Introduction: Using SketchUp As a Woodworking Design Software
This video and tutorial goes through the process of designing a piece of furniture (a table) in SketchUp based on custom dimensions, and creating usable woodworking plans. It covers basic design concepts and step-by-step instructions for how to model a piece of furniture in SketchUp Pro 2020, although this works in all versions of SketchUp.
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Step 1: Measure the Space You Want to Fill and Create Guides in SketchUp
Measure the area you want the furniture to fit. Find out what basic height, width, and depth you want the piece. For bookcases, measure the wall where you want to put it. For tables, measure the bed or couch adjacent to where the table will live.
Then go into SketchUp and use some guides to draw out the basic dimensions. For this end table, I used the height, width, and depth to mark out where the tabletop goes.
Step 2: Draw the Tabletop and Give It Depth
Use the rectangle tool and draw the tabletop, snapping to your guides. Then use the Push/Pull tool to extrude the tabletop downward to the thickness you want. This thickness can be determined by the size of lumber you have available. A common size is 7/8" thick because you can start with 4/4 lumber and plane it down a little bit.
Once the tabletop is drawn, make it a Component and give it a name like "tabletop".
Step 3: Make Guides on the Bottom of the Tabletop
Use the tape measure tool to draw guides on the bottom of the tabletop. I want the legs to be 2" thick, so I made a guide 2" to the inside of each edge.
Step 4: Draw a Square and Then Push-Pull It Into a Leg
Use the rectangle tool and draw a square that snaps to the guides and to the corner. Then use the Push/Pull tool to extrude the leg all the way to the baseline of your SketchUp file.
Then make that leg a component.
Step 5: Color the Inside Faces and Duplicate the Leg
Before duplicating the leg component, double-click the leg to edit it, and paint the two inside faces of the leg a different color. This is important for later on when you add joinery, so the leg is oriented correctly.
Once it has been colored, duplicate that leg component and rotate it to place it on each corner, with the colored faces towards the inside of the table.
Step 6: Determine the Leg Offset Based on the Style You Want
At this point, you can choose to leave the leg on the outside of the tabletop, or to bring it in slightly for a different look. This is mostly based on what style you want to achieve.
You can experiment with this by moving the legs inward from the edge in SketchUp, or you can find a piece of furniture you like the look of and measure the leg offset from the top.
I liked the look with the legs on the edge of the tabletop, so I hit Undo (Ctrl+Z) until the legs reset to their original position.
Step 7: Experiment With Leg Thickness
To find out how thick you want the leg, edit the leg component and Push/Pull the sides inward or outward until you like the look. This change will be reflected on all four legs.
I changed the leg thickness to 3" and then determined that 2" was better, so I undid the change.
Step 8: Mark the Apron Pieces and Model Them
Using the measuring tape, draw a guide parallel with the bottom of the tabletop, and move it downward until you like the thickness of it.
Then use that guide to draw a rectangle, creating the basis for an apron piece.
Use the Push/Pull tool to extrude the apron piece to the desired thickness. This is often 7/8" or 3/4" thick, but can be customized based on your design or available lumber.
Make the apron piece a component, and then duplicate it to make the opposing apron piece.
Repeat this process to make the shorter apron pieces on the adjacent sides of the table.
Step 9: Look at the Table Design. Add Joinery If Necessary.
Take a look at the table you have created. Rotate the camera around to get a good look at it, and modify components if necessary to get the desired look.
At this point, you have a complete usable model, but there is no joinery, so it would need to be constructed using dowel joints, pocket screws, or dominoes.
To learn how to model mortise and tenon joints in SketchUp, you can watch my video about modeling a mortise and tenon joint.
For a more detailed tutorial on designing and modeling a Shaker style table with joinery, watch my Skillshare video here.
Step 10: Use the Dimension Tool to Make Woodworking Plans
Using the dimension tool, draw the important measurements on your model.
For detailed dimensions of each piece, duplicate each piece and move it to the side, and draw the dimensions on that piece.
Do this for each piece and create a new Scene for each one. This will give you usable woodworking plans for making the furniture. If you have the Layout program, you can use these scenes to make printable plans.
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