To Sketchup or Not to Sketchup; Google Sketchup That Is

When I started my woodworking career about 6 years ago, I started out working for a custom closet factory. I learned everything I could from design to functionality to manufacturing to finish to installation to operation and management. Since then I have come a long way. So far so good.A few months ago I was talking to a potential client and he mentioned that had been messing around with Google Sketchup. First I ever heard of it. Best I heard him tell me was, “It’s free.” There is a paid package as well, but for the time and my necessary use, the free version was all that I needed. 

So, after our conversation, I jumped online and downloaded the program. I messed around a little. After a few minutes (in the discounted web acronym, WTF!), even after watching some of the basic tutorials provided by Google that go with the program, I gave up. My mind was racing around “scientific.” I guess it must have been from attempting to understand why some high end programs out there such as AutoCAD, KCDW and the likes were so darned expensive and require almost a college degree to really be able to use them efficiently, not to mention the monthly fees that some require. I mean, come on now, the economy stinks, fewer and fewer want to spend a lot, if any, of their hard earned money on luxury items, and more and more consumers are running businesses around in circles looking for the cheapest prices not realizing that cheap prices come with cheap quality (hint, hint, spend and do right the first time or spend more and more the second time, third time…). This is not to say that these are bad programs at all; they have extremely beneficial uses especially when it comes to Computer Numerical Control (a.k.a. CNC) machinery, however, I have kind of resolved to believe that those who have spent and continue to spend ridiculous fortunes on software probably hate Google Sketchup right about now (because it’s free), but that’s okay. Please don’t frown on me for finding, learning, using and educating Google Sketchup.

A few months after my few-minute excursion with Google Sketchup I got a call for a fair-sized shaker style kitchen cabinet project. The customer was moving in from California in a month and I knew the paper drawings was just not going to cut it. I knew I could just draw up the designs old school style on paper, fax it and all that other traditional methodology stuff or try to find a cheap program and learn it quickly. So I went online and tried again to find some good and easy instruction about Sketchup and I stumbled onto a tutorial by a carpenter, Gary M. Katz. Let me tell ya. Not only did he explain and educate how Google Sketchup works, he drew up an entire basic bookcase project with all the fixins’. After I watched the video, I opened the Google SketchUp program, restarted the video and made good use of the pause button. Four days later, I had a complete kitchen designed with Shaker doors, added crown molding and the rest is to become history for my gold find.

Yes, Sketchup sure does make life a lot easier when it comes to planning a custom cabinetry project.

Thank you, Gary, for opening this ever so small door to a vast array of creative imagination within the cranial confines of my own infinite mind. Here’s the link to the video by Gary M. Katz.

By the way, I have a few Sketchup designs posted on my website. If you need any help using the program, shoot me an email and I’ll do my best. Heck, I might even be forced to learn something new about the program.

With Google Sketchup the two absolute most important rules are creating components and groups. Ever individual part must be made into a component. Group is used for modules, i.e., after you’ve created a carcass with panels and back, making it a “group” makes it a complete module in itself. Then create and attach a face frame and make it a group again creating an open cabinet. Add the doors and you made you entire cutlist to scale.

It is a very easy program, like a calculator. I was simply amazed by the simplicity of this simple-to0use program. No need to fear. So easy a caveman can do it. The paid version, as I understand it, supports programs such as AutoCAD. That’s advanced to me for now so we won’t go there.

There is so much that can be done with and beyond Google Sketchup that it is only limited to your own imagination. That’s it for now, though. Go play!
Good luck!
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