Dave Richards makes SketchUp easy

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Review by jeffbranch posted 04-01-2012 06:46 PM 12790 views 22 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Dave Richards makes SketchUp easy Dave Richards makes SketchUp easy Dave Richards makes SketchUp easy Click the pictures to enlarge them

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 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.

Jeff Branch


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110 posts in 3423 days

21 comments so far

View IrreverentJack's profile


728 posts in 3614 days

#1 posted 04-01-2012 09:37 PM

Dave Richards helped many of us when he posted on LJ’s. His video on modeling Jefferson's Bookstand is my inspiration to make it through SketchUp’s learning curve. There are a couple of really good tutorials that are free – I’m still going to buy this one. Thanks for the review Jeff. -Jack

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3886 days

#2 posted 04-01-2012 09:42 PM

thanks for a well done rewiew Jeff :-)


View davidroberts's profile


1027 posts in 4257 days

#3 posted 04-01-2012 09:55 PM

Really nice review. Thanks for taking the time to really give us some good information. I saw this just advertized on FineWoodworking but did not click to see the price because I just don’t have the $50 or $100 I was expecting the video to cost. Dang, $12.95 is a giveaway. You just confirmed that my approach to Sketchup is like a lot of other folks out there. Mess around with the program, get confused fast, watch youtube videos, get more confused, read blogs, get frustrated, type in a question on Goggle search, find out a bunch of people had the same problem, more watching, reading. a lot of time. I just did a sketchup for a set of steps-stairs for a slope in the backward that washes out. Two hours later, and I have a working model, a very rough working model. Sad really. I guess some of us need to be knuckleheads first. I’m always first.

-- Better woodworking through old hand tools.

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10923 posts in 4823 days

#4 posted 04-01-2012 10:17 PM

Dave Richards contacted me when I expressed interest in it some time ago…

He went out of his way to Help me get started…

A Super nice guy…

I wish he would come back to LJ… I miss his contributions…

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:

View ajosephg's profile


1887 posts in 4332 days

#5 posted 04-01-2012 10:24 PM

Thanks for the review.

Dave Richards is one of a kind and has to be one of the best if not the best Sketchup practitioners. Besides his technical abilities, he communicates well.

One of the problems with SU is that their “HELP” is basically a web search so if you look for help on a given topic and click the help button you buried with thousands of hits, most of them not very good. Dave’s video should be a major asset in minimizing the SU learning curve.

-- Joe

View jeffbranch's profile


110 posts in 3423 days

#6 posted 04-01-2012 10:43 PM

Thanks for the comments. I have emailed Tim Killen a number of times for advise, but for some reason, never Dave. He has always been quick to reply to a comment I leave for him at; so I suspect as ya’ll say, he is a super nice guy.

Just for the heck of it, you can see some of my SketchUp models at my blog:


View jeffbranch's profile


110 posts in 3423 days

#7 posted 04-02-2012 01:01 PM

Thanks Jonathan. I am a member at Sketchucation, although I have not spent much time there. Too many places on the internet to spend time at. :) I’ll look for him there.


View Ken90712's profile


17867 posts in 3959 days

#8 posted 04-02-2012 02:39 PM

Great review. I am like alot of others on here as well. I made and designed my outdoor kitchen on SU but it took alot longer than it should have. I fumbled around went back to the training videos on you tube and when I thought I had it tried again. This sounds like a great program, and I look fwd to watching this video. 13 bucks is a small price to pay for saving time.

Thx and great review!

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1537 posts in 3246 days

#9 posted 04-02-2012 03:28 PM

Yep, Dave is a super nice guy, like many here he has helped me and I am certainly getting his video since there is still a lot I don’t know. BTW, you can do with SU many things that other programs want you to pay $1000 or more for their software, or are terribly hard to learn if they are free.

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

View jeffbranch's profile


110 posts in 3423 days

#10 posted 04-02-2012 10:28 PM

Ken – I did the same thing! YouTube training videos repeatedly. I could never get the hang of the Follow Me tool (which BTW is covered in Dave’s DVD). :) I am currently working on a bedside table in SU and it is taking me too long as well, but faster than it used to take.

JGM – What can be created with SketchUp is almost unlimited. Some of the things showcased on Google’s official SU blog (check it out here) would take me years to create. The post they have up today is something to see.

Thanks for the nice comments.


View Matt Donley's profile

Matt Donley

27 posts in 3017 days

#11 posted 04-03-2012 01:56 AM

Yeah, sketchucation is a great site for learning Sketchup too. I find it’s the best place to find answers for those obscure problems you have with Sketchup, when you feel like you’re the only one in the world having that problem. Just go over to Sketchucation and do a search, I guarantee someone has already answered the question. And if not, they’re pretty quick to respond.

Also, is a great site too. It has a small collection of videos, but I’ve heard many people say they’ve tried Sketchup and quit, until finding Rob’s site. He walks you through a couple of woodworking examples in Sketchup. Highly recommended if you’ve ever felt overwhelmed using Sketchup.

I’ve just started a site myself where I post free Sketchup tutorials, . I was a carpenter by trade for about 8 years, so I plan on making a number of tutorials focused on construction. But I will also focus on writing about the 3D modeling industry in general. I just came back from the JLC convention, which was awesome! If you ever get a chance to go, it’s worth it.

I actually met Gary Katz, who writes for Fine Homebuilding and JLC, plus has authored numerous books. He sat down with me and did an interview, and we talked about Sketchup. I’ll be posting that shortly on my site as well.

-- I create Sketchup Tips, Tricks, & Tutorials at

View jeffbranch's profile


110 posts in 3423 days

#12 posted 04-03-2012 02:33 AM

Matt – quite the impressive site. How long has it been up?


View Paul Stoops's profile

Paul Stoops

357 posts in 3332 days

#13 posted 04-04-2012 01:39 AM

Thanks for the review.

I downloaded the DVD and it is impressive. I like the simplicity of the presentation and explanations. I hope to give it a workout when I get a chance to work on my next project.

-- Paul, Auburn, WA

View dakotawood's profile


211 posts in 3554 days

#14 posted 04-05-2012 01:59 AM

Excellent review! Awhile back I tried it and then it fizzled. I got a little overwhelmed I guess. So, after reading this review it’s engnited a fire to get back to it and learn it for once and for all.

I downloaded it last night and updated my version of sketchup. I watched the first couple tutorials and I like what I see so far. Hopefully my learning will continue. I like what he said in the intro video about not taking forever and sketching a masterpiece design. Instead, learn to get the details into your sketch – just enough to get your ideas on paper and then get out to the shop.

Thanks for your good review!

-- Travis, South Dakota

View oldnovice's profile


7558 posts in 4138 days

#15 posted 04-05-2012 03:46 AM

A very good review!

I must be wired differently in that I cannot get over the fact that SketchUp pieces are not solid! I have used SkethUp extensively and for just doodling an idea but when i get serious I layout my parts and assemblies with a free solid modeling program so i can get individual piece part prints and assembly prints.

Since Google is just around the corner from where I live I was fortunate to get SketchUp a long time ago.

I must have a mental block about hollow wood!

-- "It's fine in practise but it will never work in theory"

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