Revamping and Updating my Old Shop #6: Putting together a benchtop downdraft table, and learning Sketchup

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Jim Bertelson posted 10-20-2009 03:09 AM 1747 reads 1 time favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 5: Interim update. Wiring the Delta 50-760 Sawdust Collector for 220 Part 6 of Revamping and Updating my Old Shop series Part 7: Prelude to a Project in b# »

Worked this weekend. Isn’t there a federal law against that? And got the flu as well, isn’t there a federal law against that too? I have pretty well licked the flu with magic potions. So not very productive in the shop.

Benchtop downdraft table, ala Rockler:

Designed for Rockler’s downdraft table top sections, with their plans, except I am not using their downdraft table top sections. Will try a new finish that grips well. We’ll see if it holds up to abuse, and being coated with sawdust. I’ll report on my findings. I am already using it on a pushstick and it works great. We’ll see. I am slightly pessimistic.

I have divided the top into three loose sections, perforated, that can be exchanged for blanks to increase the draft if the whole table isn’t needed. The size is perfect for my bench, with connections to sawdust collection, etc. considered.

I cut out most of it a while ago, before I decided I needed to tune up the RAS and build it a new table, and tune up the table saw. So it was screwing and gluing…....screwing and gluing…...doesn’t that have a buzz to it?, and a few nails as well….wish I had a brad nailer. So it is mostly together, and all cut out, including the extra blank sections. They need to be sanded for fit on the edges, a little too close. Too close to fit with more sawing. And of course, the anathema of downdraft tables, making the holes…..haven’t done that. Splitting it into 3 sections will help fit the drill press, but it would have fit anyway. Sharpening up those Forstner bits.

I am really, really, really sorry there are no pictures yet… weekend for sure, when I have the surface on and hopefully have used it a bit…................



Hate to learn graphics programs, they are all arcane, flakey, full of bugs, and always a work in progress. You never know whether it is your lack of expertise and familiarity, or the screwups…..there it is again….. of the programmers. Sketchup is definitely a work in progress. Not bad for a freebee, might get better over time, I suspect. Can’t complain too much, it was only 3 days ago I opened up the program for the first time. It still may be lack of familiarity. Don’t think I would pay $500 bucks for the pro version though.

So I bumbled through the tutorials, and then put my SPACE in Sketchup.The power tools are not pictured yet, the available objects (components) are not up to my totally irrational and absurdly compulsive standards.

So I made some pictures…......I notice LJ’s are really into pictures… were my kids when they were growing up…......... ....................... so was I…................... still am

So, here is the first picture, just showing what I have to deal with, and two objects, the old kitchen cabinets that I reused after the first remodel, and the built in work bench that was here when I bought the house 25 years ago, that I plan to replace or upgrade…........

and two more pictures from different aspects….......

Notice my sidekick Kermit on the built-in bench.

I digress, again…......Kermit is not allowed in the shop when I am working. He is a 19 year old Mitered Conure, about 15” from stem to stern, that we have been possessed by for 19 years…....HE IS IN CONTROL. But, because he is clipped, he flys downward, and unpredictably when startled, so he cannot be around the machines when they are operating. He understands, I am sure. So I thought he might appreciate at least being in the pictures. He is oh so happy, to finally be in the shop.

Of course that is not the only reason he may not be in the shop, especially when I am working. He is a pretty good talker, and is slowly learning the very infrequently used, and abhorred expletives that most rarely enter conversation in the household. And I know, two days in the shop, would make him swear like a sailor (was in the navy many years ago) ........ couldn’t have it.

So hopefully, pictures of the downdraft table this next weekend….......

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

10 comments so far

View pashley's profile


1043 posts in 3715 days

#1 posted 10-20-2009 03:31 AM

Sketchup does bomb out on me occasionally, but I’m on a Mac, for what it’s worth. It IS a program worth learning though, I can testify.

-- Have a blessed day!

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3575 days

#2 posted 10-20-2009 03:32 AM

looking forward to photos

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4173 posts in 3162 days

#3 posted 10-20-2009 04:04 AM


That first line was a little in jest, a grain of truth, and not in anyway a critique. Just having fun. But I will bet the interface improves over time…....

I have dealt with a few graphics programs over the years, and they all seem to have…...well quirks…that sometimes disappear with new versions. I did qualify, I have only dealt with the program for a few days… I am not really complaining, they are very complex beasts…...........

It just makes learning them a hassle…...... Have been into computers since the 70’s, so I really appreciate the advances, but it seems like graphics is the the most difficult for programmers. I will adjust. Just like I do with the other programs…..mostly just complaining about learning a new program….....

I think all programs are works in progress. I have been through untold versions of Microsoft Office, Corel, etc. What fantastic improvements. Wait a minute, I started out with machine language, programming with numbers. You get the drift. But the graphics programs, in particular, still seem to be a little difficult. I think graphics is more difficult to program, especially the user interface, than the other serious programs. I will wait until I have used the program for a few months to be explicit, we’ll see. So far, I am finding solutions…but I shouldn’t have to find solutions, if it were…....what….....perfect. Impossible. So a work in progress. So I complain, inevitably. Geez, give me a break, I am just trying to model my shop over the weekend, and I should get to complain a little (-:

....and I am not just a complainer, I program myself, amateur, and occasional, but I do know what goes into it. So not trying to be too technical, a lot into humor, and I am pursuing it…....I would quit if it were bad. It does have the advantage of drawing in 3D. I guess I am missing the precision of multiple views, distribution and alignment, precise movement in spite of distance, knowing constantly which mode you are in…........we’ll see…......probably just an old goat wishing for the past (-:

Thanks for the commentary…......but do note, this is not a critique of Sketchup…....I’m just having fun…...

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4173 posts in 3162 days

#4 posted 10-20-2009 04:41 AM




-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View dbhost's profile


5710 posts in 3229 days

#5 posted 10-20-2009 04:57 AM

Actually Jim, that looks pretty good for a guy with no formal training in digital imaging…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4173 posts in 3162 days

#6 posted 10-20-2009 06:18 AM



Thanks for the comment. From your background it means something. I have been doing graphics for a long time, most recently in flight simulation scenery….now a mostly abandoned hobby for a number of reasons. No formal training in computers, or graphics, just a lot a time using them.

Hope to get models of my tools out there, and then solicit advice for the future. I remember well your advice, and most of your suggestions I intend to implement. I really like your power tools on shelves suggestion, and intend to implement the router table as part of the TS idea. And I am thinking of using a pre separator in the shop and placing my Delta Sawdust Collector in the neighboring storeroom. Haven’t told the LOML about that yet. All I need is…........time!!! Recovering from working the weekend, and a brief bout of the flu as well. Ever onward.


-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View jlsmith5963's profile


297 posts in 3346 days

#7 posted 10-20-2009 07:13 AM


Don’t worry, for most people complaining about how software works (or doesn’t work) goes with the territory. It was clear that your post was lighthearted. If you ask me ‘The Defenders of the Sketchup’ need to lighten up. Sketchup is a remarkable product, being that its free and all, but it, like all software, can be a pain in the rear as well…. lol

-- criticism: the art of analyzing and evaluating the quality of an artistic work...

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3332 days

#8 posted 10-20-2009 11:14 AM

Hey Jim, I’m impressed that in spite of work and the flu you are still pushing ahead on your workshop update. I think you did a great job learning enough Sketchup to make such a good drawing. I learned a little about sketchup while I was sick for two weeks and when finished I’m not sure I knew more than you do after just a couple of days. Stick with it, I’m sure you will be happier as your skill with it progresses.

Sketchup is a wonderful program and can do pretty sophisticated work. The downside is that for many of us it takes quite awhile to learn. This leads to frustration.

I think if there is a weakness in the program it might be the tutorials. They are ok for more advanced users, but they probably could be improved for people like me.

I find that when someone is showing you how to do something on the computer that they click a few keys, get a quick result and then say “see how easy it is?” Some people have to actually do the clicking to learn it. Unfortunately I am one of those people. I know the tutorials have some of that, which is good, but more would be better.

For me, the issue is whether I am willing to spend so much time using/learning Sketchup that it takes too much time away from the shop, and other pleasurable activities. I know the learning part is an investment with a great payout if you are doing a lot of designing, but for someone like me who is doing small projects it might not give the same return. It can be easy to waste a lot of time on something that you won’t use much. Often, a story stick is just as good and a lot easier to make.

Dave, what are your views on the tutorials? Are they better than I am saying they are? What would be your advice for a novice to learn the basics?

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4173 posts in 3162 days

#9 posted 10-20-2009 05:04 PM


Graphic programs have somewhat similar issues to deal with, and they do it similar ways. The advantage of Sketchup is that you do your designing in 3D. That is also a disadvantage while trying to get to the right view to select or modify something. It also makes for tools with many features and a lot of assumptions about what you are trying to do. There are trade offs. Oh well, I am doing OK with it, much better than I would without some of my background. I’ll keep plugging.

And you are right about divided time. Actually, I like a little computer time interspersed with the shop, it is a comfortable mix for me.

Of course now I am just setting up the shop, redoing the tools, and building things like the downdraft item, which I do need for hand sanding dust control before I get into projects that need good finishing. I just had to make some cuts with my hand held circular saw to bring some plywood sheets down to size, and I can tell you, the amount of sawdust was something I had forgot about. Now with a dust collector running on most of my machines, there is a only a light scattering of larger flakes, with 99% of the big stuff getting sucked up. But of course, no sawdust collection for the handheld saw. Need one of those panel saws with sawdust collection. Oh well, it wouldn’t fit here anyway.

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3332 days

#10 posted 10-20-2009 06:48 PM

Jim, I find that there are a great many wonderful tools, jigs and such that are great to have in the shop when you need them. Before I acquire something for the shop though, my first question is: how much will I be using this thing? If the answer is: not much, and/or it takes a lot of space and/or it costs a lot, I probably don’t buy it or build it. I’m sure you and most other people do the same. I’m always amazed at how many products on the market cause more work than they alleviate. Dust control however, is worth the effort and you seem well aware of that. I’m being a little hypocritical here because I only have a vacuum with a 4” hose and no dust remover. I do hook the vacuum up to whatever tool I’m using and I use a dust mask when appropriate (MDF, particle board, Masonite, tropical wood, etc.) plus I’m keeping my shop clean, so If I don’t die of emphysema I will feel I saved a lot of money and effort, but I’m not counting on it! Looking forward to seeing your sanding table.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics