and 2mm on the sides.

  • Create a rectangle the size of the enclosure
  • You create the component and then draw the plane
  • Use the pull/push tool to set indents on each side.
  • Check that the gaps are correct: you can use the tape measure tool
  • Use the RoundCorner plugin (more about plugins below) to set the rounded edge
  • Set the parameters for the edge. In this case, a rounded edge with a radius of 3 mm
  • Of course, we could have done without plugins and made rounding with the tool “guide”, but it is much more laborious.

Plugins for SketchUp

There are a huge number of plugins for SketchUp. I will highlight those which I use myself and those which were very helpful in furniture modeling.

  • First of all you need basic libraries TT_Lib2 and LibFredo6.
  • Solid Inspector – searching and removing gaps in the surface.
  • Round Corner – creating of roundings and chamfers.
  • JointPushPull – extrudes surfaces including curved ones
  • Weld – lets you combine multiple segments into a single curve

I use these plugins all the time and recommend them to you.