|Review by jeffbranch||posted 04-01-2012 06:46 PM||6017 views||18 times favorited||20 comments|
I have been using SketchUp now for about two years. As I look back on my progress learning this complex and amazing software program, I have come to the conclusion I went about it the wrong way.
Often, I would start a model and as I ran into a problem, I would search the internet for the solution. I was learning in small bits and pieces – never taking the time to participate anything that would resemble formal lessons. I think many other woodworkers learn the program the same way. I decided recently I would change my ways and learn SketchUp the right way. One effort in achieving this goal was downloading Fine Woodworking’s new video by Dave Richards titled Google SketchUp Guide for Woodworkers – The Basics.
I first ran across Dave Richards, along with Tim Killen at their excellent blog at Fine Woodworking.com called Design. Click. Build. They often give instruction on various SketchUp stumbling blocks readers inquire about and I have learned many things there.
Specifically, Dave is an authorized SketchUp instructor, so you can expect some classroom style teaching in his video.
Making my way through the instruction
Google SketchUp Guide for Woodworkers – the Basics is really a series of six videos or episodes which progressively takes the viewer through the process of building a SketchUp model and then creating the shop drawings required for actual construction. If you were to sit down and watch all the episodes from start to finish, it would take you about an hour.
The subject material for this video is a simple wall mounted cabinet. The question I had for myself was: “As an intermediate level user of SketchUp, should I even consider spending time with this video? Are my skills more advanced than what this video teaches?” Upon launching the software which guides the video, I read this:
”Whatever your skill level, this concise introduction to SketchUp gets you up to speed fast. Learn how to set up the program, use drawing tools, navigate in a 3-D space, sketch, refine drawings, and create shop-ready plans. Already know a little? This easy-to-skim video lets you focus on what’s new to you. Includes: sample project, tips, shortcuts, cheat sheet, and digital plan.”
So, how does the video measure up?
First, a note about the video itself: the video quality is first rate. Forgetting that I was looking at Dave’s video, I found myself trying to click some of the SketchUp tools and buttons on the screen. The audio quality leaves a little to be desired. The volume is not consistent, meaning there are moments which are louder than others, but it is never a problem.
The video is broken up into different episodes which make finding a particular topic easier. For example, I was drawn to the episode titled “Print Your Own Plans.”
The first episode gives a brief, but more than adequate introduction to what are really the basics: how to get oriented in a 3D environment which includes moving around the screen using the basic tools along with important tips detailing how these tools are integrated with the mouse. It is interesting to see which tool sets Dave recommends and I learned a little tip about adjusting the background color. I have always entered the RGB color code for white. Dave just uses the sliders to accomplish this.
The approach with this video is interesting, because the first goal is to utilize SketchUp as a design tool. The initial model; a small cabinet, is created as simply something to look at; just like you would do when showing a design to a client. No joinery is part of this model (that comes later), and really, it is a good exercise for the beginner. A number of different tools are used while designing the cabinet and Dave provides a number of short cuts.
The fourth episode titled “Add Components and Joinery” is where the serious modeling begins. While the wall cabinet appears to be a modest project, it contains several different types of joinery which makes for a good teaching project.
I have seen dovetail competitions where one woodworker races another in an attempt to cut the fastest dovetail joint. If Dave were to participate in a competition on the fasted way to draw a door rail, I think he would win hands down. His technique is super simple and fast – more below…
Different Strokes for Different Folks
One of the interesting things about this video is that I can see yet another SketchUp pro in action. In Tim Killen’s, Google SketchUp Guide for Woodworkers ebook, the process is laid out for making the rail for a cabinet door – and Tim’s method is much faster than how I would have done it.
But in Dave Richard’s video, he does this same thing in a totally different way. Note the second image: Dave instructs the viewer to select the left edge of the rail, and then using the move tool and control key, these highlighted edges are moved to the right ¼ inch. This process is repeated a second time.
These steps create the boundry for both the slot for the panel as well a tenon for each end. Dave then asks the viewer to use the push pull tool to complete the rail. He adds one quick short cut which further simplifies things and in no time at all, the completed rail is formed.
I am not saying that Dave’s method is better than Tim’s, rather it is interesting how two experts go about a similar task in different ways.
The rest of the cabinet joinery goes just as fast and includes slightly complex sliding dovetails for the shelves. Tips are frequently given with the goal of avoiding measuring as much as possible. To achieve this, Dave often uses adjacent components to determine appropriate sizes.
The cabinet is completed by adding a door knob and hinges for the cabinet door (models of these components are included with the video). Properly locating a knob can be a fussy endeavor, so I was glad I could follow along and see how Dave did this. The same is true for the hinge.
The Final Episode
While I have created a number of exploded images, I have not created any shop drawings. I also have very limited experience with layers and scenes. The last episode covers these features and processes in detail, and Dave goes over various ways to print images.
I have watched this episode twice already and finally decided I would open the included wall cabinet model and follow along as Dave creates some different layers and scenes. This is all good stuff and I can easily see myself coming back to this episode as I tackle future projects and their shop drawings.
Finally, Dave discusses how to create a cut list and a cutting diagram using a special plug-in. Nothing is left out of the process of turning your model into useful information for construction.
I have already mentioned that the video comes with a SketchUp model of the wall cabinet, along with the needed models for the knob and hinge. Tauton goes the extra mile and also includes a separate model of the wall cabinet with scenes along with a pdf file with a complete plan for making the cabinet.
And if all of this isn’t enough, the download also includes a cheat sheet/quick guide as well as a thirteen page transcript of the video.
In the case of the cheat sheet, it is not as comprehensive as the Quick Reference Card that comes with SketchUp, but I have never really used that guide because I find it too complex. The more simple approach of Dave’s cheat sheet makes it more user friendly (and specific to woodworking).
There is a lot I could say about this video. Things like how it is perfect for the beginning 3D modeler – well laid out with logical progression from design all the way to shop plans. I could write about how Dave provides a wealth of knowledge in the form of tips and short cuts that makes modeling faster and more fun – things that take a lot of the complexity out of SketchUp. I could say how at $12.95 the video is a gigantic value, especially with all the extras it comes with.
But for me, the big thing is this: does it answer the question I posed at the outset of this blog post? Is it useful for someone who has advanced beyond the beginner level. That answer is a resounding yes.
If you choose to get this video, I think you will be well pleased with your purchase and you will be on your way to more enjoyment with SketchUp.
See Dave Richards’ Google SketchUp Guide for Woodworkers – The Basics by clicking here.