Sunday, November 6, 2011

A really authentic SketchUp model

ost of the drawings I do in SketchUp are not final project illustrations. As a matter of a fact, none of them have been fully drawn with everything 100% accurate when compared to the finished project. In general, I use SketchUp to help me work out design ideas and communicate construction techniques during the build, but I don’t usually need to include things like screws, or for bookcases, shelf pins for example. Some things just aren’t necessary.

But recently, I have felt the need to push myself – I want to learn more about drawing with SketchUp. To that end, I will soon be uploading the SketchUp 3D model of the Tornado Bed to Google’s 3D Warehouse; and due to this, my drawing pretty much has to be perfect.

For the Tornado Bed build, I had taken the original model to about 80-90% complete. But during construction, I had taken the illustration apart, moved components around and changed the wood texture, among other things. When looking for a version of this model I could add to the 3D Warehouse, I realized all of them were messed up in some way. Instead of doing some significant fixing, I decided to simply start all over.

Making the wrought steel hardware
The biggest thing missing from my original drawing was the bed hardware (Rockler calls these Heavy Duty Wrought Steel Rail Fasteners). I first searched the net for existing SketchUp illustrations of these, but none seemed to exist. I even searched Google’s 3D Warehouse for models of beds hoping that at least one of them would include this hardware. I found a Popular Woodworking model which had all the mortises cut for such hardware, but strangely, the hardware itself was absent. My first challenge was therefore identified: make an accurate copy of the bed hardware (click the images to enlarge them).

This mostly accurate illustration wasn't too complicated to execute except for the counter bored screw holes. I researched how best to do them, but in the end, I had to come up with my own process.

I had to then create the needed alterations to each end of both side rails to accommodate the hardware.

With this completed, I had to basically repeat this process for the fasteners which attach to the posts (note that I have even included wood screws - a chore to rotate in 3D).

Pegging the tenons
As I went through the detailed (and time consuming) process of adding the bed hardware to the model, I kept thinking of other missing details which needed to be added. The first thing that came to mind was the missing pins for the mortise and tenon joints - there are 14 pins in the head board alone.

With the outer board of a post removed, you can better see how the pinned mortise and tenon joint works.

"Drilling" a hole through four components means careful use of the guides. This is tedious, but not all that hard to do.

A challenging aspect of this process was simply getting the pin positioned properly within the hole. Once I got one in place, it was simply a case of copying in place and then moving the pin the appropriate distance to the next hole.

Renovating the finials
My goal with this illustration is to include every part of the bed as it was constructed. This means I had to re-draw the finials and make alterations to the little base they sit on.

In earlier illustrations, it appears the finials are made from one solid 2 3/4" block of wood. In reality they were glued-up from four pieces of stock. I also never included the tenon dowel that is used to attach the finial to the base. So...

Here is the re-drawn finials as they should be. All I need to do now is add the tenon.

I add color and the finial is complete. You can see the original finial in the background.

The next thing I need to do is make an accurate representation of the finial base. This means centering a 3/4" hole in the base, creating counter sink holes and adding screws (I downloaded the screws from Google's 3D Warehouse).

Here is the accurate finial and base (I decided to soften the lines between the blocks in the finial).

Final adjustments
The two remaining items on my punch list have to do with the slats and the cleat they rest on. The original 3D model had one long cleat. When I built the Tornado Bed, the long cleat I had selected for this warped pretty badly. To compensate for the warp, I cut the cleat into four separate boards. The illustration below now reflects that change and one more...

Note the four separate cleats and the addition of wood screws - for some reason I really like the look of the screws in this model. In the actual bed, the cleat is made of oak. Note in the model that the cleat is the same darker color that you would find in stained oak.

The slats which were originally a partical board color now have a nice natural pine color.

After working in my spare time for more than a week, I am calling what really was an itch that had to be scratched finished. Here is the before and after...

Here is the very first illustration of the Tornado Bed, void of all the fine details.

Here is the very detailed model ready to be uploaded into Google's 3D Warehouse (you just have to click this image to enlarge it - much better than the origianl model).

This was a good exercise; fun at times and a chore at other times. Here are some thoughts on making a 3D model that is available for public download:
  • Set aside some time. Adding photo realistic wood textures and items like wood screws takes time. A model that others can download requires attention to detail.
  • Second, plan out how you will make components and the names you give them. I had several problems along the way with components I copied for use in other parts of the model. Also, I went back and forth on how to organize component names keeping in mind that this model is optimized for running through a cut list plug-in.
  • Make sure you have adequate computer power. My old desktop PC showed it's age while drawing this model. The final file size of my 3D Warehouse model was more than 40 megabytes. A new computer goes on my wish list.
I don't plan to make such a detailed model often, but it is good to do every now and then.

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David Scott said...

I wish I could wrap my mind around sketchup. Great work

Jeff Branch said...

Thanks David. I just downloaded a good e-book from Fine Woodworking on Sketch-Up. It goes over some beginning stuff as well as more advanced tips, just for woodworkers.

But you are right about the difficulty in learning it. I can blame several headaches on SketchUp. :)