While I wait on the router bits needed to move forward on my crown molding project, I have been working on a SketchUp model for a future eBook. One look at my blog and anyone can tell that I often use illustrations to communicate ideas, and for me, SketchUp is my illustration tool of choice.
My learning curve with SketchUp has been vast. In my early days with the program, I would often get very frustrated. My drawings would become messed up in so many ways, I would basically give up and start the model all over. But slowly, I have begun to master SketchUp and this learning by doing continues. I’ll bet I re-drew the Tornado Bed at least four times while searching for the best way to organize components. There is so much more to learn – SketchUp is an amazing design tool; one look at SketchUp’s blog confirms this. The models featured there are at times very realistic.
Resources for learning
Up to this point, I have relied on the following sources to grasp the basics of SketchUp (I pride myself on being able to learn my way around a software program, but SketchUp has been a bear)...
Google SketchUp video tutorials: it is interesting to see instruction in a video format, but I need to see it in print from time to time.
Google SketchUp 7 for Dummies: A good book and easily worth the cost, but very broad and not specific to woodworking.
Design. Click. Build.: A blog at Fine Woodworking.com written by Tim Killen and Dave Richards which provides many useful tips on everything from simple modeling processes all the way to extremely complex ones.
Feeling a need to better understand SketchUp, I decided to download Tim Killen’s eBook, Google SketchUp Guide for Woodworkers. I immediately began to learn things about the program which have simplified the process for drawing. At present, Google SketchUp Guide for Woodworkers (here after referred to as SUGW) is on sale 25% off the list price - $9.72, which is a no brainer I think (especially when compared to a competing eBook by Popular Woodworking’s Bob Lang titled Woodworker’s Guide to SketchUp which sells for $39.95).
Since I am a fan of graphic design, the first thing I noticed was how well organized SUGW is, and like every Taunton product, the ebook is visually appealing. The illustrations featured in the eBook are numerous, they vary in size which means they are large when they need to be. The page layout and use of fonts and color are crisp and traditional – well done and not flashy. SUGW has sixteen chapters, a total of 141 pages and comes complete with a practice SketchUp file.
I have currently been through the first five chapters and plan to have the eBook completed by January 1st. Here are some thoughts so far...
Chapter One: "Introduction" - from the outset, Tim Killen lays out how to best utilize SketchUp for woodworking projects. Tim discusses SketchUp's strengths and weaknesses and gives an overview of what to expect in the following chapters.
Chapter Two: "How to Set Up SketchUp for Woodworking" - here Tim discusses ways to initially set up the program's preferences, optimizing it for woodworking projects. I would have never thought to implement some of the adjustments Tim recommends - it is nice to be able to take advantage of his expertise as a woodworker and SketchUp pro. Tim also offers advise on how to set the default style for models and which tools to add to the tool bar.
Chapter Three "The Modeling Environment and Toolbars" - a critical chapter because Tim gives an overview how to best move a model and move around a model. I have seen his videos on FWW.com and wondered how he so easily and quickly moves through a model. Now I know. He discusses the various ways to use a mouse which this alone is worth the price of the e-book. Tim writes:
"The benefits of using a mouse can be simply put: A mouse lets you multitask. You can be drawing a line, moving a component, or copying it while simultaneously moving around the model. There is no need to stop one activity and switch tools when you want to shift your view of the model."
Understanding the full flexibility of the mouse will make your modeling so much easier.
Tim also gives an overview of each tool within the various tool bars, which ones he uses frequently and why. Here again, the little things I learned add up to a lot.
Chapter Four: "How to Use Basic SketchUp Tools" - in this chapter, Tim takes the basic toolset and discusses the use of each tool. It is in chapter four that you actually begin drawing things: basic shapes to better understand how each tool works. He discusses the concept of edges and faces as well as (for me) the most beneficial tip of the chapter: how to stay on axis when drawing.
Chapter Five: "Learn to Draw Precisely" - Tim takes us through our first exercise: learning to draw the end of a Tage Frid workbench (see illustration above). Drawing this componet takes you through the use of most every tool in the basic toolset. The detail of instruction is excellent. Once a woodworker masters this illustration, he'll be well on his way to understanding SketchUp.
More to come
I plan to do a whole series of blog posts as I work through SUGW. And "work" is a key word because there are a series of exercises to complete - a great feature of this ebook. In SUGW, Tim is very much an instructor, so if you decide to download his ebook, be prepared for some useful homework.
This is the illustration I have been working on: the Massive Bookcase project I completed a number of years ago. It was my first commission and a reader of my blog requested that I publish the plans for building it. So, it will be the subject of my next ebook.
This is the first post in this series. I comment on chapters six and seven here and chapters eight through ten here.
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