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Google Sketchup - Come Along for the Ride

101577 Views 169 Replies 34 Participants Last post by  Tangle
Trying to get back in the swing - new project

OK - so I'm finally getting back to doing things. Small stuff mostly and easy things. So I'm thinking of making a cutting board for my sister-in-law. A board for cutting bread. She makes the best homemade bread!!

Anyway - this is what I'm trying to do.


I'm having trouble getting the colors right. The whole idea of doing a SU picture is to see if what you want to do will look good, etc.

I want to change a couple of the components to a walnut color.

If you try to imagine what I want to do-the first 3" section (on the left) will have cherry on the bottom - walnut on the top.

then comes a maple strip, then a 3/4 strip with walnut on the bottom and cherry on top - then a maple strip - then 3/4 strip with cherry on bottom and walnut on top - then a maple strip then the 3" piece on the right has
walnut on the bottom and cherry on top.

If anyone can help with the coloring I'd appreciate it. I looked in the paint bucket and there are not many wood colors - I'm sure there is a way to import more - but not sure how.

Thanks in advance for any help.
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The Beginning

So you asked for it, so here it is-- a blog about Sketchup. Now the first thing you have to know is that I'm a complete novice and so this journey we are taking will be interesting. I'm looking forward to the challenge of bringing Sketchup to life for you and me! The other thing is that until Saturday I'm not going to be able to do much. My home internet is down until then when the repair guy comes, so I'm doing a little bit from work before the work day starts and maybe a bit at lunch time. Also know that I'm pretty much typing left handed until after my surgery, so if you see a typo, please forgive me. Fortunately I type for a living and my left hand knows where all the keys are!

First things first. You can download Google Sketchup (for free) at There is the free program and the Pro program. Definitely get the free one!

Having a mouse with a wheel helps a lot, but the program is also easy for us laptop folks. But if you use a mouse - try getting one with a wheel. (Although I think most new computers come with a mouse wit a wheel.)

Well - I need to get to work - a girls got to make a living.

I hope this blog will be enjoyable for you. I'm sur I'll learn alot as I've always said - the best way to learn somethin is to teach it to someone else.

Good choice Betsy. I'm counting on you to teach me how to use Sketchup. But, don't worry, no pressure.

In the beginning.....

So the journey begins. The trip is short this morning because I've got to start work shortly.

I'm a beginner at this program so thsy's where we are starting. I will do my best to answer, or find answers to all questions. Everyoneis welcomed to chime in with questions, answers, or corections to my answers.

So like I said short and sweet this morning.

First - definitely get a mouse with a scrool wheel-even if you have a laptop. I got my mouse out last night and it makes a HUGE difference in using the program.

Next when you open a new sheet there's this man standing there. Ten points to the one who can tell me his name! I know it already. Anyway - I don't like the guy. He's a sexist slob. How do I know this? because he appears to be walking and he has his head turned in the "Wow that's a good looking woman" turn. :) Just kidding guys.

To get rid of the little guy - use the select tool, the little arrow in the top left corner to select him and then right click and scroll up to erase or hide. You can also just click on him and then right click.

I believe to make him go away permanently you need to make a template. I'll get into that later this weekend when my home internet is fixed and I have more time.

"Snip"--you know what that is right-- snip a stray thread off your shirt or you snip at your wife-- wait that must be snap at your wife--sorry. :)

Snip is how you can stop what ever you are trying to do from happening again. Say, for instance you are drawing a line and are done and want now to draw a circle. You move your cursor to select the cricle but you are still dragging a line along for the ride to the circle tool.

To stop drawing your line, or rectangle or circle, etc. when you finish with the action press the "esc" or escape button. This "snips" off the line,ectangle, etc. and you can go merrily to another action.

OK, gotta go for now. Will do more exploring and more indepth blog this weekend.

Thanks guys and rememberEveryoneis welcomed to chime in with questions, answers, or corections to my answers.
Betsy, I'm following. I have nothing to add, but I want you to know that this is good and I will be keeping it for reference.
Tools - general stuff

So now we have to take a look at tools. There are LOTS and LOTS of tools to look at. But the three most important are the zoom, orbit and pan tools. It seems that their importance are in that order.

Again, I've definitely discovered that if you don't have a mouse you better get one. You can do everything with your keyboard and cursor - but you'll save yourself a whole bunch of aggravation by getting a good mouse.

Moving the scroll wheel back and forth zooms in and out. This replaces the tool that looks like a magnifying glass on the menu bar. This feature helps you to move in close to any particular portion of your project that you want to work on at any one time. When you have a lot of different portions of a project on the screen the zoom feature will be a big advantage. (Layers is another feature that will be useful as zooming - but that's way ahead of where we are now.)

Pressing and holding the scroll wheel down orbits - allowing you to move around the object and see it on all sides. This replaces the icon that looks like two arrows going in a circle. (It's the one right next to that ghostly looking hand.) You want to become an expert at orbiting-- you'll thank yourself for obtaining this little talent. Picture yourself wanting to look at the back of your house. The only way to do that is to walk from the front to the back-- orbiting is like walking to the back yard.

The pan tool-- that ghostly looking hand - this allows you to move the object around the window. It does not spin the object - just moves it from one side of the window to another. The mouse, in my opinion is less useful with this particular tool. To use the mouse you need to hold down the scroll wheel and at the same time hold the shift key down. This makes the pan tool appear - then moving the mouse around (all the while holding the wheel and shift key down) will make the object move around. I think it is easier to use the icon - you have to select the icon then hold the LEFT mouse button down to move the icon/object around. I just think it's easier to have to hold only one thing down at a time.

Those are the three tools you MUST get a grasp on before getting very far.

Hopefully I'm not going to slow for everyone--I'm sorry if I am-- I am taking a long time to get the hang of the program. One thing that I think is very helpful is to just start "sketching" and clicking and doing the little things to get a feel for what each tool does.

I think that the biggest shortfall of any book, article, blog, or instruction on any topic is that the person who is writing or teaching leaves out some of the little things that make such a big difference to actually using the program-- I call those things the "Ah now I get it" things. The writer or teacher does not leave these things out intentionally, but the little things are just taken for granted. These are the things that I need to figure out to use the program. So that's what I'm going to try to do here.

Hopefully it won't be too boring. But we are going to take baby steps. I figure I have till about September before I can get back in the shop so that leaves a lot of time for baby steps! Not really, while I have until September, I won't really go that slow. :)

One assumption that I've made that is not necessarily wrong as a whole, but is not exactly right-- (did you get that?) is that everything starts out as a shape - in other words you have to start with a rectangle or circle or triangle, etc. This is not right.

The important thing is that you have to have an edge and a face to get anything done. You can accomplish this with the line tool (the pencil) - you don't have to start with a "shape."

Just try this-- select the pencil tool, click on any spot then move your cursor to another spot and click again. You now have a line. Because it is a single line attached to nothing in particular it will be a dark line.

Now something about lines and SU in general. As you drew your line did you notice what color it was? If it was green, red or blue that means you are drawing parallel to one of those axes. If the line is black as you are drawing - that means you are not parallel to any axis. Most of the time you want to be parallel to an axis - that will make everything that comes after easier.

Now back to that line-- if you have not moved your cursor from where you clicked the second time, you may notice that green dot at the end of the line - that dot - no matter the color is called an "inference" you need to pay attention to those little dots. The green dots indicates that you are at the end of the line and if you click again while that dot is green and move your cursor around you will begin drawing a new line from the "end" of the first. If you move your cursor so that the green dot disappears along the line it should turn red, this indicates that if you start drawing from there that your new line will begin on an edge not the end. Pretty simple. If you keep moving the dot will change to another color - light blue to my eye - indicating that you are at the midpoint or center of your original line. There are other dots or inferences to watch for. But those are the main ones to start with.

Now back to the end of your line where that green dot is take a look at the bottom right of your screen - you'll see a little box that says "length". This is the value control box. You can make this a complicated idea - but it's not. It's a dimension indication tool - that's it. Move your cursor away from the green dot and watch the box - it will show the length of your line. This will help you when you start actually drawing and want to make something a certain dimension. Don't make it a complicated thing--try to keep this simple. (That's what I keep telling myself.) If you are drawing a line - it shows length, if you are making a circle, it shows radius, etc.

Now just to complete (well not exactly complete) the thought on edges and faces-- take your line and draw four that are connected at those little dots. Once you finish that last line you'll see that the inside of the four lines turns a light black--that light black space is a "face."

Now let's play with that face. Move your cursor to the tool bar and pick up the "select" tool. That's the arrow in the upper left corner of the screen. Move the arrow over the new face and click-- that will change the texture of the face into a bunch of little dots. ANYTIME a face is selected it will have these dots. Anything that is selected will be the portion of the object that will be changed by any following action.

You can "select" by clicking as well - you don't necessarily have to use the select tool.

ok that's all for now - all this left handed typing gets tough! More later.

As always comments, suggestions, questions or corrections are always welcome.

oh and just because I don't think a blog is complete without a picture---


there - I feel better.
Keep 'em coming. There's a good chance I may actually be able to use Sketchup when you're done.
Simple Sketchup bookcase

Here I am going to try a little bit more of this Sketchup program. I'm having a bit of trouble getting the hang of things - but I'm determined to whip this program into submission! I was going to work on a hall table - but decided that's still out of my SU talent range so I've decided to do a simple bookcase. I've picked up few tricks. Nothing to fancy - but more than the baby steps I took with the table blog.

Between the medication for my neck and the cat sitting on my keyboard - I might get this accomplished.

First start with a rectangle the outside diameter of the bookcase. I'm shooting for 14" deep and 32 wide.

Use the push/pull tool to pull the rectangle up to 5'.


Now we'll use the "offset tool." This is the tool that looks like a half circle with an arrow coming through the top (13th tool from the left of the small tool bar).

Position the offset tool on the top edge of the rectangle so that the red inference dot shows up. Then slowly move the tool inward - you should see a second rectangle being created - left click and type in ¾" in your VCB box. This will give you ¾" sides.

Next select the face of the rectangle and use the push/pull tool to push the face back 13.75"


As it appears this is just a simple box that will have shelves added. Nothing fancy. I've not figured out how to show the rabbet on the back or the dados for the shelves. But I'll get there!

Next so that nothing happens to my shell - I'll make this into a "group."

Select the box by triple clicking so that all the edges are blue.

The right click and select "make group"

Now onto making a few shelves.

Select the rectangle tool and draw a rectangle on the bottom of the case. I choose to make mine 12" deep (by 31" long).

Then select the rectangle and right click and select "make component."

Now select the rectangle/component by using the select tool and double clicking,

Bring the move/copy tool onto the shelf component you should see four red crosses (x's) and it should say on "on face on group"

Left click and hold the control key down-and move your copy up to the top of the case. Type in /4 then hit Enter. You should get four additional shelves evenly spaced.

Click on the bottom shelf (the original rectangle) and delete.

Now select one of the shelves by double clicking and use the push/pull tool to expand the shelf - ¾". Because you made the shelf a component - what ever you do to one shelf will happen to the others.


Certainly nothing fancy here. I want to work on figuring out how to put the rabbet on the back and the dado's for the shelves. I still need to figure out how to show the screen I'm looking at into the blog. That would probably help a lot. But I'm missing something in my fellow LJ's explaination of how to do that. But will keep trying.

Hope this makes sense!
Great stuff Betsy. I'm not doing things as you teach, but I'm reading what you write so that I can refer back when I need to. I may actually be able to use this tool yet.
Hall table project - starting out

Well - I'm still recovering from my surgery. Today is my first day/night at home by myself. I'm trying to keep busy by learning this Sketchup program. So far, it's beating me. But I'm still going to keep at it.

So my thought is that I can't just keep trying to make things up to learn how to do the program. I think I mentioned before that I would try to use the program to draw the hall table that I made a long, long time ago. I happen to have the prototype in my bedroom so I could get the measurements and work from there.

These are still baby steps but I have learned two very important lessons while tooling around.

If you are going to need more than one of anything in your project, such as a leg - make it a component.

If you need only one of something in a project, such as a table top - make it a group.

To me the two terms "component" and "group" are a little confusing. A "group" seems like it should be more than one thing. Not sure why they use the term the way they do, but it is what it is. Just remember if you need more than one - make it a component and if only one is used make it a group.

So the dimensions for my table are:

Top 42×14 x ¾
Legs 1.5 x. 1.5×28
Long aprons 36×5.5. x ¾
Short aprons 9.5 x. 5.5. x ¾

The front apron is divided into five individual parts.

The top and bottom pieces are 36×1.5. There are three small dividers that make the openings for the two drawers. The two dividers on the ends are 2.25×3.5 and the middle divider is 3.5×3.5 and is, of course centered across the length of the apron.

The legs are set in ¾" from the front and back edges and 1.5" from each side.

So here we go, we'll see how far I get this session.

First is to make the top. Select the rectangle tool and make a rectangle 14×42 and use the push/pull tool to bring it up to 3/4.

Use the select tool and triple click on the top so that the entire top is blue.


Right click and select "Make Group."

Once you've made the top a group - no other geometry, or parts/functions will change the top.

To change the top you just open the group and edit as desired.

Now we get into a bit of the confusing part for me. I'm going to put in some guide lines using the tape measure tool to place my legs. There are two ways to get to the bottom of the top - orbit around so that the bottom shows or right click the top and select "reverse face." I think that you need to orbit around to the bottom.


Next orbit and zoom around until you can adequately see the guide marks and use the rectangle tool to put in the first leg (1.5×1.5)

Select the rectangle and right click and select "make component". I'm going to call my component - "leg" - how creative!

Then while the component is selected - capture your "move/copy" tool and while holding down the control key (option on Macs) click on the leg component and move your mouse to the other corner. Repeat two more times.

There is a way to copy once and then select both copies and then move those copies to the other end of the table-- but I'm not sure how it's done.


Double click one of the legs to open the component.

Select the push/pull tool and pull to 28". Pulling one component will pull all four legs up.

Now orbit around to put the table back on it's feet.

Here's a big question that I'd appreciate help with.

I've used the measuring tool to measure between the inside of both front legs and that distance should be 36"-- I'm 1/8" off. How do I move the leg just a little bit to make that distance?

When I placed my leg copies I placed them to the guide marks. There must be a more accurate way to do that.


Well I think I'm done for now. I'm still having problems getting all my pictures to download - but I've got a few in here.

Thanks for any help you can give me.
You go girl. I'm glad to hear you're on the mend and I wish you a speedy recovery.

I admire your tenacity with Sketchup. I've tried it a couple times and just have not been very successful. You're doing good, keep it up.
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