how usable is sketchup to the average

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Forum topic by davyj posted 09-05-2010 03:50 PM 1727 views 2 times favorited 28 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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36 posts in 2879 days

09-05-2010 03:50 PM

IF you use Sketch up, how handy and how hard is it, to be usable to the “occasional user” ? would like to put a few ideas on paper using wooden threaded hardware.

-- retired GM/Delphi , Retired USN/USAFR

28 replies so far

View lew's profile


12102 posts in 3783 days

#1 posted 09-05-2010 03:54 PM

Check with LJ DaveR. He is the Master!

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View iamwelty's profile


259 posts in 3144 days

#2 posted 09-05-2010 04:09 PM

Great question… I’ve got a few designs that I’d like to do on sketch up, but don’t have the time to learn it … I even bought Sketch Up for Dummys… but don’t have time to read it… Sigh.

-- There is a fine line between eroticism and nausea...

View Greedo's profile


473 posts in 2988 days

#3 posted 09-05-2010 04:18 PM

i came to the conclusion that every minute i spend more on sketchup, saves me an hour of work in the workshop!
building first digitally allows you to find and resolve problems you would only come across once you started construction, and you can see if the proportions are right etc… i don’t start any project without a sketchup plan.

i have worked with 4 3d programs and sketchup is by verry far the most easy, and the only one you can start using like that even after not having used it for months. it takes a few hours to master the basics, while other programs require months and years of daily use.

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5621 posts in 3741 days

#4 posted 09-05-2010 04:23 PM

I think learning SU is well worth the time. I think it actually saves you time in the shop because it makes you plan out all your joints, measurements and proportions before you get in the shop; it is like building the project once digitally then building it for real in the shop. People often comment on how long it takes to learn SU, but if you were to learn to draw with pencil and paper equally well it would take you far longer (trust me I used to do manual cartography and drawing well and accurately as does SU is not easily learned :-). I look at it that it will take me a while to learn hand planing, or proper design methods and it will also take time to learn another tool…Sketchup.

I really like the videos on the SU home site, I am not fond of the Dummy books (I’ve only experience one so I don’t have a representative sample). I think Google has done an incredible job of making resources available to learn SU, and considering that it is free it is even more incredible how powerful it is and with Steve’s cutlist plugin it is super useful for the average home woodworker. I did a bathroom renno using Steve’s cutlist program and it was spot on for how much material I needed…and that was the biggest obstacle to me starting was figuring out how much material I actually needed and not just use a WAG as to how much material was needed.

Lew is bang on with respect to DaveR, Dave is an incredible resource here on LJs. He has helped a huge number of people get started and advance their skills (he was a great help to me trying to figure out the dovetail plugin and in general using the tool…Thanks again Dave!). A while back I think it was Dave that was talking about drawing spirals in SU and gave a bit of a tutorial, that may be worth searching for.

Take a rainy afternoon and bring up SU and the homesite for it and learn the fundamentals, it will be time well spent!

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3202 days

#5 posted 09-05-2010 04:27 PM

Not only will I 3rd the comments about DaveR, but … think Martin ought to send DAVE an LJ t-shirt for all of HIS contributions to our progress !

I’m pretty computer savvy, but … visually impaired.

One of the programs that I truly with I could use (on a regular basis) IS Sketchup. Dave got me far enough, in one sitting, that—between him AND the SU for Dummies book (I thought it was useful), I got a glimpse into the wonderful world of SU possibilities.

It reminds me of that old Abe Lincoln quote:

” If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the axe “

To me … using SU, first, is sharpening the axe. It’s a big boy’s Etch-a-Sketch.

I would … at least … give it a whirl !

Good luck !!

-- -- Neil

View Tomw's profile


100 posts in 3256 days

#6 posted 09-05-2010 04:42 PM

I’m still astonished that SU is free software. I’ve corresponded with many folks who prefer it to programs costing hundreds, or thousands, of dollars. My 7 year old nephew loves “drawing” with it, so it’s definitely easy to learn the basics quickly. It can be used for conceptual design work as well as complete detailed joinery drawings.

You mentioned wood threads: I played around with this some, but never came up with anything truly accurate. Like others, when I’m trying to do something tricky, DaveR is the man I turn to. In addition to his postings here, he coauthors Fine Woodworking’s SketchUp blog with Tim Killen:

I seem to remember seeing something about creating threads there a while back.

-- Tom

View phlepper's profile


21 posts in 3281 days

#7 posted 09-05-2010 04:45 PM

I will echo everyone else’s comments about SU and say that having detailed plans shaves significant time in the shop. I struggled with SU to really do anything useful with it until I purchased Bob Lang’s “Woodworker’s Guide to Google Sketchup 7”. It was well worth it and I was able to quickly bang out a rolling storage chest and a bedside table. Having a guide that’s oriented towards woodworking made getting up to speed with the tool really easy and fast.

Definitely recommend it.

Have fun!

-- "A hammer in search of a nail..." (

View Tomw's profile


100 posts in 3256 days

#8 posted 09-05-2010 04:47 PM

Here’s the DaveR blog entry I was thinking of. A spiral pattern, not threads per se, but seemingly adaptable to it.

-- Tom

View Rileysdad's profile


110 posts in 3307 days

#9 posted 09-05-2010 04:51 PM

Like many of us LJs, I use SU to plan most projects. I think it saves a lot of time and material.

But if you are looking for something that just works without devoting any time to learn it, you’re out of luck here. It takes a little time to get the basics and the more complex stuff will confound you for hours at a time.

I envy those of you who can just jump into a project with nothing more than an idea in mind and have it turn out beautiful. I’m not that guy. I have to work things out in advance.

-- Measure twice, cut once, buy extra stock.

View TheDane's profile


5448 posts in 3691 days

#10 posted 09-05-2010 05:26 PM

There is a learning curve, but it does come in handy. I bought Bob Lang’s Woodworker’s Guide to Google SketchUp and used what I learned to design and build a cupboard for my wife’s sewing room.

Click for details

This project was full of mortise and tenon joints, plus a bunch rabbets and angled cuts. I think the Sketchup model and dimensioned drawings I produced from it made setting up cuts more accurate and easier, and gave me a better end result.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Mike's profile


18 posts in 3023 days

#11 posted 09-05-2010 08:19 PM

I can tell you SU is the greatest thing for guys/gals that are not daily woodworkers. Here’s why.

1) It helps you plan better by allowing you to see your project first and make design alterations accordingly.

2) Saving’s in materials can be had by not buying more than you need, as you can rummage around and figure out precisely what is needed.

3) A very basic blueprint can be had in, if your better with it than me, you can make every stick and piece if you want.

For people like myself with limited skills but big ideas it is invaluable. The thing you want to do first is go to google and watch the tutorial video’s. They are VERY helpful and will flatten out the learning curve into an arc.

-- Why measure twice when you can cut twice.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4246 days

#12 posted 09-05-2010 08:46 PM

To borrow Neil’s analogy about sharpening the axe…

Four hours to sharpen the axe and two hours to cut down the tree equals six hours. I’d rather just spend three hours chopping down the tree with a dull axe. :-)

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View rance's profile


4258 posts in 3188 days

#13 posted 09-05-2010 09:25 PM

You can do without SU…

If you never misscalculate a measurement,
If you never need to use an eraser,
If you never need to email an idea to a client,
If you never have problems ‘imagining’ how a finish piece will look,
If you never need to make revisions,
If you….

Well, I think you get the point. :) Give it a try. Even as a casual user, you won’t be sorry. The only caveat is that you should do at least enough study (with your dummies book) to know to use Groups & Components.

The only thing it fails at is being able to take your design to g-code for CNC work. No big deal for 99% of folks.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View dedalo's profile


173 posts in 2925 days

#14 posted 09-05-2010 10:13 PM

For me it’s a must, I may not finish the hole project on SU, but if helps me feel if the things are right, I can take measures, calculate angles, make material list. For me it´s a must.


View Don Butler's profile

Don Butler

1092 posts in 3423 days

#15 posted 09-05-2010 10:45 PM

To answer your first question, SU is NOT GOOD for the occasional user.
You MUST use it frequently and mount the learning curve with determination.

However, SU is definitely a SUPERB woodworking tool.

And, DaveR is absolutely the SU MASTER!


-- No trees were damaged in posting this message, but thousands of electrons were seriously inconvenienced.

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