A lot of woodworkers remain reluctant to use CAD software due to they didn’t use to be intuitive or easy to use. I can say that once you take a few minutes to learn the basic functions you will end using them for all your projects. The drawing, understanding and measurement of the plans will be much quicker and easier.
Today I want to talk you about SketchUp, one of the most popular CAD software. It is very easy to use and the online free version has almost all an amateur woodworker can need.
All the plans available on this website include a 3D SketchUp. In this article you will find more information about the plans and other CAD programs.
We can download it in sketchup.com. Click on “Try SketchUp” and select “For Personal Projects”. This way you will get the online free version of SketchUp. You can also download and install a 30 Day Trial “Pro version”.
I will show how to install the “Pro version”. Select your profession or interest. Your operating system, agree the license and click on download. Click to install it, next, select the folder if you want, install… and finish.
Agree the end user license agreement, continue and that’s it. Choose the template you want to work with. I am gonna go with woodworking and millimeters. And start using SketchUp.
In the online edition there are only a few things you can not do, as import or export CAD files, export to PDF, print to scale, etc. You can view the complete list online here.
Almost all the tools in SketchUp are very intuitive, so I am gonna tell you a a few important tips, that can be so useful if you are a beginner.
Imagine I want to make a cube of 500mm. First I have to draw a square with the rectangle tool. Click on the point you want to start, drag it keeping an eye in the dimensions box at the lower right corner; and click again to set the final point.
It can be complicated sometimes to find the exact point but we can insert the dimensions manually. So I’ll type 500;500 again and press enter. You must write the semicolon between the quantities. To give it the height we need select the push/pull tool and again type 500.
As you can see in the “Entity Info” window, all the parts of my cube are in the Layer 0. Any thing you draw, do it in this layer and you’ll have no problems. Then, you can create a group or component and place it in the layer you want.
To convert the cube in a component or group you have to select it. Take care with the way you select, if you click and drag from right to left, the selection will includes all the elements that are only partially inside of the box.
From left to right, it will include only elements completely within the box. If you want to include everything, you can do it using “Control+A”.
Once it is selected, right click and “Make Component”. Now I can make a new layer and place it there. Take special attention if you are going to duplicate these components because they will keep the same properties of the original, so if you modify one, you’ll modify them all. This can be so useful sometimes to save time.
If you don’t want this to happen, you can make a group instead or make the component unique.
We can make as much layers as we need, make them visible or hide them. And we can also activate the “Color by layer” option so you can easily know to which layer belongs any component.
Another interesting feature is the dimension tool. If you don’t see it with the other icons, you can find it on the “Tools Menu” or activating the “Construction Toolbar”. With this tool you can easily draw dimension lines between any two points in your model and move them to a layer as any other element.
You may also want to activate the styles and views tool bars, they really come in handy to quickly change the camera, activate the “X-ray”, and show or hide colors, solid faces and textures.
We can also create scenes of our model where we can change the view and select the elements we want to show. You can modify the settings of the scenes going to “window / model info / animation”.
In the menu “Camera” we can change from perspective to parallel projection.
And finally, something a lot of you had asked, you can change the units any time you want in “Window/Model Info/Units”.